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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S-LOG 2 Venice LUTs by Alister Chapman

If you’re looking for a nice and easy way to start grading your Sony S-LOG 2 footage, I recommend taking a look at the Venice look LUTs that Alister Chapman offers up on his website:

http://www.xdcam-user.com/2018/08/new-venice-look-luts-version-3-includes-minus-green-luts-for-fs5-fs7-f55-a7s-a7r/

These LUTs emulate the look of a Sony Venice camera. I have no idea what that looks like, but I like the look that these LUTs apply to my footage. There’s a specific LUT for each exposure, so that you can easily lower the overall exposure of your overexposed S-LOG 2 footage.

I use these LUTs always when I grade my A7 III S-LOG 2 footage. However, remember that LUTs are only a starting point, more grading is usually required to get an optimal picture. Usually, I would adjust WB and fiddle a bit with the exposure or curves. These LUTs are great however, to get you started, with a nice look and some extra contrast and saturation to breathe some more life into the flat looking S-LOG 2 files.

If you like Alisters work, be sure to thank him or make a donation on his website!

Don’t use GoPro Native WB

A year ago, when I got my first GoPro (a Hero 6), I searched the web for the correct settings. It took me a while to figure out what modes I should be shooting in (1080p50 linear 95% of the time, 4K25 wide when I need the wide angle), as well as other settings, such as white balance.

I prefer to shoot everything as flat as possible. I don’t mind the extra work required in Lightroom or Davinci Resolve to make the picture look good again, as long as I know I captured as much as I could. So naturally, I figured that settings the white balance to ‘native’ would mean that there would be minimal processing applied to the image, and that it would capture the native white balance of the sensor (if that even is a thing). I made this decision based on a couple of sources (here and here), but in my experience, I found that setting proper WB is essential to getting a nice picture. If you set WB to ‘native’, it seems like a lot of color information is lost that you cannot recover in post. I will try to explain what I mean.

For instance, take this wonderful picture. I tried to get a lot of colors in the shot. I’ve shot two videos, both 1080p50 Linear, ProTune flat, minimal sharpness, with only the WB setting being different between the shots. First, lets take a look at the ‘native’ WB setting.

WB: native

This image looks nice and flat, especially when you look at the picture that’s taken with the WB set to 6500K (as it was a cloudy sky).

WB: 6500K

However, when trying to grade the ‘native’ WB image, it is very difficult to get the color to match up to the nice 6500K image. Lets take a look at the scope in Davinci Resolve.

Scopes of the ‘native’ WB image
Scopes of the 6500K WB image

As expected, the 6500K image shows more contrast and the colors are more separated from each other, compared to the native WB image. However, this is what I end up with when I try to make the native WB image look nice.

Native WB after grading

While this picture looks fine, it clearly illustrates my issues with native WB. As you can see, the tomatoes and the oranges share the same color. If you look at the 6500K image, you can see a bigger color difference between the two.

6500K WB after grading

For the grading process, I’ve increased saturation and added color boost in the native image, and only applied a little color boost to the 6500K image. Both images have increased exposure, and I adjust the WB in both images, to get the white background to match up.

Now, while the tomatoes in the native WB image might look tastier, this does illustrate my experience in that you lose color information when you set the GoPro to native WB.

I can only speak for the settings of the GoPro Hero 6, as this is only GoPro I’ve used and compared these settings with.