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How to Level Up Your Digital Video Just by Changing the Colors

While digital video technology is constantly improving, the average camera on the market usually isn’t intended for professional filmmakers to use. The everyday camera shopper is probably looking to capture family memories, but if you are a videographer just starting out or looking to up your game, you are going to be doing a lot more with your work. But while upgrading equipment is always an option, do not forget that there are just as many ways to improve your digital footage through post production. And not every effect requires hours of editing work. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the colors.

There have been many studies about how color affects the human brain. The balance between blue or orange hues in a movie scene makes us feel uplifted or hotter versus calmer or more morose. Over the last few decades, Hollywood movie makers have toyed with different types of film, cameras, lighting, and as of late, digital effects to capture the desired mood of a film. With all this as a reference, digital filmmakers can now use color grading LUTs, or LookUp Tables, to emulate a certain type of camera film, a filming style from a particular genre or era, or even a specific movie. With almost any editing software, digital video footage can have LUTs applied to alter the colors, and thus the feel of the video.

In digital imaging, colors are, of course, just numbers to the computer. LookUp Tables take the numbers the video or photo has and swap them for a different set of numbers, which take the visual form of slightly different colors. Some LUTs make your video cooler hues or warmer, others make colors brighter or mute vivid color for a more even tone, while still others will darken shadows and pop highlights – many do all three in varying degrees.

It is important to remember that a color change won’t be a miracle fix. Experimenting with different color grading on a piece of footage can yield vastly different results. The good news is that most LUTs are simple, universal settings, easy to apply, even on a lot of cameras. This way you can preview your shot with the LUT applied to make sure you have got the best physical setup possible before shooting your scenes. Using different effects on footage shot at different places can bring the colors closer together, making your movie more cohesive. In addition, a LUT designed to emulate a film or style is just a starting point. You can expect to go back and tweak the shots of your film to make them look their best after the colors are adjusted overall. If all else fails, be prepared to re-shoot, but with your color effects possibilities in mind so you can maximize editing potential in post. Here is a video guide on more detailed information for how to use LUTs in videography.