LUT's make my footage look like...
...crap!!! Every tutorial I've ever seen on using LUT's always mentions using a LUT created for the camera you shot your footage on. Well, I use a Nikon D5500 (never claimed to be a pro). I shoot flat using a variety of picture profiles depending on the lighting situation, and no matter what camera or film LUT I apply it never looks even as close as 80% of the way there. It either gets flatter, or oversaturated and overexposed...
I guess my question is, aside from do I use epsilons too much, should I forgo LUT's and just tweak using Lumetri or Colorista or whatever? To my eyes my footage never really looks like film no matter what I do. I hate having too many choices, so should I make my life easier and not bother with LUT's? Remember, I'm just an amateur, I make videos for my own enjoyment, I'm not under any deadlines to get things cranked out.
[Duke Sweden] "no matter what camera or film LUT I apply it never looks even as close as 80%"
That's because LUTs do not know what you shot with what settings.
[Duke Sweden] "should I forgo LUT's and just tweak using Lumetri or Colorista or whatever?"
Yes. That's called grading.
It's clear after reading your post that you're making a fundamental mistake - you mentioned that you're "shooting flat," but then you added that you're using "a variety of different profiles depending upon the situation." What you're missing is that you're NOT shooting flat, the built-in profiles you're using are essentially identical to LUTs that are built-in to your camera.
When you add a LUT to those clips already affected by a profile, the LUT will never have the intended affect, because you've already significantly affected those clips in-camera. For example, a LUT designed to emulate film, which typically crushes the blacks and increases contrast, won't look like film if you've already adjusted the look in-camera by adding a profile. By adding the profile, you've first limited the available dynamic range available to you in post, and second you've probably adjusted some or many of the very parameters the LUT would be used for in post, but now those parameters are burned-in.
So, if you're shooting flat, shoot flat... Only use the camera profiles for stuff you're either not going to color grade, or stuff you're only going to adjust a bit here and a bit there. But, using profiles in-camera and LUTs in post together is a sure-fire recipe for getting unexpected results.
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions
David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.
Thanks for your reply David, but when I said I use picture profiles, I meant flat profiles like Flaat 11, Cineflat, Tassinflat, etc. Sometimes on a dreary day I don't need such an extreme "flattener" like Cineflat, so I go with Flaat 11. On bright sunny days with harsh shadows I'll go flatter with Cineflat. That's what I meant by using picture profiles, not the built in ones like Standard, Neutral, etc.
Having cleared that up, let me rephrase my original question. I can color correct so that my footage looks exactly as it did in real life. No problem getting white balance, saturation, etc. It's afterward when I go for the so-called "film look" (as opposed to cinematic). When I add a "film emulator" LUT, my flat image either gets flatter, or extremely garish. In all the video samples the manufacturer's present, they drop on a LUT and voila! Instant great look with a minimum of tweaking. That's my bottom line question. Does one ALWAYS have to do some fidgeting with controls after applying a LUT? Remember, I'm as amateur as it gets, and I know most of you guys work in TV, film, commercials, etc. So I appreciate your taking the time to even answer me.
Looks like I stumped the pro. I win!!! ;-)
It sounds like you are trying to use LUTS in lieu of color grading and that's not what LUTS are designed to do. Below are a couple of links that might help you out.
Here's an example of when you might want to use a LUT. Say you are shooting w/your D5500 in Cineflat and the final project will be showing in theaters using a Sony 4K projector. While you are grading you don't have access to a Sony 4K projector but you do have access to an HD broadcast monitor. So you make a specific LUT that when applied to your D5500 Cineflat footage, and viewed on your HD broadcast monitor, it mimics what the footage will look like if it was being displayed with Sony's 4K projector.
Going back to David's point, if you shoot with a variety of presents then you'll need a separate LUT for each preset. People do throw on LUTS as quick and dirty grades, but that's not what they were made more.
As to why your images get flatter, it's probably because you are using a LUT that was designed to start with a relatively high contrast image and end with a relatively low contrast image (say starting with video footage that has lower dynamic range and trying to emulate a film stock that has a higher dynamic range).
Thank you, Andrew. That's precisely the information I was looking for. None of the LUT suppliers tell you that, and their demo videos show a flat clip like what I'm working with, they drop on a LUT and bam! Instant finished product, but when I drop the same LUT on my footage it's all whacked out.
On an ImpulZ demo they explain that their LUT's ending in "FC" are for flat footage. In the video, they drop one of the FC LUT's on flat footage and it enhances the contrast, color, etc. That's the same LUT I used that makes my footage even flatter.
Anyway, you gave me info I was looking for, i.e. certain LUT's are for certain types of footage. Taking Tero's advice I've been doing color correction and grading myself, and then adding a film emulator LUT to get it looking more like film and less like the dreaded "Soap Opera Effect".
[Duke Sweden] "On an ImpulZ demo they explain that their LUT's ending in "FC" are for flat footage. In the video, they drop one of the FC LUT's on flat footage and it enhances the contrast, color, etc. That's the same LUT I used that makes my footage even flatter."
Here's the thing: all "flat footage" is not created equal. Arri/Sony/Red/Blackmagic have their own standardized stuff with their own math so it's easy to turn them into different color spaces. The DSLR flat looks are a complete crapshoot that usually do not work.
I can't believe the information I'm getting here that I haven't seen anywhere else. Thanks so much, guys. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!
[Duke Sweden] "I can't believe the information I'm getting here that I haven't seen anywhere else. Thanks so much, guys. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!"
Helping is what the COW is all about!
ok, I have one other question. I'm assuming that since you guys work with professional equipment/cameras you probably don't know, simply because you don't deal with it, but I'll ask anyway.
LUT's aside, when dealing with REC 709 compressed H.264 footage from a DSLR, after color correction (which I have no problem with) what would you tweak to get a film look? I shoot in 24fps, 1080p, shutter speed 50 etc. My stuff either goes to youtube or I'll put it on a thumb drive to watch on my tv. It doesn't get transferred to film or anything like that.
With that info, if you can answer me that would be great. I'm not a total noob so you can be general, like "tweak your mids to 80 on the vectorscope" for example. You don't have to completely hold my hand.
Thanks either way!
Oh, and for the record, I'm not looking for a color grading shortcut with LUT's. I always color correct by hand, and then, because I thought I was supposed to, used LUT's to get different "moods". When I added blue by hand, to get a "horror film" look, for example, it came out looking bad. AHA! That's where I got the idea of using LUT's! I asked that question at video copilot and the pro's there told me to use LUT's!
Off the top of my head I'd say smooth, deliberate camera moves, no zooming, don't blow out the highlights, have deliberate framing, shallow (but not excessively shallow) depth of field, since you have a dSLR either shoot on sticks or use a weighted rig to get rid of the micro-shakes that all small cameras have.
In terms of grading, don't blow out the highlights and if you keep the skin tones looking 'fleshy' then you can move the highs and lows a lot more. Obviously if you are going for a 'horror film blue/green' and you make the people look like smurfs it's not going to go over well. ;) If the grading tool you are using has curves then a basic place to start out is to form the curve into a very gentle 'S' shape. If you google "color grading curves" you'll find lots of info.
There are a lot of different looks (though the hollywood/blockbuster orange & teal look is still going strong) so you might want to rip a few scenes from your favorite DVD and load them into PPro so you can look at them side-by-side to see what's the same and what's different.
Thanks Andrew! Yes, I know about keeping the camera steady, framing, proper exposure and all. I was talking strictly about post production techniques. I usually start with the "S" curve and then tweak colors. I seem to be pretty good at getting proper white balance in camera.
I think I'm probably getting the "film look" but by my eye I'm never satisfied. Also, sometimes people (like a few over at video copilot, not Andrew Kramer) will look at my sample footage and tell me my blacks are crushed and there's too much contrast, then I'll go elsewhere and read that the "film look" consists of crushed blacks and a contrasty look, so that confuses me as well.
I should link to a few samples of what I've done but you might have to recalibrate your eyes afterward ;-)
Thanks again to everybody.
I guess I don't there really is a universal 'film look' that can be mostly achieved in grading other than maybe copying the most popular looks that the average person associates with film (orange/teal for hollywood blockbusters, yellow/green for horror movies, etc.,). I mean, even the flat, low contrast look has gained popularity (may times you'll see it in commercials going for a neo-retro look).
If your video is too sharp I guess you could add a very faint blur in post to try and soften it a hair.
Ah, ok. That may be where my downfall is, I'm sharpening my video too much in post. The other day I saw an article that said something like "Are you sure you're looking for a "film" look?" and pointed out that people consider "Skyfall", for instance to be shot on film when it is actually digital. I like that razor sharp look but I'm probably fooling myself into thinking my own footage isn't achieving that effect.
Anyway, I've taken enough of your time and you've given me plenty of useful information.
Some people do think that RED or Alexa footage can look too clean (like looking out of a window) which robs it of some sort of ethereal quality that film has. I think a distinction should be made between high image resolution and sharpness. A high resolution image can have a lot of image detail but not appear 'sharp'. Sharpening a video image though (either in camera or in post) creates an entire different effect. An sharpening the image on a relatively low IQ camera like a DSLR many times enhances things that are better left not enhanced.
If you watch the movie Public Enemies it was shot digital and has a very digital/sharp look to it but if you then watch Zodiac or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which were also shot digital) they do not have the same video feel to it.
I know exactly what you're talking about. I always wanted my footage to look like the Avengers movie of a few years ago.
It's only since I started this thread that I've learned that you can't do with h.264 footage what you can do with the uncompressed formats. I guess I was fooled by all those "This commercial was shot on a Canon T3i" tv commercials of a few years back.
I will be approaching post production of my footage in a completely different way from now on.
Hi Duke, I just went through the first few replies and your response, and this might not be the long term solution but more of a quick fix. What I incur from your query is that you need a hands on grading preset, just the way LuTs claim to be. What I'd personally suggest for smaller projects is shooting a few test shots or images on location or similar setups and testing an LuT on the same. Try mix and match with layers of brightness/saturation. Once done, here's the tricky advice I'm sure would receive a lot of flak here. Shoot FOR the desired set of LUTs you've fixed.
As I mentioned this is not and shouldn't be the solution but rather a fix. The reason behind suggesting this was that I got familiar with LuTs and their spectral mood swings through this process in the beginning and slowly figured out with constant fiddling over a couple of months.
Hope this helps.
Good luck with the gRADe
Hey, Adiya. Thanks for your advice. It reminded me about this thread. I figured out a little while ago that, just as you can't do with a .jpg what you can do with a RAW file picture, the same holds true for h264 and RAW video. I've found a work flow that works for me, I color correct, adjust contrast, blacks and highlights (manually adjusting white balance instead of using AUTO really helped the look of my film as well) and then I apply a LUT called Cinematic 1 and tweak accordingly.
What also finally occurred to me was that I was describing my problem all wrong. What I really wanted to know was how to make my footage look like film as opposed to the dreaded "Soap Opera Effect". THAT was my main concern!
Also, one other thing, Adiya. I don't have "projects". I'm so below amateur I couldn't get a gig shooting a Christmas party at a mental institution. No, I shoot for myself, I try to get the most beautiful looking shots of nice scenery, hopefully with me included sometimes, to pass on to my descendents. Always being the guy in the family who owned the video camera (going back 36 years) naturally I was always the guy behind the camera. Now that I can get close to movie quality video I'd like to get some stuff of myself, to see what I look like in HD without having to look in a mirror ;-)
Thanks again for responding. This is what I'm talking about, btw. I'm adding a video but I have no idea where it's going to end up. This message board software is SO outdated!
[Duke Sweden] "What I really wanted to know was how to make my footage look like film as opposed to the dreaded "Soap Opera Effect". "
That has nothing to do with LUTs and everything to do with how the footage is shot. Frame rate and shutter speed mostly.
Uh, yeah, I've since learned that about LUTs. I also knew about shutter speed and frame rate as well. My hypercritical eye still saw my footage as less than film like.
Is the film likeness for you in the motion or the look? If you have both of those worked out you might to want to slap some grain on it. Here's a few grain footage files you might want to test: http://www.cineticstudios.com/blog/2015/3/4k-film-grain-a-public-experiment...
Right. Considering you are not a professional, your approach to learning these is amazing Duke. And you are in no way, way way below an amateur coz you stumped a pro in this very thread, remember?
Cheers to the process and the video looks neat!
Sounds to me like you're a man with particular tastes (which is a very good thing) but looking for simple solutions. I think instead of looking for LUTs and simple ways to get those high end looks, you should continue color grading and exploring that side of post production. It doesn't need to look identical to that perfect film look. I'd argue the only way to really get the film look is to shoot on film. Everything else is an artistic choice inspired by the film look, but not the film look. Find the look that suits you, but don't get bogged down in trying to make it perfectly match images from movies that cost millions of dollars to make.
And also, it may not be LUTs or anything of that nature that's making you say it's just not quite what you're wanting visually. I had a t3i back in the day, and you sometimes just have to realize the limitations of your camera. In order to get a better look, you may just have to invest in a better camera and some nice lenses.
I know you're claiming to be an amateur, but most amateurs I would say have no clue what a LUT is as well as curve adjustments. So I think you're someone with bordering professional tastes but trying to get away with amateur equipment. You may need better equipment to satisfy your needs. But I guess it depends what level of DSLR you're using.
Halo Union Productions
Wow, so much to respond to, but you all took the time to respond to me so the least I can do is answer some points that you all brought up, starting from the bottom up.
Nathan, yes I do have particular tastes but sometimes even I don't know what they are ;-) Now, just so we're clear, I did start this thread 3 months ago. I've learned a lot since then. As for looking for a simple way to do things, actually I wasn't. I had shot some footage that I wanted to give a fall evening look too, heavy on blue. I saw a scene in a movie I can't remember now that had the look I was going for, but the flames in the lanterns and street lights still had a strong orange/yellow glow. When I tried setting white balance in PP to blue, EVERYTHING turned kind of blue, so I asked on videocopilot how to get the effect I was going for. It was THERE that someone who does effects for a living told me I needed to use LUTs. Not knowing better I went off on a 2 month journey trying to find the perfect LUT. That's how I got caught up with them. I'd much rather color grade myself. I only use the Cinematic 1 and 2 LUTs because they do give me that film look I try to achieve (rather than soap opera effect as I mentioned before).
Finally I just want to add that I'm 61, my eyesight is really going on me, so I'm not really looking to make a career out of this. It's very difficult when you can't see what you're doing. As for equipment, I'm using a Nikon D5500 and I also learned after my initial post 3 months ago that RAW and h264 are two different animals and I can't expect hollywood results out of a mid-range camera, but I'm still pretty happy with what I've been able to do.
Aditya (sorry for misspelling your name before), this is how I've always approached everything I do, going back to my guitar playing, coding, whatever. I want to know and be proficient at everything I do. At this point I'm only trying to keep my brain from atrophying so I'm lucky I found this hobby (both videography and post production). I appreciate the compliment on the video, but I didn't stump anyone. It had just been a few days since I got a response so I thought I'd tweak an ego or two to get things rolling again ;-)
Tero, the film likeness for me is in the look. I'm getting the 24fps blur ok, but I think, back when I first posted this thread, that I was sharpening too much. I have since replaced my cheap computer monitor with a flat screen HDTV and that video above is actually my first video that I color corrected and graded using it. I opened some previous rendered videos that looked great on the computer monitor and they were awful. I fixed one of them and it's much better. I could never figure out why people always told me they looked bad on youtube. Once I replace the computer monitor I could see what they were talking about.
Anyway, thanks to all of you for responding, for your advice and help and for your compliments. I really appreciate it.