Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 04/04/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Contour Design's ShuttlePro

Just about anything with a timeline will benefit from the ShuttlePro By Mike Jones

For those working in video and digital media production, it's very easy to get carried away with the technology. Faster CPU's, more RAM, bigger monitor screens, the latest software suites - these are all very nice but so often it's not these things that really make the difference in our day to day work. Very often it`s the little things that make for greater efficiency in production. It's this concept that a device such as Contour Design's ShuttlePro seeks to invoke.

On the surface the ShuttlePro is a simple jog controller; a device that has a long pre-digital history. From flatbed and Steinbeck celluloid editing of 8, 16 and 35mm film, through tape-tape analog video editing, all have employed the jog controller as a means of tactile manipulation of time-based media.

The ShuttlePro is built around twin concentric dials, the outer spring loaded and the inner continuous for fine timeline advancement. There are then 15 individual buttons arrayed in an ergonomic layout around the dials for easy single handed operation.


Despite the long history of jog controllers and control surfaces in video production, the creative environment has nonetheless changed substantially from these pre-digital stems. Where once the control surface jog controller was built for a singular system, a single production tool, we now have the digital desktop - a hybrid and multifaceted work space. Where once the editor worked within the confines of the video timeline, we now have a much more integrated and holistic creative paradigm. Rather than just the NLE, editors are now reliant on a wide diversity of tools for audio, video, effects and delivery encoding. The editor's job description has evolved substantially and so to it the demands on their production tools.

The Shuttle Pro

It's here that the Shuttle Pro, despite its lineage, presents itself as very much a tool of the digital age - a micro control surface that is software and platform independent, as at home in the DAW as it is in the NLE, or indeed in any application at all.

The ShuttlePro comes with a host of pre-built application keystroke mappings for virtually every major software tool - ProTools, Final Cut, Avid, Premiere, Vegas, Cubase, After Effects and so on. But the real power comes in the configuration controls where each button on the Shuttle Pro can be custom assigned to any given function in the application. This includes keystroke commands that require modifier keys such as CTRL or ALT as well as repeating commands from keys held down or toggle on/off.

The ShuttlePro is then able to automatically detect which application is active so even if you have an NLE and DAW open at the same time, the ShuttlePro commands will switch to the correct configuration as you switch between apps.

All too often good hardware is let down by poor software integration. Thankfully the ShuttlePro driver and configuration tool has a well thought out functionality and it is remarkably easy to use even when customizing an application profile from scratch. A graphically displayed layout of the ShuttlePro lights up as a button is pressed and simply then pressing the keystroke command you want to assign locks in the function. Subsequently all you need to map your software to your liking is the list of keystroke shortcuts from the manual and a few spare minutes.

The strength of the ShuttlePro is perhaps in its functional simplicity. Where other manufacturers have resorted to supply a complete control surface solution that often seeks to supplant the keyboard and mouse, ContourDesign has instead realized that today's digital producers are very comfortable, and moreover very efficient, with their mouse and keyboard. The ShuttlePro aims at being an adjunct to the keyboard and mouse, working with the mouse rather than replacing it.

At a basic level editors will find just the simple move of I/O controls, Play/Pause and GoToStart from the keyboard to the ShuttlePro is of itself a massive step forward in efficiency. The editor can work with one hand on the mouse and the other on the ShuttlePro and have access to just about everything you need without ever needing to move your wrist.

Thoughtful consideration has also been paid to the design construction of the ShuttlePro. Its very low and sleek profile is unobtrusive on the desk and won`t add to the clutter that can quickly overcome the edit bay. The low profile also ensures a great deal of comfort and ergonomics, minimizing strain on the wrist.

The jog wheel itself has a rubber surface making fine control easy (especially for those with sweaty palms or anxious clients) and the center free-turning wheel is cast metal with a solid weight to it. This makes for easy precise frame by frame (or sample by sample) movements forward and backward on the timeline.

In this age of laptop and portable production the Shuttle Pro is eminently portable and very light weight, easily slipping into a laptop bag side pocket. The downside of this however is that the Shuttle Pro, lacking significant mass, tends to slide around on the desk during use. The solution is obviously sticking the Shuttle Pro down, but the problem might have also been addressed with soft rubber feet pads or some other addition to provide grip traction.

At the risk of invoking a cliché, the Shuttle Pro is a tool that once you've started using it, you really will wonder how you ever got by without it. This is not because the Shuttle Pro attempts to supplant or replace other software controls from mouse and keyboard but rather because it provides a simple and highly effective complement to them. It`s safe to say that just about anything with a timeline will benefit from the ShuttlePro.


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Mike Jones is a digital media producer, author, educator from Sydney, Australia. He has a diverse background across all areas of media production including film, video, TV, journalism, photography, music and on-line projects. Mike is the author of three books and more than 200 published essays, articles and reviews covering all aspects of cinematic form, technology and culture. Mike is currently Head of Technological Arts at the International Film School Sydney (www.ifss.edu.au), has an online home at www.mikejones.net and can be found profusely blogging for DMN at www.digitalbasin.net


Related Keywords:input device, shuttlepro, contour deisng, NLE, video editing, timeline editing

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