Lightroom/Camera Raw: A Revolutionary New Masking Technology

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This is one of my highest hopes for Lightroom

First, to get this out of the way:
- U-points are great when they work: but they don't always work, and they have their limitations... - they are not a panacea...

It is my hope that Adobe will tackle the same problem that U-points solve, only do a better job than Nik did, and preferably open the technology for use in both Lightroom and Photoshop proper so it can be used with third party plugins too.

I have a vision for this that could go on for pages, but I'll refrain, and just iterate the purpose.

Often when I look at a photo I think:

Gee: If I could just alter the color of ... in this one region, without altering ... it would be perfect. PS - This is just one of many possible examples.

Put another way:

How to specify the target for various adjustments, without having to explicitly paint the mask.

One of the genius features of the U-points is the "anti-point". Its an intelligent, adaptive technology. You say:

Get stuff like this (by dropping a control point down on stuff you want to adjust)
But not stuff like this (by dropping an anti-control point down on stuff you dont).
This can be iterative, and the final result is (in a best case scenario), exactly what you want targeted is selected for adjustment - with perfectly integrated transitions into the stuff excluded (no seems, no halos, ...)

This is very exciting when it works well, and can sometimes select targets in seconds that could otherwise take several minutes or hours.

Again, I'll spare you a laundry list of shortcomings, and hope it suffices to say:

Adobe can do better, and I hope they will.

I mean, Nik has made a small fortune selling high-priced plugins that bring in double what they would if they didn't support U-point masking.

This is very key technology, and I hope Adobe seizes the day...

PS - Adobe is part way there already. I mean, Lightroom has edge masking technology for the sharpener which in general works very well (I have my personal issues with it, but overall...), and auto-masking technology for the brush, which although convenient, is not seamless, and so is mostly relegated to quick edits, but is not used so much when top quality is desired.

Summary:
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Auto-masking, especially if the auto-masking can be user-controlled, bounded, and adjusted manually..., can be a key technology, due to being extremely useful.

Finally:
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All develop adjustments would need to be local / mask-able to take full advantage...

Rob
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Rob Cole

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Posted 8 years ago

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Marc Edwards

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Do you have some examples of what you're talking about? Creating masks in Photoshop is pretty amazing and I can't imagine too many ways to improve it.

Take a look at this (if you have't seen it already):
http://t.co/l4z4Ivl

Adobe have some good masking tech in Photoshop. I don't know if that's in Lightroom, but it might be what you're after.
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Rob Cole

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Quote: "Do you have some examples of what you're talking about?" --- see below...
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Geoff Walker, Champion

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This type of thing would greatly enhance the use and marketability of Lr.
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Rob Cole

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Thanks Marc - I looked at the Photoshop masking demo (http://t.co/l4z4Ivl)

But I really think Lightroom needs something more like U-points.

I've used Photoshop's masking tools some, as well as VertusTech's Fluid Mask, and Topaz ReMask, and onOne's Mask Pro..., but none of these are really what's needed in Lightroom, IMO.

They are all aimed more at selecting objects, e.g. for extraction and compositing.

U-Points are aimed at selecting specific colors, luminosities, and textures. As implemented by Nik, they either work great, or you switch to plan B.

I'd like it to be: They either work great, or you refine them until they do.

Don't get me wrong - I can easily see Adobe tapping into their existing masking experience, and Photoshop code-base - this is why I think they could do such a good job. Its just that the masking technology as is, misses the mark for Lightroom purposes, IMO.

I mean, one idea:

Maybe an A-path, instead of a U-point. And the path density represents the force of the effect, whilst path width indicates the geographic scope of the effect (in u-point parlance: the "radius"). I might have to get one of them tablets ;-}

Then along the path, one could adjust color tolerance, luminosity, and structural / textural attributes. This would solve one of the problems with U-points: Sometimes a big point is too big, but bunches of small points make "waves". And, there is no way to hint at what should be included/excluded.

And another problem with U-points (sorry, I told myself I wasn't going to go here) is they transcend the other selection mechanisms, meaning you can't use the eraser to erase parts, or marquees to scribe a boundary around... (you can add additional manual masking in, but that's not the same - very much like whats being discussed in the gradient mask thread here - erasing a gradient mask is different than trying to reverse the affects with a brush afterward.

Anyway, I assume if Adobe invented something similar from scratch, it wouldn't violate Nik's patent.

One facet of my present vision in a nutshell - an A-path: like a U-point, except without the limitations of u-points - integrated in with the rest of the mask drawing features, so its not all-or-nuthin - e.g. slap a few A-path's down and maybe fine tune the targeting criteria - that gets you most if not all the way there, then tweak the mask using whatever mask manipulation methods are available, then start tieing local adjustments to the mask.

Summary:
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The key word here is auto-masking. User specifies geographic extent, and tolerances for the things that determine inclusion vs. exclusion, then the software generates a perfectly seamless mask, which may or may not perfectly include/exclude what is wanted, which can then be used as is or modified using other mask manipulation tools...

Example Use case:
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Targeting light blue sky behind trees, without selecting the dark blue car below the tree, nor the tree branches / leaves, nor the clouds...
Drop an A-path in the sky, then specify the range of colors and luminosity to be affected. Drop an "anti" A-path on the car, and specify a different luminosity range. Voila, you can now adjust the sky and leave the car alone (estimated time: 2 seconds). This is impossible to do right now in Lightroom, because the auto-masking associated with the brush would not be adequate to get just the sky, and the HSL sliders would include the car since it has the same blue hue - only the luminosity differs.

Final thoughts:
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Photoshop's masking may be better for selecting a person, but I'm just after adjusting one of the colors in her blouse, without adjusting like colors in her scarf...

Rob
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Lee Jay

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"Targeting light blue sky behind trees, without selecting the dark blue car below the tree, nor the tree branches / leaves, nor the clouds..."

Rob...I did all of the below with automask.

http://photos.imageevent.com/sipphoto...

I've said before that automask needs some TLC and that it could use some additional complexity (something like tolerance and edge controls), but I already find it more powerful and flexible than Nik's solution. However, it's not at all intuitive to use and even after messing with it for over a year I hadn't figured out the key element which is that it continually adds colors to the selection if you drag over them or click on them. My intuition told me that the set of selected colors would remain fixed at initial mouse-down.
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Rob Cole

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I'm not recommending the present brush's automasking be gutted. I use it too sometimes, and agree that with some TLC it could be improved. I'm hoping it can be maintained along with some other masking tools.

PS - I'll be taking your key element into consideration as I practice - thanks.
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Photographe

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Lee Jay, what do you mean that it continually adds color? I haven't been able to select blue sky behind trees, which should be very easy you would think.
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Rob Cole

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Lee Jay's automasking demo (above) is indeed impressive - I'd say:
- His automasking brush skills are far superior to 99% of Lightroom users, or
- That took him over an hour to do, or
- He cheated ;-}
(or all of the above)
My mileage varies quite a bit too...
PS - What Lee Jay means (he'll correct me if I'm wrong no-doubt), is that the auto-mask uses an adaptive algorithm. In other words, if you start brushing on blue but continue brushing into the browns, it'll assume you must want to paint browns too, or you wouldn't keep brushing on them. I would have thought however, that if you release the mouse then all bets are off again. I'll be doing more experimentation...
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Rory Hill

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I understand what you are saying Rob but I think we are better off by describing the problem the auto-mask tool does not solve and let adobe come up with a solution than attempt to provide the solution. I agree with Lee Jay - I like the automask idea better than u-point and that the automask/adjustment brushes need some TLC including:


  • halo control on high contrast edges
  • needs to mask all develop changes
  • some control on how/what is being masked
  • in-depth documentation/tutorial
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Rob Cole

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I agree with your assessment of the current brush auto-masking, and in case you haven't already, its worth re-reading Lee Jay's "key element" clause above.

My proposal is not for an alternative to the brush's auto-mask, but an addition to the masking repertoire.

Sorry for going into the solution instead of trying to elaborate the problem - I think you're right that Adobe could engineer a better solution than I, once they set their mind to it. I just hope they do set their minds to it...
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Rob Cole

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To clarify the feature request:

I am proposing that Adobe expand the (auto)masking tools in Lightroom.

Although improving the existing brush's automask would also be worthwhile, that has nothing to do with the subject of this feature request, unless you think the brush's automask obviates the need for other forms of automasking - I don't.

Put another way: I don't see a more U-point-like masking technology as a substitute for the existing brush masking, but a complement.

Yet again: I think it would be a nice addition to also have a masking technology that does not require painstaking brushing for those instances when its possible to specify what you want to target more simply and quickly in other ways. Hopefully, the mask generated in this fashion could be modified using the existing (hopefully improved) masking brush.
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Photographe

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Masking is probably one of the editing tools that needs the most improvement, so I second this suggestion.
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Rob Cole

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This shows the mask created by a single control point in the blue sky using NX2.

White means targeted for adjustment, black means not at all, and gray is in-between. Note: I chose a scene with blurry and clean lines so you could see: mask/selection transition is perfect in both cases.

Note: the selected sky is white. This is case where no anti-control-points would normally be required, although if you really didn't want to alter anything under the sky, a half dozen anti-control-points below would drive all the gray areas to black. Total human time required: less than 1 second, total machine time - way less than one second. Notice: the mask is PERFECT & seamless - adjustments to the sky look just absolutely perfect. Try doing that with Lightroom's masking brush!


And here's the original picture:


And here it is with an adjustment to darken the sky:


There are NO tools in Photoshop nor Lightroom that can make a selection like that, so fast, and so perfectly.

Nik really hit one out of the park with U-points. I hope Adobe can innovate something even better. If you've never tried U-points, don't. - you'll never be satisfied with Lightroom again (or should I say, until Adobe outdoes Nik here) - and there's no going back - you can't "undo" having experienced U-points.

Lightroom's brush masking is not even in the same class...
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Rob Cole

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Summary of U-Point Limitations:

- You can't modify a U-point selection with other masking tools. Examples:
- You can't select the sky then drop a gradient modifier on it, as example, since gradient is handled as a mask tool, not an adjustment. Actually, you can accomplish this with layers in Photoshop (and Nik plugins), but not NX2.
(Note: In Nx2 you can tie multiple adjustments to any U-point selection, but not in Photoshop)
- You can't erase nor erect a boundary around it.

- You can't influence the decision of what is to be considered "like", or "unlike" what you want selected, except by dropping more +ve and -ve control points, respectively.
- So in cases where its selecting not enough or too much, you end up dropping tons of control points, and/or your adjustments have a "wavey" look to them (due to point feathering).


Conclusion: Sometimes U-points do an absolutely perfect or near perfect job of selecting what you want, and usually this can be done in a matter of seconds, not minutes. If its going to take any longer than that, it may not be the right tool for the job.

My guestimagining of improvements:
- Integrate U-point-like masks with other mask tools.
- Allow one to specify likeness considerations:
- For example: color, edginess/focus/texture, luminosity.


Bonus ideas: ability to define u-paths, and/or tie U-point-like masking technology to the brush.

Hopefully these ideas are at least food for thought for Adobe...

Bottom-line: In my opinion, auto-masking in some U-point-like fashion would be the killer feature for Lightroom editing, especially if it were integrated with other mask tools and apply-able to all adjustments. That and a distraction removal brush (and a few other odds & ends) and Lightroom's develop module would be the strongest of any. As it stands, its one of the weakest, feature-wise.

PS - Please don't get me wrong - I love Lightroom, and I fully supported Adobe concentrating on image quality in Lr3 (#1 priority, period), putting features on the back burner. But I'm hoping Adobe will concentrate on editing features in Lr4, the u-point-like auto-masking being paramount, as I see it...
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tonguetwister

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you just awoke me to a problem/solution that's been floating around in my sub-concience for a long time. I agree 100%
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Royi

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I'd like to have an option to define a mask to apply a filter / adjustment by using U - Points / Control Points like in NIK's Software Viveza.

Those control points are much better than the current local adjustment brush.
If you could imitate this functionality it could be the killer feature of the next Lightroom / Photoshop.

In Photoshop this could be the evolution of "Color Range".

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom - Local Adjustments Using Control Points / Photoshop Mask Creator.
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Syd Atkins

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To me the perfect Lightroom would be to have all the Nik products inside and not as plug ins especially the U-Point technology.
After using Capture NX for many years along with Color Efex 3.0 i have just started using 4.2, running without any problems on my desktop Mac Pro.
Though I have had Lightroom from version 1.0 I have found the Raw conversion to be better with Capture NX, now that I am using the D800 I have finally spent some time setting up some presets that are darn close to the Nikon product.

So if I could just have the Nik products inside Lightroom it would be a perfect world.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom just dreaming (combine LR and Nik software).
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Rory Hill

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Another auto mask thread to merge.
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Rob Cole

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I suppose it could be merged, although the initial idea was about a technology more akin to u-points than masking brush. Granted, if auto-masking brush worked really well, then such u-point-like technology would not be needed as much. Bottom-line: the ability to seamlessly mask regions for adjustment is disparately needed in Lightroom.
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Rory Hill

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Agreed. I think that is where all the auto mask threads are headed. I just want all the votes in one place.