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Blackmagic Design’s push of bringing down the barrier to entry for video production has to be applauded. They take intensely expensive equipment and software but provide it at a much lower cost than either previous competitors or current.
From their Netflix certified URSA Mini Pro – a 4.6K camera that you can now find under £2500 – to the more recent refresh of their Pocket Cinema Cameras, providing 4K and 6K production cameras for lower-end, behind-the-scenes or indie films, without the need to invest heavily into a specific system. In production, their ATEM vision mixers can be seen across the industry and let me tell you, their converters? Baby. Hot under the collar for a good SDI to HDMI converter.
DaVinci Resolve used to be its own company, bought by Blackmagic for their colour grading software, they eventually evolved it into what it is today, a full-featured package with an audio editing suite, Fusion VFX and a full non-linear editor to compete with Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut. If you’ve seen a video editor before, you’ve seen DaVinci Resolve.
For a few years, the software was seen as the third or fourth choice of editor. Its colour grading was sublime, but why edit in something that doesn’t have half the features of the others? Well, it was made free. With some limitations.
So after a few revisions, versions and upgrades, DaVinci Resolve 17(.43 at time of writing) has lowered the bar to entry even further. Or Version 16 did to be pedantic about it.
The virtual cutting room floor
The Cut page brought with it a whole new way to edit video in the program, stripping it back to the absolute basics and creating a virtualisation of the classic cutting room floor, complete with a ‘source tape’ button that would string all your footage together. You can then re-edit to finesse the final product on the Edit page.
The main issue here is that the Cut page on a mouse and keyboard feels – notice the current tense – terrible. Everything feels inverted, with the mouse wheel scrolling up to go down, etc. It takes some getting used to, but why bother when you can just manhandle the project in the Edit page instead?
This is where the Speed Editor comes in. While it might seem counterintuitive to have an entire dedicated piece of hardware for a singular page, once you lay your hands on it and begin to actual edit, it makes total sense. It does raise an issue with the Cut page’s overall user interface design, as it’s a very weird software patch to put out an entire piece of hardware for it – which is what this feels like.
But it does feel good.
High quality feel, weird fix
It has this luxurious feel to every button, the wheel is precise and fluid and I never really needed to look at any manual for help as the layout is fairly self-explanatory. One side for scrubbing through your footage, the other for cutting and the middle for your applying transitions or in Multicam Mode, changing the view.
The Speed Editor might not meet the same button feel as my Keychron mechanical keyboard, but it also doesn’t feel tacky like your lower end membrane keyboards. Thankfully, it’s also very low key, with only red indication lights and no thick RGB poking through. This is a tool first, nicety second.
While the Cut Page is a little bit of a nuisance to navigate in the traditional manner, I was speeding through my test edits with the Speed Editor, even using the alternate options like the ‘Close Up’, which takes your higher-resolution footage and will zoom in. Think using part of a 4K image for a 1080p video. Free zoom without the need for actually shooting that.
The wheel is a joy to use, offering a tactile and easy way to just get through all this footage and even being surprisingly precise in doing so. I think Resolve would overcompensate for how fast I was spinning the knob at times, as it would immediately assume 64 times speed and I’d miss my cue, but immediately swinging it the other way compensated for that.
Who is this for?
However, on a negative front, we have to talk about the connectivity and actual point of the device. If you plug this in after you’ve started Resolve, it won’t detect it. No matter how many times I’ve fiddled with settings or hoped to the Lord Above that it’d just work so I didn’t have to reload the program, it would never work that way. It’s now permanently connected to a stray USB-C cable.
Alternatively, you can use Bluetooth, but why have something that’s vital to your production on a wireless connection? There’s also the fact that Windows was regularly confused about it and you know, I think that’s just a Windows thing rather than the Speed Editor itself. I’ve yet to try it on Mac or Linux, but you know, I assume it just works on Apple’s OS – as most of Blackmagic’s software and hardware does out the box.
But who is this for? It’s a curiosity for some, an expense for others and a vital part of a portion of a program that doesn’t even ship with it anymore. The limited-time bundle was a corker of a deal and for Blackmagic to cull that in favour of raising its price and separating the two out, leaving retailers to sell through the old stock of the bundle or to create their own at a higher price is baffling.
To pay the roughly $300 asking price to use on the free version? I can’t say do that. To buy one for your workflow if you already own Resolve? I… also can’t say that either. The program is great, the hardware is good, but unless you can seek out a retailer with the bundle, I’d say hold off until Blackmagic come around on the idea again.
I acquired this so that I could get my own copy of Resolve instead of borrowing a friend’s and I have to say it’s not vital. It’s a tool and a nicety.
You already have a screwdriver and a drill, do you also need the electric screwdriver too?