Insider Tips: Cut Digital Saturation with Resolve’s Luminance vs Saturation

Every week, Insider asks one of our expert contributors to share a tip, tool, or technique that they use all the time and couldn’t live without. This week, Charles Haine shows us how to cut digital saturation with the Luminance vs Saturation Curve in DaVinci Resolve.

Cut digital saturation with Luminance vs. Saturation

One thing that the Resolve Color room is famous for is having a LOT of buttons. A student of mine once called it the “Oh, no thank you” room, based on their first impression.

But buried in all those magical buttons are your curves, which offer you the ability to bend and push around your color and brightness in various ways. Because there are so many curves, many beginning users don’t fully get a handle on all of them, and many miss the real power in one of the last curves on the list, luminance vs. saturation.

Luminance vs. Saturation lets you control the saturation level of the image based on the luminance. So you can go in and push down the saturation just for the low-lumiance (darker) parts of the image, or push saturation up or down in your high-luminance (brighter) parts of the image. This is actually something that you’ll end up wanting to manipulate on practically every shot you grade.

The reason for this is that human beings don’t tend to see a lot of colors in shadows; when there isn’t light, our vision can’t discern much color and it appears desatured. But digital imagers frequently pick up a lot of color noise and saturation info at all stages of the brightness range.

This is one of the major areas where film and digital are different, and also one of the areas where the ARRI team has tuned the Alexa to film more “film like” by desaturating the shadows in camera. Most manufacturers lean more towards “accuracy” in their image and leave the color data in the shadows.

But if you go to your “luminance vs. saturation” curve, try adding a point near the bottom and pushing down the saturation in your shadows. This can be a quick way to take some of the “digital edge” off your images.

Insider Tips are helpful weekly posts brought to you by’s awesome writers and industry experts. Come back for a new Insider Tip every Wednesday, or subscribe to our newsletter to get a reminder each week.

Charles Haine

Charles Haine is the Interim Program Director for the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Brooklyn College. He has been a filmmaker and entrepreneur working in the motion picture industry since 1999, and received his MFA from USC in 2006. Haine founded the Academy Award and Emmy nominated production company Dirty Robber in 2008, directed the feature film Angels Perch, the websites Salty Pirate, and countless shortform projects including a music video for Fitz & The Tantrums.

Insider Tips: Using Roto Brush for Rotoscoping in After Effects

Insider Tips: Final Cut Pro’s Machine Learning Object Tracker

How to Manage RAW Footage Using Nodes in DaVinci Resolve