Capture One and

The Loupedeck ...

... a lovely control surface but needs better control software

If you're in even the slightest way attracted to digital photography then you'll know what we mean by RAW. Call it the digital negative if you wish. Very simply stated, it's a binary recording of the photons recorded by the image sensor, splashed straight into a file on the memory card, with absolutely NO interference or meddling of the image by the camera's internal processing and, to all intents and purposes, little or no compression.

By comparison, if you take a JPEG picture with your camera it will have had one or more of at least sharpening, contrast, saturation and white balance adjusted to the taste of the guy over at Canon or Pentax who wrote the camera firmware. Most cameras will let you fool around with the default settings of these parameters, but, ultimately, a JPEG is a JPEG, and offers little in the way of efficient post-production of values. And anyway, a JPEG is compressed, and in that respect will never be as good as a RAW.

So, RAW then is the digital negative, analogous to the exposed roll of film in "the old days". Both types of negative require processing in order to produce the finished competition winner. For the film you want a darkroom, an enlarger and dangerous chemicals; for the RAW you want software.

There are now quite a number of RAW software tools, increasing daily. Some are good, some are crappy; some are cheap or even free, some are pricey, some are (wake me up when it's finished) mind-numbingly slooooooow!

But you get what you pay for - as a matter of routine I tend to free-trial them all and then inevitably and usually quickly and dismissively bring CleanMyMac into the picture to delete them. You can usually get a 30-day trial of such products. For a long time I used Adobe LightRoom (LR), and felt reasonably happy with it, but then I trialled Capture One (C1). I was immediately hooked; images developed in C1 seemed to have more sparkle than LR's results; C1 offered more adjustments to the various parameters, and more logically, than LR did. And C1 was faster than LR, both in showing the effect of each tiny adjustment as well as the actual develop itself - the process of exporting a finished JPEG. I've never looked back, C1 for me, every time. Also, Adobe have decided to do bad bad things to the LR model, including their godawfully ridiculous monthly rental rather than buy plan. The latest version is all about The Cloud. No thanks. But I digress, this is not about how Adobe seems to be intent on making its users search desperately for replacement RAW tools. It's about C1.

Or - more specifically - about C1 and how to drive it. Mouse-pointing at various sliders during the develop process is all very well, but your eye is constantly shifting between the image and the adjustments panel. How nice it would be if we could look only at the image while applying changes in exposure, brightness, saturation, clarity, etc, etc.

We can. And I'm going to tell you how. This article is about controlling C1 with a control surface - specifically a Loupedeck. Oh, and specifically Capture One version 12.

Now, the Loupedeck comes with interface software which is primarily designed for LightRoom. The manufacturer does provide an alternative solution for some other software packages, including C1, but the solutions are not optimal frankly, and the labelling on the device is wrong - there's no vibrance setting in C1 but there's Structure, absent in LR, and the LR Blacks and Whites adjustments are not presented in that way in C1, for example - so immediately we're looking at compromise. I think we might need a black Sharpie if we are going to do this properly, because we're going to radically reassign all those controls!

So we have a rather nice piece of hardware, with more dials and buttons than we could ever imagine using in C1 (each of those dials is also a button), but frankly dismal software designed (and I use that word advisedly) to slot between the device and C1. There must be a better way to do this!!

Some research and experimenting revealed a very important fact: the Loupedeck is nothing more than a MIDI device. Look up MIDI in Wikipedia if you like, but suffice it to say at this point that each button press or dial turn delivers a different unique control code into the computer via USB.

Further research told me that EVERY adjustment in C1 can be shortcut keystroked. CMD+Q as we all know is quit, but in C1 ALT+CMD+3 selects the third tool tab, ALT+CMD+N increases luminance, and hundreds of others, either out of the box or user-definable. An important note for our upcoming work is that, out of the box, the default set of shortcut keystrokes does not include every possible adjustment, so this is where the user-defined bit comes in; we'll be defining more or less random, but unique, sets of keystrokes to various functions.

So that's all very well. We have a bit of hardware that can deliver unique MIDI signals and a bit of software that can be controlled entirely by unique shortcut keystrokes. Surely to goodness there must be some better way of combining the two without using Loupedeck's own rather lacking software?

Glory be! There is that better way!

Right, that's the background, the research and the reasoning; let's get down to Page Two: The Nitty and the Gritty and find out how to turn a Loupedeck into a perfect C1 control surface.

Just a few housekeeping notes:

This is all written from the points of view of Apple OSX and the Loupedeck and Bome MIDI Translator Pro and Capture One 12.

I cannot even begin to comment upon how much of this is relevant to that godawful comedy act called Windows. (Author faints briefly).

There are certainly other control surfaces out there. I cannot say whether any of them work like Loupedeck, ie, delivering MIDI messages. But I'd be willing to wager that most of them probably do. I own a Behringer X-Touch Mini. It has many knobs and sliders, etc. There is a software product which can link this surface to LightRoom.

I haven't checked this, but it may well be that there are alternatives to Bome. Dunno, haven't checked.