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Using U Points for complete control


Nik Creative Effects Workshop

with Joseph Linaschke

Video: Using U Points for complete control

Viewpoints are what make nic plugins so incredibly unique and powerful. So understanding them will help you get the most out of your investment. Viewpoints are used in three different ways inside of the nic plugins. You'll find one way inside of Color Effects Pro 4 and define another inside of HGR effects Pro and Silver Effects Pro 2 and yet another inside of Evasa 2. They're all the same thing and they do work the same way. However, the approach is slightly different between these different plugins. I'll start by going through a quick summary of what each different type or each different use of them is and then we'll dig in deep and explore each one individually.
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Watch the Online Video Course Nik Creative Effects Workshop
1h 57m Intermediate Aug 30, 2012

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Nik Software's plugins are loaded with powerful tools that can be combined in endless ways. In this workshop, photographic storyteller Joseph Linaschke takes a creative and personalized approach to these plugins, showing you how he uses them to create amazing skies, gorgeous skin, vintage film looks, perfect white backgrounds, custom recipes, and so much more using Color Efex Pro, Viveza, and Silver Efex Pro. He also explains how to use Silver Efex Pro 2 to make gorgeous black-and-white images and teaches a unique non-HDR compositing technique for HDR Efex Pro. Along the way, get tips on using Nik's zone system and U Point technology and be introduced to the fun new Snapseed app for the desktop.

Topics include:
  • Preparing for editing
  • Making white backgrounds truly white with Viveza
  • Creating vintage color looks in Color Efex Pro
  • Adding vintage black-and-white looks in Silver Efex Pro
  • Non-HDR compositing in HDR Efex Pro
  • Deconstructing presets
  • Using U Points for complete control
  • Creating quick effects with Snapseed
Photography video2brain
Joseph Linaschke

Using U Points for complete control

Viewpoints are what make nic plugins so incredibly unique and powerful. So understanding them will help you get the most out of your investment. Viewpoints are used in three different ways inside of the nic plugins. You'll find one way inside of Color Effects Pro 4 and define another inside of HGR effects Pro and Silver Effects Pro 2 and yet another inside of Evasa 2. They're all the same thing and they do work the same way. However, the approach is slightly different between these different plugins. I'll start by going through a quick summary of what each different type or each different use of them is and then we'll dig in deep and explore each one individually.

When working in a tool like Color Effects Pro, viewpoints are used as plus and minus points to add or subtract an effect from a particular area. So, lets make this easy. I'll start by adding something very obvious, like a black and white conversion, and then I have control points to either add or subtract that effect away. So for example if I click the plus point and click on the scene I'm not telling color print pro to add that effect only to the area I applied the plus 2. To remove the Control Point just tap the Delete key.

If I had a minus point here and click on the same area I am now removing that effect from just that area. No matter which one of the filters you add inside of Color Effects Pro 4 you'll find the same Control Point capability for each one of them allowing you complete control over exactly where the particular effect will be applied or won't be applied. So that's one way of applying the control points. We'll come back to here in a little bit and explore that filter in more depth. Next, let's take a look at how it's applied in HDR Effects Pro and Silver Effects Pro. In these plugins, you'll first find a global adjustments palette where there is an effect that's applied over the entire image all at once. Then as you scroll further down, you'll find the selective adjustments. And this is where your U Points, or control points will be added. So, on a very simple example here, I have this contrast increased all the way up here to make a very, very contrasting image, and if I then wanted to lower the contrast, or lower the brightness of a particular area I could click to add a control point onto that area.

And then simply take the brightness down. So here, I add Global Adjustments first. And then add selective adjustments to refine the image. So that's the second way that you'll find these used. The third is what we'll find in Viveza. Viveza will show us the most powerful and most advanced application of these view points. As you can see here in Viveza it's all about the you point, or the control point. There are no global adjustments, except for a little bit of level and curves. You'll see that these are actually all the way down at the bottom of the control panel.

These are really not meant to be used that much except if you really need them, but to be honest, you should have done your levels and curves before you brought your image into the Viveza in the first place. So we can safely ignore that. Viveza is all about the control point. Everything that's done here is applied to the point itself, and there are no global controls that are applied to the whole image. Since this is the most powerful, this is where we're going to explore exactly how the control points work. So to start, we'll just add one. I select the Control Point button and then click wherever I want to add it. Let's say right there. And when I first add the control points nothing happens. So its a few things to understand about what these control points do and how they work.

The first thing you'll notice is that you have a point followed by a bunch of funny letters and then a slider after each one of these. The first slider up here controls the size. I can increase or decrease the size of that control point. Underneath that, I'll have a series of controls, each one abbreviated. So, for example, this is brightness, contrast, saturation, and structure. And then, depending on the plug-in you're using, you may find additional controls by clicking on the triangle here, which will expand out to show some more. Here you have shadow adjustments, warmth, individual controls or of the red, green, and blue. And then finally a hue adjustment.

You can also collapse these and simplify it by clicking on the Triangle again. So let's say that I want to brighten or darken the sky in this image. To do that all I need to do is drop the control point on the blue sky. And then lower the brightness. And as you can see it is lowering the brightness of just the blue sky and it is predominantly not affecting the rest of the image. But to really get hte most out of these control points you need to understand exactly what's happening when you apply one to a particular area. And the wya to do that is to enable the mask view. Over here on the right under the control point list you'll see that there is a mask icon.

And if I click this to turn it on. The image will switch to a black and white mask view. White is where the effect is being applied completely black is where its not being applied at all and any shade of gray is somewhere in between of being applied and not being applied. So let's explore exactly what's happening. When you add a control point to the image, the control point looks at whatever's underneath it, or rather exactly where you dropped it, and it selects all the similar pixels within its range or its sphere of influence. So here for example, I've dropped a control point on the blue sky.

And as I take this slider here to increase or decrease the size, you'll see that it is grabbing more or less of the sky around it. It's important to note that the ring, or the size denoter around it, is not a hard start and stop of the effect. You can see here as I increase or decrease the size of the sphere, the effect is being applied more in the inside of the circle, less on the outside of the circle. But it is a gradual change from one end to the other. So the Control Point is applied over this blue area. And it's effecting just the blue sky around it.

However, if I increase the size of this to encompass the entire blue sky, you'll see that the mask is very quickly grabbing a bit more than just the blue. We'll see that the clouds are being largely effected here, the front of the barn is being quite largely effected, the sides no so much, but then the ground down here is as well. So, there are a couple of different ways we can go about correcting for this. In a scene like this where a single sphere is not going to encompass the entire sky on its own. We can create multiple sphere's or multiple control points and pepper them around the scene to control just the area that we want.

So, let's start by moving this one over into the corner here and making it a bit bigger. And then, I'll create another one right around here. You can click here to add another control point and then click back on the scene. Or, you can simply hold down the Option key and then drag so Option drag that control point to duplicate it and add it to another part of the scene. If you're going to start adding multiple points around, chances are you want to make them a bit smaller. Let's go ahead and bring this size down a little bit here, and this control point will make smaller like so.

There's still some blue sky under here that needs to be affected. So once again, I'll option drag to add another point there and another one there. Between these five, I'll pretty well covered the blue sky in here. In fact, maybe I'll make this one just a little bit bigger so we have a little bit bigger, so we have a little bit better on the overlap. But of course we're still seeing quite a large area of the scene that's being effected which we don't want to be effected. So here's an important thing to understand about how the control points work. When I add a point like this one here, it's effecting this area with whatever changes I made in here, which of course I haven't made any changes to yet.

All the brightness, contrast, and everything else is still at its default 0% setting. If I have two control points side by side, one set at zero and the other at 100 of any particular setting, they're going to conflict with each other. But essentially, what's going to happen is the 0% one is going to protect its area from the influence of the one that has an effect applied to it. What this tells us is that we can add control points over areas that we want to protect. Such as the clouds, the barn and the ground down here, and leave those all set to zero. Effectively protecting them from whatever effect we apply to the control points up here.

An easy way to visualize this is to continue adding control points, but to disable the mask view for it, so we're effectively seeing what is being protected. Here's what I mean. I'll grab another control point and add it to the cloud. At first, it's going to add this cloud to the mask, or selection, that everything else is currently showing which is precisely what we don't want to do. If you go down here to the control point list, each one of these control points can have it's mask individually enabled or disabled. If I disable the mask for that particular area, I'm now seeing that turned off. Remember, until I start adjusting the sliders, there's no difference between this control point, and this one here.

But at the moment, by disabling the mask, I can visualize the protection that I'll be adding to this particular part of the image. So now let's go ahead and start expanding these out to make a larger protected area. Once again, I'll option drag over to this part of the cloud here, down here. Let's put one on the front of the barn. And even though we probably don't really need it, we'll add one down here to the bottom of the ground as well. So, now, as you can see, I have a series of control points that are affecting the sky. And a series of other control points that are affecting everything else.

But again, by simply leaving them alone, we will, in effect, be protecting those areas. Another thing to understand is that, since each one of these control points can act independently. If I wanted to apply the same effect. In this case, the same level of brightness to each one of these control points. I'd have to go in and adjust each slider independently. However, to save you from having to do that, you can actually group them together, and then any controls that you apply will be applied to all of them simultaneously. There are a couple different ways that you can make a multiple point selection to group things together. I can simply click on a point.

And then hold down the Shift key, and click on another one, and another one. I can also, while holding down the shift key, click and drag over a range of points just like those and I've now just added those points to the selection. Or you may have noticed that the control points that are selected are being highlighted in yellow over here under the control point list. I can click away to deselect all of them and then click on a point name in the list here And shift-click to select the entire range. So now I've just selected all of these control points simulataneously here.

Now that they're selected, to group them together go back to the top of the control panel and click on Group. They're now all being represented by a single control point. However, you'll notice as you select it or hover over it. That all of the other control points, there under it's influence, are also showing here. However only one of them will have all the controls listed. I can also go ahead and group the other control points. The one that I'm using to protect the scence. However in this case since I'm probably not going to actually be effecting them, there's no point in doing it. So I'll just leave them alone.

Notice over here under the control point list as well that we now have a group listed as group one, lets go ahead back to the main view now by disabling the mask, I can turn one on and off individually here or if you have multiple ones selected you can turn them all on and off by clicking here, the first clip will turn them all on And a second click will turn them all off. So now I have my group selected. That's group one which is effecting the sky. To change the brightness I can click and drag on the slider, here, or I can do it over here in the control panel. It's the same thing.

Let's take the brightness and drop it down. As you can see the overall sky is being effected quite nicely in here. However, if we look closely, you may see that certain areas aren't being affected as much as others. These spheres here must be quite small, because this one, and this one here have a pretty obvious gap in between them. If I want to change the size of a control point, I can click and drag on it to change its size. But it's worth noting that all the other control points will change size along with it. But that's okay in this case. I'll just make them all a little bit bigger.

And we'll now see this effect applied to just the blue sky. Sometimes, even with a careful application like this, you may find that the protected area is still be affected ever so slightly by the control points that you've just added over here. So in this case maybe we do in fact want to grab these control points, and counteract the effect of our brightness slider here. Remember here I took the brightness way down, so maybe I want to counteract that, by grabbing these sliders. And then take the overall brightness of these and increase them a bit. Notice that even though I haven't grouped these, since they are all simultaneously selected, as I make an adjustment to one slider, it's going to effect all of them together.

So that's how control points work. A control point will affect a particular area based off of the color selection of where you've dropped it. In the area surrounding that point is going to be determined by of the size of the sphere that you create. From there, you can continue to add multiple points elsewhere in the scene to add the same effect or different effects, depending on what you want. Let's jump out of here and go into one of the other tools. We'll go back into Silver Effects Pro 2 where we have the ability to add a global effect and then refine that effect with the selected adjustments. Let's repeat the same example that I did before.

I'm just going to take the overall contrast and increase that quite dramatically here. Say I want a really, really dramatic sky like so. But as we can very clearly see, the side of the barn is completely blown out and the front of the barn is completely lost. So we need to add a few control points to this to control the effect on the barn. Within Silver Effects Pro 2, as well as within HDR Effects Pro Since I have a global adjustment first that I'm going to add a selective adjustment too, when I first drop a point on the scene nothing happens.

Notice here that I can move this control point anywhere I want and the scene doesn't change at all. Because what I'm doing here is essentially adding a control point that will counteract the effect of what's been applied under global adjustments. But since I haven't currently adjusted these sliders at all, there's no change to the overall global effect. So let's say that I want to drop the brightness on the side of the barn here. All we have to do is grab the Brightness slider, and drop that down a little bit. I'll add another brightness slider to the very side of the barn, and do the same thing.

If I want to repeat the same effect, I can just option drag this down. And now I have that effect with the brightness already applied to it. But it looks like this one needs a little bit more. So, I'll take that down even farther. Now that I've done that, maybe the one up here on the roof is a little bit over done. So let's bring that up a little bit. I need to add one to the front of the barn as well, but in this case instead of making it darker, I actually need to make it brighter. So, once again, I'll grab another control point, click on the front of the barn and let's increase the brightness of that.

You can see quite clearly as I adjust the brightness on the front of the barn, that it is also affecting the surrounding areas a little bit. That may or not be OK. In this case I think it looks fine. But if we wanted to protect this area all I would have to do is add a new control point to that area and it's now going to protect it. Again, because nothing has been applied here it is effectively protecting this area from the influence of these three points here. This point set at zero. Is essentially telling the filter to go ahead and render the original global adjustments over this area and to protect them from the effect of these three points here.

It's also worth noting though that it's very easy to get caught up in trying to get a precise mask. So for example selecting these three here opening up the control point controls... Enabling the mask, and determining that oh, it really isn't good enough because I haven't protected the area around here. And again, it's very easy to get caught up in that. But it's worth noting that, sometimes, it just doesn't matter. The overall effect is probably okay, without adding all these protective points. What you need to do is simply look at your image closely, and determine whether it really matters or not. In this case, for example, does it really matter if I remove this point and the image around here is getting a little bit brighter, probably not. Of course, it'll depend on your particular image, but all I'm saying is don't get caught up in trying to get extremely precise control points dialed in.

Finally, let's go back to the simplest application of these control points. And take another look at how that works. As described before with Color Effects Pro 4 any effect that you apply will initially be applied globally. And then you have control points that you can add as plus or minus points to add or subtract the effect away from the over all image. So, here's what happens. Let's start by Resetting this and Adding, once again, something really obvious, like Black and White. And then, I'll go ahead and Click on the Plus Control Point, and as soon as I Click on the image, the overall effect will disappear, yet the Effect will only be applied in the area where I have the Control Point.

I'll delete that by tapping the Delete key, and then start over. This time, grabbing the Minus Control Point with the 0% opacity. And clicking on theUNKNOWN. Now, what happens is the effect remains on the entire image, yet it's only being taken away from this point here. So it's important to realize that the overall effect, whether it's applied globally or not. Will be determined, depending on which one of these control points you add first. Now, it's important to realize, too, that each of these control points are actually the same thing. This one is simply set to 100 percent opacity by default. And this one is set to 0 percent.

So I could change it at any time. If I grab a control point at plus and I click on it here, let's make that a little bit bigger. As you can see it's currently at 100. But if I drag that down, I can drag it all the way down to zero. And now the effect has been removed entirely. If I add a minus control point, set at zero. At this point, let's say I add it up here in the corner, we're not going to see any effect. Because, of course, the effect has already been removed from the entire image and is only being applied here. If I was to go up here and take the slider and drag it up to 100, it would be the same as if I had simply clicked on the plus control point and clicked on that here.

Now if you do change your mind on how you want this applied, you don't actually have to go back to the begining by removing all of these control points. If you toggle open the control point controls, you'll see that there is an opacity slider. If I take that slider and drag it up to a hundred, the overall effect is reapplied. So here's what's really happening. Let me remove this control point and this one here. And now we're back where we started, with the effect being applied to the whole thing. If I grab the Minus Control point and click somewhere, it's being removed from this area, but the opacity remains at 100.

Let's delete that and do the same thing with the Plus Control point. And as soon as I click, you'll notice that opacity has already dropped down to zero. But again, I could simply take that back up to 100. Take the opacity down to 0, and I've done the exact same thing as if I'd left the opacity alone and simply started with the Minus Control Point. So, as you can see, the overall effect is quite powerful here. We can add any individual control as a global effect, and then take these control points to then add or subtract the overall effect from the image.

The area that these control points affect are controlled exactly the same way as they are in the rest of the nic plugins. Just as with the other ones at any point I can choose to show the effect of that control point by enabling its mask, moving the mask around and determining exactly what part of the image is being effected. As you can see, these u-points, or control points, allow you an unprecedented amount of control over the effect of the filters that you're adding. It's a good idea to get used to them and to understand exactly how they work so that you can get the most out of your net plugins.

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