What is the Loupedeck +?
The Loupedeck + is an image editing console. It’s about the same size and shape as a standard computer keyboard but instead of the usual QWERTY keys, it has an array of knobs and dials along with a few buttons. The original Loupedeck was designed for use with Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, but the new version is also compatible with Skylum Aurora HDR and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. In addition, it’s in beta testing with Phase One Capture One.
Apparently, the manufacturer is also investigating extended the compatibility to Adobe Camera Raw, but a decision hasn’t been reached about that yet.
Before plugging the Loupedeck + USB cable into your computer, you first need to download and install the software. Once that’s done, you may find you need to start and close down your chosen editing software a couple of times to get the console to register. At least that’s what I had to do. But once the console starts working, its a plug-and-play device. You can just plug it into your computer everytime you want to use it. Then, when you’ve finished, unplug it again.
If you’ve used either Lightroom or Skylum Aurora HDR, you’ll immediately recognise what the knobs marked Contrast, Clarity, Shadows and Whites etc are for. It’s easy to translate using the software sliding controls into knob turning.
Along the top edge, there’s a row of 8 buttons marked P1-P8 with 8 dials below that are marked with the colour channels. And just to the left side of these are three buttons marked Hue, Sat and Lum. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these buttons allow you to use the dials to adjust the Hue, Saturation or Luminance of each colour in Lightroom Classic CC.
In fact, it’s remarkable just how intuitive much of Loupedeck +’s functionality is. However, you’re likely to need to check the instruction manual to work out how to do a few things. Pressing the Control Dial, for example, activates Crop mode. Rotating it then changes the angle of the image. However, by default the D1 crops the image, with P1-P8 buttons setting the aspect ratio and the arrow keys shifting the location of the crop. Once you know it’s easy.
It’s also worth mentioning at this point that the Custom Mode button changes the purpose of a button or dial. For example, if the Custom Mode button has been pressed (indicated by an LED next to it) the Exposure knob adjusts Detail Sharpening. Meanwhile, the Clarity control adjusts the Radius of the Sharpening.
Pressing the Custom Button a second time (and turning off its LED), reverts the controls to their defaults.
Once you’ve got to grips with the basics you can start customising some of the buttons. The P1-P8 buttons I mentioned earlier, for example, apply Lightroom Presets by default. You can change what’s applied with each button via the Loupedeck software. In Lightroom, this is accessed via Help > Plug-in Extras > Loupedeck Set-up. It’s very straightforward.
If you’ve created your own Lightroom Presets, you’ll be able to access them and assign them to a convenient button.
It’s very easy to customise the controls to optimise the Loupedeck + for your editing.
Loupedeck + has seen a series of updates to its application support since it’s release, which has significantly extended its use beyond Adobe Lightroom. Originally designed as a tool for photographers, it is now an equally powerful control board for video editing in Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere.
Take into consideration that usually a basic video control desk from a company such as Blackmagic Design would set you back in excess of £800/$800, then the £200/$200 price tag is in comparison, relatively light. The Loupedeck + features far more buttons and controls than a dedicated video control board and offers complete customisability.
But, the big question is can something designed initially for photography applications make the switch to video?
Of course, it can in the same way that DSLRs and CSC have made the switch from stills to video, the Loupedeck + makes a similar transition.
You know it’s not a dedicated device, and much of the labelling on the board is irrelevant to an extent, but then there is a lot of crossovers.
But this is a device designed for photographers who shoot video. It’s an adaptive device and to be honest, is more in tune with the budgets and needs of today’s videographers than many of the more traditional dedicated video boards, at least it’s far easier to understand and a heck of a lot cheaper.
Also, take into consideration that most imaging enthusiasts and professionals often switch between stills and video, so a multipurpose board like this makes sense. It’s also small and lightweight, so like a keyboard, it will fit neatly into a kit bag with the rest of your kit rather than needing its own dedicated Peli case.
Setting up the Loupedeck + for Final Cut Pro X
As standard, the Loupedeck + comes Lightroom ready, plug it in and off you go. Switch to video, and on Mac at least you need to set up the Loupedeck + with permissions to interface with FinalCut Pro X.
One issue that instantly appears is that the Loupedeck + features a standard USB 2.0 plug, all MacBook Pro’s are USB Type-C. This means that you’ll need an adapter to plug it in. Not an issue, as part of the course of being a MacBook Pro user, is that you will have at least one if not more adapters in the kit bag.
Once plugged in and the software installed you then need to give the Loupedeck + permission to interface with the application. For FinalCut Pro X, this means delving into the Mac’s System Preferences > Keyboard > Input devices, and adding ABC or ABC Extended.
Then back to the main System Preferences screen and select Security & Privacy > Accessibility and ticking the box next to Loupedeck. Once done, you’re ready to get started.
Getting started with Loupedeck + in Final Cut Pro X
The initial layout of the buttons and dials is logical with the dial jumping the playhead to the next clip and the cursor keys moving the head forward or back by a frame. In use, this layout is very much tuned to those transferring from a keyboard to the Loupedeck + for editing, but for me, the layout didn’t give the most fluid feel to the workflow.
This is where the customisability of the control board comes into its own as every item on the board’s function can be altered. After a few false starts dipping into and out of the settings, I finally tuned the Loupedeck + to my liking, and the difference was huge.
I swapped the large control dial to move the play head single frames, the cursors to jump clips and other buttons to Blade and Select. Basic editing features we’re set. Then with a little more time, audio to -100 and 0, Colour Curves, exposure, mid-tones etc. The rest I left where they were intended.
As ever when switching from one system to another there is a period of learning, you get to know where your keys are when you edit daily and dramatically changing those for a control board of any type is always a slight transition.
The Loupedeck + in many ways makes this transition easy and as a basic board functions well. There are features that if you’ve used control boards in the past, you will long for, but if you’ve never used a dedicated board, it won’t bother you at all.
For me, those features are a progressive sprung scrub dial that enables you to zoom through or skip frame by frame as needed, but this is as good a compromise as I’ve come across. In use the Loupedeck + worked well for video editing, it took a while to transition between keyboard, which is my reluctant choice at the moment, and the deck, but once I became familiar it certainly saved time.
My one issue was with the build quality – it’s good don’t get me wrong, but I’m used to the weight of dials with precision engineering, this is nicely finished but is a consumer level piece of kit rather than professional. However, at the price and considering it can be used for both stills and video it’s a bit of a no brainer when it comes to streamlining your workflow.
I’ve yet to use the Loupedeck + with Adobe Premiere, but when it comes to Final Cut Pro X it certainly smooths workflow once you get used to using the controls and dials rather than a standard Keyboard and mouse.
It works extremely well with Lightroom Classic CC and Skylum Aurora HDR. It doesn’t take long to get up to speed with the basics and after a little experimentation, you’ll soon be using it for more advanced work.
It’s very easy to make adjustments and it’s just as easy to undo them. SImply pressing the dial or know returns the adjustment to the zero setting.
The only downside for me is that I prefer to work with Adobe Camera Raw. This uses the same engine as Lightroom, it’s just arranged in a different way. It also avoids the need to import images into Lightroom before you process them. I’m hoping that Loupedeck rolls out Camera Raw compatibility in the near future.
However, if you use Lightroom Classic CC or Skylum Aurora HDR extensively, the Loupedeck + will save you a lot of keyboard and mouse action. It should also speed your editing time.