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Version 1.2 (2/DEC/2017)
How To Edit external effects inside Photo Reactor
Photo Reactor exchange effects with other Mediachance applications using VFBOX virtual effect format. The easiest way to start is to open existing VFBOX effect. This can be done either opening the *.vfbox file or even better, directly from applications such as Reactor Player or Dynamic Auto Painter by using the Edit in Photo Reactor button.
This will launch Photo Reactor with the effect in question opened. (If you just installed Photo Reactor, you need to run it at least once to associate the extensions) In this example we will open the Photo Clarity filter from Reactor Player.
This simple effect enhances clarity of image by using tone mapper to recover shadows and it also correct blue haze by using levels.
Each of those boxes (or blocks) does some manipulation to the image and it has its own parameters. If you click on each you will see a parameter sliders will appear on the right hand panel of the Photo Reactor. Moving those sliders will change the parameters of that block.
For example Tone Mapper block will show these sliders. In the final virtual plug-in we don’t necessary need to see all of the parameters from all of the blocks, it would be a chaos. Instead we can pick only some of the important sliders (and those are marked with the red dot) and set the other to have permanent value. Each virtual effect (VFBOX) has one block that is called PARAMS. In our case it is the block with the blue EYE icon.
The PARAMS block groups the sliders and other controls that will appear on the final effect interface (in this case in Reactor Player) and if we select the PARAMS block, the same interface will appear on the right panel. Each of those sliders listed here is like a shortcut to an actual slider in some of the blocks. The sliders in the PARAMS can be renamed to better classify the purpose (as it was indeed done here). For example the Shadow Tone points to the Shadow Recovery slider in the Tone Mapper.
We can also double-click the PARAMS block to open the sliders management, where we can add or remove sliders. Note: at this moment the VFBOX host such as DAP or Reactor Player will display 10 first controls in PARAMS (to keep the interface clean)
The PARAMS editor lists the group of controls used for the effect, its parameters and also lists all the other blocks and all the other sliders that can be added. (Add Parameters from the Project column) In this exercise we can try to remove the Shadow Tone, by clicking on the Slider so an MINUS icon will appear and then clicking that icon.
While we can add the control back from the same PARAMS editor dialog, there is a better and more visual way from the main interface. Select the Tone Mapper block from the interface so its controls appear on the right panel. Note how the Shadow Recovery no longer has red dot, because it is no longer associated with the PARAMS (we removed the linked slider) Now RIGHT click on the slider Shadow Recovery. A PLUS sign will appear on its right. Clicking on it will open the old known PARAMS editor, but with that slider added to the bottom of the pile.

Now Click OK. If we export the virtual effect now it will no longer have the Shadow Tone Slider.

We can move the slider up in the pile back where it was and also rename it to Shadow Tone.

Let’s add Sharpen Block
We will add Unsharp Mask at the end of the processing, just before Output. To quickly find the block you need, start typing its function (sharpen) in the search box.
To add a block to your effect, drag it from the lists on the left side. The top list has typical straight Image processing functions such as blur, sharpen etc, the list below has more of a manipulation functions such as splitting channels, blending etc…

Pick the Unsharp Mask and drag it to the canvas over the  connection where you want it inserted. If you drop it over a line it will be inserted there automatically, if not you will need to reconnect it to the other boxes.


Once it is there, add the amount slider to the PARAMS, just like we did before. Now you see why sliders can be renamed because some of the names will not be clear out of context. Rename the Amount to Sharpness.
Setting the default values
The easiest way of setting the default values of the PARAMS sliders is to simply select the PARAMS block and move the sliders in the left panel to the values you want. Those will then became the default values (the values the virtual effect will load as default) If you instead move the original sliders to which the PARAMS point, the PARAMS sliders will over-rule them when the effect is loaded by the host. So select the PARAMS Block and move the sharpness slider in the right panel to some lower value (0.10 for example)
Exporting the Virtual Effect (VFBOX)
If you run Photo Reactor from within Reactor Player or DAP, (or by double clicking on *.vfbox file) it will open the reactor project in VFBOX editing mode. In this mode the SAVE PROJECT button will directly go into creating and saving the VBOX file in the folder where it was called from which simplifies the steps. If you run reactor separately, then you will need to use menu Virtual Effect -> Create Virtual Effect and then Virtual Effect - Export as VFBOX file. The mode is indicated on the very bottom of Reactor:
In the VFBOX Mode, Save button will create and save VFBOX file.
In our example, press save. It will open the previously known PARAMS editor dialog, but now you can also change the thumbnail icon and even give it a name (which ultimately will be used only inside Reactor itself so you don’t need to bother with naming it here). Now press Create and you will be presented with an Export dialog box, where you can either overwrite the original VFBOX file or give it a new name. You can overwrite the original file or give it a new name if you wish. Overwriting factory (installed) files is a reversible act, because the ones you are editing are in fact only a mirror copies. You may see that the folder that opened during the export dialog (which is in your “My Documents” folder) has only few VFBOX files (or even single one if you never edit any other), yet Reactor Player or DAP 5 has in fact many of these effects. The originals are still stored in the actual application folder. When you edit it from within the Player or DAP 5 a copy will be created in the My Documents. If you delete that copy, the effect will then return to its original factory setting.

Once you export your new Virtual Effect, you can close Reactor. The original application will have displayed this waiting dialog with the Finish and Reload Effects button. Pressing the button will tell the application (Player or DAP5) that the editing is over and it should look in all the folders for any changes and rebuild the list of effects.

Depending on which way you exported - overwriting or making a new name, the new effect will now have the additional Sharpness slider.

And that’s the basics of editing your filters.

Advanced Concepts
Let’s look at the previous example once again. While the concept of simple Blocks like Sharpen or Tone Mapper is (or should be) very obvious: image comes in, adjusted image comes out; there is the middle part that we gracefully ignored in the previous example.
This is a bit different, we are splitting the image from Tone mapper into two paths and then later somehow merging them. This “parallel” processing is in fact what gives Reactor the power to do amazing effect and if you open some more complex filters you will see this concept used all the time.
The vital function in understanding this concept is the block “Blend Layers” which is the purple block with two inputs. It is equivalent to blending two layers in Photoshop, one on top of the other one. The text Normal on the top of the Blend Layers block is the same as Blend mode in Photoshop between the Layers and can be changed into one of many different blending modes. So what does the above connection do? We are splitting the image into two layers, the top layer goes through Levels block. If you look inside the block, you will see that we slightly lowered Gamma of the Blue channel making the image just a bit warmer. Then we blend the bottom, unchanged layer with this top warmer layer in the Blend Layer block. And if you examine it closely you will see that we are indeed using the Opacity of the Blend Layers block in our Virtual Effect renamed as “Remove Haze” slider. Moving this slider will start very gradually warming the image.
Why not?
You may ask, why we didn’t simply use the Gamma slider from the Levels block directly in our effect and then we could omit the whole Blend Layers block circus. We could do that for sure but this is another good trick to remember. Adjusting the gamma directly gives very strong effect and the slider leaves little for any fine refinement. The image goes from very blue to very green/red on each sides of the slider and for any photography this would be pretty useless. Instead we set what would be our maximum of the “blue removal” effect in the top layer and then use the Opacity slider of the Blend Layers to mix it with the unchanged image . So we can go from zero to slightly warm in the whole range of the Opacity slider giving us a very fine and gradual adjustment. This is a good rule to remember. Make the adjustment purposeful. In our case it was to remove blue cast, which is usually a very weak but often overlooked White Balance issue on many images. There is no point to let the user to adjust it too far or even to let them to add even more blue cast, as would be the case if we are using the Gamma slider directly.
May we suggest?
Create painting from photos with DAP
Combine photos into a great montage with PhotoBlend
Design your own effects and plugins with Photo Reactor
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