Using Color Lookup Tables (CLUTs)

Color Lookup Tables – CLUTs (also “Color LUTs“) are a method of storing and reusing complex linear color transformations*.
CLUTs have the advantages of being supported by many video and image processing software packages, and also the ability to be calculated in real-time on the GPU, costing very little computing resources.
* More simple, daily use terms can be: “color styles”, or “color corrections”

CLUTs are used in the movie production industry to perform color conversions of images acquired from different sources for monitoring and editing purposes, and also for testing, applying and sharing different creative color styles across different departments, and stages of the production.
Examples of common CLUT file formats are *.3DL and *.CUBE

Why is this called a “3D” or “Cube” Lookup Table?

The reason CLUTs are referred to as “3D” color lookup tables or “Cube LUT” is that they store the effect of color operations as linear transformations of a 3D cubic space.
To understand this we have to imagine RGB color encoding as a 3D space with the R, G and B values of each color being coordinates in this cubic color space.
This means that the color correction operations we perform to create a color style, like adding contrast, saturation, warming the hues etc. are all defined as a function that for every color coordinate in the RGB color cube space defines the new coordinate where the corrected or stylized color is found.
The term Lookup table means that the new color values don’t have to be calculated every time because they have been pre-calculated and stored in a table of values.
3D CLUTs are often processed and stored as 3D Cubic textures like this example generated with Blackmagic Fusion of a 32 x 32 x 32 value CLUT.
Imagine the little 32 x 32 square patches all stacked one upon the other, that would create a 32 x 32 x 32 RGB color cube, with which color transformations can be stored by simply applying them on this texture:

Working with CLUTs:

In this post we’ll go trough the process of creating and using a CLUT in some popular creative software packages.
* Note that there are many other software packages that support creation and usage of CLUTs, the process should be similar.

Steps shown in the following software:
Blackmagic Design Fusion 9

In this example our source image with which the CLUT will be designed is an interior scene modeled with Blender 2.82 and rendered with Cycles Render Engine with “Filmic” tone-mapping applied, saved as a PNG file.
* I usually save Linear unclamped 32bit float EXR files as the raw output from render engines, because this is the format that provides the most freedom to manipulate and process rendered images and animation, but from my experience CLUTS don’t work well on linear unclamped color, for that reason I usually apply them at a later stage of the image development (usually after applying tone-mapping to the image).
This is why I saved the file directly as a tone-mapped PNG for this example.

Creating a CLUT in Adobe Photoshop:

For this example, a greenish-contrasty-desaturated color style is created in Photoshop by applying color adjustment layers to the image.
In this case Color Balance, Vibrance, and Curves.
* You can use different numbers and combinations of color adjustments

The new Color Style is now exported to CLUT files:

In the Export Color Lookup Tables dialog allows naming the CLUT, adding a description, setting a quality for the color transform it will define, and selecting the wanted CLUT file formats that will be written.
After clicking OK the CLUT files will be saved in a chosen location.

Note:
Saving the CLUT in the Presets\3DLUTs folder (found in the Adobe Photoshop installation folder) will allow reusing the CLUT as a preset look available by drop-down selection without having to locate the file each time.

Applying a CLUT in Adobe Photoshop:

In the Color Lookup adjustment properties, open the 3DLUT File drop-down, choose Load 3D LUT, and locate the CLUT file you saved:

The original image now has the same color style we created earlier, but this time it’s applied by only a single Color Lookup adjustment layer:

An example of the same CLUT applied to a different image:

Applying a CLUT in Adobe After Effects:

Add a Util > Apply Color LUT effect to a layer,
In the Effect Controls window, click Choose LUT and locate the wanted CLUT file:

Applying a CLUT in Adobe Premiere:

1. Select the image/video clip in the timeline.
2. Switch to the Color UI tab to get access to the Lumetri Color controls on the right.
3. In the Creative section of the Lumetri Color controls, open the Look dropdown, choose Browse and locate the wanted CLUT file.

Applying a CLUT in Blackmagic Design Fusion:

Add a LUT >File LUT node to the image source.
In the File LUT properties, click the browse button and locate the wanted CLUT file:

Creating a CLUT in Blackmagic Design Fusion:

* See the numbered nodes in the flow graph below

1. Source image/video on which the CLUT is designed.
2. A LUT Cube Creator node, generating default neutral 3D CLUT data in the form of a Color Cube map.
3. The nodes creating the actual color style (in this case a Color Corrector and Color Curve nodes) are operating on the LUT Cube Creator node’s output.
4. A LUT Cube Apply node is applying the stylized CLUT data to the image/video for previewing purpose (displayed on the right viewer)
5. A LUT Cube Analyzer node generates CLUT data from the styled LUT Cube Creator data, and allows saving it to disk as a CLUT file.
* Choose a location and click Write File to save the CLUT file.

After Effects – Camera Lens Blur effect

Software:
After Effects CC 2019

Adobe After Effects has a very effective Camera Lens Blur effect that is capable of efficiently faking DOF (Depth Of Field) and Bokeh visual effects for 3D rendered images and animations, and also animate a fake “Focus-Pull”.

The effect will work best on 32 bit float EXR files, and requires a Z depth render element (pass/AOV) to be rendered with the main RGB image, and supplied as the Blur Map layer.

Tip:
If necessary, color correct the Z depth image so that the Black to White range will reflect the wanted focus range, and that the closest depth will be Black, blending into White at the furthest depth.

Example of a Z Depth image:

Controls the blurriness

Shape:
Choose the lens iris shape (number of blades) to design the Bokeh effect

Blur Map:
Defines a black & White Depth Layer (Z Depth) where black is the closes point to the camera and white is the furthest.

Blur Focal Distance:
Values of 0.0 to 1.0 will have the black through grey to white areas of the Blur Map remain at focus (sharp)

Highlight > Gain:
Intensify the highlights to create a more dominant Bokeh effect

Related:
DOF in Arnold for Maya

Master Text Styles in Premiere Pro CC

Software:
Premiere Pro CC 2018

Create a Master Text Style and apply it to multiple text objects:

1. Open the Essential Graphics panel:
Window > Essential Graphics
And in the panel, click the Edit tab.
2. Select the text from which you want to create the Master Style in the Program Monitor Window.
3. In the Essential Graphics panel, in the Edit tab, Under Master Styles,
Open the drop down menu, choose Create New Master Text Style, and give it a name in the dialog box.
* The new text master style now appears in the project window
4. Drag the Master Text Style from the project window on text clips in the timeline to apply the style to them.

Media Encoder – 8K video & 8K 360 VR video for YouTube

Software:

That’s great news for anyone wanting to upload 8K video from Adobe Premiere Pro CC, or After Effects CC, because there’s no need to use inconvenient third party workarounds and plugins like WebM, DNxHD etc.
Abobe Media Encoder doesn’t allow encoding H.264 at higher than 4K resolutions*, but hasÂ native support for HEVC H.265 that does allow 8K encoding.
* There’s a commercial plugin that encodes H.264 at 8K.

Another convenient & time saving feature in the Adobe Media Encoder H.265 output module is the option to add panoramic VR video meta-data to the file eliminating the need to use meta-data “injection” utilities,

Premiere – ‘Composite in Linear Color’ breaks dissolve transitions?..

Software:
Premiere Pro CC 2018

I was baffled,
Not understanding why my dissolve transitions in a new Premiere project are not linear, and too lift too fast,
I validated this in the Lumetri Scopes window.
In an older project, at 50 percent transition duration, white color is at 50 percent intensity like you’d expect from a linear transition.
But in my new project, at 50 percent transition duration, white color is at about 75 + percent intensity as if it’s gamma corrected.

Solution:
After some web research in discussion groups, I found that the option that doe’s that is:
Sequence Settings >Â Composite in Linear Color
And unchecking it solves the problem.

It’s still weird to me thatÂ Composite in Linear ColorÂ breaks the linearity of the dissolve transition,
But at least there is a solution.

Fusion – Multiply color with alpha on import to fix rough edges

Software:
Fusion 9

When importing transparent graphic files, depending on the way the file was saved, you may encounter rough white edges at the transparency border.
In this case the image colors must be multiplied with the Alpha channel values.

In the Import tab of the Loader node,
Check Post Multiply by Alpha.

Note:
You can use a Matte > Matte Control node to further refine the edges.

Example image from:
www.mrcutout.com

The magic of Blackmagic Fusion

Software:
Fusion 8.2

The quest to find an affordable Node-Based Compositing software

I generally prefer doing compositing for video and 3D animation using Node Based Compositing software.
In the past I worked happily with Autodesk Combustion, until it was discontinued, than I went on working with Autodesk Composite (Toxik) which was also kind-of discontinued, and was installed as part of the 3ds max package, and can still be downloaded for free at Autodesk Exchange.

Autodesk Composite is an awesome compositing technology, and I did a lot of work with it, but the only reason I could afford it in the first place was that Autodesk stopped actively developing it and shipped it as a (rather powerful) ‘goody’ along with 3ds max and Maya. while I can still go on working with Autodesk Composite, Its lack of active development is showing, and I decided to look for a better solution.

Obviously, this discussion can’t be serious without mentioning The Foundry’s Nuke compositing software, which as far as I understand the leading node based compositing solution in the VFX industry today.
But in my small indie studio perspective Nuke is expensive, and for my compositing needs, there’s simply no justification to make the investment.

Another node based compositing software that must be mentioned here is the open source software Natron.
Natron is a very serious development, there’s a growing community around it, and it seams to me that it might be on its way to become the ‘Blender’ of the compositing industry.
I did some tests with Natron 2.1.4, it’s interface is very similar to Nuke’s interface, and from the way the interface is designed, its approach to reading and processing 32 bit float multi-channel EXR file sequences, and it’s current library of available nodes, it’s pretty obvious that this development effort is aiming to be a high end VFX node based compositor.
But for me, there are still some key features missing, like 3D compositing, a vector blur node and more.
* It should be noted that you can add Re-Vision Effects ReelSmart Motion Blur plugin to get vector blur functionality and other features like motion estimation.

Enter Blackmagic Fusion

Fusion is actually not a newcomer in the field of node based compositing.
Initially developed by Eyeon software, it was named ‘Digital Fusion’, than just ‘Fusion’, and in the past decade was heavily developed in the direction of 3D compositing.
If I remember correctly, Fusion was also expensive, I think it cost around 6000 dollars…
But than magic happened..
A couple of years ago Blackmagic Design, which is by-far the most disruptive company in the production and post-production gear industry, has purchased Eyeon software, continued developing it, integrated it into their product pipeline and made it available as a free edition of the software and a more heavily equipped ‘Studio’ edition of the software, that costs 299\$, which is absolutely accessible in small indie studio terms.

I downloaded the free edition of the software, and immediately started working with it, getting used to the interface while working on actual animation projects in the past year,
And to cut the long story short, it’s awesome and it’s a very happy ending to my quest for finding a compositing solution, for the following reasons:

1. Node based.
2. Full 32 float workflow.
3. Robust support for multi-channel EXR file sequences.
4. Excellent Vector-Motion-Blur and Depth-Blur (DOF) effects,
And many other 3D channel based tools like Volume-Mask, and more.
5. 3D compositing.
6. Very fast GPU accelerated OpenCL processing (render are extremely quick).
7. Many more..

In conclusion, my opinion is that it’s a no brainer,
If your looking for an affordable, robust node-based compositing software that’s well equipped for 3D animation needs,

Premiere Audio Track Mixer vs Audio Clip Mixer

Software:
Premiere Pro CC 2018

It turns out that even with many years experience in video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro, I wasn’t aware of the Audio Clip Mixer panel.
I did a lot of work with the Audio Track Mixer, but for individual clips I would set the volume and pan in the Effect Controls panel.

It’s pretty simple to explain the difference between the two panels,
The Audio Track Mixer lets you design the audio mix of a whole audio track, while the Audio Clip Mixer lets you set the mix between individual audio clips in an audio track.

It just so happens, that in Premiere Pro CC 2018, the Audio Clip Mixer is the one that’s open by default, so thinking by mistake it was the Audio Track Mixer, I started using it to set the mix, only to be surprised that the volume I set is changing as I scrub the timeline..
First I thought that maybe automation is on from some reason, and key-frames are being created, but the the key-frame display for the Audio track didn’t show any changes.
I was quite baffled for a couple of minutes, until I realized that the mixing panel I’m working with is actually titled Audio Clip Mixer, and opened the Audio Track Mixer to work as I’m used to.
* One of the reasons it’s confusing is that the Audio Clip Mixer panel displays volume controls per audio track (which makes sense, it just affects the individual clip within the track at the point in the editing timeline)

The Audio Track Mixer:

The Audio Clip Mixer:

Creating a 360 VR video sequence in Premiere

Software:
Premiere Pro CC 2018

1. Right click the Project Window and choose New Item > Sequence to create a new Sequence.
2. In the new sequence settings, in the VR Tab, set the VR settings.
3. Use the Toggle VR Video Display in the Program monitor to switch to panoramic display.
* if theÂ Toggle VR Video DisplayÂ button doesn’t appear in the toolbar, use the Button Editor to add it.