The Benefits of using LUTs in your video editing

Today we will take a look at the benefits of using lookup tables or LUTs for short in your video editing workflow.

For those of you who are not familiar with this term, a LUT is an algorithm that holds a set of numbers that can replace one set of numbers in your images to another. An example of this would be replacing all of the white numbers within a shot with black numbers making the scene darker.

LUTs are used in a variety of ways to help you with your filmmaking and there are many benefits of using them, one word of advice though is to not become over-reliant on them. LUTs can be easily overused and many filmmakers think they can hide bad shots, which isn’t the case.

Overexposed shots or underexposed shots will not be fixed using a LUT and at times they can look worse especially if your LUT plays with the exposure levels.

With that said, let’s jump into some of the main reasons in which you would use a lookup table on your videos.

1) They help to create cinematic scenes

How often have you looked at a Hollywood movie and thought, I wish my movies looked like that? Well now they can, a cinematic LUT pack can color grade your movies to make them look more professional and cinematic.

Think of the movie “The Martian” for example where all of the outside scenes show the landscape of the planet Mars. Sure you could spend time in post-production changing the color grade manually but that takes a lot of time and effort and most of the time the results are not consistent.

Using a preset filter, on the other hand, keeps your movie looking in the same style and you can even build up a following of people that will recognise your movies every time you release one.

2) LUTs can cut down on costs

Time spent in a color grade suite can be very expensive and can cause your movies to run over budget trying to get them to look in a certain way. LUTs, on the other hand, can be found online for free or you can pay for more advanced ones.

Even if you choose to pay for your LUTs you could potentially still save thousands depending on the size of your movie. LUTs can also help you hit tight deadlines and being too optimistic with setting deadlines is something I’m sure we have all experienced over the years.

Whether its a project for a client or a personal one sometimes these things can run right up to the last minute and having something in your toolbox that can save you time is always a welcomed addition.  

There’s also projects that you still need to look professional without spending a tonne of time on them because of the budget constraints, this is where a lookup table fits in nicely because within a few seconds you can change the entire look of your movie by clicking a few buttons.

Even advanced editing can be done very quickly which ultimately leaves you with more time to take on other projects making you more money.

3) Perfect for novices and non-filmmakers

There are many industries out there that can benefit from using video in their marketing, however, most people who are not filmmakers or editors don’t have the technical knowledge to color grade their films to make them stand out.

A LUT can then be used by these people to make their videos look more professional, more interesting and generally make nice videos. LUTs are quite simple to use and can be used on all footage without the need for expensive cameras. Of course, having an expensive camera may allow you to shoot in higher resolution but LUTs can work on all footage including your mobile phone.

This allows everyone to get involved in creating impressive videos that can be used when marketing their business, their Youtube channel, their Snapchats and everything else in between.

Video editing isn’t easy and it’s a skill that does need to be learned, however, a beginner can get by quite easily with LUTs and beginner-friendly software such as Davinci Resolve.

4) LUT’s can be used to “see the look”

You may think that LUTs are only used by non-professionals but that simply isn’t true, as discussed above LUTs can be used and often are by certain directors who are known for a style. Ridley Scott movies, for example, all have a similar “atmosphere” to them.

Professional feature films also use technical LUTs so they can see roughly what their movie/scene will look like on their monitors before going through the whole color grade process. Of course, this cuts down on the need for reshoots as the director can watch this in real-time and have a good idea of what the final product will look like.

In feature films reshoots can cost millions so obviously trying to cut these reshoots down is going to be advantageous to everyone involved in creating that movie.

LUT’s Conclusion

If you don’t have the time or money to spend in a color grading suite then purchasing lookup tables for your videos is a great option for you to make professional videos.

If you are interested in making films long term we would recommend learning how color grading works as it is going to give you more flexibility with your editing in the long term.