Most people don't think much about the keyboard that they use. It has 26 letters—check. It has "enter," "delete," and "escape"—check. It connects via USB or PS/2—check. But don't be fooled into thinking that all keyboards are created equal. They are as different as those of us who use them.
I had the good fortune of finding this out first-hand in late November when I received a Professional Series keyboard from Bella Corporation. Bella has been providing keyboards that are expressly engineered for NLE systems for more than 10 years. The latest generation has just come to market with some true breakthrough features.
I evaluated the Professional Series keyboard designed to work with Final Cut Pro, but they make them for just about all the popular NLEs—including Adobe Premiere Pro; Sony Vegas; and Avid Media Composer, Xpress Pro, and Liquid. The new Professional Series 3.0 Keyboard has been designed from the ground up with editors in mind and includes many features that are exclusive to Bella keyboards.
Color-Coded Keys and International Symbols
One of the first things that I noticed when I took my keyboard out of the box was the colored keys and icon-coded keycaps for NLE-associated keyboard shortcuts. Almost all mid-to-high priced turnkey NLE systems come with their own color-coded and symbol-labeled keyboard. This goes all the way back to the linear editing days, when companies used standard keyboards and programmed the keys to perform specific commands.
Bella brings this feature to the masses with their new product line. The color-coded and icon-labeled keys can help an editor learn specific commands quickly and efficiently.
However, colored keys and coded keycaps can be a little overwhelming for some, especially those who never learned to type. For that reason, Bella also makes a DV Keyboard that includes all of the great features of the Professional model but without the colored keys. With this keyboard option, one can type by day and edit by night. This model also includes high-quality sticker sets for most popular applications from Adobe, Apple, Avid, Sony. They are designed to help you customize your keyboard to your specifications.
Another feature that I believe is a first for any keyboard is the inclusion of international symbols (left). These markings are tucked into the front side of the keys (notice the green symbols), so you can see them when you're looking forward at the keyboard. I was wondering what real-world function they would have and then realized how valuable they would be every time an editor runs across foreign names and/or words. Some of these words include an accent mark or symbol. While it's true that these symbols are available on all keyboards, they often require several specific keystrokes to make them appear. Bella has labeled the keyboard to give quick access for inputting the correct symbols.
One feature that is a Bella Pro Keyboard exclusive is their jog/shuttle wheel. Having tried several different jog/shuttle options for FCP, I can tell you that this is the best-designed, most responsive wheel that I have ever seen. The wheel has seven shuttle speeds (your mileage may vary depending on which NLE you use) and the ability to go frame-by-frame with the inner wheel.
Just don't spin the wheel recklessly; it can cause problems for your NLE as it tries to keep up with the wheel commands. That said, the jog/shuttle feature has saved me hours of tedious searching searching of footage.
Neo-Lite and USB Ports
One of the coolest new features of the Bella Video keyboards is the Neo-Lite. It's a Dual LED task light with a 12'' gooseneck that plugs straight into the keyboard. There are three light ports, one in the center and one on each side of the Pro version, so you can adjust your keyboard lighting (for those who prefer to edit in the dark).
To accommodate our digital lifestyle, the Bella DV and Professional Series keyboards also include two USB 2.0 ports for direct, high-speed connectivity to all your USB devices. The keyboard also has a top row of multimedia keys to run your media player of choice. The keyboard also has a top row of programmable multimedia keys that are macros-enabled so you can program them for a single keyboard shortcut or a series of program tasks or actions.
If this sounds like too much keyboard for you, Bella also makes an Advantage Series line that incorporates many of the features from its Professional line. The DV Keyboard 3.0 retails for $129 and the Professional Series, including the Neo-Lite, sells for $189. These keyboards are worth the investment and will pay off in time savings and editing efficiency. They provide a unique and comprehensive feature set unparalleled in the video marketplace.
Todd Gillespie (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been shooting/capturing/animating for broadcast/cable for more than ten years. He now works in Television Production at UC-Santa Barbara. Todd lives on the California coast with his wife and three children.