Quick Tip: DaVinci Resolve Basics of Using LUTs

May 23rd, 2020

In this cinema5D Quick Tip Video, I‘ll show you how to work with LUTs in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and how to avoid a mistake that many Resolve users make when starting out using LUTs. This tip is relevant for both the Studio- and the free version of  DaVinci Resolve.

Image credit: cinema5D

A Few Words first

Much of what I learned about software and techniques, for the last decade or so, I have learned online.
There are lots of free and paid tutorials out there on the internet. Some better than others but with time and effort, it‘s possible to learn just about anything including post-production software and filmmaking techniques.
I love comprehensive, hours-long step-by-step tutorials that walk you through whole software packages. But what I love even more are those small ones that focus around one specific piece of knowledge.

I find it exciting to learn a new little trick that speeds up my workflow, improves quality or lets me do some cool new stuff.

Because I think you might also be interested in such little nuggets of knowledge, I‘ll share what I have collected over the years.

Oh, and one last thing: I did some teaching in the past, but it’s the first time I’m talking directly on camera — like most camera people I don’t fancy being in front of the lens, but I bit the bullet for you guys. :-)

To LOG or not to LOG

Because I would have loved to know what’s in this first Quick Tip Video when I began using Resolve, I have decided to start with a tip about LUTs.

Since the advent of cameras that shoot LOG gamma many filmmakers very often employ LUTs to normalise their footage to REC.709 or REC.2020, convert colourspaces and to creatively style their productions.

I don’t particularly like using LUTs — mainly because they “throw away” image information as you will see in der video — but sometimes it’s unavoidable or convenient.

While DaVinci Resolve is a powerhouse of a software package, it does not hold your hand in any way and it’s easy to make mistakes that can mess up your work big time.

In this tutorial, I covered the basics of how to properly use LUTs for whatever purpose. I used a LUT that normalises LOG down to REC.709, but the principles apply to LUT usage in general.

If you have questions, ideas, suggestions or maybe have a little gem of knowledge to share yourself, please put them in the comments!


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Florian Gintenreiterjaganmohan chindamJospeh SlomkaBen JMarkus Magnon Recent comment authors
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Ben J
Ben J
MemberMay 24th, 2020

I feel there are lots of beginners getting themselves in a real pickle with log shooting and LUTs. There is sometimes a misunderstanding (encouraged, I have to say, by people selling ‘cinematic LUT packs’) that we can create beautiful shots in any kind of scenario, so long as we retain lots of latitude, then find a ‘magic’ LUT that will pull everything into the right place.

Many projects would be better suited to a gentle video-style profile and careful choice of location, exposure, lighting, colour, etc. Then, less drastic manipulation of the image in post.

Even with log images, I feel beginners would produce better work by just focussing on simple colour temperature/tint tools, simple lift, gamma and contrast tools, and adding/removing saturation. LUTs don’t know how you’ve exposed your shot and things can get out of hand.

Ultimately, attention to the scopes is needed, which is what this article helps to illustrate.

Gibran Ashraf
Gibran Ashraf
GuestMay 23rd, 2020

@waqasqazi786 will disagree. BTW, you two should do an episode of @c5dnews together on shooting and grading

jaganmohan chindam
jaganmohan chindam
GuestMay 29th, 2020

Given me a choice I will never use any Lut. If the customer insist, may be I will just use it for look.

 Jospeh Slomka
Jospeh Slomka
MemberMay 29th, 2020

Nice little video.

It is important for workflow reasons to have a look lut last in the stack. The Log Space of professional digital cinema camera carries all of the same data as a RAW file. Having the lut last allows you to access all of the dynamic range of the images.

There are a few different types of luts and the one that you are referring to is a look lut, that converts from the camera raw data into a look space. Saying that lut throws out image data is the same as saying film print throws away data from a processed negative.

Look luts are powerful tools for cinematography. They allow for consistent color processing and dynamic range. This allows the cinematographer to better lok down the relationship between onset lighting changes and final color rendition in the DI. Picking a single lut, exposing to it and using it properly in a workflow allows for your work to be shared with the cinematographers vision intact.

It reduces the effects of fatigue in color correction where how the tonal range and color of scenes change due to long sessions. It also increases the consistency of color when multiple artists, such as junior and senior colorists work on the same show. At it’s essence it’s an anchor where all other color can be turned off and you can get a clear idea of what the images looked like when they were shot.

Technical, or matching luts allow you to have a single look lut, even if you have multiple cameras. These luts map from one camera space to another. They can be applied in the media pool, group level ,or the color node level. Additionally you can use a color space conversion node from the FX group to perform that conversion. This allows you to develop a look over multiple movies even if you have to switch camera bodies.

 Markus Magnon
Markus Magnon
MemberMay 23rd, 2020

Sorry but this is just a very bad example why you should put a LUT at the end of the node. In some cases it is better to start with a LUT.

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