Controlling Lightroom with MIDI

When editing digital photo’s, it can be hard to focus on both the picture, and the settings you are adjusting at the same time. Kind of like the USB MP3 players from the beginning of this century: you could easily pause or skip a track just by feeling the buttons on the device, without looking at it. Using a MIDI panel in Lightroom solves this problem. Now you can adjust your pictures without taking your eye of the picture, focussing solely on the effects of your edits.

Here, I would like to share my experience with the Behringer BCF2000 (there’s also the BCR2000, without the faders but with extra knobs) and the excellent MIDI2LR plugin. It took me a while to get it working, but it’s working flawlessly now!

With my MIDI panel, I have a number of buttons, knobs and faders at my disposal. For instance, I have mapped the faders to my exposure, contrast, and other basic adjustments sliders. Moving the fader in the panel back and forth directly affects the exposure of the image. This way of working feels way more intuitive than using your mouse to adjust exposure settings!

Setup

This setup consists of a few parts. First, there’s the MIDI panel itself that’s connected to your computer via USB (works both on Mac and Windows). Those commands are sent to the MIDI2LR server, an application that runs alongside Lightroom. Don’t worry, it starts automatically when you start Lightroom. The MIDI commands are sent to MIDI2LR, which converts them into actual Lightroom commands. So all you see in the MIDI2LR application, are the MIDI commands on the left, and the associated Lightroom commands on the right. Of course, you can change all this if you please.

You’ll need to do a few things before you can use the panel in Lightroom. I’ve documented the steps that I had to go through to get my panel working.

  1. Reset the BCF2000 and set it to B-Control (bC) mode (link)
  2. Upload a custom MIDI mapping to your device (using BC manager for my BCF2000)
  3. Creating a profile folder when you can store your MIDI2LR settings
  4. Load settings into MIDI2LR (a list of associated MIDI commands and LR commands)
  5. Profit!

I’ve uploaded my settings to get you started. These include a .bcf file, which contains my custom BCF2000 mapping. This will make the BCF2000 send the correct data that is expected in my MIDI2LR config file. I’ve also gone ahead and programmed my BCF2000 to NPRN mode, which allows for more precise adjustment. For instance, slowly adjusting the temperature knob allows for precise WB adjustment (incrementing steps of just 30). However, if you turn the knob fast, this will result in a greater adjustment of the temperature. I’ve added instructions down below on how to use BC manager to upload these to your BCF device.
Next, you’ll need my MIDI2LR settings. You can ‘load’ these from the main menu of MIDI2LR, and will get you 95% of the way. These settings tell MIDI2LR which button, knobs and faders should adjust which settings in LR.
Finally, you need my presets. These contain extra settings, for instance my mapping of ‘paste settings of previous photo’. I’ve mapped this keyboard shortcut (CMD+ALT+V) to ‘key1’, and mapped ‘key1’ to a key on my MIDI panel. You can import these via Lightroom itself: File -> Plug-in Extras -> MIDI2LR Load preset.

There’s a number of bugs or things that I couldn’t figure out out of the documentation, so I’ve summarized them for you:

  • The most recent version (as of this writing) is Version 2.9.5.0, which unfortunately caused a crash when opening Lightroom. I’ve gone ahead and installed Version 2.9.0.3, in which this bug is not present.
  • You need to allow MIDI2LR in ‘Accessibility’ in macOS Mojave to get keyboard commands to work. For instance, if you want to map a button on your device to ‘paste settings from previous photo’ (as I do a lot!), you’ll want this enabled (link).
  • The uploading of commands to BC Manager can be difficult to get to work. To get the application to communicate to your panel, connect it via USB and turn it on. Then, go to MIDI -> Settings and set both the MIDI input and output port to ‘BCF2000 Port 1’. Then, you can open a .bcf file and write it to your panel by using MIDI -> Send all data. You’ll get two warning dialogs, and then you’ll have a programmed BCF2000 ready for Lightroom control!
  • Again, to get you started, here are my configuration files. There’s also a number of other different presets out there (here, here)

Conclusion

So, in conclusion, while it can take a while to get things up and running, it definitely pays off. Having physical dedicated buttons, knobs and faders helps tremendously when processing your photos. There’s a number of different MIDI panels you can use, not just the one I’m talking about. Take a look at some other reviews if you’re interested:
https://www.aperturized.com/essays/2019/01/controlling-lightroom-through-midi-introduction/

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