Quick Recall – Color correction and then color grading are done to provide a certain, consistent visual mood to your footage. In the color grading step, we basically use two kinds of LUTs, base or technical LUT which is particular to the camera used in recording the footage and then Creative LUT which is particular to the final look we want our video to have.
Now we are gonna talk about best practices about how to apply LUT in premiere pro to make the process easier, faster and efficient (while maintaining image quality) and not that intimidating as you might have heard from folks around.
Importing LUT in your editing software
We wrote a quick blog on how to import LUT in your desired editing platform. Click here to read the Quick Steps to import LUT in your editing software.
Before we get into it lets just first talk about a few things that we can do while we are shooting the video on set that will benefit our video processing in the post. And this discussion will definitely help you produce your next video better than your previous ones.
What is the mood of the film?
Having a pre-defined mood, definitely helps in boosting the production value. Mood of a film is set in pre-production stage, where the Director, the Art Director and Line Producer sit down to define the color palette that will work for the upcoming project.
Every scene in your films conveys a different meaning, connected with the same theme at the core. Different scenes hence will have different moods and then different moods are conveyed with the help of a number of elements, one essential amongst them being the use of colors via color-grading or in essence, you can say, careful application and management of LUTs and effects.
For example, speaking in layman terms, if you want to show the winter or cold-heartedness of the situation or the character(s) involved, you would prefer a bluish tinge for the scene. Contrarily, if the scene depicts warmth and liveliness, you would prefer a yellowish tinge for the scene, at the most basic level.
The Ultimate process
To exemplify best practices, we are going to use Adobe Premiere Pro and an in-built Lumetri panel. After you have color corrected your video (Basic Correction) meaning you have corrected exposure, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, white balance, noise, you are ready for color grading!
1 Log to Rec.709 conversion LUT – Download the conversion LUT provided by your camera’s brand, every manufacturer provides these basic LUTs. This LUT will convert your flat-looking footage to better-looking footage, in terms of saturation and contrast.
2 Creative LUT – Now apply the LUT of your choice that will make your footage begin to achieve the desired final look. Choose this LUT keeping in mind that it will be applicable to all the clips on the timeline, it may be particular to a scene or even the entire video/film in consideration. This is called creative LUT (a creative look) and is responsible for much of the uniformity in the final stylistic look (final color space) of the film as a whole.
3 Refine – Here is where basically everything is shaped up colorwise. LUTs have their limitation which is they can’t tell subjects from the background, objects from the atmosphere, and so on. LUTs treat every frame and every clip they are applied to, the same way as they are designed for. So if you want the sky to be bluer, you want the lampshade to look less bright or you want details in the shadows to surface, apply Lumetri effects accordingly, rename them by their purpose for distinction, and tweak the settings till you get the final, pre-determined look.
4 Correct skin tones – This is an important part since the application of LUT affects every single pixel of the given frame. If the applied LUT produces a cool temperature in the scene then it is highly likely that the skin tone of the subjects involved will be affected, the skin can look bloodless. Hence, apply a Lumetri effect, rename it as skin tone, use selective coloring tools, and keep making adjustments for your subjects to appear with convincing life-like, blood-flowing skin tones.
5 Beyond – Now that you are done with the first four steps, you can get more creative by adding blur(Gaussian) in Premiere Pro which lessens the high-sharpness that many cameras produce, you can add old VHS tape look to your video and even film-grain if needed.
6 Consistency – Again, why color grading is done? To set the mood, convey emotions and specific look and feel with the use and manipulation of colors. If the consistency of the determined color scheme breaks anywhere in between, the impact that your scene was made to deliver on your audience breaks. Make final touches, wherever required so that there are no abrupt jumps in colors whenever there is a transition between two clips. For appropriation, check the video/film thoroughly to roll-back any over-adjustments.
7 Tip – Applying multiple Lumetri effects on your footage Vs. Applying multiple Lumetri effects on multiple adjustment layers above your footage – Well, you can still achieve the same final look using both the ways but the latter practice can prove to be a hassle as you move with it ahead as it would require you to raise the height of your timeline to make room for the stack of adjustment layers and to work on those layers would, in turn, cause you to shrink and expand the size of program monitor over and over to be able to view the shot properly. As an indie film-maker if you don’t happen to have a very big screen the latter practice can make you lose time. Although if you are comfortable with a mix of both, well then, go ahead!
Check out our Video Guides
Speed up the color-grading process
Speed up the color-correction process
Speed up the skin-tone correction process
Keeping in mind before-hand
For easing and making the most out of the whole color-grading process it is crucial to discuss the final look and feel of the film before going on to shoot it.
As independent filmmakers, we are all tight on all; time, money, and resources. The best favor we can do ourselves is to be very clear about how we want our final product to look like.
Since we are talking primarily about colors here, so as a filmmaker before you go on to shoot, sit with your DoP and your colorist, discuss and build a consensus over the final look of the film you are aiming at. Having a clear idea of the look will in turn affect the choices made on-set regarding lights, color schemes, set-design, exterior and interior atmospheres chosen, costumes, make-up, and everything else visual.
Remember, if the Director or DoP missed out on clarity in any of these aspects, they will start to rely heavily on the colorist to regain it and we all know how very limited is “We’ll Fix it in Post”. As we go further on the timeline of creating a film project our control becomes narrower, what we didn’t fix in writing will trouble us while shooting and what we didn’t fix while shooting will trouble us in the post-production. And trying to fix things later on not only leaves you with limited choices but also exhausts you.
Why shoot in Neutral or Flat profile?
It is advised to manually choose the neutral or flat profile within your camera to shoot with because these profiles allow for high-dynamic-range for your camera to record details in. This practice allows your colorist to have maximum control in playing with colors during the whole color grading process and that lets your film get as close as possible to the look you had originally envisioned.
Why Color-correct before Color grading?
Since we shoot with different cameras under different conditions and that each scene happens to be a bit different from preceding and succeeding scenes, we need to correct how lights are received throughout the whole video/film. This basically means adjusting exposure, highlights, shadows, mid-tones, white-balance, contrast, and saturation so that the flat-looking footage falls easy on the eyes, begin to look vivid, and lays the foundation for the color-grading with creative LUT, to be done in the next step.
Creative LUTs are calibrated only to be added and worked upon, on footages that have been color corrected. Color grading is not meant to do color correction work and color correction is not meant to do color grading. Both the processes must never be confused with each other, neither mixed nor skipped.
Since ‘color’ is used in both the terms it can be ambiguous to remember the real distinction in the nature of both the terms and may lead to filmmakers thinking the border between the two is so thin that it can be easily crossed but we must know and carefully deal with the processes in a particular order.
Why choose creative LUTs?
Don’t we all want the pro, sophisticated, distinctive, vividly color-graded look for our videos? Creative LUTs help saves a lot of our time to achieve that.
Same LUT for my entire film?
To answer this first be clear about the color scheme you want your whole video/film to follow. That may require you to use one or more LUTs, that is so because any LUT can give predictable output for only a number of footages on your timeline, not all of them, hence adjustments are necessary to maintain consistency in the color scheme of the film. Usage of LUTs is entirely a creative choice, you may settle with one LUT for the entirety of your film/video or you may choose to add different LUTs for different scenes.
Oh God! Why all this rant about CC and CG?
Well because if this knowledge is not absorbed properly, you will mess up along the way losing valuable time, energy and money. So do not take shortcuts and believe us, once you get the hold of it you will find the process interesting rather than intimidating.
- Choose a flat profile in camera to record footage in a high-dynamic range.
- Apply conversion-LUT provided by the camera brand.
- Correct exposure, white balance, and contrast.
- Color grade with creative-LUT as per the predetermined color scheme.
- Redeem skin tones.
- Apply extra effects (if need be).
Check our website for unique, industry level cinematic effects and LUTs that will help you to color-grade your videos and films to look outstandingly original and mesmerizing!