Wednesday, November 25, 2009

REVIEW: Nik Software Viveza 2

 image

Read This First

I’ve already written reviews on Viveza for Photoshop and Viveza for Lightroom, so if you are unfamiliar with this product you may want to start with those reviews as this article assumes you are already familiar with its basic features.  

I also must point out that I did this review using a PRE-RELEASED version of Viveza 2. Features and user-interface elements are subject to change (both the addition of and remove of). The purpose of letting a small targeted audience use the pre-released builds is to identify the bugs and quirky behavior prior to the final release so that the developers at Nik Software can fix the bugs and the Program Managers can decide what to do about features that don’t necessarily work the way a customer would expect or hope. If any changes occur in the final release, I’ll be sure to update my review after Viveza 2 is available for sale sometime in December 2009. See Nik Software’s home page for Viveza 2 for more information.

Intro

When I first learned about Viveza I thought it was odd that there would be a stand-alone tool for modifying some of the basic controls for imaging (brightness, contrast, saturation, etc…). However, as I watched the videos I discovered that the magic behind Viveza and other Nik Software products is its great U-Point control technology which effectively builds complex layer masks just by you putting a point on your image and and adjusting the size of the area you want impacted by the changes. It’s a brilliant concept that can save hours over traditional methods, it’s no wonder that I’ve become such a huge fan of Nik Software’s products.

Sample Images

Before diving into the details, let’s take a look at a few examples of what Viveza 2 can do for those who may not be familiar with this product. I’ve included a few before and after examples of images processed using all of the old and new features of Viveza 2.

  Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

In the image above, I used the Lightroom add-in (included in Viveza 2). I started in Lightroom by correcting some blemishes and softening the skin a bit with a negative clarity adjustment brush. I then when into Viveza 2 and did some global darkening. Next, I did some additional darkening on the dress and select portions of the background. I also brightened her teeth, made her lips a bit more red, and warmed the tone of her skin to make it closer to her natural tanned skin tone. I also felt the image needed a little sharpening, so I just did a global structure adjustment. Time spent in Viveza – 10 minutes.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

This photo wasn’t especially good when it came out of the camera, but I’m a sucker for old cars so I really wanted to see if I could do something to help kick it up a notch. Viveza 2 helped it a lot, and in ways that never would have been possible in Viveza 1. This image was cropped in Lightroom, and exported to Photoshop so I could use Dfine to remove the noise (it was a ISO 3200 image), and then imaged it only using Viveza 2.

I created a control point group for the taxi itself, and then brightened it up so that the yellow had the same punch it had in real life. I did the same thing for the chrome grill so that it would pop like it was new again. I then went around the edges creating a lot of control points to darken up the street and buildings. In some cases desaturated specific areas. I then brightened up the headlights, white walls on the tires and the taxi light dome. To finish it off, I did a global structure adjustment which made the grill and lights really stand out. When you hover over to see the before image, notice how much sharper and brighter the taxi is now. This was all done using Viveza 2, so a separate sharpening step wasn’t even necessary.

As you’ll see later in this article, I have a snapshot of the screen in Viveza where I had 45 control points scattered throughout the image. This one took a bit longer – about 30 minutes, but I think the results speak for themselves – it’s a vast improvement, and it turns out I could have done it from Lightroom without using Photoshop if I just would have run my Dfine plug-in for Lightroom first and then modified its output file in Viveza second. One advantage to using Photoshop though was the ability to create smart filters (by default, if you export your image as a smart object, all filters are applied as a smart filter. This allowed me to make my changes, and then when it was back in Photoshop if I wanted to make a change I could just bringing back up in Viveza 2 and pick up where I left off. This is super useful when you have 45 control points!

New Features

Besides a minor user-interface refresh, Viveza 2 has a few new features that are sure to please those upgrading from Viveza 1. The following sections describe some of these new features.

Grouping

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

One of the big new productivity features of Viveza 2 is grouping. This allows you to shift+click a group of control points and then create a single group out of them. Once you have a group, you can apply the same adjustments to all the members of the group. As shown above, I have a flower where I’ve combined control points 1 through 4 into a Group 1, so any changes I make will be made to the entire flower. Hover over the image to see the ungrouped control point list which allows you to fine tune each item after you’ve made your group changes. In this example I grouped to enhance the structure and then I modified them independently to add different levels of brightness to each area as shown in the final result below (hover in and out to see the before and after):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Structure

Structure in Viveza 2 is actually the same as Structure in Sharpener Pro 3.0. This sharpens the smooth areas between hard edges, and as you can see in the landscape below it did wonders for the clouds and added texture to the grass and bricks. Mouse over and out of the image below to see the before and after:

 Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

Other New Features

Global Adjustments – You can now make any of the adjustments to your overall image, and then refine using control points to fine tune specific areas. One point to note about this is that global adjustments are not cancelled out by adding a control point to the image, which is new feature. This means that if you darken your image and put a control point down, the area impacted by the control point won’t resume to its original brightness.

Shadow AdjustmentsThese are like the Highlights and Shadows adjustments you can do in Lightroom or Photoshop, and they can be useful in recovering lost details in places like hair, grass, etc… when you darken a specific area.

Warmth – This warms or cools our overall image, which is great for adding a little extra sun back into your sunset, or adding a little digital tan to skin.

image

Expanded adjustments may be disabled – This is a really nice improvement (shown above) because it allows you to both check the impact of a given adjustment to the area impacted, and/or will prevent you from accidentally sliding the wrong slider. I actually wish all of the sliders had this!

image

Levels and Curves – You can now do global levels and curves adjustments using a tool similar to what you’d find in Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m still not quite sure why this was added, but it’s there if you want to make this adjustment while your tweaking your image in Viveza.

Single Setup for 3 Products – When you purchase Viveza 2, you now get three products – The 32-bit Photoshop add-in, the 64-bit Photoshop add-in (woohoo), and the Lightroom add-in (works with both 32 & 64-bit) all installed at once. This is a huge improvement over Viveza 1 which didn’t have a 64-bit version and it required you to install two copies – one for Lightroom and one for Photoshop.

64-bit Support – WOOHOO – 64-bit users can now take advantage of editing with more RAM in their 64-bit Photoshop. The performance and reliability are excellent as well!

Maximize Support – It’s sad to call this a feature, but its absence makes it cause for celebration! You can now press the F key to maximize and restore your window – woohoo!

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Viveza has lots of power, for sure and when you need it you’ll be thrilled you have it in your toolkit. However, it isn’t always the right tool for every job. There are times where the Adjustment Brush with Automask in Lightroom (or a mask created with the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop) will be faster are more effective. In fact, I’d say always try those options first, and when they don’t do what you need, or you realize that you need a complex selection, then turn to Viveza.

A good rule of thumb is if there’s lots of details and you only want to impact a small portion of it or a single tone, then Viveza’s the right tool. For big solid areas with little detail, then traditional mechanisms might be a little faster (excluding cloud and sky enhancements). Another good tip is if you start to create too many control points, as I’ve done below with 46 control points, and the image keeps looking worse than when you first started!

For those with Advanced Photoshop Masking Techniques

image

As you evolve in your quest to master the beast that is called Photoshop, you start to learn about complex masking techniques such as Channel-based masking and masking using a complex combination of selection and masking tools as discussed in Photoshop Masking & Compositing. Once you learn these you harness the power of what you can do with your imaging, so people in that camp might wonder if it is really worth it to bother with Viveza. As someone with those skills I can say without question - YES!

Complex masking scenarios are easier with knowledge, but still time consuming and that is where Viveza rocks. You may have the skills to accomplish the same thing, but in many cases it will take from a few seconds to a few minutes at most to get the results you need, and that’s far faster than most can create their masks alone.

Buy Viveza 1 before Viveza 2 releases and save $72.49!!!

image

Save 15% on all  Nik Software with the discount coupon code, RMARTINSEN

A word to users of Color Efex, Viveza 1.0 and Capture NX 2

If you read my review of Viveza 1.0, I explained how Viveza was an improvement over what you could do with U-Point technology using some similar image enhancement features in Color Efex. Since that article, I have written a review of Capture NX2 where I also discuss why Viveza is an improvement over NX2’s Color Control Point. If you have either of those products, you know the power of U-Point technology and Viveza 2 will improve your workflow even more, so I highly recommend you at least try the demo. 

Conclusion

When If first downloaded the demo copy of Viveza, I didn’t get it. I just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and I didn’t understand how U-Point controls worked. My demo expired, I uninstalled it and decided that it was a crappy product. Later, I saw a webinar sponsored by Nik Software that showed me how it worked, and I was so excited that I rushed out and got a copy. After using it for a year, it is now a part of my regular workflow and an important tool in my imaging tool chest. I highly recommend Viveza 2. I’ve already uninstalled my 1.0 version as the pre-release has spoiled me to the point where I can’t go back to version 1.0 now.

Tip for Photoshop Users

If you open your image as a Smart Object in Photoshop (either via Export as Smart Object… in Lightroom, Bridge or in Photoshop), and then use Viveza you’ll have the added benefit of your changes being applied as smart filter. This means you can go back and double-click on your Viveza filter and pick up where you left off, make changes, and return to Photoshop again. Best of all, your file size doesn’t grow to a massive size when you use Smart Objects/Filters since you only have one layer. I highly recommend you try this out – it’s an easy way to go back and tweak your changes later and save disk space – you can’t beat that!

Disclaimer

Nik Software provided me with a free evaluation copy of Viveza 2 so that I may provide testing feedback. I chose to write this article without being asked by Nik Software (but after getting permission), and I will get a commission if you save money using my discount coupon code. Thanks for supporting this blog!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

3 comments:

Royi said...

What's really needed is an option to export the mask created with the U- Points to Photoshop.
Some kind of advanced "Color Range" tool.

Daniel Grove said...

If I'm using Viveza as a stand alone how do I open an image to work on it? No CTRL+O and dragging files on top of the work area does nothing.

Ron Martinsen said...

Daniel - it has to be run from Lightroom as a plugin.

This was written a long time ago and Google owns it now so it's not the same as when Nik Software cared about it.