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Review: EditShare Lightworks

In this latest installment of our series on alternative NLEs from the perspective of a Premiere Pro editor, we'll look at EditShare's Lightworks, an NLE as noteworthy for its unique hardware as for the software itself.
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In this review of EditShare’s Lightworks, I’ll continue my series on alternative NLEs from the perspective of a Premiere Pro editor. Lightworks has been around since the 1990s. and it was originally developed to help Steenbeck film editors be comfortable with the nonlinear, digital editing process. One of the standout features for this software is actually hardware.

Control Panel

First, let’s take a look at the unique hardware that you can use with Lightworks. The Lightworks control panel (Figure 1, below) is designed specifically for use with this NLE, so if you’re familiar with something like a ShuttlePRO--or for really old-school editors, the Steenbeck--then this interface will look pretty familiar to you. You have shuttle and jog controls. You have predefined buttons, as well as user-definable buttons for which you can customize exactly what function they perform. Finally, you have large buttons for forward play, reverse play, stop and record.

Figure 1. The Lightworks control panel. Click the image to see it at full size.

There are a lot of things to like about having a dedicated hardware interface for editing. If, like me, you’re accustomed to using a trackpad or mouse plus your keyboard to edit, it takes a learning curve to get familiar with an interface like this and get used to using your hands in a different way. That said, the time I invested in using this for a few weeks really paid off in getting me a lot more speed with my edits. In the walkthrough video that accompanies this review, you’ll see how I use it during the edit.

Master Settings

The opening screen for Lightworks is a Project Browser with a series of project choices. Figure 2 (below) shows just the one test project that I’ve worked on.

Figure 2. Here you choose a project and adjust master program settings. Click the image to see it at full size.

This is where you’ll find your master program settings (shown on the right in Figure 2). You can’t access these except for on this main screen, so if you want to change something that affects the entire interface, the entire program, this is where you have to come to do that. It’s very easy to get to because when you launch a project, you’ll see a button in the upper-left corner that takes you right back to the Project Browser. (Figure 3, below  Another thing interesting about Lightworks is there’s no Save or Save as function. The program always saves the most current version of what you’re working on, so you don’t ever have to worry about losing your progress.

Figure 3. Click here to return to the Project Browser.

Fixed Layout

The main things I want to emphasize in the preferences are the two layout options: Flexible and Fixed (Figure 4, below). The Flexible layout allows you to move windows around or panels around anywhere you’d like within the frame of Lightworks.

Figure 4. Choosing a Layout option.

Figure 5 (below) shows the LOG view in the fixed layout. As you can see, Lightworks has a predefined layout that fits your screen and you can’t move things around.

Figure 5. Lightworks’ Fixed layout. Click the image to see it at full size.

You have four main editing views, accessed at the top center of the layout shown in Figure 5. Going from left to right, first is LOG, for logging and ingest (Figure 5). Next is EDIT (Figure 6), for doing your timeline work. Next is VFX, for color and other transitions (Figure 7, below Figure 6), and then finally, AUDIO for preparing your audio for export (Figure 8, below Figure 7).

Figure 6. EDIT view. Click the image to see it at full size.

Figure 7. VFX view. Click the image to see it at full size.

Figure 8. AUDIO view. Click the image to see it at full size.

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