April 8, 2016 Jim Wicks

Koji Color

In this fourth post of my ongoing series showcasing LUT packages for the colorist and the editor/colorist I’m going to be looking at Koji Color. Unlike typical online reviews, I’ve chosen to let the LUT creators speak for themselves – in their own words.

For newbies and those unfamiliar with Look Up Tables, a LUT is what some of us in the post-production community use from time to time to map one color space to another.

How do LUTs do that? Why do they do that? To save both you and me time and effort, you can learn more about LUTs here, here, and here.

Koji Color’s website says it is the world’s most accurate motion picture film emulation. The products sold by Koji were developed with Dale Grahn, color timer for Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. Dale personally checked and re-checked the film density for all of Koji’s products to weed out any technical issues. There are specific values for each type of film stock and Dale’s participation ensured the highest standards and quality were met.

Listen to a short conversation I had with Dale about how Koji Color came to be:
Dale Grahn

Gabe Cheifetz is co-founder of Koji Color. His background is in technology, business, and filmmaking. In addition to Koji Color, Gabe is also co-founder of CrumplePop and Trost Motion. All three companies provide tools for filmmakers. But it is Koji Color that is the focus of this post. While there are a growing number of companies that make and sell ‘look LUTs’ Koji Color is unique, offering film LUTs and film emulation plugins.

What does Koji Color mean, how did you come up with the name?
The name “Koji” is meant to be a tribute to the legacy of photochemical negative and print stock. Historically these have been American and Japanese industries, so we wanted to reflect that in the name. We see Koji as preserving and transmitting the art and craft that these groups spent almost a century developing.

How would you classify the LUTs you sell: are they ‘Look LUTs’ or ‘Film Emulsion LUTs?’
Koji Advance and Koji Studio contain LUTs that allow you to essentially strike a digital print of your film. Koji does this extremely accurately. What does “accurate” mean? It means that we carefully controlled the entire production pipeline of the LUTs, from lab to LUT. We also knew that if we simply gave people a film emulation LUT – the kind you can download from the internet – then it would actually look wrong. Your screen is not a film projector. So we did a lot of work to make sure the LUTs produce a pleasing result on a digital display. This is not easy, and it explains why Koji LUTs behave differently from other film LUTs that are out there.

Who were your LUTs created for; editors, novice or experienced colorists?
We have a very wide range of users, reflecting the diversity of filmmakers today. On the professional end, we have working colorists who rely on Koji as the starting point for their grade. We have been amazed and delighted to hear that the film labs are now recommending us in certain cases. We also have a lot of editors who don’t have the budget to hire a colorist, but who want to create a pleasing image for their client. So Koji seems to appeal to wide audience.

How do you create the LUTs?
The process started with Dale Grahn showing up at the lab to physically inspect the test prints. This is the “wet” process – the negatives and prints actually being developed. After Dale checked LAD and weeded out suspect-looking prints, everything was shipped to a digital lab in Europe. Their result was then shipped back to us, and we did the finishing work. Then lots of testing with Dale. I vividly remember the moment Dale looked at the monitor and said, “Well, yeah, that’s what I would expect that stock to look like.” We could have jumped for joy – it had been a very long and difficult process. And I should mention that shortly after we finished – probably a few months later – the film stocks we had used were gone, and the lab we had worked with had shut down. So the timing was very fortunate.

Give me a brief description for the LUT packages that you offer.
Koji Advance

Koji Advance – This is a general-purpose film emulation tool. It contains 6 different film stocks, with many variations included as quick starting points for your creative grade (low contrast, saturated, etc.). It also includes a full-featured plugin for Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X. The plugin has a number of very useful tools like temperature, lift/gamma/gain, and accurate film grain emulation. Koji Advance is our most popular package.
Koji Studio

Koji Studio – This is the complete set of Koji LUTs, including what we call the Koji “technical” LUTs. The technical LUTs have full color separation, therefore the most faithful rendition of the film stocks. However, whereas Koji Advance usually looks good “out of the box”, the LUTs in Koji Studio take some work before they look good. So Koji Studio is meant for experienced colorists. Almost all of our Koji Studio users are working colorists or editors who do extensive color work.
Koji Go

Koji Go – This is an app for iOS that allows casual users to apply Koji to their videos and photos. As the image produced by iOS devices gets better and better, new possibilities arise here. Not a “pro” tool – yet. But very fun and interesting to use.

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Jim Wicks

Jim is a recognized and well-respected member of the film preservation and post-production community. His work is seen at the movies, on Blu-ray, television, the web, and mobile devices worldwide. Color Correction & Grading services by a Pro - without the high prices or cost of a big facility. Email: jim@jimwicks.com · Phone: 1+ (561) 721-5187