Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 07/02/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Get the Zoom On!

Bella Professional keyboards speed the editing tasks. By Douglas Spotted Eagle

Get the Zoom On with the new Bella 4100 series keyboards!

These hot new keyboards from Bella USA ain't just your average CompUSA junkboard that someone bought for 10.00 at a Taiwan auction and slapped colored keys or stickers on, no sir! These are heavy weight (nearly 2 lbs) keyboards made for abuse. During the VASST tour, not only did our 4100 series keyboard have to survive 22 different locations over the course of 4 weeks, but it also endured the prying hands of the TSA, who deserve the nickname of "FumbleFingers." (An award should go to the TSA of O'Hare in Chicago, who managed to not only drop the Bella once, but twice, and in the process of inspection, broke the handle off a Pelikan case. Go figure)

Bella's 4100 keyboard is configured for several NLEs, including Adobe Premiere.

Bella's keyboards are capable of standard multi-media control just like many keyboards, but macros or specialty key assignments are also possible depending on the application you are using. For instance, in Sony Vegas 5, scripts can be assigned to any of the function keys on the Bella keyboard. Standard multimedia control is easy with this keyboard, raising/lowering volume, opening web browsers, start/stop playback of CD or DVD players, muting or ejecting discs, and powering on/off the computer system are all possible from the keyboard. (Apple OSX Panther users cannot start the computer from the keyboard, this is an OS restriction)

Jog shuttle wheel also has customizable button assignments.

The Bella keyboards are connected via USB. Youll want to connect these direct rather than through a USB hub. According to Bella, they cannot predict the behavior of a keyboard when plugged into a hub, although on initial testing, my Bella worked fine in Premiere, Avid, and Vegas while connected to a USB hub. The back of the Bella keyboard offers two USB connections which was great for me since I have a WAVES dongle/authorizer that I need to constantly connect and disconnect, depending on the system Im working on at the moment. The USB connector ports are USB 1, so you wont be able to have high speed connection if you are planning on inserting your thumbdrive. Frankly, when Im using my thumb drive, I dont really care about the speed, its more a transfer tool than an access drive in my workflow.

High-Speed Passing Lanes

I've modified my Specialty Buttons on the keyboard to act as split/cut points, allowing me to never leave the shuttle wheel when making fine edits. All 16 of the specialty buttons may be programmed to act as you'd like them to act, controlling whatever special functions are programmable in your NLE application.

Bella makes keyboards for Apple and PC use, and the keyboards are interchangeable. This, I loved, because with Final Cut Pros keymapping, the keycaps on the Vegas keyboard I got still work where I want them to, and many of the shortcuts are similar. (Both Vegas and FCP allow for remapping keys). The Bella keyboard does suffer from reversed keys to where the ALT and Windows keys on the PC version are backwards, similar to the Apple and CTRL key are found on an Apple system. However, using a free Keytweaker utility, its easy to remap this so that the ALT key and the Windows key are correct in mapping.

Hi Octane

The keys on the Professional Series are printed keycaps; other series in the Bella lineup offer stickers. Bella strongly states that these stickers are invisible and that they dont move or build up gunk over time, which was my main concern for a stickered keyset. Bella offers keysticker sets for most any application, these can be put on their DV Keyboard line. Ive not seen their DV Keyboard products, so cant comment on the quality of that particular line. If they are anywhere as tough and heavyweight as the Professional Series, theyre likely worth the price.

Missed Lane Changes:

A few dislikes on the Professional Series keyboards would be worth mentioning, although they are entirely personal. I dont care for the new "ergonomic" designs of keyboards that have the non-straight edge at the bottom. This makes it hard to get my wrist pad to match up to the bottom of the keyboard. I experience this with most every multimedia keyboard out there.

I also dont care for the ALT+Windows keys being reversed from whats standard on all keyboards. Ive learned to deal with it, but since Bella is making Apple and PC compatible keyboards, I dont understand the need to swap these. In Vegas 5, Ive remapped these keys since Vegas 5 is totally key mappable. But for the user of non-mappable NLE or DAW systems, this is a drawback in my opinion. If this really bothers you, you can simply pop the offending keys off the keyboard and put them in the correct place, since these are identical key sizes. This is the only aspect of the Bella Professional Keyboard I found I didnt care for. Ive gotten used to it after a couple hours of editing though. I did download the KeyTweaker and it does work as advertised.  So, small hoop to jump through in order to have this look the way I wanted it to.

The built-in USB ports are great for connecting dongles, a thumbdrive or a mouse.

The Checkered Flag!

Few warts aside, this is a great addition to any NLE system. The weight and stability alone are wonderful. Ive got a rubber antiskid mat under my keyboard anyway, but this device doesnt feel like its going anywhere, even in those moments of frustrated shuttling back and forth when the pressure is on from the client or boss (are they any different?) to get from one point to another on a timeline. With the customizable buttons (14 in all) and the shuttle wheels additional "special keys" that can be mapped for any shortcuts, this keyboard can quickly get you racing through the editing session.

Professional Series MSRP  $189.95

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DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE, Managing Producer Douglas Spotted Eagle is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy Award winning productions.

Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others.

Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of fast-action videography. He remains active as a multimedia producer, trainer, and presenter, utilizing the latest technology as part of his workflow.

Related Keywords:Keyboard, FCP, Vegas, Premiere, nonlinear, hardware, USB

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