Review: The Tangent Wave control surface
The Wave hardware makes Apple Color a much more pleasant working experience
By Scott Simmons | November 04, 2009
I had a small wave of sadness come over me the other day as I boxed up the Tangent Wave control surface in order to return it back home to Tangent Devices in the UK. As I saw Color's dark gray interface and colorful video scopes shinning in the back of the room I thought to myself ... "I've had my problems with you Color, I've said some pretty mean things about you in the past but I have to admit, I'm going to miss you
Final Touch Color."
No, I'm not uninstalling the application or moving exclusively to another application for grading purposes, I just don't want to set foot in any of Color's rooms again without a control surface to work on. Is that snotty and elitist? Maybe. I would be willing to bet that the large majority of Color installs in the world that actually get used on a semi-regular basis don't have a control surface with which the operator can interface with Color. I bet way more Color interaction in the world is mouse or tablet based than it is 3-trackball and twisty knob based. I don't care. I don't even want to go back to Colorista in Final Cut Pro ... via mouse or a poor man's control surface! The Tangent Wave has spoiled me.
It's not necessarily how much more productive a control surface can make you when working with Color, though it can make you much more productive. It's more about how a control surface can make the application more of a creative tool in an artist's toolbox rather than just a technical interface between the artist's eyes and the canvas. In this case the canvas being your grading monitor. By comparison a mouse is so clunky as you have to click and drag from place to place to place. You have to constantly look back at the computer screen to see where you have clicked, how far you may have dragged and exactly where to go next. You have to hear the sounds of the clicks and keep constant pressure applied to the mouse (or trackball) as you drag changing a parameter. You can use the Apple Mighty Mouse scroll ball for some parameter changes but that's still scroll, scroll, scroll. The new Apple Magic Mouse and its touch surface is a bit more useful in Color (stay tuned for a look at using this new mouse with Final Cut Studio) but it's still nothing like the elegance of a control surface. And even if you use a stylus and tablet you are tweaking only one of the three main parameters at a time. Hardly efficient when you've experienced how a control surface works.
If you think about color grading in a sense of a rubber band stretched around three thumb tacks (as I've tried to illustrate below) it can help those unfamiliar with grading understand how a control surface can help. Credit should go to someone somewhere as I've heard the rubber band metaphor used before. It's a great way to illustrate:
If you pull on one of the three sides of the rubber band it will also stretch or contract the other two sides, even if by a small amount. Every action has a reaction somewhere on the rest of the rubber band. Something very similar happens when grading but instead of a rubber band with three sides you have Lift/Gain/Gamma or Shadow/Midtone/Highlight. Just watch your waveform monitor and you can see this happen. Crank up the highs (the top of the waveform) via Highlight or Gain and you will see movements in the middle and at the bottom of the waveform. Often after "crushing the blacks" in an image, say via Lift, you will have to go back and re-adjust Gamma and Gain settings to get the image just right. It's a very give and take type of relationship amongst all of the parameters you can adjust in a proper color grading application. If you think of grading as an art (and it is), say like painting, this is where a control surface could be analogous to the right kind of brush. The proper brush (mop, round, fan) will help the artist realize his or her vision in a faster, more realistic way. The same is true for a Color control surface. It frees your mind from the technical operation of the application and allows much more fluid input from the colorist, translating those ideas and artistic choices to the screen in an elegant way.
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freshdv - Tue, May 21 2013 - 7:10 pm
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