I mentioned to Steve Wargo – the guy I work for at SNT Video – that it’d be cool if we had a jog/shuttle controller for Final Cut Pro. He reaches into a drawer and says, “You mean like this?”, pulling out a ShuttlePRO v.2 by Contour Designs. He said his previous guy never used it, but I thought I’d give it a go. Patrick Inhofer of the NY based finishing company called Fini wrote an article on the EclipseCX Control Service, and expressed how it helped improve his efficiency using Apple’s Color. I figured a control surface in Final Cut could potentially do the same.
Here are my findings:
At first inspection the hardware seems well constructed with a rubber gripped shuttle ring, and a solid metal jog dial. The rest of the piece is mostly plastic, and the whole unit is fairly light weight. The buttons at the front have clear plastic coverings that can be removed in order to add custom labels to the buttons. Considering there are infinite ways to configure this thing I’d say that was a good call. However, none of the other buttons have that feature, and there’s not an easy way to add a label to these. Not cool. Second thing I noticed is how loud the buttons are! Every button that clicks feels like one of those old plastic alarm clocks – if you know what I’m talking about?
CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
Once the device was plugged in all I had to do was download the driver off the website, and off we go! You have to use their software to configure your controller, which basically consists of associate a button on the controller with a key stroke from the keyboard. This is a pain, and a bad idea. I’ll explain more about that later.
After spending about an hour in Final Cut figuring out which buttons I wanted to do what I was ready to really give this thing a go and see how quick I could fly through my edits. Not bad. I couldn’t really tell if I was faster than with a mouse and keyboard, but I would imagine I will get faster with time. But being able to set and clear in and out points, add an edit, insert and overwrite clips, and of course scrub through the footage all with one hand was sweet. Grant it, I could map my keyboard to be able to that with shortcuts, but the ability to travel through the footage with the wheel felt pretty sweet. Once I configure this to the inth degree I’ll probably be able to do even more. All in all, so far so good.
One of the things I could never figure out was being able to go from the bin back to the timeline or preview window. I can go back and forth from the timeline to the preview window just find, but as when I’m done working on a clip in the bin, I have to move the mouse and double click the clip and want to use, then continue on with the ShuttlePRO. Not a huge deal, but it would be nice if I could find a shortcut to toggle between the bin, and preview windows. Maybe there is. Anybody?
The most frustrating part is that Final Cut doesn’t really support the refresh rate that this thing requires to scrub through footage. Not that it won’t do it – I just think it should be smoother, and I usually find myself several frames past the point where I wanted to stop because it takes the program a little bit to catch up. (Keep in mind I’m on a quad core machine, running some pretty serious hardware – this is a software issue with FCP).
I appreciate the concept behind this tool, but I’m not sure I agree with the way they put it into practice. Every button on the ShuttlePRO v.2 is associated with a keystroke. That means the “Mark In-Point” button is actually just pressing “i” on the keyboard. If you opened up a text editor and hit the “Mark In-Point” button on the ShuttlePRO it would type an “i” on the screen. This means in order for you to get everything out of this device you have to remap a good number of your FCP shortcuts, and set one of the controller’s buttons to be an “Option” or “Command” key in order to add another layer of commands. This also means that if you take your ShuttlePRO v.2 to another workstation you start all over and have to reconfigure everything. You can transfer your keyboard layout, but all the mapping of the ShuttlePRO will have to be reconfigured through their software on the new machine. Dumb. I also found myself inadvertently switching spaces, and changing the volume while trying to scrub through the footage. The ring, and dial use the F1 – F10 commands to jog through footage at variable rates. So in order for you to run the controller you have to deactivate “Keyboard Navigation” in your System Preferences otherwise it will interfere with all the shortcut Mac OX is already using.
All this would be greatly simplified if the ShuttlePRO v.2 could store its mapping configurations on its own internal memory of some kind, and if FCP would interact directly with the device. As of now it doesn’t even know it exists, it’s just obeying the keystrokes it receives.
The ShuttlePRO v.2 is really just a super mouse, or perhaps a simplified specialized keyboard. It doesn’t seem to have much functionality in and of itself. Regardless, I enjoy the experience of being able to tangibly spin a wheel to scrub through footage, and going frame by frame on the shuttle seems much more natural using the dial than repeatedly tapping on an arrow key.
So there you have it. The good, the bad and the it-could-be-better.
If you’ve made it all the way through this post, I’m impressed. Let me know if you have any questions about this, or need clarification on something and I’d be happy to elaborate.