By Brady Betzel
As an online editor I am often tasked with wearing multiple job hats, including VFX artist, compositor, offline editor, audio editor and colorist, which requires me to use special color correction panel hardware. I really love photography and cinematography but have never been able to use the color correction hardware I’m used to in Adobe’s Photoshop or Lightroom, so for the most part I’ve only done basic photo color correction.
You could call it a hobby, although this knowledge definitely helps many aspects of my job. I’ve known Photoshop for years and use it for things like building clean plates to use in apps like Boris FX Mocha Pro and After Effects, but I had never really mastered Lightroom. However, that changed when I saw the Loupedeck. I was really intrigued with its unique layout but soon dismissed it since it didn’t work on video… until now. I’m happy to say the new Loupedeck+ works with both photo and video apps.
Much like the Tangent Element and Wave or Blackmagic Micro and Mini panels, the Loupedeck+ is made to adjust parameters like contrast, exposure, saturation, highlights, shadows and individual colors. But, unlike Tangent or Blackmagic products, the Loupedeck+ functions not only in Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut Pro X but in image editing apps like Lightroom 6, Photoshop CC, and Skylum Aurora HDR; the audio editing app Adobe Audition and the VFX app Adobe After Effects. There’s also beta integration with Capture One.
It works via USB 2.0 connection on Windows 10 and Mac OS 10.12 or later. In order to use the panel and adjust its keys, you must also download the Loupedeck software, which you can find here. The Loupedeck+ costs just $249 dollars, which is significantly less than many of the other color correction panels on the market offering so many functions.
In this review, I am going to focus on Loupedeck+’s functionality with Premiere, but keep in mind that half of what makes this panel interesting is that you can jump into Lightroom Classic or Photoshop and have the same, if not more, functionality. Once you install the Loupedeck software, you should restart your system. When I installed the software I had some weird issues until I restarted.
When inside of Premiere, you will need to tell the app that you are using this specific control panel by going to the Edit menu > Preferences > Control Surface > click “Add” and select Loupedeck 2. This is for a PC, but Mac OS works in a similar way. From there you are ready to use the Loupedeck+. If you have any customized keyboard shortcuts (like I do) I would suggest putting your keyboard shortcuts to default for the time being, since they might cause the Loupedeck+ to use different keypresses than you originally intended.
Once I got inside of Premiere, I immediately opened up the Lumetri color panels and began adjusting contrast, exposure and saturation, which are all clearly labeled on the Loupedeck+. Easy enough, but what if you want to use the Loupedeck+ as an editing panel as well as a basic color correction console? That’s when you will want to print out pages six through nine of the Premiere Pro Loupedeck+ manual, which you can find here. (If you like to read on a tablet you could pull that up there, but I like paper for some reason… sorry trees.) In these pages, you will see that there are four layers of controls built into the Loupedeck+.
Not only can you advance frames using the arrow keypad, jump to different edit points with the jog dial, change LUTs, add keyframes and extend edits, you also have three more layers of shortcuts. To get to the second layer of shortcuts, press the “Fn” button located toward the lower left, and the Fn layer will appear. Here you can do things like adjust the shadows and midtones on the X and Y axes, access the Type Tool or add edits to all tracks. To go even further, you can access the “Custom” mode, which has defaults but can be customized to whichever keypress and functions the Loupedeck+ app allows.
Finally, while in the Custom mode, you can press the Fn button again and enter “Custom Fn” mode — the fourth and final layer of shortcuts. Man, that is a lot of customizable buttons. Do I need all those buttons? Probably not, but still, they are there —and it’s better to have too much than not enough, right?
Beyond the hundreds of shortcuts in the Loupedeck+ console you have eight color-specific scroll wheels for adjusting. In Lightroom Classic, these tools are self-explanatory as they adjust each color’s intensity.
In Premiere they work a little differently. To the left of the color scroll wheels are three buttons: hue, saturation and luminance (Hue, Sat and Lum, respectively). In the standard mode, they each equate to a different color wheel: Hue = highlights, Sat = midtones and Lum = shadows. The scroll wheel above red will adjust the up/down movement in the selected color wheel’s x-axis, orange will adjust the left/right movement in the selected color wheel’s y-axis, and yellow will adjust the intensity (or luminance) of the color wheel.
Controlling the Panel
In traditional color correction panels, color correction is controlled by roller balls surrounded by a literal wheel to control intensity. It’s another way to skin a cat. I personally love the feel of the Tangent Element Tk panel, which simply has three roller balls and rings to adjust the hue, but some people might like the ability to precisely control the color wheels in x- and y-axis.
To solve my issue, I used both. In the preferences, I enabled both Tangent and Loupedeck options. It worked perfectly (once I restarted)! I just couldn’t get past the lack of hue balls and rings in the Loupedeck, but I really love the rest of the knobs and buttons. So in a weird hodge-podge, you can combine a couple of panels to get a more “affordable” set of correction panels. I say affordable in quotes because, as of this review, the Tangent Element Tk panels are over $1,100 for one panel, while the entire set is over $3,000.
So if you already have the Tangent Element Tk panel, but want a more natural button and knob layout, the Loupedeck+ is a phenomenal addition as long as you are staying within the Adobe or FCP X world. And while I clearly like the Tangent Elements panels, I think the overall layout and design of the Loupedeck+ is more efficient and overall more modern.
In the end, I really like the Loupedeck+. I love being able to jump back and forth between photo and video apps seamlessly with one panel. What I think I love the most is the “Export” button in the upper right corner of the Loupedeck+. I wish that button existed on all panels.
When using the Loupedeck+, you can really get your creative juices flowing by hitting the “Full Screen” button and color correcting away, even using multiple adjustments at once to achieve your desired look — similar to how a lot of people use other color correction panels. And at $249, the Loupedeck+ might be the overall best value for the functionality of any editing/color correction panel currently out there.
Can I see using it when editing? I can, but I am such a diehard keyboard and Wacom tablet user that I have a hard time using a panel for editing functions like trimming and three-point edits. I did try the trimming functionality and it was great, not only on a higher-end Intel Xeon-based system but on an even older Windows laptop. The responsiveness was pretty impressive and I am a sucker for adjustments using dials, sliders and roller balls.
If you want to color correct using panels, I think the Loupedeck+ is going to fit the bill for you if you work in Adobe Creative Suite or FCP X. If you are a seasoned colorist, you will probably start to freak out at the lack of rollerballs to adjust hues of shadows, midtones and highlights. But if you are a power user who stays inside the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem, there really isn’t a better panel for you. Just print up the shortcut pages of the manual and tape them to the wall by your monitor for constant reference.
As with anything, you will only get faster with repetition. Not only did I test out color correcting footage for this review, I also used the Loupedeck+ in Adobe Lightroom Classic to correct my images!
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.