If you are a Photoshop CSx user, or even a Photoshop Elements user for that matter, and you use actions as part of your post-production workflow, chances are you have used (or, at the very least heard of) Totally Rad Actions. They are one of the most, if not the most, popular sets of actions available for Photoshop, particularly among wedding and portrait shooters; and for good reason. They allow you to create a fantastic variety of effects and styles with a huge amount of control and flexibility. There’s also a very active community where users can post and share their “recipes”, much the way you would share a preset for Lightroom. The problem with using actions is that, no matter how great they may be, you never really know how they are going to look until you actually apply them to your photograph. If you are trying to create a multi-layered or complex type of style or effect, you may find yourself in a loop of “apply-undo-make tweaks-apply again” while you try to get the right look.
With the recent release of RadLab, Doug Boutwell and the gang at Totally Rad have completely changed the way you will think about using actions. Doug was kind enough to send us over a copy of RadLab to review and share with you and, honestly, even though I’ve only been using it for a few days, aside from a couple of very minor issues (personal preferences, really), this is an amazing piece of software. As you will see in the “Retorial” below, the interface is fast, intuitive and really makes it fun to just play, trying out the various “Stylets” to see what you can come up with. RadLab is stocked with 50 awesome actions from the Totally Rad sets, as well as 28 brand new effects, found only in RadLab. The number of Stylets is impressive, and though they are all grouped by type such as Black & White or Camera Effects (you are also able to “favorite” Stylets), I’d like to see additional sorting options, such as alphabetically or by most used. With nearly 80 Stylets in the initial release, many with unique names like “Cool As A Cucumber”, trying to keep track of what is a Basic Adjustment vs. a Modern Color can get a little iffy. That being said, RadLab is a joy to use. Moving your cursor over Stylet thumbnails yields virtually real time updates of your image preview, while applying a Stylet also updates all of the visible thumbnails with the results of the current stack. Stylets can be individually adjusted using a variety of sliders affecting parameters such as strength, size, intensity, etc. Once you have created your own recipe, you can save it to your local library or export it and share it with other users, who are able to import it directly into their copy of RadLab.
CONCLUSION & RATING
RadLab is a fantastic product, though it will be interesting to see how it is received by current owners of the Totally Rad Actions sets. Personally, I think the potential time saved by the visual interface alone is worth the purchase price. That being said, if you don’t already have the Totally Rad Actions, RadLab is a must have tool to add to your kit. The fact that you can use RadLab on 16-bit images (not in Elements) and use it on video clips makes it pretty much a no-brainer. A demo is available if you really need to try it first, but we think you’ll love it.