The State of HDR Film Emulation LUTs & Plugins

Part I: The State of HDR Film Emulation LUTs

Part II: Moving Beyond Traditional Film Print Emulation

Part III: CineD Review of Dehancer Pro

Part IV: Dehancer Print Film Profiles

Part V: Negative and Print Clarified

The final fundamental to grading photographically is to use a good print stock. This concept is largely forgotten today but for a century or more, print stock played a key role in defining the look of a film, providing a consistent baseline of creative contrast and color imagery and helping visually unify the images. Cullen Kelly

Color has been an obsession here for as long as we can remember. With the Sony a7s III in particular, however much we play around with the tint and temperature controls, the hue vs. hue curves, the color warper and the color wheels, colors still look video-ish. Would film emulation LUTs be the answer? While there are countless LUTs on the Internet, precious few are compatible with an HDR workflow. VisionColor and FilmConvert are both currently in the process of developing HDR LUTs; Light Illusion offers a wholly impractical solution for the budget-conscious; whereas Colourlab.Ai‘s Look Designer LUT portfolio has been available for three years running. We had a chance to play around with the latter a bit and the results looked promising, though it was exceedingly difficult to deal with the contrast and the prominent watermark on the trial version meant we could only work with it for a few seconds for fear of ruining our display. There’s also Cullen Kelly’s Colloid, his version of what an ideal film stock would be like. We tried it out briefly and were pleased with it, if not overwhelmed. The plugin is simply not nearly as feature-rich as the others, some of which offer dozens of film emulations, in addition to grain, halation, bloom, gate weave and so on. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend enough time with Colloid to determine how it transforms other colors aside from skin tones – something we hope to rectify very soon. Last but not least is Dehancer, a plugin offering what might very well be the most complete, flexible, cost-effective solution – and best of all, it’s not a subscription service. Below is a glance at the various developers’ products, along with Paul Leeming’s highly regarded corrective LUTs.

Colourlab.Ai

Colourlab.Ai’s Look Designer 2.0, a plugin for DaVinci Resolve, features a very deep collection of film emulation LUTs and works on macOS, Windows and Linux. A few of the many print stocks available include: Fuji CP 3510, Fuji Eterna CI 8503, Kodak Vision Color Print 2383 and Kodak Vision Color Print 2393. Negative stocks include Agfa XT 125, Fuji Eterna 8543 Vivid, Fuji Reala 8592, Kodak 5203 Vision 3 50D, Kodak Ektachrome 7294 Reversal and Kodak Kodachrome 40 7268. A tutorial explaining how to use Colourlab’s LUTs can be found here. Descriptions of the many film stocks, along with titles of some of the feature films shot on them, can be found here. Unfortunately, the trial version has gargantuan watermarks, rendering it fairly useless. The subscription service runs USD $24/month or $249/year. Try out the free trial version here.

Update, 22.02.2022: Release of public beta of version 2.0 with several new features, a new user interface, support for Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro, optimization for Apple silicon and new pricing.

New features include:

  • Ai Powered Auto Color
  • Color Tune
  • Show Look Library
  • Smart LUTs
  • Improved Camera Matching

Perhaps the biggest practical consequence of film versus digital capture is on the aesthetics of our captured image. Digital sensors are designed to accurately capture raw image data and they’re getting better and better at this all the time. Film has a fundamentally different design: it imparts aesthetics on our image that were not present in the original measurable light of the scene. Why is this? First, because film is an imperfect analog format and in fact, a lot of the qualities that we associate with film, that we find desirable about film – like grain and halation and gate weave – are technically imperfections in this analog system. Second, film is engineered to do more than to give you a neutral, accurate capture of your scene data. It’s trying to enhance the color of your image, and after nearly a century of engineering, it does a damn good job of it. So, if we choose to shoot digital, does this mean that we’re forever barred from the aesthetics of film negative? Absolutely not! All the qualities that I’m talking about can be measured, modeled and reproduced digitally. What it does mean is that it’s on us to do this and of course to do it well.

Cullen Kelly

VisionColor

VisionColor is currently in the last development stages for ImpulZ 2.0 which will make the entire library of Film Emulation LUTs ACES and HDR compatible. Release is scheduled for mid September. They don’t offer anything that specifically targets HDR at this time and ImpulZ 2.0 will be the first HDR product in their catalogue. VisionColor has a massive selection of LUTs for a reasonable price, and best of all, they are not a subscription service! A listing of their current film stock library can be found here (click on the individual pictures at the top of the page to reveal them). VisionColor’s Hollywood LUT Bundle that includes ImpulZ™ film emulations (not HDR) runs USD $106. We used to use their popular Osiris LUTs back in the day.

Update, 07.10.2021:

Regarding ImpulZ 2.0, Jonathan Ochmannn, CEO | color.io writes, “The library is fully tested and ready to go but we’re a bit behind on getting everything else up and running for the release like marketing and upgrading previous customers etc. I can’t give you an exact ETA but we’re close! Thanks for hanging in there!”

Update, 23.02.2022:

It’s been several months since we last heard from Jonathan Ochmann, CEO of Color.io, and, eager to hear what new developments are in store for us with with the upcoming Impulz 2.0, we reached out to him. He told us he’s been super busy with preparing the launch, adding:

“We went through so many iterations with this product. What I can tell you is that ImpulZ 2.0 won’t be another LUT Library. It’s a standalone app for developing film emulations in a fully featured ACES environment. At the heart of the application are VisionColor film data models but segregated into logical components: Chrominance, Luminance, Density and Processing Characteristics. These segregated models open up the possibility to essentially create new film stocks by, for example, combining the chrominance profile from Vision3 500T with a Fuji density distribution. All of the data sampling and processing in the end-user app is done in our (huge) VisionColor WideGamut HDR color space which is embedded into ACES2065-1. The app supports all ACES IDTs and ODTs and will be able to generate 3D LUTs and ACES CTL files”. 


(Some of the following may already be out of date).

How is it different from 1.0? 

VisionColor ImpulZ 2.0 is a library of analog color spaces that map specific camera signals to the  chrominance and luminance response behaviour of premium motion picture and photographic film. ImpulZ 2.0 is built on top of ACES IDTs and functionally extends the ACEScct color space with non-linear gamut confinements based on real film measurements. All library components have been completely re-engineered. Instead of our own input-device-transform system we are now building on top of ACES IDTs. This means more supported cameras and highly stable, artifact-free conversions. Instead of a logarithmic base color space we have completely re-sampled our film data with accurate vector mappings into the huge ACES color space. This means massive benefits for accurate film emulation with never before seen color separation and density. We’ve completely re-engineered our color science framework. When creating a library of consistent color mappings a highly reliable color science framework is key. It’s the progress we’ve made at the framework level that has allowed us to create what we’re confident to say are the best film emulations in existence.

What is native ACES HDR? 

In this context, “native” means that our film data samples are not extrapolated from a small gamut. Large gamut, high dynamic range film color coordinates are the foundation of our color science framework. To the best of our knowledge there are no film emulations in existence that have been derived from a color space comparable in size and dynamic range.

Does it support HDR? 

Absolutely. In fact, the base color space of our film data samples has a high dynamic range to accurately capture the natural response behaviour of film. So not only is our HDR implementation technically accurate, it is really rather stunning. Also our native high dynamic range, large gamut base color space allows us to provide perfect interpolations for non-hdr outputs and smaller color spaces.

Does it work without ACES? 

Yes. We’ve created a VisionLOG pipeline for non-ACES users. This pipeline provides accurate device calibrations as 3D LUTs that are suited for a variety of non-aces workflows. These mappings are stress-tested and proven to be incredibly stable so you can expect all the benefits from the ACES pipeline in your non-aces environment.

The release date is early 2022. The exact date will be announced soon. Pricing TBA.

FilmConvert

The good folks over at FilmConvert have a library of no fewer than 19 color positive, negative and reversal film stocks that are compatible with both macOS and Windows and their plugins work with Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve. They are in the initial research stages of how to implement HDR for their products, so they don’t have an ETA at the moment. They encourage those interested to sign up for their newsletter or subscribe to their social channels, as they’ll be sending out updates once they have something to share. As of this writing, a license for their plugins (not HDR) starts at USD $139. A free trial (not HDR) of their plugins is available here.

Colloid 2.0

Colloid 2.0 has been overhauled with a streamlined UI for more intuitive and precise control and faster performance and features next-gen synthetic print stocks purpose-built for HDR and wide gamuts. It’s compatible with DaVinci Resolve Studio 17 and later and boasts native support for Davinci Wide Gamut, ACES, RED IPP2, Arri LogC, and film scans. There is a free 7-day trial, including for users who’ve tried previous versions. The Master Bundle consists of all Colloid tools: Print, Exposure, Points, Contrast Plus and Saturation Plus and download includes five user-adjustable DaVinci Resolve OpenFX DCTLs with automatic installer, PowerGrades for recommended node tree and free product updates for the life of the subscription. There is no renewal commitment – you may cancel your subscription at any time. A monthly subscription runs $99.00, quarterly is $249.00 and yearly is $899.00. If that sounds extortionate, Cullen Kelly’s color grading tutorials will help up your game even without any plugins or LUTs.

Update, 01.01.2022: This is absolutely massive! Cullen Kelly has released a FREE Kodak 2383 print film emulation LUT that works in both ACES and in DaVinci Wide Gamut as well as in SDR or HDR. We tried it on some clips and it’s the real deal! Head on over to his website and pick yours up now.

Core Elements Creative LUT Pack

Cullen Kelly has just announced the release of a new LUT pack that is compatible with an HDR workflow. From his website:

  • Create studio-grade cinematic looks
  • Tailor to your vision
  • Use for HDR, SDR, and everything in between

9 LUTs, 45 possible looks, endless customization. The Core Elements Creative LUT pack contains four tone LUTs for creative contrast, and five palette LUTs for creative color. You can get great looks by using just one LUT from either category, or you can choose your own combination and strength of tone and palette LUTs to suit your creative needs. The Core Elements Creative LUT pack sells for just $79.00.

Dehancer

Dehancer, an OFX plugin suite for film-like color grading and film effects in DaVinci Resolve, is compatible with macOS and Windows and comes in no fewer than eight flavors: a Pro and Lite version, as well as individual plugins for grain, bloom, breath (with gate weave), false colors, halation and a photo edition with a single frame per clip export limitation. The Pro package includes input camera profiles, 62 film profiles with print options, CMY color head (a subtractive color correction tool), film grain, bloom, halation, gate weave, defringe tool for simple chromatic aberration control, vignette, false colors, a LUT generator and ACES support and runs $399.00. The Lite version comes with all the above except for halation, gate weave, LUT generator and ACES support and costs $199.00. The Dehancer website has extensive documentation, including answers to FAQs, in-depth articles explaining the different features in Dehancer, the ACES workflow, how they built their library of over fifty film profiles and even a free book on color in photography! Unlike many of the other plugins listed here, there are also a number of in-depth online tutorials. Dozens of videos graded with Dehancer can be watched here. We spent a little time with Dehancer and found several of the warmer film profiles that prioritize skin tones – Cinestill 800T, Kodak Pro Image 100, Fujicolor Pro 400H and Kodak Gold 200 – quite lovely; and the film grain, which looks convincingly like it is integrated into the image, is preferable in our opinion to the effect in DaVinci Resolve Studio, which appears to be overlaid on top of the image. Another bonus is that, unlike some of the other plugins, Dehancer’s film emulations don’t heap on gobs of contrast. For those still on the fence, you can upgrade any valid License to any more expensive one, within the same host application, whenever you like; there are 10% off promotions everywhere; and a free trial version for Windows or macOS is available here. We purchased the Lite version ourselves for $179.10.

Update 12.10.2021 Dehancer OFX 5.0.0 Beta 7 for macOS and Windows offers several improvements, chief among them the ability to “print” on the print film Kodak Vision 2383. The update is for the Pro version only. 

  • Print profiles with Target White setting
  • Kodak Vision 2383 Color Print Film profile
  • Kodak Professional Endura Glossy Color paper profile
  • Cineon Film Log support
  • DVR WG/Rec.709 source input
  • Source white balance (Temperature and Tint compensation)
  • Optimizations

Here is a description of the print film profiles, from the Dehancer blog:

In the latest version of Dehancer OFX 5.0.0, in the Print parameter group, we have added a choice of the print mediums:

  • Linear
    The characteristics of the print medium are not applied. Only a ‘pure’ profile of the selected film is used, without the influence of the characteristics of photographic paper. This parameter is used by default. It is similar to the the way film profiles worked in all previous Dehancer versions, including the very first one.
  • Cineon Film Log
    Film, selected in the Film group, is ‘printed’ into Cineon film scan format. For example, if you are using Kodak Vision 3 250D negative film and Cineon Film Log printing, the Dehancer output will be Cineon-scanned imitation of 250D. This parameter makes it possible to ‘print’ our negatives outside Dehancer, in additional nodes after it, if it is required for whatever reason. For example, to prepare a file for printing on Arrilaser or other film printer.
  • Kodak 2383 Print Film
    Film, selected in the Film group, is ‘printed’ onto Kodak Vision Color Print Film 2383.
  • Kodak Endura Glossy Paper
    Film, selected in the Film group, is ‘printed’ onto Kodak Endura Premier Glossy Paper. In the previous versions of Dehancer, it was not possible to obtain this print option, because before this print medium characteristics were subtracted from a film profile.

This looks like a significant update.

Is sampling accuracy important?

It would seem that there were and still are many programs, plug-ins, LUTs and other solutions with film emulation used by millions of people, although most of developers rely on scanning negatives with linear image processing. Looks like these ‘imprecise’ solutions work well, allowing one to enrich the ‘soulless’ digital picture in a certain way. After all, users still further adjust the contrast, brightness, saturation, white balance and other image parameters. Is it really so important to super-precise the original profile, if it will suffer from further massive digital correction? We believe accuracy is important. First of all, we want to use specific film color solutions because they have been carefully designed and revised for decades. For example Kodak spent 34 years and $2 billion (old index value) on lab research for the purpose of film development and improvement. Film manufacturers are working for decades on the subtlest nuances of color rendering, rightly considering it important for perception. If we want to use this aesthetic ‘heritage’ with digital image processing, it makes sense to simulate films and processes as precise as possible. It’s a complex task to recreate real film features, no matter how we distort them later. Further correction multiplies the initial inaccuracy. The aesthetic error of 1 mathematical unit during sampling, can easily turn into 10 units after digital post-processing. Finally, the digital correction tools themselves are basically relying on technical (rather than aesthetic) principles. This usually leads away from aesthetically acceptable result, rather than bringing us closer to it.

By the way, such tools can also be built upon the instrumental measurements of analogue processes. That’s how, for example, Exposure, Contrast and Analogue Range Limiter tools are implemented in Dehancer video plugin, allowing us to significantly reduce the digital ‘inaccuracy’ in post-processing, making it possible to work with color relations even in a face of significantly increased contrast, brightness changes and overall massive correction. How we build film profiles, Dehancer Blog

Filmbox

Filmbox is a fully-featured film emulation plugin for DaVinci Resolve that works with macOS 10.15 or later and Resolve 16 or later and includes gate weave, halation and film grain, ACES support and HDR PQ compatibility. According to the information provided on their website, film negative test data was produced using a custom apparatus that illuminates a chip chart with a broad spectrum illuminant across a 20 stop range in half-stop increments and photographed on several high-end cinema cameras alongside s35mm Kodak Vision3 stocks. The Filmbox color pipeline as a whole is based on an actual contact print of the 250D negative to 2383 print stock which was characterized with a custom scanner rig using a broad spectrum illuminant. Filmbox uses a unified color pipeline with a characterization based on scene data from the Sony Venice that has been tuned in reference to Alexa footage. The UI guide is exemplary. An indie quarterly license costs $129.00, yearly runs $349.00 and an indie perpetual license requires a one-time payment of $999.00. Be prepared to shell out $4,999.00 for a production or studio license. Filmbox Lite, a free version for non-commercial use with considerably limited features (2K maximum resolution, only one film stock with embedded dust and gate weave, no HDR), no time limit or watermark is also available. It would appear that with the free version, you’ve got no choice but to work in DaVinci YRGB and that DRCM is not an option. To the best of our knowledge, there is no Filmbox sample footage available anywhere.

philmColor R3

From Phil Holland’s website:

What is philmColorR3?

philmColor is an expansive collection of LUTs built around the RED IPP2 Color Workflow. The LUTs range from creative looks to useful tools for colorists in post. It’s been a journey since the last release in 2017. Thousands of productions have used these LUTs on set, in post, and I’ve loved seeing the BTS grabs of the LUTs loaded on set. philmColor’s success has allowed me invest a lot of time into people’s requests, project looks, and more. A great deal of testing by individuals, studios, and productions commenced as well as creating more looks for my own projects. This led to an opportunity to even create the small selection of LUTs you get inside RED’s new DSMC3 cameras. But I assure you that is merely a taste of the feast I’ve included in PCR3.  

As many have figured out you can also use philmColor with other cameras by transforming your incoming footage into the REDWideGamutRGB Color Space and Log3G10 Gamma. There’s an emphasis on cross camera combatility for this release as it’s pretty common to have a few different cameras on set. 

Motion Picture Film has remained the source of my inspiration and you will find hints of familiar hues, tones, and density that stretch across modern through vintage Kodak and Fujifilm stocks. As alwasy the goal was and is to produce digital stocks useful to the modern filmmaker that will work with a variety of lighting conditions and exposure methods. At key, under key, high key, or ETTR exposure methods work very well with these LUTs. 

In Release 3 you get a total of 540 new LUTs with the purchase of philmColor as well as the previous 178 from philmColor R2. A daunting collection of LUTs, but I assure it’s not about the number, I’ve been working on this release for almost 4 years now to create a sensible and long lasting collection of looks for RED’s IPP2 workflow. 

I’ve created philmColor R3’s LUTs to be used as a RED IPP2 grading toolbox and is essentially a modular LUT workflow. As such I’ve organized the LUTs not only into individual categories, but also generally the order I suggest using them in you choose to cook up more complicated looks. LUT workflow is an interesting topic industry-wide, but there’s many reasons why many productions choose this pathway and it comes down to control and consistency, which is an important aspect of professional image making. Colorist can take these LUTs and build out looks as well as just take inspiration from the direction they are taking things for a final grade. Many ways to work really. My goals are flexibilty, versatility, and compatibility. 

philmColor R3 is compatible with HDR workflows and costs $300.00.

Light Illusion

Light Illusion has generated a selection of three ‘Look LUTs’ that can be downloaded for use in different graphics systems. The LUTs include True Film Emulation for Cineon/Log C & TV Legal Rec709 images, as well as an additional LUT generated via ACES data, also for Log C images. Cost is USD $13.90. These are not HDR. Steve Shaw, CEO of Light Illusion, says ColourSpace is required to generate HDR LUTs. The in-built film profiles can be used to generate any HDR LUTs. The cost of the software ranges from USD $868 for ColourSpace LTE to $4,064 for ColorSpace INF. We’re not kidding!

CORRECTIVE LUTS

Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table (LUT) system for supported cameras, designed to maximize dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted color casts and provide an accurate Rec.709 starting point for further creative color grading. The Pro LUTs are designed for perfect Rec709 colorimetry and have a linear luma curve, with an average measured dE(2000) of less than 1, meaning they are visually indistinguishable from reality to the human eye. Athena LUTs are a brighter version of Pro, designed around how the eye sees, while retaining the same perfect colorimetry as Pro. Combo packs for Sony alpha, Panasonic G and S, Canon EOS, Fujifilm X, Nikon Z and Blackmagic Pocket cameras are only around USD $35 and best of all, updates are free. Paul Leeming assures us he’ll begin working on HDR corrective LUTs once he’s done putting the finishing touches on his Sony alpha cameras update.

A note regarding 3D LUTs for HDR BT.2100 PQ

According to at least one study, in order to achieve a comparably error-free 3D-LUT to those used for SDR, a LUT size larger than 55x55x55 is required for 12-bit HDR (Rec.2020 ST2084). Of course, such gargantuan LUTs aren’t currently feasible!

“In 10-bit SDR, in order to achieve unnoticeable interpolation errors using the trilinear interpolation method, a 3D-LUT larger than 41×41×41 is necessary. However, using tetrahedral interpolation a 31×31×31 3D-LUT is sufficient. In 12-bit HDR, in order to achieve unnoticeable interpolation errors, a 3D-LUT larger than 72×72×72, is required while a 3D-LUT size of 55×55×55 is sufficient if using the tetrahedral interpolation. The saturated and dark images resulted in a much larger minimum size 3D-LUT to achieve a JND<1 pointing to the possibility that ICtCp is likely not suited for dark images. Further studies are needed with emerging new color difference metrics to evaluate the 3D-LUT size for these types of images. Finally, we determined that reducing the bit-depth from 12-bit to 10-bit will require a 3D-LUT 50% larger on average to maintain a comparable image quality”. – A survey on 3D-LUT performance in 10-bit and 12-bit HDR BT.2100 PQ, JD Vandenberg, Stefano Andriani, SMPTE, 2018

Part I: The State of HDR Film Emulation LUTs

Part II: Moving Beyond Traditional Film Print Emulation

Part III: CineD Review of Dehancer Pro

Part IV: Dehancer Print Film Profiles

Part V: Negative and Print Clarified

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