Lightworks from Editshare
By David Hague
Over the last few years, we have been literally bombarded with video editing packages (NLEs) from all sides. The stalwarts that have been around seemingly for ever such as Adobe's Premiere Pro, Grass Valley EDIUS, AVID products, Final Cut from Apple and Vegas Pro are in that mix and classified as "pro" products, while offerings from Corel, Pinnacle, MAGIX and others have been more aimed at the consumer market.
These definitions have become blurred of late with so called consumer packages now sporting the feature set of their bigger brothers with astonishing prices on offer in many cases. Then there are products such as HitFilm Pro that blur the lines between pure editing and compositing packages such as Adobe After Effects or BORIS Red.
Among all of these, a program that has somewhat been bypassed (here in Australia at least) is Lightworks - now up to version 14 and in its 25th year! Hailing from the UK, and available or Windows, MacOS and LINUX, Lightworks is available as a free cut down version, can be purchased in a monthly ($24.99) or annual ($174.99) subscription fee or purchased outright for $437.99.
With the annual licence, you also get a choice the of BORIS FX or BORIS Graffiti plugins, and with the outright licence, automatically receive both in the deal.
Also available are Lightworks setup version of the venerable Contour Shuttle Pro 2 (highly recommended, I've had one for years), a Lightworks specific keyboard (again recommended as I have used my Vegas Pro also for years), and for the really dedicated user, a Lightworks Console (at a cool $2800!)
Proving that Lightworks deserves to be right up there with the supposedly established pro packages, the program is used by the editors of such esteemed projects as "Pulp Fiction", "The King's Speech", "Moulin Rouge", "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Bruce Almighty".
The Developers of Lightworks, UK based EditShare tell us that 95% of Lightworks users are on the freebie version, and so this is what we are reviewing in this story.
When you first start up Lightworks you are shown a block of existing projects to choose from, or given the option to create a new one in which case you are prompted for the name and a frame rate. On choosing a new project and supplying this information, a window opens with four panes for Project Contents, Source Image, MetaData Info and Cue Markers. Lightworks then asks for clips to import. Thumbnails give an indication of individual clips contain, a bonus in this age of automatic numeric naming by cameras. Highlighting a clip and pressing space gives a preview before importing.
As I discovered early in the piece, if you set a frame rate manually, then Lightworks seems to get a bit huffy about the types of clips it will allow you to import. Setting it to auto seems to solve that problem.
Once you have chosen your clips, it is time to switch from the Log screen to the Edit Screen using the option at the top (others are VFX and Audio).
As the name suggests, this is where the majority of the action will take place in terms of slicing and dicing your video into shape. Double clicking on a clip in the Projects Contents pane loads it into a preview window where in and out points can be chosen. These then create what Lightworks calls a "Sequence". There are two types of markers in Lightworks; one red the frame marker) and another blue (for in and out points). Lightworks does not insist that both in and out markers are used, instead if one is placed, then it automatically selects the region from it to the red frame marker position as being the Sequence. Lightworks calls this 'mark and park' according to the hints pop up.
Once you have added to the timeline, a second preview window showing the contents of the timeline automatically opens. Adding a new video (or audio) track was problematic for a while as it appears the online documentation has not been updated as yet (currently referring to a non-exist "cog" icon to see track commands when in actual fact you now right click any track to get the track commands).
As an aside, that besides, there is a 238 page PDF manual, but in the version I had of the software, no Help files were available at time of writing, but the pop up hints boxes are a valuable aid.
When adding a video or audio track, the new track automatically becomes V1 or A1 with others dropping down in the hierarchy. Tracks of the same type can be grouped so that any edits are applied to all the tracks in the group simultaneously.
All of the familiar slip, slide, subclip etc commands are available as would be expected. Despite a few idiosyncrasies, editing in Lightworks is very little different from any other NLE in fact.
Surprisingly however, and somewhat thankfully in comparison to its competitors, the number of transition types available is the bare minimum needed - blend, dissolve, luma, push, squeeze and wipe - so if you are fan of the gaudy or crass, and like your NLE with a few hundred megabytes of transition types, then you'll be in the wrong place.
Hint: watch any StarWars movie and see how many types of transaction are used. My last count was three...
Transitions are added by pointing at the connection of two clips and right clicking the mouse button to bring up the context menu.
Clicking the VFX tab along the top brings us to the Video FX pane where you can quickly add video effects, titles, colour correction and so on. It contains a large preview view of the currently selected clip and a small representation of the timeline.
Standard tools of Balance, Main, RGB, HSV and curves are all accessible. The colour corrector also has full access to a vectorscope YCrCb levels, RGB levels and a magnifier showing close up imagery of the footage. Keyframes can be added as desired. In short all you'll ever need are there to fully colour correct your clips.
The titler is a straight forward affair with no bells and whistle - just a no fuss and does what it says on the tin basic titler. Perfect.
The 3D system lets you manipulate your footage through the X, Y and Z axes using keyframes. Whole spins can be generated or any combination of different angle along all three as you wish. To get the full picture (pardon the pun) of what is happening, I'd certainly suggest a curl up with the PDF manual would be in order to cover the colour correction tools and the 3D tools. The titler is a snap to learn.
The final pane is the Audio pane and hear you can use a series of tools to sweeten your audio including EQ, adding crossfades and a swag of EQ presets. Again, if you are not up to speed in this area, a read of the manual is essential.
The more you delve into Lightworks, the more you find. Whilst it might not have all the bells and whistles of some other packages, as a straight forward journeyman editor, letting the user concentrate on the story not the flashy effects or transitions, it almost is the perfect NLE. And as a freebie, if you download it and decide it isn't your cup of tea, what have you lost?
With the subscription version or the fully paid up one, you have access to the BORIS FX products bringing you into line with other programs on the market in those areas, with the advantage of still having a hell of a good editor.
My recommendation? Give it a try.