Just what is an LUT anyway? DO I need one?

One of the latest buzz words floating around the video world of late is LUT. So what is a LUT, why do they exist, why would you use one and how?

LUT stands for Look Up Table and is essentially a set of numbers which are looked up by the software or hardware you are using in order to deliberately change the colours of an image. LUT’s can be of a technical nature, eg to conform to a certain camera specification such a Canon Cineon – also called Rec 709, or of a creative nature – perhaps the director wanted a specific tint or saturation applied.

I am thinking of the movie Avatar here as a wild guess.

They way they work is to take in the colour values o existing footage and substitute the colour values from the LUT. Some LUTs change saturation, some increase contrast and some can change the input colours completely.

Where they can be especially useful is when moving footage between different applications such as from Adobe Premiere to After Effects to ProDAD Mercalli. Or generating imagery from Cinema 4D for use in “real” footage for example.

Some higher end monitors now even have LUTs built in so you can simulate what the end result will be like before applying to real footage.

Many of the higher end NLE packages support LUTs such as Premiere, DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut. The latest version of Vegas Pro has also included the functionality, and it’s use is demonstrated in the video below.

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