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How to Quickly Color Grade Video to Make It Look Cinematic

Professionally grade your footage in just three steps
Photo for color grading video

Taking the time to properly color grade a video edit makes a big difference in getting your footage to look cinematic and professional. In television and film, it’s a job that’s typically handled by a dedicated team member and can really make the footage of a project pop.

When you are working on a bare-bones videography team, however, hiring a professional color grader might not match your project’s budget. Luckily with a little bit of research and pre-planning there are ways to quickly color grade your video footage on your own to make it look cinematic.

In a new video below from filmmaker Matti Haapoja, he details how he approaches color grading and shares his tips for making the process as efficient as possible. Haapoja handles color grading as a three-step process and has developed a set of LUTs to help video creators make the most of their footage quickly.

LUT stands for “look up table” which essentially acts as a template for colorists to save specific color grades as a pre-set that can be quickly applied to out-of-the-camera footage. There are tons of free LUTs that can be downloaded online, but in recent years YouTube creators have started customizing and selling signature LUTs so that any video maker can easily emulate a cinematic look when editing their footage.

Haapoja’s LUT pack is designed specifically to be used with Sony cameras and footage that has been shot in S-Log 2 or S-Log 3. Here’s why.

Why S-Log?

According to Haapoja, shooting in an S-Log format gives you a lot more wiggle room in post when you’re ready to color correct your footage. It saves more data when you are filming and gives you more info in the highlights and shadows, he explains.

If you mess up an exposure while filming in S-Log, it’s a lot more likely you can still make the footage usable once you are in the edit room. When it comes to color-correcting, having files that were shot in S-Log makes it easier to “fix it in post.”

3-Step Color Grading

As he notes in the video below, Haapoja likes to think of every color correct job in three steps he’s developed after years of color grading. First, he converts his footage to a natural contrast and saturation. Then he adds a color grade LUT and lastly he will do a final color correction and match of the footage. His customized LUTs help him work fast, but he also keeps all the LUTs on different adjustment layers in the timeline to simplify workflow.

The first step converts flat looking S-Log footage to something that has a bit of pop. The second step where you add the “look LUT” is more subjective and can really change the mood of the footage in question.

The third step of color matching footage will likely take the longest, but it’s also where attention to detail matters. When color matching your footage make sure you are using scopes for editing and pay attention to skin tones.

If you are having trouble with video clips that look way off from everything else, try masking around the skin tones in a frame, which will help you pinpoint the correct color for problematic frames. Check out the video below where Haapoja shows you how to quickly and efficiently color grade your video footage.

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