Update: Apparently this is by design and can't be avoided due to the changes between the processing versions. Wow, Lightroom 4 is really off to a less than stellar start if you ask me.
Doesn't anybody at Adobe work with custom tone curves? That's hard to believe. I have just found a second issue with them.
Adobe released Lightroom 4 and they pretty much messed up the migration of tone curves when converting the catalog from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4. You can read all about it here, the story is still ongoing as of writing this.
I use custom tone curves a lot, so I filed the original bug report right after finding out about this issue.
This is why I'm now part of a group of people alpha testing a fix that should recover the lost tone curves after an upgrade and that will hopefully make it into the full version of Lightroom and into an update for those who already upgraded.
As far as I can tell, Adobe hasn't issued a warning about this to their existing user base and we can only hope that power users with tens of thousands of pictures (and potentially with as many tone curve adjustments) won't get too many nasty surprises due to the bug.
Here comes issue #2:
During testing of the alpha script, I noticed something else, that I find quite disconcerting: I know changing to the new process will change the appearance of pictures, which is why Adobe suggests an A/B preview, but when I had the tone curve open when switching a picture from process version 2010 to 2012, I noticed this:
The curve does keep its overall shape, but the quite elegant few points of the curve get replaced by a ton of individual points.
WHAT .. ON .. EARTH .. IS .. THIS?!
Doing a quick change to the mid tones, or to how the shadows are rendered is a simple fix with the original curve. The replacement curve is 100% useless for that.
The only way to make the curve usable again is to start over and re-create it from scratch.
If this is by design, then it means that those of us who use custom tone curves extensively (I'm one of them) won't be able to benefit from the 2012 process for any of their existing images unless they are ready to start from scratch on them. In that case I'd really like a word with the person who made that decision.
Today I tried to pay for a train ticket online using my credit card. It was rejected. Of course I went online immediately to check my balance and the transactions, but nothing looked weird. So I called my bank to check what was wrong.
Twitter does have a sense of humor!
Long story short, I ended up on the phone with the credit card company's fraud department. Turns out their system found that me ordering several tons of concrete from a US company was implausible enough to not even let the transaction go through.
Instead they blocked the card and sent a new one my way.
On asking how my card number got into the wrong hands, they said it's pretty much futile to try to find out, likely cause would be a merchant being hacked and even then it's impossible to connect as these things can lie years in the past.
Oh well, let's hope those plausiblity detection systems do their job. And let's also hope that I'll never have to order concrete from a US company.
tl;dr: the LR3 to LR4 update ate my tone curve adjustments for breakfast.
Update 05/02/2012: It's been almost two months and Adobe still hasn't officially updated Lightroom 4.0. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
Update 03/06/2012: Here is the bug report that I filed with Adobe. Please consider to +1 it on their site to help raise awareness of the issue.
Update 03/07/2012: Tom Hogarty, Lightroom Product Manager has posted the following update as a response to the bug report: "Thanks Chris. We've been investigating this issue throughout the day and hope to have an update soon. Thanks for your patience and all of the detail you've provided."
Update 03/11/2012: It's 4 days later and the bug report now has 55 +1's. Some of the commenters are starting to get really impatient.
Update 03/12/2012: I received a mail with a script and test instructions from Tom Hogarty. The script recovers lost tone curves and it mostly worked. It's just an alpha test version, so it still has a few side effects though. Adobe is on the right track with this, but they're not there yet. This still has to be tested more and then needs to make it into an update. I posted my findings in the bug report. 62 +1s now by the way.
Update 03/14/2012: Since Adobe provided the test script to some of those who had the issue (this includes me), there have been mixed messages on the bug report thread. It works for some, some have found other issues. It generally worked for me, even though I ran into another potential problem during testing the fix. This bug is also on the top of the list of Adobe's Lightroom 4 Hot Issues, so even though it's been eight days, there's still hope they will eventually fix it. Until then I'm staying on LR3 and I'm just a little annoyed that I paid for an update that so far is unusable to me.
I just updated from Lightroom 3.6 to Lightroom 4. The new features and the 50% price drop made it look like a no-brainer. I loved the product from the first beta of version 1. I even recorded two video workshops for Lightroom (in German).
If you've listened to Tips from the Top Floor or Happy Shooting, you know that Lightroom is the hub for my photography and you'd have to dangle quite a juicy carrot in front of me to make me give it up. Very juicy.
Unfortunately I have to report that after the update, Lightroom 4 seems to have eaten up all my tone curve adjustments and replaced them with some defaults.
Here's a picture in Lightroom 3, note its histogram:
Now here's the same picture in Lightroom 4. The picture looks the same, the histogram doesn't:
At first I was confused: the LR4 histogram implies a much brighter black point and a much lower overall contrast. Then I realized that the picture shown in LR4 and the histogram must be disconnected in some way.
Next I went back to LR3 and went into the develop module. Opening up the tone curve adjustment tool, it shows the tone curve that I gave the picture.
I use tone curves a lot. I use them more than the other contrast management tools. I probably use tone curves on over 60% of my images.
Next I went to LR4 and opened the same picture in develop mode. This is not the tone curve that I originally gave my picture.
After a few seconds, the preview was updated to reflect the "new" tone curve. At least now the picture matches the histogram again…
NOTE: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 took the liberty to swap out the tone curve that I spent time creating to some sort of default tone curve.
NOTE 2: I did not enable the new 2012 processing, the picture is still on the 2010 process version.
For now I'll revert to LR3 and wait until they ironed out the issues. I'm filing a bug with Adobe as we speak.
Wait. Should you use LR4? "I never used tone curves, I shouldn't have a problem then" I hear you say. Well, if Adobe borked something as essential as the tone curves, that has an effect on my personal trust in the overall product.
I love the new features in Lightroom 4, I think the new processing is awesome and the map feature is the first one in a product that looks like I might actually use it. Books is a great addition too.
But I just don't think Lightroom 4 is quite ready with an issue this big under the hood.
It's not the camera, it's the photographer. We all know that. Do we live it? Not always. Which is why I did a deliberate "lesser photographer" thing.
Where I would usually have the iPhone in my pocket as an emergency or backup camera, this time I made a deliberate decision to go out and shoot with nothing but the iPhone. No big medium format camera. No DSLR. Just the iPhone 4s.
Our creativity strives under constraints. Some of the greatest photography has been made with cameras that some of today's photographers wouldn't even touch with a ten-foot-pole. So I went an extra step and instead of using the iPhone's built-in camera app, I used one that most people would call crippled. Its name is NoFinder and it is pretty much what the title of the app says: a camera without a viewfinder.
Now adding that kind of a restriction might initially sound silly, but it has turned out to be surprisingly good for the creative side of things. Not being able to look through a viewfinder helped me concentrate on the actual scene a lot more than if I had looked through a viewfinder. Pointing the camera without a display also left a certain margin of error, but in the end for many shots that lead to interesting and unusual framing choices that I wouldn't have made with a viewfinder.
Most of those accidental choices of frame weren't that exciting, but then there were a few that I found really interesting. And again: I wouldn't have arrived at them any other way.
The last two constraints that I placed myself under turned out to be pretty much the most beneficial ones: my decision to set the app to only take square pictures and to work in black-and-white only.
The lack of a viewfinder initially made it harder for me to judge the angle of view, but after a few shots it became pretty clear how much would be in the picture. As an added benefit I now have a pretty good idea of the field of view that I can get from the iPhone. I didn't really have that angle visualized before.
And in the end that's how Frog Umbrella came into existence. Being able to see the entire scene with my two eyes, I could watch the umbrella kid walking away from the building and while it was doing so, I fired three shots while trying to anticipate the framing.
And the third shot was the charm. That's my kind of picture - everything fits nicely, the frog's eyes are doubled in the building, every element in the photo feels like it belongs exactly where I put it. I'll be happy when I bring home one single picture like this every time I go out shooting. I'm still working on that.
» Frog Umbrella on Flickr (leave a comment)
I did the sys admin thing where I'd call myself and ask what to do, and I found a partial solution to my DTS issue. I'm far from having this process completed, but I'm a few steps closer of getting my collection of 6-channel DTS 5.1 CDs ripped onto my Mac and into a somewhat useable format.
It's still a fairly manual process, but here's what I've done so far:
Step 1: rip the DTS 5.1 CD to iTunes using the WAV encoder as the input format (no MP3, AAC or similar). This process seems to get the track names right. Not sure if it takes them from Gracenote or if it reads the CD text, but the titles end up in iTunes.
At this point, the ripped files are recognized as 2-channel WAV files, and their content is DTS-encoded 5.1-channel audio. iTunes doesn't give me that information though, and it doesn't seem to be aware of this, so playing these over a normal system will result in noise. In order to play them properly, they have to be played over a DTS decoder, or they have to be decoded on the system.
Step 2: convert the ripped WAV files to 6-channel WAV files using VLC. This partially works, VLC can even be kind of coerced into converting them in a batch, using the Streaming/Transcoding Wizard, but for whatever reason VLC refuses to convert the last track.
My process: open the imported WAV files in VLC, File - Streaming/Transcoding Wizard, Transcode/Save to file, select items from playlist, only check "Transcode audio", set codec to Uncompressed, integer, 192 kb/s, select WAV, select output directory, go. Again, this process will not convert the last file in the list for whatever reason. My workaround is to add the last file twice.
The file names get messed up a bit in the process, spaces end up being replaced by 20, probably due to URL encoding.
At this point I have 6-channel WAV files that work. That's a pretty good start, because from here I should be able to convert the files to anything else I need in the future, using Compressor.
It's easy to visualize with Final Cut Pro X at this point, all 6 channels work and they seem to be even in the right order (something that surround audio fans know isn't always a given..)
Hattler Surround Cuts (also available as a DVD)
Step 3: fix the broken file names using an Automator action. Replacing 20 with a space in the filenames is easy this way, I do all other URL encoded characters manually for now. If this were a process that I'd need to do several hundred times, I would try to fully automate that. As it's now, I am okay with doing a bit of manual work here.
Next steps: find a way to make this process simpler and more automated. It's not that I have hundreds of DTS 5.1 CDs, but I'd still like to find an easier and less error-prone way to do this. I'm also going to need to find a good way to play or re-encode those files into something that I can easily play. But the 6-channel WAV gives me at least a great uncompressed starting point to continue using them down the chain.
And then: find a way to play all this back over my existing infrastructure. Fun times!
I've got a challenge: I have several DTS 5.1 audio CDs. It's a format that isn't too common, but I have them and they have surround audio on them. Note: they are CDs, not DVDs. That's an important detail.
I want to make digital copies of the CDs onto my hard drive. On my Mac and that turns out to be by far not as easy as it seems.
My first idea was to create disk images. Disk Utility doesn't create images of audio CDs. Next try.
VLC was the next thing I went for. Partial success here, it can transcode the CD to 6-channel WAV, but VLC won't let me do individual tracks, or at least I haven't found out how to do it. My tries ended in VLC doing all the tacks and pipe them into a single file, overwriting it with the next track, then with the next track, to end up with one WAV file that contains the last track of the CD.
Also VLC apparently doesn't read the track names (which I assume are on the CD). Instead I get Track 1, Track 2, …
All it seems is that I need to find a a way to rip those CDs to 6-channel WAVs using VLC and being able to batch this somehow. I haven't found that way just yet. I'm using VLC 1.1.12 on Lion.
*SIGH* … I had that a lot in my former life as a sys admin. After having tried 100 things, it sucks to be told you should contact your sys admin.
So I asked on Twitter.
Which is probably the wrong place to go to for things like this in the first place. Everyone is very sweet and wants to help, so they google this for me despite me telling them that I've already done so. Problem is, they google based on my 140 character question or come back with assumptions based on that limited knowledge, while I've already done the googling with the knowledge what I'm looking for. And I know my Google abilities. I believe they are quite good.
So while I'm thankful for people trying to help me, I get incredibly frustrated because Twitter is the wrong medium. The only reason I'm still using it for this is because it is very fast and I don't want to wait for a few days until someone in a newsgroup or on a forum answers my question.
I guess I'll have to keep on searching...
I just ran across another blog article that asked the question if mobile phones would take over in the long run and overthrow all other cameras because the sensor technology and the fact that you tend to have one with you all the time.
I'm not so sure for a two main reasons.
1. Control. Cameras tend to get better and better, but even the best automated decisions will not necessarily reflect your intentions.
An example: think about a backlit portrait. Without built-in intelligence, the camera's light meter willtell the camera that there's a lot of light and the image that comes out is likely to be a silhouette of a person. Most cameras nowadays will detect this and compensate for it, resulting in a well-exposed person (and most likely a slightly overexposed background). I guess in most cases that's what the person behind the camera wanted anyway, so it's okay.
But how about the times when a photographer intended to produce the silhouette picture but didn't have a way to tell the camera that that's what they wanted?
The way the current mobile phone cameras look, it's very hard for me to believe that they will get to this level of control any time soon.
2. Sensor size. Different sensor sizes result in different depths of field (DOF) and control over DOF is a very important tool for most photographers.
In-focus and out-of-focus areas in a picture are one out of a whole array of essential tools for photographers when it comes to telling a story in a picture. Focus will show or hide things, focus will help you guide the viewer's eyes through a picture.
Smaller sensors make it very hard to control DOF. Everything tends to be in focus. Bigger sensors make it easier to control DOF. A photographer can place focus where it's important. And as things look right now, mobile phone cameras are pretty unlikely to get larger camera sensors.
Even if mobile phone cameras got larger sensors, that would mean that the lenses needed to be bigger and further away from the sensors, adding bulk and size. Very unlikely.
Will newer technologies and computational photography replace the need for bigger sensors in the future?
Who knows, but at this point in time, even the Raytrix and Lytro cameras cannot do their job without a certain level of bulk, and the results are by far not where they'd need to be.
What do you think? Are we going to see DSLRs disappear any time soon?
Yes, 'tis the time where we say 'tis again. And it's the time where we bring out the box of Christmas tree ornaments and decorate the tree. Yes, the Brownie Tree is back! And finally.. FINALLY the Christmas spirit kicks in.. and it feels good again.
My goal for 2012 is to keep photography in the center of my life, and to look at my images at the end of the year and see that I've learned something new again. So far this has worked, so let's make it work again for next year.
Here's to a wonderfully photographic 2012!