Tag Archives: software

Review ~ Luminar by MacPhun is comprehensive photo improvement software


luminarinterface

MacPhun seems to have been making Mac image apps for ages, and had a real success with last year’s Aurora HD (which was recently updated in an excellent new version for 2017, available now; I have already reviewed this) but is also known for the very handy Snapheal cloning tool – it has powerful erasing and healing tools for removing things you don’t want in images, as well as standard editing tools.
In the CreativeKit, MacPhun bundles six handy photo apps, including Snapheal and FX Studio Pro … this company knows what it’s doing. (Luminar pretty much has all of these in the one place, though.)

Luminar will be available soon, as it just went on presale, is a non-destructive RAW photo editor, built from the ground up around two things: simplicity and creativity. I’ve been trying software like this for a while, as I resent Adobe’s new subscription policy. If I thought I could replace it with a standalone app that did what I use Photoshop for, I’d get it. So, will this be the one ..?
Luminar is designed to be usable right out of the (virtual) box, without a steep learning curve, but to then adapt as your use becomes more sophisticated to offer more capabilities. Luminar’s user interface adjust to your skill level and preferences: you can use a one-click fix (like the magic wand in Photos) or you can develop away with 35 filters, all with their own settings faders, plus tools, layers, blend modes, brushes, masking and more. Add to that Layers, Custom Textures, Brushes, Masking (including automatic Luminosity, Gradient and Radial Masks), Noise Reduction, a Healing tool, Crop & Transform, History Panel, Selective Top & Bottom adjustments, plug-in support
I used to really like Aperture until Apple killed it off, as its non-destructive tools were excellent. It was better than Photoshop at fixing up scans of old photographs, of which I have quite a collection. And I tried Adobe’s Lightroom but I found it deeply irksome that it followed a darkroom of old as a sort of digital workflow method. This might sound weird coming from a former darkroom technician, but I’d fully embraced digital and I didn’t see the point of going through ‘stages’ of a process artificially to get where I wanted.
Luminar has perhaps the best of both worlds as it it uses workspaces you can tailor to your preference. They can be set up to feature only the tools most suitable for your type of photography, saved into sets of different filters. The defaults are Portrait, Black & White, Landscape and Street. You can add different filters to these workspaces or build your own.

Interface — This looks a lot like Aurora in that the image loads into the large space in the middle to the left edge, with features down the right edge and presets along the bottom. The presets are Clarity Booster, Classic B&W, Detailed, Fix Dark Photo, Foggy Day (adds fog), Foreground Brightener, Gloomy Morning, Image Enhancer, Mid Image Enhancer, Sharp & Crisp, Sky Enhancer, Soft & Airy, Vivid, 60s B&W, Center of Attention (sic), Cold Morning, Enhanced Reality, Noble, Only Yellow, Peruvian desert, Subway, Abandoned Place, Auto Smart Sharpener, Bright Day, Colors of the Fall (sic), Daydreams, Fix Dark Landscape, Misty Land, B&W Fashion Magazine, Enhanced Portrait, Glamour, Mysterious Girl, Noble Beauty, Portrait Soft Glow, Smooth Portrait, Dark Moon, Dull No More, Explore Dark Alleys, Final Frontier, Ghost Ship, Happy Memories, Impressive, Marco Polo, New Discovery, Silver Crystals, Sleepy Valley, Vivid Dreams, Warm Sunset, Artistic Copper Strong, Bloody Mary, Cold Mood, Dramatic Grungy, Dramatic Look, Enigmatic Vision, Film Noir, Lost Soul, Mood Enhancer, Tears in the Rain and Vintage Look. I count 56!
Clicking on any preset resets all the sliders in the tool strip from scratch, and each preset area has its own intensity slider so you can choose how much of the combination of controls you apply. A second or two and the effects are applied to the image so you can see it full screen. Rolling the mouse or stroking your trackpad over the main image zooms it in and out. You can click a little star at lower right of each preset to make it a favourite, which might be a good way to start working out what you’ll want in a customised workspace.

The tools — The tools down the right side have group buttons on the right-most edge: Hand, Brush, Gradient, Radiant Mask, Rectangular Marquee tool, Stamp (clicking on this initiates a 3-second ‘Preparing’ operation), Eraser, Denoise (which immediately zooms in so you can inspect the effect) and Crop (with rule-of-thirds grid). The first four keep the sliders in the rest of the right vertical strip visible, but the next batch of five don’t.
To the left of these, but still in the right vertical strip, there’s Levels at the top, Layers, Filters (click to make a menu appear with 35 filters in it), the Workspace menu (Custom, Clear, Default, B&W, Landscape, Portrait and Street) and then there are different sliders that appear below this section depending on the workspace you choose – for example, under Street there are Colour Temperature sliders and below that Tone (Exposure, Contrast, Smart Tone, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks) and beneath that in turn, Saturation/Vibrance sliders, Clarity, Structure, Soft Focus, Curves, Cross Processing, Texture Overlay, Vignette and Grain. And then, in case that’s not enough, an Add Filter button that shows those above-mentioned 35 filters. Other of these include Bi-Color Toning, Channel Mixer, Foliage Enhancer, and Orton Effect … So do you have plenty of variations available? Goodness yes.
The feature of customisable workspaces means that if you find yourself using specific filters on particular types of photos, you can create a custom Workspace for them. For instance, for landscapes you may want to always use Clarity, Saturation (or Vibrance), Polarizing Filter, Brightness and Contrast.

wiper

But wait, there’s more — There are also options along the top of the work space: from left to right, there’s a folder icon for Open, then Share; plus, minus and the zoom amount is displayed; Quick Preview (click and hold to see the ‘Before’ state of the image); the cool Wiper tool found in Aurora (shown above, where you can also see the intensity slider on the preset itself – click the image for a larger view). With the wiper, turn it on with the upper central button then then drag the vertical line on the image to see Before and After states side by side.
Then there’s Undo, Redo, History, buttons to flip on the Layers vertical right-hand toolbar or the Filters one, and buttons to turn on or off the Prestes strip along the bottom and/or the Tools strip on the right hand side.
A lot of this may strike you as familiar to Aurora, but Luminar is a single-exposure editor and not an HDR editor (like Aurora). Luminar does not have the ability to merge exposure brackets to HDR and then flexibly control those ranges.
Luminar also has Layers, Custom Textures, Brushes and Masking (including automatic Luminosity, Gradient and Radial Masks), Noise Reduction, a Healing tool, a History Panel, Selective Top & Bottom adjustments, supports plug-ins and more. The only thing really missing is the ability to make selections and paths, and that’s a shame, because they’re the only tools I keep having to go back to Photoshop for.

What’s great — The workspaces are all fine, but what’s really great are the image controls which are full featured, very variable and very comprehensive. It’s pretty great you can use it as a plugin for Lightroom, which it installs by default, but I suspect most users will want to add this to Photos.
extensionHere’s how: install Luminar (and/or Aurora), open Photos, select an image, click the Adjustment button at top right (it looks like three sliders), find Extensions at the bottom of the list of adjustment controls (under Retouch), click it’s three dots in a circle icon, choose More then tick Luminar (and/or Aurora). Awesome! Now you can use the magic right from within Photos when its own tools prove insufficient by going into this area (above) to improve a photo.
What’s not — It’s a bit clunky getting though the presets at the bottom as the keyboard arrows don’t do it, there’s no left and right arrow. You can swipe left and right using the trackpad (and some mice) but with some mice, the only way is to grab the little scrollbar at the bottom and drag it left and right. I also had a strange glitch in my pre-release version that let you roll the scroll-wheel to zoom in, but when I hit max zoom, the same motion zoomed out. I really wish there were selection tools like Paths and Feather.
Needs — Anyone for whom Aurora is too specific; also works well as a companion to Aurora.

Luminar pre-order from November 2nd; launch is scheduled for November 17th; US$59 (about NZ$83). If you already own a Macphun app for Mac, you pay only US$49 (about NZ$69) to get Luminar along with some exclusive bonuses.

System — Intel Core 2 Duo from late 2009 or newer; minimum 4GB RAM; OS X 10.10.5 or newer; 2GB free space on hard drive; display resolution 1280 x 800 or higher (Retina displays supported).

More info — MacPhun’s Luminar page.

Final Cut Pro X gets big update


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Apple today also introduced a significant update to its professional video editing app, Final Cut Pro X, featuring incredible new editing features for the Magnetic Timeline, support for the revolutionary Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro and a redesigned interface with full support for wide colour workflows. The Touch Bar replaces the keyboard’s traditional function row with a brilliant, Retina-quality Multi-Touch display that dynamically adapts to Final Cut Pro X by putting intuitive, context-sensitive controls right at the user’s fingertips. Apple also released updates to Motion and Compressor.
With the new Magnetic Timeline in Final Cut Pro X, users can understand their film at a glance with customisable arrangement and colour coding of audio clips based on type or “role” — such as dialogue, music and effects. It’s simple to create and assign roles, and give each one a unique colour. And in a first for pro video software, users can simply drag to instantly rearrange the vertical layout of their timeline or highlight specific audio roles while editing.
Integration with the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro boosts creativity and productivity by dynamically adapting to each task and presenting intuitive controls exactly when and where users need them. While using Final Cut Pro X the Touch Bar lets users instantly switch between editing tools, adjust audio levels and tap into useful commands for trimming and playback. It will even display a colour-coded, interactive overview of the entire timeline so users can navigate their project with the touch of a finger.
A redesigned interface streamlines the layout of Final Cut Pro X to optimise screen space for MacBook Pro users, while a darker, flat look puts the focus on the content. Customisable workspaces lets users adjust window arrangements for different tasks such as organising, editing and colour grading — even across multiple monitors. Full support for wide colour workflows allows users to import, edit and deliver video in standard Rec. 601 and Rec. 709 colour spaces, or in wide gamut Rec. 2020 colour space.

Additional Features in Final Cut Pro 10.3:
• Flow transition creates invisibly smooth jump cuts;
• Remove Attributes allows users to easily delete or reuse select effects across multiple clips;
• Timecode overlay effect and generator allow users to edit with a large view of source timecode;
• Support for ProRes MXF, Panasonic V-Log and export of AVC-Intra;
• Direct video output via Thunderbolt 3 enables high-quality video monitoring on an external display with a single cable.

Motion 5.3 features a sleek new interface with support for wide colour workflows and 3D text enhancements that improve the performance and realism of 3D titles. The new Align To behaviour lets users easily connect separate objects to create advanced animations, and Touch Bar support provides easy access to a wide range of interactive tools on the new MacBook Pro.

Compressor 4.3 has a new dark look to match Final Cut Pro X and Motion. Enhancements to iTunes Store Package creation let users easily browse, verify and compress packages so they can be delivered to the iTunes Store faster and fully compliant. Wide colour support ensures end-to-end colour fidelity when delivering files in standard and wide colour spaces, and Touch Bar support simplifies common tasks like setting up batches and adding markers on the new MacBook Pro.

Pricing and Availability — Final Cut Pro 10.3 is available as a free update today for existing users, and for NZD $449.99 inc. GST for new users on the Mac App Store. Motion 5.3 and Compressor 4.3 are also available as a free update today for existing users, and for NZD $74.99 each for new users on the Mac App Store. For more information, please visit Apple’s official Final Cut Pro X site.

Review ~ Anytune for Mac


Anytune
(You can click on these pictures for a zoomed-in closer view)

New software for Mac helps you learn tunes like nothing ever helped you before.
Visually Anytune is something like the music playing part of of Tunes but it has extra features to help you learn existing songs. Now the Mac version is here (some of you may be familiar with Anytune Pro Plus for iPad) and it’s a little like the longstanding – and much simpler – Amazing Slow Downer updated for 2016 with many improvements.

Get a track in — You can import a music file by dragging and dropping it onto Anytune in the Dock, or let Anytune access iTunes to access your iTunes library and playlists directly.
To do this, you need to quit Anytune, open iTunes, open iTunes’ Preferences. Click the Advanced tab, and turn on the option to Share iTunes Library XML with other applications. If it is already clicked, you need to turn it off and on again, launch Anytune and a confirmation will check that you want to give Anytune permission to open these files.
Double-click a song from the iTunes media (or, if you’ve drag-and-dropped a track from elsewhere, this will display the same) and a wave form view appears in Anytune’s main window. There’s a Play button at bottom centre (the Spacebar start/stop from iTunes, GarageBand, QuickTime etc also works to do this) and the song starts to play. A square button at top right (it has a musical note in it) lets you hide or reveal this waveform view – hiding it shows the iTunes lists and playlists again.
Load up a few songs to learn, and then you can work on them as a playlist, one after another. You can flick through these at top left. Anytune picks up the Beats Per Minute (BPM) value that’s recorded with iTunes – if no value is recorded there, Anytune works it out.

Interface — AnyTune is for serious users, and the developers recommend you learn some of the keyboard shortcuts to help you learn songs more easily. These are listed in the Help Menu, luckily. They open in Preview so you can print them out, which is a thoughtful touch.

TransConts

Above the central transport controls at the bottom there are two little panels with plus and minus signs either side of them (above).  The one on the left is for speed faster and slower, and the one on the right is for pitch, which means you can adjust a song to suit your tuning, the key you sing in or whatever. The value it lands on is displayed in the centre of this little panel, and you can Control- or right-click on this to choose a value yourself, or select Set Tempo and type in the value you want; this functionality works the same for Pitch. Any value you set here is remembered next time you open AnyTune with that song.
At top right there are three view buttons with choices Wave (which shows a zoomed-in section of the song), EQ and Lyrics.
Along the bottom, there are controls for marks you set to help you navigate, volume, transport controls and a cluster for controlling looping. Between these controls and the main view is a bar which shows the playhead’s position in the song, and on the left is displayed the time position of the playhead, and on the right, the time remaining. There are also semi-transparent A and B sliders which you can use to define the section of the song you want to work on, and/or loop. You can side-scroll with your cursor in the main window, of click-and-drag in this smaller, full-song view below. You can also just double-click anywhere in the full-song view to jump the playhead to that position. The transport control lets you also click to move forwards or backwards either side of there the current playhead is at.

PulldownMarks and jumps — There are two types of marks you can set: Audio and Loop. To set a mark, just tap the M key on your keyboard at any time (as the music plays), or click the Mark button to the left of the central transport control. Marking adds a vertical blue line onto the track with a large number tab at its top, which you can drag for more precision. The Marks List button at top left (shown above-left) lets you display all the marks you have set, and you can click on the names of the entries in this list to change them and give them names (Intro, Verse etc) as you wish. Rather than type the section name yourself, a pull-down menu appears under a disclosure triangle with suggestions (and you can edit these in Preferences). You can add text notes to these marks too, in the Marks list part.
The Mark-jump button to the right of the main Play button at bottom centre lets you jump mark to mark, or you can double-click entries in the Marks list, if you have it displayed, to jump your playhead to that position. The marks are saved automatically, and even backed up to iCloud, and can be shared with other Anytune users.

Loops — Anyone who has ever learnt someone else’s song by listening knows you have to listen to it over and over again. With Anytune, you can get those tricky sections repeating. Just drag the A on the left and B on the right sliders (they’re brown, with draggable tabs at the bottom) to the section you want, and click the Loop button; you can also click the Loop Play button without any section marked to just have the whole song playing repeatedly. There are all sorts of extra loop controls to nudge the loop section, extend it slightly, wipe the loop and more. To set Loop Marks, press the Loop Mark button or, more easily, the S key on your keyboard.

StepItUpTrainer
Once you have a loop section defined, try the ‘Step-It-Up Trainer (I kid you not, that’s what it’s called – it is as above). You can choose this from the Loop menu or, quicker, hit Command-U. This has its own settings to, for example, start slow and speed up on successive plays by increments that work for you. Get to this settings pane from the item just below the above mentioned: Step-It-Up Settings and set it up to suit the speed at which you learn.

Handy features — Ever tapped Play and by the time you have your fingers on your guitar, the song’s already past that critical point? Shift-spacebar gives you a few seconds grace before Anytune starts playing.
Autoloop (it’s in the Marks List View) lets you tag any marks you have set to automatically create loop sections between them.
You can decide whether to copy the song files into Anytune or let it play them from iTunes, which will save space on, say, a MacBook Air.
You can adjust the gain, balance and pan of any track right within anytune, and turn on Enable Livemix from the Livemix button to track music through a live input through Anytune. The balances of these can be controls with rotary knobs at left and right below the main window, above the transport controls.
You can re-EQ tracks too, in the EQ view, to compensate for bad recordings or to help accentuate the part you need to learn (bass, lead guitar, vocals etc) by boosting the relevant frequencies or cutting those of parts that make hearing your part harder. You can create presets for these: for example, one that accentuates vocals, to use with other songs; any EQ setting you make is stored with the song in Anytune (not on the original track – that remains pristine.)
In Lyric view, any lyrics stored in the song file are displayed, or you can add your own. You can even set ascii tabs for these so they scroll with the song (tap the little gearwheel icon at the left of the transport display) and set what colour the type is displayed in, and its font and size.
Say you have Anytune but your student doesn’t? You can export half and 3/4-speed versions of songs for them.

In use — You can set up playlists to hold songs you want to learn, or songs your teacher wants you to learn. You could rank songs in the order you are going to play them in, say for a live set – of course, since you can use this as a practice setup for original music, assuming you have your own songs recorded, you can drag and drop them into Anytune as well, and practice to your heart’s content at home, with or without headphones.
Check out the Anytune video, which is great both for an overview and also as a sort of Quick Start manual once you have the program, and there’s a free 30-day trial available at the website.

Conclusion — Anytune works really well to help you learn any song, and with the looping, pitch control and EQm it’s easier than ever to really decipher those tricky parts of those weird songs you want to learn. with its ease of importing and impressive feature set, it’s sure to answer practically all your music learning needs whether you’re working out some classical piano or some shredding metal guitar.

What’s great — Works as promised: slowing music down really helps nut out those important bits that have been defying you. It’s also great for practicing solo.

What’s not — Quite a learning curve, but the astute will appreciate the power, flexibility and control this gives them.

Needs — anyone who can’t read, or find, music for tracks they want to play.

Anytune for Mac NZ44.99 (US$29.99) from the Mac App Store.
System — macOS 10.9 or higher, 64-bit processor
Contact — Anytune.

Review ~ Gemini 2


GeminiScanning

Gemini 2 by MacPaw promises to locate and remove duplicate files on your Mac, wherever they may be. This can become a real problem, especially if the duplicate files are big to begin with, like movie files, and somehow files seem to replicate almost by themselves somehow. Gemini 2 scans your whole disk fairly quickly, even if it’s over a Terabyte. My 41.1GB documents folder took just 42 seconds (but mind you, this was on a fast SSD drive). Once it has achieved the scan, the software displays the scan results and you can hand-pick the files to erase, or let a feature called Smart Select do all the work, which you might consider of you have regular backups and indeed, your last backup was very recent.
You may have some files that have duplicates you want to keep. In Preferences, you can set Gemini 2 to just scan for duplicates or for ‘similar’ files as well, and you can set a file size for it to scan for too, up to 200MB, or leave it on Automatic (under General>Minimum File Size).
There’s an Ignore List tab if you want to add folders you don’t want scanned at all, and you can also choose certain file extensions for it to ignore if you wish. There are parameters for Smart Selections here, and you can select options for removal, too – straight to the Finder’s Trash, or move to a folder, or remove permanently (into the Trash then empties automatically).
Gemini 2 finds files that look alike, see how they differ, and lets you delete those you decide you don’t need.

iTunes
Going deeper — Gemini scans your iTunes Library to find multiple copies of songs, too – it can tell copies from originals. Perhaps the best thing is that it learns to select duplicates the way you do. Gemini’s algorithm remembers what you delete and what you choose to keep as you go through the list of duplicates it throws up.
Gemini 2 asks permission to open Photos’ Library to look for duplicates there, too – you can turn this on as a default behaviour (called ‘Always Open’).

FoundFiles
Once you start selecting, say, every second file, Gemini figures out whether you’re selecting the newest or oldest version and asks if you with this to be the default behaviour. Affirm and it selects the rest for you on this pattern, which saves a lot of scrolling and clicking.
It works in English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Polish, Dutch, the Portuguese of Brazil, Chinese and Japanese.
Conclusion — Once upon a time, utility software may have been good but it could be obtuse to use – and almost worse, it was often difficult to look at. Programs like Gemini 2 and stablemate Clean My Drive 2 look fantastic, work well and don’t require much manual reading, if any, to use effectively.
Here’s to that.

What’s great — Fast. Looks fantastic, too, so Gemini does what it promises in fine style.
What’s not — If you don’t have a backup, don’t use this software or anything like it. Deleting duplicates is always a little terrifying.
Needs — Anyone worried about their drives filling up unnecessarily, fans of good housekeeping, those worried about space (Macs run better with some ‘head-room’ of

Gemini 2 by MacPaw, US$19.95 (about NZ$28 but depends on the exchange rate), license for 2 Macs NZ$42/US$29.95, 5 Macs NZ$62/US$44.95. (Free trial available.) Also look in the Mac App Store (where it’s NZ$29.99)

Contact — MacPaw.

Migrating Aperture to Lightroom, touch controller, printer pool, OS X Beta Gatekeeper, Network Radar


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Adobe how-to guide for migrating from Aperture to Lightroom — Since Apple is going to discontinue both Aperture and iPhoto in favour of the upcoming OS X Yosemite app ‘Photos,’ Adobe on Monday released a quick reference guide to migrating image files from Apple’s program to Lightroom.
The PDF guide, titled Making the Switch from Aperture to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom , outlines a step-by-step process by which current Aperture users can migrate photos and projects from Apple’s app to Adobe’s subscription service.
[I like Aperture a lot. As a former darkroom technician, I hated Lightroom’s insistence on working digitally yet through a darkroom process metaphor instead of purely digital.]

Turn any surface into a touch-controller for Mac — Touch+’s dual cameras turn any surface into multi-touch input device. It turns your keyboard or desk into a touchscreen for your Mac, only without the screen part. (Pictured above.)

How to create a time-saving printer pool in OS X — There is a way to easily do this without having a print server in the office, and it’s called a printer pool.
Setting up a printer pool from any Mac takes just a few seconds. Go to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, and you’ll see a list of all of the available printers on your network. Next, select the printers you wish to have in a printer pool by command-clicking them. For example, you might want to have a printer pool for all of the high-resolution colour printers on the network and another one for the fast black and white laser printers. Command-click all of the printers of a specific type that you want in a pool to select them, and then you’ll see a button that not only lets you create a printer pool, but name it so that it’s easily recognisable. Steve Sande explains fully here.

Gatekeeper in new Beta create OS X problems — A beta release of OS X Mavericks 10.9.5 held a surprise for Mac developers thanks to changes in the Gatekeeper app security feature that could leave end users scratching their heads wondering why apps no longer launch. Apple is changing how apps will be digitally signed to verify they aren’t malware, and developers will need to recompile their code to comply with the Gatekeeper update.

Network Radar review: Mac app checks your network health — Apple’s own Network Utility is pretty handy for basic network troubleshooting, but if you need to go above and beyond what it offers, Daniel Diener’s US$20 Network Radar is a powerful step up.