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A color look up table is a small file that translates colors. It's basically used to adjust for how a device may display colors, how it may capture colors, or the intent of an artist like a colorist. For example, a color look up table for a specific projector may say, hey, this projector tends to broadcast reds a bit stronger than it should, so let's go through a table and reduce the amount of reds from what you're feeding me to compensate for what the projector does. At another extreme, a colorist may say, "I want my grays to be cool, I want my highlights to be warm, I want my purples to have a bit more red in them." A color look up table can be used to embody those modifications and those adjustments as well.
Well, After Effect CS5 has just added an Apply color look up table effect. Let me show you quickly how to use it. Let's say I'm working on a film and a colorist has already been deciding what color cast to add to different scenes. So in this particular scene a colorist has already developed a particular look that they want and exported a color look up table of his particular treatment. I'll select my file and select Effect > Utility > Apply Color Look Up Table. It will immediately open a file dialog, where I get to select that particular color treatment that the colorist saved off.
After Effect supports the .3dl format and also the .cube format for look up tables. Click Open, and immediately I have now the color cast that colorist had designed. Something a bit more red, a bit more magenta. This was before and after. Took a lot of yellow out of the scene. So that's one way of applying color look up tables, is to quickly apply a color treatment someone else has designed for you. Another common use for color look up tables is to get an idea of what a scene may look like through a particular projection device or through a particular film stock.
And when you do that, you might want to apply it to an adjustment layer instead So I am going to delete the effect here. I'm going to add Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. This will be an adjustment to all of the layers below in the composition. So I'm going to have a complex composition, many different elements, then see what a particular look up table would do to the final result. There's my adjustment layer, apply Effect > Color LUT, I immediately get this dialog and I'll pick this particular look up table which shows me what this scene would look like printed on a particular film stock.
Click Open and I see that this film stock may shift this color to be very yellow and brighten things up. I might want to adjust the work that I'm doing, keeping in mind this is what it will look like in a film stock. If I want to see before, I turn off my adjustment layer, see after, I turn on my adjustment layer. I see also that this particular look up table brings down the highlights and does other adjustments to the scene. This is particularly handy if you've got a look up table that describes what a projector does, or a particular mobile or hand-held device does. You can adjust your colors in After Effects, taking into account how it's going to look on that other device.
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