Review: ShuttlePRO

We all have a creative side, and for some of us it\'s locked deep away (November 1st, 2002)

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Product Manufacturer: Contour A/V Solutions

Price: $99

The Good

  • Useful for beginners with iMovie as well as A/V pros, works well with browsers and word processors, documentation is heavenly

The Bad

  • Application could be simplified a little, but documentation covers this

ShuttlePro: pure jogging pleasure

We all have a creative side, and for some of us it's locked deep away, while for others, it wells up, bubbling and steaming just beneath our skin. For those of us with geysers inside we're only as good as our tools allow us to be. Overcoming the wrong tool for the job is a problem none of us needs.

Using the right tool for the job

Look at your mouse. Look at it. I mean, pick it up from your desk and stare at the thing for a moment. Think about it and how much it communicates. What is the vocabulary of your mouse?

Your mouse knows one word if you use an Apple mouse. That word is: click.

If you use a third-party mouse, your mouse knows five words: left click, middle (scrollwheel) click, right click, and scrollwheel up and down.

It gets worse- for specialized applications, your mouse buttons are not programmable, so your mouse may know some words but they aren't the right words to talk to your application.

What this means is, you need better tools for the job. Here's where ContourAV's ShuttlePro comes on stage and into the limelight.

This thing is a star. It looks simple and elegant. Here's why it's the right tool: It has thirteen, count-em-thirteen, programmable buttons, a jog wheel, and a shuttle wheel.

When it comes to the vocabulary this device knows, this thing speaks volumes. ContourAV's drivers include presets for applications popular with both novice and pro, audio enthusiast.

Okay, it's buttons and some wheel-thingies- what can I do with it?

One of the disappointing things about buying a new peripheral is finding that it isn't supported. Contour doesn't allow this to happen: Look at the partial list of applications they support!

Classic Supported Applications: Adobe After Effects 4.1 and 5.0, Adobe Premiere 5.1 and 6.0, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator 8.0 and 9.0, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple iMovie 1 and 2, Avid Film Composer, Avid Media Composer, Avid Symphony, Boris FX Pro 5.0.3, Boris Grafitti 1.0.3, Boris RED 1.X and 2.0, Digidesign ProTools, Emagic Logic Audio, Macromedia Director 8, Macromedia Flash (4, 5 and MX), Media 100i, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, MOTU Digital Performer 2.72 and 3.0, Pinnacle Commotion DV, Pinnacle Commotion Pro, Quarkxpress 4.1 or later, Steinberg Cubase VST 32 5.0

Macintosh OS 10.1.2 or later Supported Applications: Apple Final Cut Pro 3.0, Apple iMovie, Apple Quicktime Player, Avid Xpress DV 3.5, Maya, Macromedia Flash MX

Note to the iMovie user- the jog disc moves frame by frame. This is great for splitting sections of video.

And nearly every other application known to heaven and earth. For those few applications that aren't supported with the current driver download, you can program your own presets. Remember, those thirteen beautiful buttons can be taught tricks!

Programmable buttons (lessons in patience)

So, you've found out your one, prized application has no support out of the box. This is okay, all is not lost. Open the ShuttlePRO application that has been installed on your hard drive, and create new settings, instructing the ShuttlePRO which application you want these settings to apply to. You then go through and painstakingly select the drop-down box listing the button on the ShuttlePRO and the keystroke(s) you want that button to be bound to. This step will take some time to get precisely right- the buttons program quickly, but deciding which actions are most comfortable may take a couple of tries. The jog disc is easy to program. The shuttle wheel is difficult. There are 16 separate positions in the shuttle wheel, eight left and eight right. All programmed separately.

This takes time, but once it's done, it's done forever, and it's done right- presuming you chose your settings wisely. The only thing I would wish for that might improve ease of use for programming buttons is turning the picture of the ShuttlePRO in the software into an imagemap so that I don't have to select the buttons with the drop down box, or activating the buttons in the software to select the button in the software, making it easier to assign a key binding. Additionally, the software allows you to assign a different key for each of the positions of the shuttle- this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because when you use the shuttle, you tend to want it to do one action in one direction, and for every additional position of the shuttle in that direction, you want that action, only more so. If the software had a basic setting that allowed you to set the shuttle with two actions, one left and one right with the last position repeating the action, it would be that much easier. An advanced mode could keep the utility as it is.

Documentation, Documentation

The help book included with the ShuttlePRO is nothing short of amazing. It is well-organized, and well-written. I especially appreciate the guides which set forth different situations for programming preset profiles, and the step by step instructions for each situation. The Contour documentation team really deserves praise, and from their manager, a raise.

They even included a chart numbered, with yes and no decisions, which lead you through creating your own preset. The documentation takes a hard task from the software and makes it easy. These docs just can't be praised enough.

Why I love ShuttlePRO

I like things that are simple. I like things that are elegant. Contour has achieved a major accomplishment by designing something with as many buttons as this, and still have it fit my definition of simple (again thanks to the documentation.) The buttons are well-laid out, and are easy to label. Contour includes some common labels, some blank labels, and a pdf on their website which you can use to print out more label sheets. The device is elegant. It fits my hand naturally, and doesn't require much motion to switch from pressing buttons to using the jog and shuttle.

Summary

The ShuttlePRO is an obvious choice for a professional, but for simple folk who just want to get that much more out of iMovie, and exercise more exacting control over their work, the ShuttlePRO helps you bring that creative yearning out to play.

by Victor Marks


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