Final Cut Pro X 10.4: Working with LUTs

A LUT (short for color Look-Up Table) allows us to instantly convert a video clip from the way colors are mapped in the image sensor of a camera into a different set of values for display to a monitor.

The reason LUTs exist is that most sensors can capture more color and gray-scale data than our monitors can display. LUTs allow us to convert and optimize an image for a particular scene or display.

LUTs are a part of the color grading process and much faster than adjusting color settings then rendering a clip. While LUTs have been in still image photography for a long time, they are only recently making their way into video. LUT support is new with the 10.4 version of Final Cut Pro X.

Craig Taylor recently wrote me with a reminder that, though LUTs are supported in FCP X, they may not be visible. So, with that as a reminder, here’s what you need to know to experiment.

LUT BASICS

Final Cut Pro X supports two types of LUTS:

An example of LUT software is: 3D LUT Creator.

Final Cut does not create or modify LUTs, it simply allows you to apply and change existing LUTs to your footage. On media import, FCP X will determine if the clips are in a supported log format, then automatically apply the appropriate built-in camera LUT.

You can also import additional camera LUTs (known as custom camera LUTs). Custom camera LUTs can be provided by camera manufacturers or created by your director of photography, digital imaging technician (DIT), or colorist using a third-party color grading app.

Supported cameras include those from:

Final Cut supports both the .cube and .mga LUT formats. This means that any custom LUT designed for DaVinci Resolve (.cube format) will also work with Final Cut. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of .cube LUTs available from a variety of websites; just do a Google search for “CUBE LUTs”.

LUTs can be changed at any time, the source file is not affected and no permanent changes are made to your images until you export them.

DISPLAY LUT OPTIONS

Before we can apply a LUT, we need to display the option. To do this:

In the popup menu at the top of the Metadata View window, select Video Properties. While not really necessary, checking this option will save a lot of scrolling.

Then, check Camera LUT to display the LUT menu in the Inspector. It is off by default.

Finally, click OK in the bottom right corner of the Metadata View window.

CHOOSE LUT OPTIONS

Now, when you select a clip that supports LUTs (i.e. RED, RAW or Log-C), pick the format that represents your camera from the Built-in LUT list.

To remove a LUT, simply select None from this same list.

IMPORT A CUSTOM LUT

Once you’ve purchased and/or downloaded a custom LUT, you can import it into FCP X by selecting the Add Custom Camera LUT option. Remember, it must be in either .cube or .mga format.

NOTE: LUTs are NOT stored in the Final Cut Library file. This means that if you move the library, you will need to copy and move the LUTs separately.

SUMMARY

As we move increasingly into shooting media for HDR, LUTS will also become more and more important. The latest version of FCP X makes experimenting with different LUTs fast and simple.


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47 Responses to Final Cut Pro X 10.4: Working with LUTs

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  1. David Harris says:

    Thanks for your reply Larry!

  2. Ross says:

    Can anyone tell me where FCP X built-in camera LUTs are stored? When I go to view the Camera LUTs folder, it is empty. But FCP X has them somewhere because it automatically applies Canon Log 2 to my Canon Raw Light footage.

    More detailed questions and specifics here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250277437?fbclid=IwAR3rZAueeUN1WXc9mCbU2n73KzzLQ6oYuyISnXUHK-LXFuWaxUV0Lt0cRm8

    • Larry says:

      Ross:

      Apple generally hides all its default settings in hidden folders. The Camera LUTs folder is for LUTs that you import into FCP X.

      Larry

  3. Mike says:

    Is it possible to transfer LUTs from one computer to another via Library? or would i need to copy over the LUT & somehow relink the LUT on the new computer? Hope that makes sense.

    • Larry says:

      Mike:

      LUTs are referenced, not stored, in the Library. You can easily transfer them, but they are separate files from the Library.

      Larry

  4. Karri says:

    Hi!

    Do you happen to know if final cut does color effects before or after LUT’s? Meaning, if I have a LUT applied to a clip as a camera LUT, will the changes I make in let’s say color wheels be applied on top of that LUT, or before that LUT to the footage, if this makes sense?

    Cheers!
    K

  5. Ben Hull says:

    Hi Larry.
    Is there any way to adjust the intensity of the built in camera LUTS in FCPX?
    I normally use third party LUTS at a 65/75% mix and whilst I love the colours of the FCPX in-built Sony S-Log3/S-Gamut3.Cine LUT, it’s just far too strong.

    Alternatively, do you know of any third party LUTS that come close to the FCPX in built ones? Many thanks, and keep up the excellent work! Ben

    • Larry says:

      Ben:

      There’s no way to adjust the mix of a LUT; it is either applied or not applied.

      However, there are HUNDREDS of LUTs that work with FCP X – look for the CUBE format. Remember, LUTs are specific to each camera sensor, so that can help you narrow your search.

      Larry

    • Evan says:

      Yes you can, If you drag an adjustment layer on top of your footage and then use “Custom LUT” in the effects browser, then you can put your LUT on there and using the “MIX” slider, you can adjust to taste. Hope that helps.

  6. Hi Larry!
    When FCP has rendered the lut effect on my footage and I close ande re-open FCP the whole rendering process starts again from scratch. That takes a lot of extra time (and maybe filling up the hard drive also). Any way around this? Thanks, Tommy

    • Larry says:

      Tommy:

      I’m not sure why the render files are disappearing, unless the name of the hard disk they are stored on keeps changing.

      However, I don’t think they are filling your hard disk. If render files exist, FCP X uses them. If not, it recreates them.

      There’s an easy way to test. Use Finder > Get Info to measure the size of your Library over time.

      Larry

      • Alan Olmstead says:

        If I might clarify my understanding… Camera LUT’s don’t require rendering, correct? So Custom LUT’s do?.. as would color grading / brightness & contrast or saturation etc.

        • Larry says:

          Alan:

          Close, but not quite. LUTs don’t require rendering, because they are integral to interpreting the data coming off the hard disk. As such, a LUT can control grayscale and color values for a clip.

          As soon as you make changes to a clip – using the standard color controls – rendering is required.

          Larry

          • Alan Olmstead says:

            Gotcha… that too was my understanding, but was confused by Tommy’s comment above, that his “LUT effect on my footage had to be re-rendered” (?).

        • Larry says:

          Alan:

          It would only need to be re-rendered if other effects were applied to the clip when the LUT changed.

          Larry

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