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Working with Adobe SpeedGrade .look files

From: After Effects CS6 New Features

Video: Working with Adobe SpeedGrade .look files

Another nice little improvement in After Effects CS6 is that the Apply Color LUT, or Lookup Table, effect has been updated to read more formats. Namely, you can now also read cineSpace.csp files, overrange IRIDAS files, and most importantly for us, Adobe SpeedGrade .look files. To try them out, you can use of almost any piece of footage. I have a clip here of this airplane landing. Let's add the Apply Color Lookup Table effect to it. I'll drag it under the clip. I'll get a File Open dialog, and I've included with the exercise files that come with this training a little folder with a handful of SpeedGrade Looks that they've given us permission to share with you.

Working with Adobe SpeedGrade .look files

Another nice little improvement in After Effects CS6 is that the Apply Color LUT, or Lookup Table, effect has been updated to read more formats. Namely, you can now also read cineSpace.csp files, overrange IRIDAS files, and most importantly for us, Adobe SpeedGrade .look files. To try them out, you can use of almost any piece of footage. I have a clip here of this airplane landing. Let's add the Apply Color Lookup Table effect to it. I'll drag it under the clip. I'll get a File Open dialog, and I've included with the exercise files that come with this training a little folder with a handful of SpeedGrade Looks that they've given us permission to share with you.

Here are just a couple simple ones. There, Bleach Bypass is a particularly nice, cool, desaturated version of this look. Pick another LUT, Seventies look, and finally, Warm Overall look, which is a nice treatment. Before and after. If you happen to own the Production Premium CS6 Suite, Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 is now included with that bundle. So let me just give you a really quick tour of how to get around SpeedGrade. I've switched over to SpeedGrade, I currently have the Sources tab forward, and one of the nice features about SpeedGrade's browser is not only can you look at the currently selected folder, but you can also look at the entire subtree, all nested folders inside this folder.

So I don't need to go fish out just the video; I get to see all of my sources here at once. I can look at them as thumbnail images or as a list, which gives me information about resolution, et cetera. I'm going to go down to that Transportation footage we were looking at previously, select it, and add it to my timeline. You can actually put together multiple files in SpeedGrade, in case you want to look at several files at once or jump back and forth between two different clips for reference. Once I'm happy that I've added all the clips I need, I change the tab from Sources to Monitor, drag out my Current Time Indicator to find a good representative frame of this shot, maybe right around there.

I can zoom to fit, which I've done already, or zoom to a specific size like 100%. As I click and drag, I have a very good indication of my RGB values. I'm going to zoom to fit for now, since I have a relatively tight screen, and you've got a pretty nice set of scopes. I've got a very nice histogram display here, Waveform Monitor, and vectorscope, and I'll leave those open for now. You actually do your creative work down underneath the Look tab. SpeedGrade comes with a number of preset looks for you to play with. The SpeedGrade team doesn't want you to think of these as finished looks but more as starting points.

For example, some nice compressed looks for the shots, a few cinematic starting points, the Bleach Bypass we saw earlier, a series of desaturation effects, some stylized looks, like the Sixties and Seventies, and also different temperature changes: Warm, Cold, et cetera. An individual shot can have a number of primaries and secondaries applied to it. Some of these can have masks or alpha channels. There's the ability to apply shaders and effects.

However, when you're creating LOOK files, keep in mind that only the Lookup Table, the table that says change this color to that color, comes across. No masking, no effects like blooms, glows, et cetera, are going to come across. So if you're doing this specifically to go into After Effects, stick with the normal Primary. I'm going to reset this to have a clean the starting point. I'm going to work originally on the overall tone, increase my Gain to get some contrast, reduce the Offset to bring on my blacks, maybe play with my Gamma a little bit also to dial that in, and I have a number of other adjustments.

For example, I can indeed change the temperature to warm this up or cool this down even more. I think I'm going to go over in this warm direction. There are also individual controls over the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Say I want to take the highlights and push them even more in this yellow direction. In addition to these color wheels, you have ordinary sliders or pure numeric entries if you prefer those. I'll go back to the pseudo-trackball interface. When you have something you like, you can save it as a look.

This appeared down here in the folder I was currently in. You can add folders as well. I can rename it, such as transportation idea 2, delete it, or export it. Normally, the LOOK files are saved inside the SpeedGrade package, but you can export these as a series of different LUT formats for a variety of other systems. You have a long checklist here and you can add others to that checklist as well. Very flexible, very powerful. The SpeedGrade LOOK format itself saves not only the LUT, the Lookup Table, but also all of your parameter adjustments.

It will take all of the LUTs you have checked and save them all in an archived ZIP folder that contains that LOOK file and these LUTs, and also a small JEPG thumbnail to remind you of your color treatment. I'll go ahead and export this one. I'm going to save it in the SpeedGrade folder called transportation idea 2--I was playing with another idea as well. Export, tab over to the Finder. Here's the new transportation idea I just saved off, double-click it to open the archive, and there you'll see inside the folder all of those different LUT formats I saved, as well as the SpeedGrade LOOK file and the JPEG thumbnail of the treatment I created.

Let's switch back to After Effects and I'll show you an important gotcha about this workflow. I'll choose a new LUT, open up my transportation idea 2 folder I exported, select the transportation idea 2 look, click Open, and the result is considerably more orange than it looked in SpeedGrade. Well, this is actually a problem in color management. I'll open up my Project Settings. After Effects is capable of being a color-managed application using ICC color profiles. SpeedGrade, however, does not use ICC profiles, and it builds the color profile it assumed into the color lookup table it was using.

Therefore, if you want to bring SpeedGrade lookup tables into After Effects, you need to set the Working Space to None so that both After Effects and SpeedGrade are making the same assumptions about the underlying footage. I'll click OK, and there was our treatment. So if you're a Production Premium owner, SpeedGrade is quite an important addition to CS6. I hope you can take advantage of it.

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After Effects CS6 New Features

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