When Blackmagic displayed their dedicated Resolve keyboard at NAB, I thought it was a winner, a product thought I had had in my head for many years. Now I'm not too sure, what would the ideal dedicated NLE keyboard look like?
One of the biggest news items from the recent NAB show was the first outing of Blackmagic’s new dedicated editing keyboard for DaVinci Resolve.
More than just coloured keycaps, the new keyboard has more keys and a jog/shuttle wheel. It certainly looks very familiar to a lot of us older editors.
Let’s indulge in a minute of rose-tinted joy of linear editing with tape machines when the phrase ‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll fix it later’ didn’t exist.
Most famous of all editing controllers was the Sony BVE 9000. A beast of a machine being able to control many multiple VT machines (My record was 9), drive the largest vision mixer you can find and set of as many GPIs (relay contacts) as you could program.
The crate in the rack in the air conditioned equipment room was controlled by the 9000 keyboard as you can see from the picture below.
The keyboard is a modified qwerty with added buttons on the left for list management and setup and of course the famous Sony jog/shuttle wheel on the right. Apart from EVS, nobody up until now has been able to recreate the ‘feel’ of that jog knob.
A few years later when Sony kit went from being shiny to a more modern dark matte, the edit controller followed with an update and was called the 9100.
The BBC didn’t like the qwerty keyboard as it was hard for editors to transition from the 900 or 910 to the 9100. So Sony designed a special dedicated keyboard for them. This has the keys spread out into different groups. This example on the ‘edit keyboard wall of fame’ was rescued out of a skip, hence the rather poor condition. There's not many left of them around.
So you can now see where the new Blackmagic keyboard designers got their inspiration from.
But.. Those keyboards came from a time when we edited with tape. I’m not too sure that a similar keyboard for an NLE is the most efficient way of editing.
By offering a jog/shuttle knob, you are inviting the editor to use an NLE exactly like an old tape suite, shuttling to stuff.
Times have changed, we are know skimming across long clips, jumping backwards and forwards many minutes at will. Yes of course you can still use the mouse, but the keyboard is being sold on the basis it will make editing quicker.
I’m not too sure of the layout either as not only is it aimed a right-handers, it also looks like you need both hands on the keyboard to shuttle with your right, enter in/out points with the left and then insert/overlay the clip.
So, enough criticism, how would I see a new dedicated editing keyboard. (We are also presuming that the keyboard only works with Resolve.)
I think Glenn Ficarra had a good idea when he and Jan Kovac edited Whiskey Tango Foxtrot on Final Cut Pro X. The combination of a touch pad with assignable buttons and rotary knobs looked promising.
For me though, what I would like is a standard FCPX labeled qwerty keyboard with extras.
First off, I’d have a Touch Bar directly above the keys, exactly like a new MacBook Pro. Hopefully Apple will put more functionality from FCPX into the Touch Bar this year.
Not that I'm going to win any awards for Photoshop, but here is my 'Frankenkeyboard' idea.
Secondly I’d have a row of assignable knobs that matched selections in the Touch bar below. These would be great for colour grading or moving items in the canvas by small increments. Apologies to Tangent for borrowing the knobs from their Wave 2 panel.
As for a jog/shuttle wheel? I’m not convinced. I tried the keyboard at NAB and it all felt very strange. It felt like I’d met up with an old girlfriend, all very familiar, but not as good as the current wife.
I’ve edited, eaten off and even slept on those old Sony keyboards in my time in dark rooms in Soho. So I thought I’d like the Blackmagic keyboard a lot more than I do.
I’m sure it will suit a few users perfectly, but for me I’m going to continue to skim/hoverscrub/scartch across clips in NLEs with a Magic Mouse and a qwerty keyboard.