NITSAN SIMANTOV. PHOTOGRAPHER. FILMMAKER.

East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Osiris film emulations & LUT Utility review + Sony A7s S-Log2

This review is going to be short and sweet because I need to get back to work. First of all, what is a LUT? and what is S-Log2? Lets make this very simple, and then feel free to use Google for more information. Note: I am not an expert on the matter.

S-Log2 is a flat color profile made by Sony. Its aim is to get the largest amount of dynamic range and color information into a compressed video image.
Canon shooters, imagine a better version of Technicolor's CineStyle Picture Style.
Panasonic shooters - Imagine a better version of whatever flat profile you might be using.
(Note, I'm saying 'better' because the result together with the A7s is better, not because I have anything against those other cameras or profiles.)

A 'LUT' (not to be confused with the word 'slut') is a bunch of numbers that tell the computer what to do with the colors of your image. It stands for 'Look Up Table'. In this case we are using them to make the image less flat and give it certain film emulation looks. Other uses for LUTs include copying color corrections/grades from one piece of software to another and of course saving or sharing styles, looks, emulations, presets, etc.

You add and remove LUTs from here. Very easy. And yes, my copy is licensed, I do not pirate stuff.

VisionColor and ColorGradingCentral, who have done quite a lot of quality coloring products and tutorials, have made a series of LUTs that work absolutely beautifully with the Sony A7s, both for basic correction and for getting stylized looks. And they have made a great little app that lets you use LUTs in Final Cut Pro X.

Step 1. Drag this onto your clip.

Step 2. Select a LUT.

Pros:

  • Installation was a piece of homemade carb-free pizza... because I don't eat cake.
  • There are simple video tutorials on use and installation too.
  • Their LUTs seemed to be more consistent in color and exposure than some others I tested.
  • The S-Log2 to Rec.709 LUT (Rec.709 is the standard format for HD video broadcast) was absolutely perfect for the A7s footage and is the best and easiest way I have found to make my A7s footage look great with just one click, but without any color shifting of stylization, which is of course the purpose of many of the other LUTs in the set.
  • The price is perfectly acceptable at $29 for the FCPX LUT Utility and a basic selection of LUTs, including the lovely S-Log2 to Rec.709.
  • Free trial (with watermark).
  • Quick and easy to use.
  • The looks are really nice in my opinion, and feel far more natural and filmic than many other "looks" available online.

Cons:

  • The Osiris LUTs set is priced a little on the higher side. Still very much worth it in my opinion, but it would be nice if the set was a little cheaper.
  • Sometimes the app doesn't let you change LUT, you have to remove it from the clip and add the LUT utility effect again. This didn't happen too often, and it took the best part of three seconds to fix, so not a big issue. Small bugs like this are not uncommon with plugins.
  • Another thing I noticed is some color changes in the middle of the shot on some clips, but I do not yet know if this is the fault of LUT Utility or something else. I emailed VisionColor but they did not know what the problem is. I will post an update if I find out any more information.
  • The built-in FCPX color corrector cannot be used properly together with the LUT Utility, because FCPX "bakes" the color or brightness changes from effects (like adding a LUT) into the video. For example, if you apply a LUT and it causes the highlights or shadows to clip (It happens often) and then try to fix it with the color corrector you will find that no detail can be brought back. Here is an explanation with photos, and a simple solution:

1. You start with your footage, this one is a nicely exposed shot. Slightly brighter images usually give better results as long as your highlights are not clipped. (Click for larger)

2. After applying the LUT, some shots may end up looking like this, losing details in the highlights or shadows, basically causing over or under exposure of the image. This varies from LUT to LUT. (Click for larger)

3. If you try to correct the exposure with Final Cut Pro's color corrector, you will find that it seems to apply itself OVER the LUT and is completely unable to bring any detail back. This also means you have far less color data to work with in the color grade, which is not acceptable. A friend told me he has the exact same issue with Red Giant's LUT Buddy plugin in Adobe Premiere. (Click for larger)

4. The simple solution is to do your exposure and color corrections using an effect or plugin (either FCPX or third party) because they can sit ABOVE the LUT utility plugin in the effects section, unlike the default color corrector which can only sit at the bottom. Here I've shown this example with a trial version of Natress' Curves plugin. (Click for larger)

The Natress Curves plugin is very nice, but better yet, take a look at Hawaiki's Color Plugin which includes fantastic exposure and color correction tools and kicks Final Cut's own color corrector tool right in the nuts, so it's a worthwhile purchase even if you don't plan to use LUT Utility. I will soon be testing and reviewing more plugins for FPCX, because the built-in ones are missing some important features.

Now lets watch these sexy sluts in action:

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