Photoshop Lightroom 4 preview

The latest iteration of Lightroom (currently in beta) reveals both refinement and new features. There are many new features, but the star of the show is the integration of video management into the software.

Lightroom 4, when it launches later this year, will allow you to import video clips from digital cameras. These clips reside in the Grid view with photos. Users can scrub through the clip by simply mousing over it.

Lightroom automatically chooses the image for the thumbnail view, but you can change that. It may sound like a small thing, but when there are dozens (or hundreds) of videos in your library, the ability to select the best poster frame for each is important.

Tools for trimming and grabbing a single frame from the snippets are included. But Lightroom 4 doesn’t stop there. The Quick Develop panel lets movie makers apply standard Lightroom presets (such as sepia toning), adjust white balance, change exposure, and tweak whites and blacks – all non-destructively, just like with still images. Lightroom 4 even lets you make virtual copies of video clips so you can experiment with different effects without maxing out your hard drive.

There are plenty of basic image correction facilities in the Develop section as well as a number of more creative effects as presets

Want more editing tools than are available in Quick Develop? Use the Capture Frame command, edit a single frame from the clip in the Develop Module, save those settings as a preset, then apply the preset to the entire clip.

What we couldn’t figure out, however, was how to connect edited video snippets together and export them as a single multi-scene movie. It looked as though the Slideshow module could accomplish this, but a warning message appeared during export saying that the selected files were not used.

Lightroom’s organisational tools do work for videos, though. You can add snippets to collections, label them with stars, and mark them. And when it’s time to publish, photographers can upload directly to Facebook and Flickr, or simply export snippets to their hard drive.

Interesting developments

The Develop Module receives both a refresh and new features in Lightroom 4. The Tone controls in the Basic panel have been reorganised to reflect a logical workflow. Start with exposure and contrast first, then refine with highlights, shadows, and adjustment for whites and blacks.

Click on the Adjustment Brush icon in the Tool Bar, and new slider controls appear such as Temperature, Tint, Highlights, and Shadows.

The killer new feature in the Develop Module, however, is Soft Proofing, which allows photographers to tune images for output to print or web. While in the Develop Module, press the S key to switch the histogram to Soft Proofing. Choose the colour profile you want to work with, such as Adobe RGB or sRGB, then create a virtual soft proof that’s placed in a stack alongside the original image.

You can tell Lightroom to show destination gamut warnings that indicate where tone clipping will appear for your chosen output. The warnings appear on your preview as a blue overlay. You can then use slider tools to adjust those areas for a more accurate output.

Map and Book modules now feature in the top navigation bar. Book enables photographers to self-publish their work using layout tools in Lightroom, then save the finished product to PDF or send the job to Blurb. As authors add pages they see an updated estimated price for Blurb printing in the inspector.

The Map module will feel comfortable for those who have been tagging images with other applications, or who have been using metadata to find pictures via Google or Flickr. You can view pictures by location in Lightroom, or add geotags, if they don’t already exist.

OUR VERDICT

Lightroom 4, which will run in Snow Leopard or Lion, promises to be a compelling upgrade for all Lightroom users. Video functionality and soft proofing are particularly attractive, especially when added to enhancements and new tools in the Develop module. Keep in mind that this is a beta release so more refinement is sure to follow before the official 4.0 launch. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta 1 is available from the Adobe Labs website.

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