Driving FCP

A forum topic popped up recently: “is it better to use a tablet, or a mouse and keyboard to edit?” – and the obvious answer is ‘whatever suits you best.’ But it got me thinking.

Over 15 years of mucking around with video on Macs, I’ve tried tablets, mice, trackballs, touchpads, external ‘surfaces’, huge knobs, voice control…

I now exclusively edit on a MacBook Pro, using its built in trackpad, with a combination of keyboard shortcuts and mousing. Much to the horror of my fellow editors, who cannot believe I don’t carry an external keyboard and mouse with me. To be honest, after a while, once you learn the interface, it disappears.

In that contemplative stage of editing, doing your selects, trying out ideas, it’s ctl-V to slice up the long sausage, and mousing to ‘lift’ (literally bump the track up a layer) your good bits, and lift again on your selects.

In that honing mode, I think (I have to watch myself) I’m doing more dragging of cut points.

Last year, a fellow editor was watching me edit and was shocked – almost upset – that I was dragging stuff around. Why didn’t I use the keyboard? Because it’s quicker, I replied. He wasn’t having it and saw mousing as a sign of unprofessionalism – yet he didn’t quite see the multitude of keyboard shortcuts for slipping and rolling that I moved between.

Honestly, it really is what suits you best, and having worked with laptops since the first PowerBooks, it’s genuinely faster for me to do what I do. I love the visualness of dragging stuff around, but I’ll still do a TTTT to select everything to the right and move it over before doing an RR to get the ripple tool out, then a ctrl-V to trim all the tracks together.

The only thing I still miss are the big heavy jog/shuttle wheels on the BVE3000 and BVE5000 – great feedback, hardly any latency, and although the way audio is scrubbed and trimmed nowadays is probably better, I still miss the ‘wibbly wobbly’ sound of jogged audio.

Seriously, though, a mouse (or touchpad!) can be more accurate than a tablet because of its scaled movement and ‘gearing’ (fast movements are big, slow movements are small) and take up little space. Tablets are good for ‘muscle memory’, tapping virtual buttons like the paintbox days. But even then, the keyboard was never far away. A tablet-only interface is hard work.

That’s why, I guess, our two tablets became mouse mats. Sigh.

Besides, I find Harry-style circular scrubbing a bit too much like children’s nursery rhymes and even a little more hard work than dabbing at J K L.

But I stil miss that knob!

4 thoughts on “Driving FCP

  1. TTTT – That’s why one of the few customizations I’ve done is use the ‘Y’ as my ‘Select all on all tracks forward’ key. ‘Y’ is one of very few keys left, and it’s next to the ‘T’ key. Maybe Apple have saved the ‘Y’ key for a new FCP8 command: ‘Do a rough edit based on reading the minds of your clients so they’re all happy so you can go and some something more interesting instead.’

  2. Aha! You caught me! A little therapy.

    I’ve got lazy – there’s a shortcut for switching between sequences too – that would be handy as a sort of ‘alt-TAB’ between working stuff, but I think I tried it and it didn’t quite work as expected, or it interfered with something.

    It’s probably one of the biggest reasons I haven’t jumped to CS5. Even editing on somebody else’s machine bogs me down.

    Just patching my Y key to that new FCP8 function now…

  3. I think it all depends what background you come from. I know Avid editors who are all keyboard based, and others from graphics backgrounds who like to use tablets. Personally I use a mixture of drag and drop and shortcut keys. Whatever you’re comfortable with. I’m in the process of trying to switch over to the Magic Trackpad, but every time I start, I give up after half an hour. Must learn to persevere!

  4. Recently had the honour of watching a Larry Jordan seminar. Larry is one of those ‘mouses are for wimps’ school, lambasting ‘drag and drop’ from his pulpit (in a tongue-in-cheek manner!) – yet in a moment of demo frenzy, we all watched him drag clips around. Like ‘low metabolism’ dieters who forget the extra calories, the ultra-efficient button pushers seem to forget that they’re mousing with the rest of us too.

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