When Grant Petty recently demonstrated DaVinci Resolve 17, he also demonstrated a new machining control device, the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor. Blackmagic Design kindly sent us a loan unit. I had the pleasure of using it for almost two weeks. Let me share with you what I think about the device.
What is the speed editor?
The DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor is a special keyboard (also known as a controller). It offers many functions for dedicated buttons and a wheel. The controller is intended to be used alongside a normal keyboard or laptop. The device is designed to speed up your editing workflow by using commonly used functions for dedicated buttons and the aforementioned watch face.
The placement of the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor on my desk: Photo credit: CineD
The lightweight device is approximately 25 cm x 16 cm. Despite its metallic appearance, the housing is made of injection-molded plastic.
43 buttons – some of which have LED status indicators – are arranged in five logical groups or sections. Some buttons have secondary functions that can be accessed by double pressing and / or holding. There is a jog / shuttle / scroll wheel at the bottom right. The metal dial becomes buttery soft and has a nice weight, which makes it very pleasant to use. You can bump the wheel and it will keep turning for a while due to its dynamics – very nice.
There is no haptic feedback when you put the bike in SHTL (shuttle) mode, as with some similar controllers. This makes it difficult to find the “neutral” or “paused” position of the bike and measure how fast you are going forwards or backwards. However, a small indicator below the viewer appears in SHTL mode and shows which direction and at which speed you are driving. I think the haptic feedback feature fell victim to limitations. Unfortunately, this makes the SHTL function a bit awkward to use.
Note: SHTL (Shuttle) is basically what JKL functionality tried to emulate in most of the NLEs
The keys have long travel and are easy to feel, which reminds me of using old PC keyboards or even the legendary Sony BVE-900 A / B editing controller that I started editing on in the early 90s. (I'm there, I know, but what the heck)
While long travel keys may not be familiar to users of modern laptop keyboards, being able to literally “punch in” your IN and OUT points is actually very satisfying. Longer travel also reduces irregular keystrokes.
Trim and transition section with IN / OUT buttons. Image credit: CineD
Since the device is intended to complement a normal computer keyboard, it must be located in an easily accessible location. I used DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor on a desktop computer with a full-size keyboard. What worked best for me was putting the editing controller between me and the actual computer keyboard. Since it is not as wide as the normal full size keyboard, it was easy to get around the speed editor when I had to use the normal "keyboard".
The device has a single USB-C port for connecting to the computer. Thanks to the integrated Bluetooth and battery, however, it does not have to be physically connected. This has the advantage: the cable does not interfere when it is placed in front of the keyboard. I charged the device overnight and didn't have to recharge it in the more than 10 days that I used it. I don't know how long it would have been.
DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor – Installation is easy. Image credit: CineD
No drivers need to be installed and there is no power switch on the device. I just opened the bluetooth settings in the system preferences on my Mac, the speed editor showed up as "DaVinci Keyboard", I clicked "Connect" and that's it. When DaVinci Resolve starts up, some of the LEDs in the buttons are lit and the controller just worked.
No configuration or keyboard mapping is required (still possible). All buttons are permanently assigned their function. The speed editor was developed exclusively for DaVinci Resolve and will not work with any other software. This is unlikely to change in the future.
Make no mistake – before you speed up editing with the speed editor (or any other interface), you'll be editing much slower for a while. Until you have programmed all the buttons and their functions in your muscle memory. Setting and deleting IN and OUT points (double tap) is easy and intuitive with the SHTL / JOG / SCRL wheel. When it came to more complex tasks, I often had to pause and think. Tasks that took 2 seconds with the mouse often took minutes with the Speed Editor.
Multicam area with large play / pause button. Image credit: CineD
However, after a while it just gets easier. When I returned to Final Cut Pro for a paid job, I missed the controller during this review! That told me I had broken the "learning wall". So be ready to be frustrated for a while. No pain, no gain I guess.
Specially developed for the cut side
As Grant Petty said while demonstrating the controller, this thing is designed for the edit side. He didn't lie.
The DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor – Transport Section. Image credit: CineD
While most of the buttons / functions of the speed editor do something on the edit page, most of the advanced features don't make sense with the traditional track-based timeline of the edit page. The device works well as a JOG / SHUTTLE to set IN and OUT points and simple things like adding a transition. It also worked to edit an already completed edit by going through the edits and trimming (with the edit mode active for cropping). Although I had to lock a couple of tracks so as not to mess things up. For everything more complex, use the mouse and the normal computer keyboard. For me, this is largely out of date on the edit page.
For whom is that?
If you're using the Edit page in Resolve to edit multicam content all day, the Speed Editor can be a real time saver. You don't have to take the speed editor out of your hands to switch camera angles, add transitions, find and add clips, replace shots, and make edits. It is a pleasure to use in these circumstances.
It also works great in non-multicam situations if your workflow allows you to use Source Tape mode on Resolve's clipping side. This is the feature that allows Resolve to merge all of the clips in a bin into a single virtual "tape" and allow you to navigate within it without opening individual clips.
I especially liked the RIPL O / WR (Ripple Owerwrite) feature: switch to SOURCE mode, set your IN and OUT points and press RIPL O / WR – the timeline clip under the playhead will through the source clip and the replacing other clips curled accordingly. This is great for quickly trying something out.
Edit section / w nifty RIPL O / WR feature: Image credit: CineD
If you're mostly working on one of the other resolution pages, the speed editor isn't a device you need. The functionality is more or less limited to navigating through the timeline with the wheel, playing / pausing and setting IN / OUT points. Most of the other functions are too specific to the cut page to make sense anywhere else.
I've been editing one way or another since my career began in the 90s, and I've tried many editing controller devices in the past, but I've thrown them all overboard. Some faster than others.
I'm a keyboard shortcut person and I barely reach for my mouse when I can help. Switching my hands between three input devices is too confusing for my simple mind.
That being said, I can now say that I will miss the speed editor in some situations. Especially in the early stages of an edit when you're scrubbing through tons of footage and quickly pounding up the first rough cut.
To see the speed editor in action, see the DaVinci Resolve 17 presentation:
I did the DaVinci Speed Editor Review with Beta 1, 2, and 3 of Resolve 17. Things about the Speed Editor may change when the final version is released.
For example, the behavior of the SHTL / JOG / SCRL wheel on the color side has already been improved in Beta 3.
I think it would be great if Blackmagic Design could add the ability to map your own commands to buttons, especially outside of the Cut Page of Resolve. The device could be much more useful to more people.
Miscellaneous Function key block in the DaVinciResolve Speed Editor. Image credit: CineD
If you're interested in DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor, Blackmagic Design has a limited time special offer: when you purchase the studio version of DaVinci Resolve (dongled or code-activated), you get DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor for free.
Let us know in the comments if you're interested in the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor. If you have already received your device, drop us a message about your experience with it.