Gear & Now: Editing Tools for Portability, Productivity, and Pleasure
Posted Feb 4, 2008

While pro wedding and event videographers often regard a reception hall, house of worship, or school sports complex as the most common place to work, we spend a lot of time in the edit suite—many of us spend more time there than behind the camera. January’s Gear & Now reported on a number of new pro video tools, including some for the edit suite itself. This month we’ll continue our look at new products and supports for productive editing, starting with the keyboard.


figure 1Keyboards for Video Editors
The keyboard is the most frequently used data input and edit control device, yet we often overlook the fact that inexpensive add-ons or alternatives to the standard keyboard are available for the video editor. Simple sticky labels are the easiest and least expensive way to turn your keyboard into a dedicated device for video editing.

Editors Keys, for example, has released a very comprehensive set of sticky keyboard labels for almost every popular video editing, audio sweetening, titling, and graphics package now on the market. From Premiere, Final Cut, and Vegas to Pro Tools, After Effects, and Shake, these colorful, multilayer laminate PVC adhesive sticker sets are more resilient than many stickies, which can fade or even peel off mere weeks after application. Editors Keys shortcut sets have been available for several years now, but the range of choices and durability is strong and growing all the time (as are new editing program software versions and revisions). Most sets are available for about $20.

Power users of almost any nonlinear editing system (NLE) know that keypad-based and software-enabled shortcuts can bring speed and efficiency to the edit session. It’s one thing to be familiar with all the features and functions of your editing software, but it’s another to be able to call up specific commands, regardless of how often they are used, with a simple, visually referenced keystroke. Drag-and-drop commands and other mouse-based point-and-click controls are often said to support ease of use, but most editors in high-volume environments will tell you that keystrokes and shortcuts are quicker and more precise. Some products are customizable, so you can build all of your own favorite edit commands, transitions, and third-party program interfaces into your keyboard.

Custom keyboards specifically constructed for use in specific software environments are also available. Manufacturers like Logic Keyboards and Bella Corp. offer keyboards (and mice) with USB or wireless connectivity for Mac or PC platforms. With color-coded keys and silk-screened, molded, or engraved lettering, navigation shortcuts, editing commands, and quick tool sectors are easily identified on these keyboards.

In its Final Cut lineup, Logic Keyboard offers true Apple Pro keyboards, products from third-party manufacturers such as MacAlly’s, and little snap-on keysets and skins for attaching to existing keyboards, ranging in prices from $85 for the snap-on keys to around $130 for its Final Cut Pro custom keyboard. Logic has keyboards and shortcuts solutions for PC-based programs as well, of course: a PS/2, USB, and wireless solution is available for DPS Velocity, for example. Detachable arm rests and multifunction pointing devices, such as the Shuttle Jog from Contour Design, can also be used to bring important editing commands right to your fingertips.


figure 1Editing-Sized Displays
Larger computer screens are very handy too, bringing better imagery and more detailed user interface displays to the editing environment. The usability and productivity advantages of dual-monitor desktop setups are well-known; simply having more screen real estate means you can display larger, longer timelines, or show a more detailed clip bin information area, or have more than one program’s windows wide open. Desktop displays are widely available and widely priced, so look carefully before making a purchasing decision. Be aware that graphic display cards are specifically designed for certain LCD screens, so they may not be compatible with all available displays. Video editors will want to ensure that LCD screens have very fast refresh rates, so lagging and trailing artifacts are not visible.

For example, NEC’s Display division recently announced a dual-display product bundle, including two 19" MultiSync LCD195VX+ displays and the Matrox Graphics DualHead2Go Graphics eXpansion Module (GXM). It is attractively priced around $699 and comes with a couple of years of warranty and support from both manufacturers. With both analog and digital connectivity, the display package boasts about its "Rapid Response Technology" that is rated at a very fast 5ms, suitable for distortion-free, full-motion video display.

Matrox has also released analog and digital versions of its TripleHead2Go external multidisplay device, which lets you add three DVI-equipped monitors to a compatible workstation, desktop, or notebook computer.


figure 1Graphics Cards
If for some reason three monitors are not enough, one of Matrox’s new family of fanless graphic cards might do the trick. The Millennium P690 Series is now available in several form factors, with drivers for deployment across multiple systems. The P690 Plus LP PCI/PCIe products can be upgraded to drive up to eight analog or four digital monitors in a joined-card configuration.

I know of some video editors who have incorporated even larger displays into their home editing and presentation theater environments, installing large, high-definition flat-panel displays either in their studio setups or close enough to the edit workstations that client presentation can be driven right off the timeline.

Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS)
As enjoyable and impactful as such a setup can be, all it takes is one power surge or brownout to cause a catastrophe. That’s why uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) and power management (PM) systems from companies like Panamax are worth considering.

Priced at less than $150, the new MFP-300 and MFP-400 from Panamax supply clean, noise-free power while protecting attached electronic systems from damaging over- and undervoltages. Available in a slimline design that can be mounted behind flat-panel displays (or elsewhere out of sight), the MFP-300 cleans and filters incoming power to eliminate visual symptoms of AC line noise, such as loss of detail, pops, hisses, and hums.

Panamax PM devices can include protection circuitry that removes the AC power from connected equipment in the event of a catastrophic surge, as well as integrated coax/sat line protection against electrical surges that can travel over cable, satellite, and antenna lines.

Upscaling
By the way, regardless of the power you apply to your flat-panel display, there is a handy new device to make sure you are looking at the very best imagery. The AV Toolbox AVT-3900 ($600) is a professional series scaler that takes analog as well as digital formats and outputs them in a fully compliant HDMI 1080p resolution.

The AVT-3900’s inputs include HDMI, DVI (via DVI to HDMI cable), PC-generated RGB (up to WUXGA), HD Component (YPbPr/YCbCr, 480i up to 1080p), S-Video, and Composite Video. Of course, audio inputs are provided for all sources and follow the video input selected. More interestingly, digital and analog audio processing are supported, and audio delays of up to 150ms can be introduced to ensure lip sync. Motion adaptive deinterlacers, 3:2 or 2:2 pull-down detection/recovery, and 3D noise reduction circuitry round out this video signal processor’s capabilities.

The unit weights just over 2 pounds and is small enough to be considered portable (about the size of a large book). It also has very interesting presentation and screening capabilities—same-day editors, take note!

Shipping Cases
For many videographers, portability has long been key to video acquisition; nowadays, the editing and screening of the video can take place on the road, as well. Many of you are not only videographers, but video trainers, giving lectures and workshops all over the continent. For the entire computer to travel safely and conveniently, Tenba’s lineup of lightweight yet durable shipping cases are just the ticket. There’s a full line of custom-fitted Air Cases to fit all current Apple computers and displays, including the MacPro Tower; 17", 20", 24" iMacs; as well as the 20", 23", and 30" Cinema displays. Smaller cases are also available for MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, as are models for other systems.

The patented cases are built on a multilayered skeleton of air-channeled plastic panels, high-density foam, and molded framing components, all encased in a reinforced ballistic nylon outer shell. Inside, custom-fitted foam inserts give the gear more protection than the original equipment shipping carton.

Protection for your portable editing suite also comes in the form of a unique Datapanel, the company’s own three-way identification solution, with shipping a document window, business card holder, and laser-engraved metal I.D. plate. Prices vary depending on the case size and other features and can run to several hundred dollars.

Lee Rickwood (lrickwood at goodmedia.com) is a media consultant and freelance writer.