Using Rec. 2020 as a Starting Point in DaVinci Resolve 11

Most CinemaDNG compatible programs don’t give many options in the way of suitable starting points right out of the box, so we’re forced to tweak what the program gives us until we have a neutral place to start our grade from. More often than not, the problem is that the colors are too vibrant and are oversaturated. This has to do with the fact that these programs, more than likely, adhere to the sRGB color space. Such is the case with Resolve, the only options being Rec. 709, P3D60, and BMD Film. The problem with this is that when dealing with footage from a cinema camera that doesn’t have a documented, wide gamut color space, we don’t get to see the “cinema” colors from the footage. This is because cinema cameras recording raw data capture a much wider range of colors than sRGB can properly display.

Now in order to make this process of getting to a better starting point a little less painless I’ve created a LUT that puts your footage into the ITU Rec. 2020 color space when coming from Rec. 709 or sRGB (709 and sRGB share the same color gamut). Rec. 2020 is a much wider color space than sRGB, so the footage will appear less saturated compared to when viewing in sRGB. This should provide a more “neutral” starting point for you to grade your footage from.

rec709_rec2020
Illustration of the Rec. 2020 and Rec. 709 color gamuts. As you can see, Rec. 2020 fully encompasses Rec. 709 and more.

Note: All of the color spaces mentioned are display standards. sRGB is defined by the IEC, and is used by most computer displays. Rec. 709 is defined by the ITU, and is used by most HD televisions.

Using the LUT

First you’re going to have to download the LUT; it should be a “.cube” file.

Some people on Mac have reported that the file gets downloaded as a “.cube.txt” file. While I haven’t experienced this on my Mac, others reported this fix:

  1. Right click the file and go to Get Info
  2. Change the extension back to “.cube” and untick the hide extension box

Next go ahead and install the LUT. The easiest way to do this is start up Resolve, open the default project, then go to the Project Settings by hitting the cog in the bottom left corner. From there go to the Lookup Tables tab and hit Open LUT Folder. Then just copy the LUT into the folder. Then back in Resolve, hit Update Lists. Now you can use it in any project. To use it on all imported footage, without having to add a node for it on every clip, set it as the 3D Input Lookup Table.

Now you just need to adjust your settings in the raw panel. Make sure the color space is set to Rec. 709 and your gamma is set to Linear. I can not stress how important this is. If these aren’t set correctly, you will not get results that are compliant with the LUT’s intent. The LUT mathematically converts these values to Rec. 2020 so it’s possible to reverse it later if need be. While in the raw panel, you should do any raw adjustments you need to, e.g. exposure or highlight/shadow recovery. Now you can grade to your heart’s content!

Camera Raw panel in Resolve 10. Feel free to change White Balance and any other raw settings; these affect the image before any color space correction and are better than fixing it after the fact.
Image displayed in Rec. 709 color space with a -0.5 exposure adjustment. No other adjustments made. Image courtesy of Thomas Blake Ramsey.
Same image displayed in the Rec. 2020 color space with the same -0.5 exposure adjustment.

I hope y’all found this helpful. You can put any questions in the comments section below, and you can also find me on the Digital Bolex forums under the handle iaremrsir. Thanks for reading my first ever blog post!

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7 thoughts on “Using Rec. 2020 as a Starting Point in DaVinci Resolve 11

    1. “Some people on Mac have reported that the file gets downloaded as a “.cube.txt” file. While I haven’t experienced this on my Mac, others reported this fix:

      Right click the file and go to Get Info.
      Change the extension back to “.cube” and untick the hide extension box.”

  1. Awesome work. Thank you so much for blogging about this. I’m really interested in the math behind the change from rec.709 to rec.2020 is there an email I can get you on to speak further about this? Desperately need to understand the ins and outs for the project I’m working on. Would be so awesome if we could chat further. Thanks!!

  2. Sir,
    I am from India and I am working as a Colorist(working with DaVinci Resolve 11.3 Lite). Now regarding Rec 2020, once I am done with grading job with this LUT, is there any output LUT or any specific output setting which I have to take care of. In general I give .dpx files for DCP mastering and they ask for Color space and gamma level. Please send me your mail ID

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