How to Convert HDR to SDR in DaVinci Resolve
Get the free Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT
In this video on YouTube I share two methods of converting HDR graded footage to SDR. I highly recommend watching it before proceeding.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a great color space to work with. It allows for much greater saturation and luminance compared to the common standard dynamic range (SDR) Red.709 color space. Eventually you might need to upload your video on a platform that doesn’t support HDR. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram currently don’t support HDR. That’s where the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT comes in handy.
To learn how to grade in HDR, please watch this video.
Using the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT
Before we get started, what is a LUT? LUT stands for "lookup table" and they carry technical instructions that can be applied to an image. They can be used in post production software, cameras, and even monitors. LUTs are a simple and efficient way of adjusting the look of an image. There are no settings or adjustments. In Resolve you can simply drop one onto a node. When using the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT you must take care to have your color settings set correctly. I use a specific HDR grading workflow with very particular settings. If you use settings other than what I use you may get odd results. Note that when viewing HDR video on an SDR display it will appear washed out and lacking in saturation. If your video doesn’t look like this you need to check your settings.
Open the “Project Settings”. Navigate to the Color Management section. These are my settings when I grade in HDR. Note that I am not using the "color managed" color science. Using a color managed workflow dramatically affects the look of your footage and may not be compatible with the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT.
I grade my entire project with these settings. Note that I only grade to 1000 nits when viewing the waveform monitor. If you grade with different settings the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT may not work correctly.
Once your project is completed and you are ready to convert to SDR, change your color settings to Rec.709.
Installing LUTs in Resolve
Before you can use the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT you need to install it in DaVinci Resolve. The process of installing LUTs in Resolve is explained in detail in the manual, so I won't repeat it here. Install the LUT and then come back here. The manual is included with every download of Resolve. Once the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT is installed you can use it in the Color Page.
If you want to affect your entire project, apply the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT on a timeline node and not a clip node.
This is a timeline node. Apply the LUT here to affect your entire timeline.
If you only want to affect specific clips, I suggest placing them in a group. You can then apply the LUT to just the group of clips. To make a group, select one or more clips. Right click on a clip and select “Add into a New Group”.
This will create two new node groups – pre and post. Use post group.
Now you can apply the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT. Open the LUTs by clicking on the LUTs section in the top left of the color page.
Navigate to where you installed the LUT. Click and drag the LUT onto a group or timeline node. If you did everything correct the image should gain contrast and saturation.
Notice that the waveform should now fill more of the area, depending on how you graded. You can change the scale of the waveform monitor by clicking on the ellipsis.
How to use the Color Space Transform Plugin
Instead of using the Flannel Ninja custom conversion LUT you can use the color space transform plugin. This plugin can be used with many different color spaces, so it might work even if you are using different grading settings than I use. Find the plugin by clicking on the Open FX tab. Just as we applied the LUT in the steps above, you can apply the color space transform plugin to a node. Drag the plugin onto a node.
Match the Input Color Space and Gamma to the settings you had when you graded in HDR. Keep the Output Color Space and Gamma to “Use Timeline”. This will convert your footage from the HDR color space to SDR. I personally prefer my LUT over the color space transform. It has more contrast and positions the luminance differently. You can apply additional adjustments before or after the color space transform node if you wish. I hope you find the LUT and this document helpful. Drop a comment below if you have any questions.