Voice Annotations in Lightroom

by James Duncan Davidson

Recently, I acquired a new addition to my photographic tool chest in the form of a new Canon 1D Mark III. This is the first 1-series camera I've owned and I've been spending a lot of time going through all of its features and doing test shoots with it before I take it into an assignment. As part of this exploration the other day, I played a bit with the built-in microphone and made some voice annotations to go with some test photographs. This seems like a really cool feature of the camera as you can make a quick note of a subject's name or note some shooting detail that you want to remember later. But, I wasn't sure how useful this would be in my typical workflow. After all, the first thing I do with my images is import them into Lightroom. And I didn't figure that the audio files would be playable from Lightroom.

So it was a surprise to me when I imported this particular batch of photographs into Lightroom 1.1 and noticed that the .wav files were listed as sidecar files. Additionally, for the images that have these sidecars, a new metadata line shows up indicating that Lightroom knows that these are audio files. Here's what it looks like:

Audio sidecars in Lightroom's Metadata Panel

Even better, there's that arrow next to the Audio File metadata field. Press it and the audio file plays! Eminently usable. It's quite simple and works just as you'd expect it to. Neat! This is genuinely useful. I'm going to make an effort to try and work audio file annotations into my workflow where they make sense. The only thing I can see being an impediment to using voice annotations in my workflow is that you can only see if a file has an annotation in the metadata viewer which means that you might have to hunt around your images a bit to find an annotation that you remember making. It'd be nice if a little audio icon showed up in grid view for images that had voice annotations.

After doing a bit of digging, it turns out that this is a brand new feature in Lightroom 1.1 that wasn't in 1.0. It's also a fairly stealthy feature. It isn't referred to anywhere in the help or in Adobe's knowledge base. In fact, about the only other mentions of it that I can find on the web are in a web article by Ian Lyons and a mention in the Adobe Forums. Like Ian, I wonder what other stealth features might lurk in this release.


Mats Hage Eikemo
2007-07-11 06:50:25
Have you tried searching for the word wav (search for text anywhere) in Lightroom?

An easy work-around would simply be to label the files on your first look-through of the photos. While checking keywords and metadata or adding stars, give all files with an audio sidecar a colorlabel of your choice.
A more complex method would be to use automator to find all wav files in a folder, retrieve the filenames and then find all the CR2 files with the same names. Finally, add "wav" (or something else) to the end of the filenames. This should be possible, but I have yet to try it.

Mikkel Aaland
2007-07-13 00:54:36
James, good catch! This slipped by me too. Very sweet. Just wish LR would play my video clips as well, or at least catalog them.
2007-07-25 11:54:26
That's great. Now if the Mark III could take a consistently sharp image you would be all set.
See Robgalbraith.com/
Duncan Davidson
2007-07-26 11:14:00
I'm well aware of the AI-SERVO focus issue that Rob Galbraith has been reporting on. Luckily, for my line of work, I don't typically photograph atheletic runners running towards me using AI-SERVO on hot bright days. As many people that are investigating the issue have noted, the cameras AF in dim/dark situtations, where I typically work, is increadibly good.

Not that I'm trivializing Rob's issues. I'll be glad when Canon gets to the bottom of the hot and sunny AI-SERVO issues. But, I'm all set as is and am getting good results in my work right now.