Saturday, November 3, 2007

Using Lightroom with Expression Media to Add Metadata to RAW Files

In the past, I have used Capture One Pro (C1) to edit the RAW files (which I exclusively shoot) and then output JPEG files. I would then employ iView Media Pro to add metadata to both the RAW the JPEG files. I exported the metadata to a XMP sidecar file for each RAW file and archived the RAW with the sidecar XMP.

It turns out that this workflow is far from ideal: both the RAW and the JPEG files' metadata needs to be kept in sync. If I go back to create another JPEG from a RAW that has already be processed, I have to manually copy the metadata from the RAW to the new JPEG because C1 3.x looses most of the metadata during processing.

When Adobe Lightroom (LR) came out, I started using it and eventually replaced C1 with it because (among other reasons) it supports XMP metadata very well. I can now add metadata to a RAW file and it will be preserved no matter what I do with the file in Lightroom (or Photoshop, for that matter).

But here the problems started: iView Media 3 can export an XMP file but it can not read the XMP sidecar files created by Lightroom. This forced me to create the metadata before editing the image. Because I toss quite a few images during editing, I effectively added metadata to a lot of images that I would not keep.

For the record: I hate adding titles, descriptions, keywords, etc. to images. I only do it because I know that it is the only way that I will be able to find and use the images in a few decades (if I'm lucky, but that is another story.)

Needless to say, the pain was too much and I stopped adding metadata in iView quickly. Instead, I used LR to add a minimum of information and rubbed my lucky rabbits foot really hard, hoping for a miracle.

I got no miracle, but Microsoft released Expression Media (EM) 1.0, the new name and version of iView Media Pro, with the promise of full XMP support. Imagine my joy when I found that yes, EM does read the XMP sidecar files created by LR!

And imagine my even greater joy when I found that when I wrote a new XMP file, all the information that EM does not understand (such as the vital Adobe Camera Raw settings used to process the image) during importing is simply left out of the file. I had always thought that best practice with XML in general and XMP in particular was to preserve unknown data intact, but then again, that is probably too subtle a concept for people working for Microsoft. After all, these are the people that after two decades still can not ensure that a Microsoft Word file created yesterday will be read and rendered perfectly with todays new version of Word.

Unfortunately, Microsoft, as opposed to iView LLC, does not provide email support, only a flaky forum which I will not waste my time with. [In case you are wondering: any forum that does not even provide a working search function is definitely a waste of time to me. I wonder why a company that is trying to be a major player in Internet development with Silverlight is unable to get a simple search function in a forum right. But I digress.] So I did not have much faith that EM would ever work for me.

But I should have given the developers a little bit more credit: there is a working solution that I found after some tinkering.

The first thing I do after downloading the image files from the memory card to my Mac is to convert them to DNG format. I then edit the DNG files in Lightroom. Lightroom puts the XMP metadata directly into the DNG file instead of a XMP sidecar file. And Expression Media can also edit the XMP metadata directly in the DNG file!

So that is my (admittedly very simple) solution: convert to DNG and use both LR and EM in any order that is necessary. Kudos to the EM developers for getting this right!

Update: There is actually an option within LR to convert the RAW files to DNG as they are downloaded from the memory card. That makes the entire process transparent and unobtrusive.

1 comment:

  1. [...] have Lightroom and Expression Media working together nicely (see here ). The way that works for me is to write the metadata changes I make in Lightroom directly to the [...]


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