Apply Utility effects in After Effects

Third-party effects:

  • CC Overbrights effect

Apply Color LUT effect

Apply the Apply Color LUT effect to a layer to transform the colors of the layer according to a color lookup table (LUT). LUTs are sometimes used to perform manual color correction or color management tasks.


In general, within After Effects, color management is performed using a standard workflow using ICC profiles, not color LUTs. (See Color management.)

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

When you apply the effect, you are prompted to choose a .3dl or .cube LUT file. You can also change the LUT loaded into an instance of the Apply Color LUT effect by clicking Choose LUT in the effect’s controls.

The Apply Color LUT effect can use .3dl files with floating-point values or 3DMESH/Mesh keywords, or those saved from an ASSIMILATE SCRATCH system (i.e., that have SCRATCH in the comments at the top of the file). Overrange IRIDAS .cube files, IRIDAS .look files, and cineSpace .csp files are also supported.

A LUT can be visualized as a three-dimensional coordinate system (a 3D cube), with each axis representing color transformations for the range of all values for a color channel. Points along each axis define the color transformations for each color channel. After Effects can read and use 3D LUTs that have all three axes the same length (same number of points), with each axis containing 64 or fewer points. For example, After Effects can read and use a 17x17x17 3D LUT.


You can create LUTs using commands in the File > Export menu—such as Autodesk > Smoke (3dl)—in the full interface of the Color Finesse plug-in.

Cineon Converter effect

The Cineon Converter effect provides a high degree of control over color conversions of Cineon frames, but in most cases you should convert the colors in a Cineon file using color management features. (See Cineon and DPX footage items.)

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

To use the Cineon Converter effect, import a Cineon file and leave it in its default state; After Effects either condenses the colors to 8 bpc or expands them to 16 bpc or 32 bpc, depending on the mode you work in. You can then apply the Cineon Converter effect to the file and precisely adjust the colors while interactively viewing the results in the Composition panel. You can set keyframes or expressions to adjust for changes in tone over time—use keyframe interpolation and ease handles to precisely match the most irregular lighting changes. Consider using other Color Correction effects to perform these corrections instead. (See Color Correction effects.)

The 10 bits of data available in each Cineon channel for each pixel make it easier to enhance an important range of tones while preserving overall tonal balance. By carefully specifying the range, you can create a version of the image that faithfully resembles the original.


Each computer monitor has unique display characteristics that affect your perception of color. For best results when evaluating tonal balance, use the Info panel in After Effects to see the true color values of pixels as you move the pointer over them.

Pete O’Connell provides an article on the Creative COW website that describes the use of the Cineon Converter effect.

Conversion Type

How the Cineon file is converted. Log To Linear converts an 8-bpc logarithmic non-Cineon layer that you plan to render as a Cineon sequence. Linear To Log converts a layer containing an 8-bpc linear proxy of a Cineon file into an 8-bpc logarithmic file so that its display characteristics are consistent with the original Cineon file. Log To Log detects an 8-bpc or 10-bpc logarithmic Cineon file when you plan to render it as an 8-bpc logarithmic proxy.


For compatibility, obsolete versions of each option appear if you open a project that uses an earlier version of the Cineon Converter effect.

10 Bit Black Point

The black point (minimum density) for converting a 10-bpc logarithmic Cineon layer.

Internal Black Point

The black point used for the layer in After Effects.

10 Bit White Point

The white point (maximum density) for converting a 10-bpc logarithmic Cineon layer.

Internal White Point

The white point used for the layer in After Effects.


Increase or decrease Gamma to lighten or darken midtones, respectively.

Highlight Rolloff

The rolloff value used to correct bright highlights. If adjusting the brightest areas makes the rest of the image appear too dark, use Highlight Rolloff to adjust these bright highlights. If highlights appear as white blotches, increase Highlight Rolloff until details are visible. An image with high contrast may require a high rolloff value.

Color Profile Converter effect

The Color Profile Converter effect converts a layer from one color space to another by specifying input and output profiles.

In most cases, you should use automatic color management features to convert from one color space to another, rather than using the Color Profile Converter to manually do the conversions. (See Color management.)


In general, you should either work with color management features or use the Color Profile Converter—not both.

The profiles you select are embedded in the project, so you can use them even if you transfer the project to a computer that doesn’t have the same profiles. When converting from one color space to another, you can specify how After Effects handles the color conversion by selecting a rendering intent. You can also choose whether to linearize the input or output profile.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

To convert the color profile of the layer, select a color profile from the Input Profile menu. Select Project Working Space to use the profile specified in the project settings (File > Project Settings). To linearize the input profile, select the Linearize Input Profile option. Then select an output profile from the Output Profile menu. To linearize the output profile, select the Linearize Output Profile. In the Intent menu, select a rendering intent.

Rendering intent options determine how source colors are adjusted. For example, colors that fall inside the destination gamut may remain unchanged, or they may be adjusted to preserve the original range of visual relationships when translated to a smaller destination gamut.

The result of choosing a rendering intent depends on the graphical content of an image and on the profiles used to specify color spaces. Some profiles produce identical results for different rendering intents.

When specifying a rendering intent, you can choose to use black point compression. Black point compression ensures that the shadow detail in the image is preserved by simulating the full dynamic range of the output device.

The following rendering intents are available for the Color Profile Converter effect:


Attempts to preserve the visual relationship between colors so it’s perceived as natural to the human eye, even though the color values themselves may change. This intent is suitable for images with many of out-of-gamut colors.


Attempts to produce vivid colors in an image at the expense of color accuracy. This rendering intent is suitable for images, such as graphic logos, in which bright saturated colors are more important than the exact relationship between colors.

Relative Colorimetric

Compares the extreme highlight of the source color space to the extreme highlight of the destination color space and shifts all colors accordingly. Out-of-gamut colors are shifted to the closest reproducible color in the destination color space. This rendering intent preserves more of the original colors in an image than Perceptual. This rendering intent is used by default throughout After Effects.

Absolute Colorimetric

Leaves colors that fall inside the destination gamut unchanged. Out-of-gamut colors are clipped. No scaling of colors to the destination white point is performed. This intent aims to maintain color accuracy at the expense of preserving relationships between colors.

Use the Scene-ref. Profile Compensation control to determine whether each instance of the Color Profile Converter effect compensates for scene-referred profiles:


Compensates for scene-referred profiles.


Doesn’t compensate for scene-referred profiles.

Use Project Setting

Uses the setting indicated by the project’s Compensate For Scene-referred Profiles option.


If you open an After Effects 7 project that uses DPX Scene and DPX Theater color profiles in the Color Profile Converter effect, After Effects CS5 does not automatically update these profiles to the new equivalent profiles (Kodak 5218/7218 Printing Density and Kodak 2383 Theater Preview). Instead, the profiles are listed as Embedded. You can convert your project by manually assigning the new profiles in After Effects CS5. However, if the same profiles were assigned to the footage or selected in Proof Colors in After Effects 7, they are automatically updated to the new profiles in After Effects CS5. (Proof Colors has been replaced by Output Simulation.)

On his fnord website, Brendan Bolles explains how to use the Color Profile Converter effect and film color profiles to adjust colors and perform tone mapping to make an HDR image appear as if it were shot on motion picture film.

Grow Bounds effect

The Grow Bounds effect increases the layer size for the effect that directly follows it. This effect is most useful with layers that have Collapse Transformations / Continuously Rasterize enabled, because they render using a buffer that’s the size of the composition. For example, if you apply Drop Shadow to a text layer that’s partially out of the composition frame, the shadow is clipped because only the portion of the text that’s in the composition frame casts a shadow. Applying the Grow Bounds effect before the Drop Shadow effect prevents the shadow from being cut off. The number of pixels you specify increases the height and width of the layer buffer.


You should not need to use this effect when working with effects that work with 32-bpc color, because these effects have been updated to automatically compensate for layer size.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Grow Bounds effect: the Wave Warp effect is constrained by dimensions of layer; Grow Bounds effect fixes problem
Original (upper-left); the Wave Warp effect is constrained by dimensions of layer (lower-left); Grow Bounds effect fixes problem (lower-right).

HDR Compander effect

The HDR Compander (compressor/expander) effect gives you a way to work with tools that don’t support high-dynamic-range color—such as 8-bpc and 16-bpc effects—without sacrificing the high dynamic range of footage.

The HDR Compander effect works by first compressing the highlight values in the HDR image so that they fall within the range of an 8-bpc or 16-bpc (low-dynamic-range) image, and then expanding the values back to the 32-bpc range.

Apply the HDR Compander effect to a layer once in the effect stack above low-dynamic-range effects, and once below low-dynamic-range effects.

Because the first instance of the HDR Compander effect compresses the range of values through sampling, some precision is lost. For this reason, use the HDR Compander effect only if you accept the tradeoff of some precision in values for the sake of high dynamic range.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Apply the HDR Compander effect

  1. Apply the HDR Compander effect to a layer in a 32-bpc project.
  2. Select Compress Range for Mode.
  3. Set Gain to the maximum value to be represented in the compressed range—that is, the highest white value in the image. Don’t set Gain too high; the more of the 16-bpc value that you use for highlights, the more compressed the midtones (the majority of the pixels) will be, and the more data is lost in this process.
  4. Set Gamma. Gamma affects the distribution of values in the range, allowing more precision in specific areas of the range.
  5. Apply whatever low-dynamic-range effects you choose to the layer.
  6. Apply another instance of the HDR Compander effect to the layer. Make sure that the second instance of HDR Compander is ordered after (below) any 8-bpc or 16-bpc effects you’ve applied.
  7. Select Expand Range for Mode for the second instance of the HDR Compander effect.
  8. Set Gain and Gamma to the same values as set in the first instance of the HDR Compander effect.


A more convenient way to use the HDR Compander effect is to apply the Compress-Expand Dynamic Range animation preset. This animation preset consists of an expression and two instances of the HDR Compander effect: The first instance has Compress Range selected, and the second has Expand Range selected. The expression automatically sets the Gain and Gamma for the second instance to be the same as that which you set for the first instance. Insert whatever low-dynamic-range effects you choose between these two instances of the HDR Compander effect.

HDR Highlight Compression effect

The HDR Highlight Compression effect compresses the color values in a high -dynamic-range image so that they fall within the value range of a low-dynamic-range image.

Adjust the amount of compression by setting the Amount property for the effect. If the Amount value is set to 100%, color values are compressed so that no pixel has any channel value outside the low dynamic range of 0.0–1.0. At Amount settings less than 100%, the effect can still bring some detail into the visible range from highlight and shadow regions.