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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 for the Videographer

LR4 is simple, fast and fun to use! By Jeremiah Hall

I'm not much of a still photographer; my passion is in motion pictures, not stills.  So a couple of years ago I saw Vincent Laforet's "Reverie" (http://www.laforetvisuals.com/#mi=1&pt=0&pi=133&p=-1&a=-1&at=0) I knew that I would have to learn to shoot with a DSLR.  I've found the process to be both fun and frustrating, expensive in some areas (priced a matte box lately?) and ridiculously cheap in others (reusable SDHC versus a case of tape).

Which brings us to Adobe Lightroom 4. I have never used the previous versions of Lightroom, since most of my time was taken up with Avid, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  When I needed to do something with stills, I used Photoshop.  When I got the chance to try Lightroom 4, I jumped at the chance, but I was more interested in the video capabilities than I was in the photographic features and tools.

Lightroom 4 will not be replacing Premiere or Photoshop, it's not designed for heavy photo or video editing. You can't cut your movie masterpiece with it.  But if you're a DSLR shooter, I can see it becoming a very useful tool in your arsenal.

I plugged my Canon T3i into the USB and double-clicked the LR4 icon.  It opened, and I found myself looking at a big button on the left-hand side of the screen that said IMPORT.  I pressed it.  It gave me a choice between drives on the computer or my camera's memory card.  I chose the card.  A grid of stills popped up for every movie and picture on the card.  I could choose individually what I wanted to import.  I also had the choice of where I wanted it all imported to.  I let it default to the My Pictures folder, where it created a folder called 2013. I set the date on my camera ahead one year.  I wanted to see what the software would use - the computer's date or the camera's date).  Then it imported the media into a subfolder with the corresponding camera date.  It then took me back to the navigator window, where I could start playing with the images and videos.

 

I chose a video clip at random.   Double-clicking brought up the clip, with a large timeline underneath.  At the far right on the timeline is a gear icon.  Click it, and you can trim the in and out of the clip. (see Fig. 1)


Figure 1

At the top-right of the work area are the HISTOGRAM and QUICK DEVELOP panes.  The histogram is just that - a histogram with the various levels of your shot.  QUICK DEVELOP lets you quickly change the white balance and tone of the shot.  You can manually adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance.  Or you can just change the Tone Control to AUTO TONE and let the software do it for you. (see Fig. 2 and 3)  Even doing that, you still can tweak the results to what you like.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Lightroom 4 is non-destructive.  The changes you make will not destroy the original footage, but will be remembered by LR4 for future reference.  Once you have the shot the way you want it, you need to hit the export button.  Pressing export brings up a dialogue box with several options (see Fig. 4).  Many are geared toward still photography. 

Figure 4

You can't directly export video as an email in LR4, that has its own preset (called "For Email Hard Drive").  You have a choice for video of Hard Drive, Email, CD/DVD or Adobe Revel.  I chose Hard Drive.  You have choices of where to export the file to.  I chose the desktop.  Then LR4 wants to know how you want to name the file.  You can either keep the original name or choose to rename it.  If you choose to rename, you get a list of naming formats (custom name, custom x of y, date - filename, filename, etc.).  I like this because it makes you think about clip organization, instead of just randomly defaulting to what the camera's filename system is.

Next are video choices.  There is a box for "Include Video Files."  If you don't have that checked, it will just make a still photo.  Next it asks for the format; you can choose between DPX, H.264, and Original.  As I worked with Exporting, I learned if you choose original, any of the tweaks or trims you made to the video will not be exported.  It copies the original clip without changes.  This is good for renaming and organizing clips into folders you intend to edit later in Premiere (or whichever flavor of NLE you prefer).   So your real choices are H.264 and DPX.

DPX gives you the choice between 24p, 25p or 30p.  I shot 24p.  I got a folder of the DPX stills with the name I specified (DPS Test) followed by the still number in the sequence (DPS Test000, DPS Test 001, etc.).  Finally, and to me most usefully, is the H.264 setting.  The H.264 setting gives you four quality choices to make ranging from Low (it recommends this for mobile devices) to Max (it says this is "as close to source as possible').  H.264 exports your tweaks to the clip.

The next three settings, File Settings, Image Sizing and Output Sharpening seem to be for still images.  Next you have the the option of changing Metadata.  Below that is a Watermark option (once again, for stills).  And finally a choice for Post-Processing actions (show in Explorer, do nothing, etc.).

Whew.

There is another option.  You can upload your work to Facebook, Flicker, and many other online services -- download the plugins from Adobe's Lightroom Exchange -- via the Publish Services pane on the left-hand side of the screen.  I was able to upload a picture to my Wall Photos folder on Facebook, but could not upload video because Facebook will not allow videos into the Wall Photos folder.  I quickly opened my FB profile and uploaded the video myself.  Playback was beautiful, exactly as I had cut and color-corrected it in LR4. And this is where LR4 shines.

I shot news for around 15 years, with time off for good behavior, and I saw a lot of changes to the business.  When I started, I was using 3/4-inch video camera gear, and if you have never shot with that, consider yourself lucky.  Then came digital video, widespread use of NLEs, and getting material to the web.  As the internet has become more entrenched in our society, so has the need for being able to quickly get material onto it.   

Five years ago I shot a package strictly for the web (for non-newsies, a story with a reporter track, interviews, videob-roll and natural sound). I shot it on DVCPro, edited it tape-to-tape in a live truck, and sent it back to the station via microwave for immediate capture and uploading to the station's website.  The reporter I was working with looked at me and asked, "You think this'll catch on?" Check out any news website.  It did. Sometimes it's speed that counts.

You can't edit a package with LR4.  But you can quickly and efficiently dump clips shot on DSLR into your computer, adjust the in and out of a clip (be it a standup promo, a poignant interview bite, etc.) and upload it to Facebook, a production house or TV station's server, your blog page, etc., without having to open up a traditional NLE, though the edit software is powerful. The down-side to being powerful is the amount of time it takes to use it out in the field when the clock is your enemy.  LR4 is simple to use, and making adjustments to shots is fast.  Faster than going through an NLE.

I haven't touched most of what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 can do, just what it can do with video clips.  LR4 is simple, fast and fun to use. If you're a DSLR video shooter, definitely check it out.  


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Jeremiah Hall has been a writer, videographer, editor, journalist and filmmaker for over 14 years.

He has worked across the midwest and southeast for several news organizations.

Currently, he resides in Cincinnati, OH with his family, and is developing a feature film to direct.


Related Keywords:Adobe Lightroom 4, videography, photography, Photoshop, DSLR


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