In the world of color correction and grading, 3D LUTs are hot and in demand. Its no surprise, as 3D LUTs can be an effective tool to simplify the color grading process and provide sophisticated looks quickly and easily. However, there are a huge variety of high quality products available to serve a similar purpose, such as Filmconvert, Koji, Visioncolor, and others available freely on the web. If so, why consider investing in yet another color solution? Simple. When it truly stands out and find a permanent spot in your toolbox after one use.
LookLabs SpeedLooks Studio is a package of 3D LUTs (or look-up tables), based around six distinct looks, intended to assist with color grading. The six looks, named SL-3500 Clean, SL-3535 Big, SL-3530 Matrix, SL-3522 Noir,SL-3527 Blue and SL-3528 Gold provide quite a variety, and even have several variations within each look (such as Kodak and Fuji variants of my favorite SL-3500 Clean, differing intensities of SL-3527 Blue, and low and high contrast versions of SL-3535 Big). This makes the "six" looks closer to 50, and covers the gamut of popular styles you might consider applying to your footage.
With it's fourth generation of SpeedLooks, LookLabs continues to develop their unique approach to camera matching and color management. While other packages provide numerous versions of each LUT (one for every camera model and profile) , LookLabs re-thought the process and delivers an innovative solution that simplifies the previously painful process of matching cameras in way that is friendly to colorists, video editors, and even those completely new to color grading.
Looklabs includes "Camera Patches" for almost every digital camera available on the market today (GH4 and A7s soon to be released), which when applied, normalizes each image to a universal LOG gamma curve, which is remarkably similar to Arri's LogC. The camera patches do a good job of matching the footage shot on various camera, from my Blackmagic Cinema as my A-Camera, my GoPro Black used for slow motion and strange angle shots, and my Canon Rebel as a B-camera, so when I get to grading, the colors are already fairly evened out. Combined with the fact it "standardizes" all the footage into the colorist-friendly VS-LOG, I find the approach a very effective solution for both matching numerous cameras and preparing your footage for color grading using the other other aspect of the package, the six looks (ala 50 variations).
Before I start discussing the looks, I would like to mention that I feel color grading, in general, is a very personal and subjective process. One person may love a look, while another person may downright hate it, and that should be expected for any creative craft. A good example: Hyper low contrast seem to be all the rage in many music videos, films, and commercials, but I personally do not find it visually appealing. Just a thought.
Overall, I found the various looks in this package to be subtle, varied, and useful in a wide range of situations. SL-3500 Clean is likely to the most used, due to its ability to "breathing back life" into dull and muddy footage. It's punchy and saturated (depending on the variation), and provides an excellent starting point for further grading without being overbearing.
Of course, when you want that stylized color contrast of the Hollywood Blockbuster look, SL-3535 Big makes your images pop even more than Clean and adds a hint of the familiar cinematic teal\orange. As the teal\orange push can occasionally become a bit overbearing, LookLabs even included a "MINUS BLUE" variation, saving you a small bit of manual adjustment.
Looking to stylize a black & white film noir about an ace detective gone awry? SL-3522 Noir provides you an ample variety of super-stylized black & white looks, and even a film stock emulation for the classic Kodak Tri-X. Although a very easy look to get by simply reducing saturation, these LUTs offer some neat film-like looks that would be hard to recreate manually without some heavy tinkering.
If you are looking for a nice punchy blue look for your image, SL-3527 Blue gives you a several choices. Some are quite mild, while others, like the heavily stylized "Day for Nite", are intended to completely recolor your image for dramatic effect. This look was so useful, I even used it in my workflow as a professional colorist to strategically add blue to several scenes in a project I was color grading at the time. It's not that I couldn't add blue tones using a variety of other color grading techniques, but the fact that this look LUT combined with some manual color grading resulted in a unique image that felt more natural and less processed than using my other more manual techniques. It was a surprising result, which you can view in its entirety below. I was very pleased with the final look, and most importantly, so were my clients.
Final Thoughts: If you couldn't tell, I really like LookLabs Speedlooks. Color correction and grading can be done without any LUTs, powergrades, presets, or plug-ins, but having them certainly provides some great starting points or some quickly applied looks, if you don't want to go further than shot matching & balancing. Color correction packages are becoming increasingly common in post-production, and LUTs packages are a dime a dozen, but I found Speedlooks consistently stood above the crowd and I highly recommend them. Lastly, I found the sales and support team to be friendly, responsive, and very well informed on their products. They were able to handle all my questions about their products, no BS or marketing elevator speeches.
LookLabs offers Speedlooks in 2 different packages, Studio Log, which includes the camera patches, and Studio Linear, which is purely Rec709 LUTs without the conversion to LOG (no camera patches). While I personally always like working in log, its an additional level of control not always needed to create beautiful imagery and a decision that's up to you. Check out their website and see which is more appropriate for your workflow a budget, which starts at $99.
SpeedLooks in Use
Rival Brothers Coffee - Many shots used Speedlooks V3 SL-3527 Blue at various intensities to help establish a consistent blue look that the client liked.