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Control Surface for Pro Editing / Graphics / Compositing

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : Control Surface for Pro Editing / Graphics / Compositing

In response to a post on the Creative Cow Final Cut Pro Forum, my choice for a control surface to run all Pro Apps on a Mac is a Wacom tablet. I run a 9x12 Intuos 3 in my suite and I just can't see working without one.

For one thing, carpel tunnel syndrome just doesn't happen with a tablet, so you can work your 14 - 20 hour days and have no wrist pain. Second you get your entire workspace right on your tablet so there's no pick up the mouse and drag a second time if you have multiple monitors. Third, when working with apps such as Motion, Photoshop and After Effects, the tablets are pressure sensitive so the harder you push down, the more ink / paint will come out when using pressure sensitive tools.

It takes a few days to become acclimated to how a tablet works vs. a mouse, but once you get that comfort with it, you'll never go back to anything else. I set the unit up to the right of the keyboard because it feels more natural that with with my hands and also, it sets up very nicely on our editing consoles that way. Here's a shot of the tablet in my Wally World edit suite.

And in case you're wondering, that's the Bella USA FCP Pro Keyboard to the left of it, I highly recommend that as well. All the keys are color coded to the application and there's a jog/shuttle wheel on there that is a great help when digitizing and even playing back footage on the system.


completely agree with the
by adam taylor
completely agree with the wacom intuos, Walter. I got mine because i was starting to get the achy wrist syndrome - not a single twinge since it arrived. It took about 2hours to get used to it, and i now i hate using anything else. Its also a lot quicker to use than a mouse. I haven't had the nerve to ask the boss for another to use on my Protools system as well !!

As for chairs, i used to have an Aeron - looks great, feels great and is really expensive. Now i have a Mirra (also by HermannMiller) - by far the most comfortable chair i have ever sat in. No more back aches, even after a full day of screen staring. Not as expensive as the Aeron and in my view fantasic value for money.

For my desk, i found a carpenter who makes bespoke rack units, and asked him to quote for a 4u high, 3bay desk top pod and a matching tabletop to my design - he came in much cheaper than buying an off the shelf option.

The one problem i have found is that even when you design in more than enough desk space, both the kit upon it and the paperworks, tapes, assorted crap and clutter will rapidly expand to fill the space. I have considered installing a little trapdoor with a bag below so i can just push everything into the hole and have an instantly clean desk....i just couldn't face having to dig through the heap to find things again!

Oooooohhhhh, new options!
by Tim Wilson

The gel seat wasn't available back in the day, so I don't have any advice for you. I suspect I'd go for it.

Of course, you can check for local dealers. The ones for Georgia are all in or around Atlanta. Take one for a spin. You'll also almost certainly do better than list price, too.

My one regret is that I didn't get the headrest. You can't add one later so choose wisely my son. Even without it, though, I still highly recommend it.

Thanks on the chair!
by walter biscardi

The best chair I've ever, ever, ever bought is the Humanscale Freedom chair. The freedom refers to "freedom from having to learn how to adjust the damn thing." Seriously. All the adjustments are intuitive, and many are automatic.

Great advice on the chair!  A tad on the expensive side, but if it's working for you 7 years later, then it's worth it.  Any thoughts on the padding vs. gel for the seats? 

I agree that Anthro desks
by Tim Wilson

I agree that Anthro desks are worth every penny. If you're cheap and one's available, you can check IKEA too. I recommend totally ignoring their desk offerings Wink but I've put together some nice office space by cleverly combining other components. Which is why I ultimately recommend the Anthros. Sealed

The best chair I've ever, ever, ever bought is the Humanscale Freedom chair. The freedom refers to "freedom from having to learn how to adjust the damn thing." Seriously. All the adjustments are intuitive, and many are automatic.

I've had mine since before they were cool, but now that they are, you can see them all over TV: 24 (everywhere, including the White House -- but especially visible as those shiny blue chairs in the conference rooms and the desks) and House, where they tend to be a more muted greenish gray, among others.

While they're less than an Aeron (another thing that a Freedom chair frees you from), they're more than something from Office Hut or wherever -- but you may never have to replace yours ever. I've had mine for 7 years now, and it's as comfortable as ever. I've worked in at around the clock more times than I can remember -- sure as sh*t more times than I WANTED to.

Absolutely the best money I've ever spent ever. Better than the money I spent on any computer, for sure -- and lasting longer than several computers combined so far. Sealed

Also ditto on the Wacom. Mice are the WORST interface for a computer imaginable. I've hated them from the very beginning, from the time I saw one with Apple Lisa. And to this day, Apple's never made a mouse that's even vaguely usable, sez me.

(BTW, Wikipedia says that Steve J. was kicked off the Lisa team, and only joined the Mac team after that. Would love to hear the story there.)

I know some people can't wrap their heads around tablets, I suggest trying one out. (Better too big than too small. You'll drive yourself crazy with one that's too small.) If you need a mouse, even for your Mac, buy it from anyone but Apple. I have recommendations if you need them.

it's worth it
by walter biscardi

Just looked at the pricetag. Cry

Like I said, it's expensive, but worth it.  AND they are running a 35% off sale through the end of this month, just ask for the NAB Special so that drops the desk down considerably.  I almost balked at it, but now the JungleLand suite will be the third Anthro desk we'll have in the shop.  We installed the Standard Desk out in our third suite for under $500.  The stuff is solid and really works.

I usually pick up my chairs at Costco or BJ's as we purchase new chairs every year.  Even the best chairs go about every 12 months so I figure we'll just purchase decent chairs and about eh same price as what you mention.  I'll go have a look a those.  Thanks for the tip!


Ouch ...
by Sterling_76

Just looked at the pricetag. Cry

If you want to have the JungleLand suite relocate to Madison, WI, I'll take good care of it. Laughing

I'm not sure what chair you use, but I have an AK Designs Octane PC Gaming and Office Chair. It's only available from Best Buy and only comes in Black/Blue. But, it's got to be one of the most comfortable chairs I've ever used. It's designed primarily for "gamers" and their extended sitting sessions. I guess I qualify for that label since I play World of Warcraft much more than I should. The arm rests that raise up almost 6 inches and tilt in for optimal comfort, plus awesome lumbar support. And, it's less than $150.

Rollerblade-style polyurethane wheels on a hardwood floor are fun, too.

My creative companions
by walter biscardi

Ah, you haven't seen the half of it. The entire room is a Buzz Lightyear / Toy Story motif and there's probably over 50 stuffed characters and toys all over the place. Add to that the X-Box 360 and Nintendo Wii in the entiretainment room and I'm never going to grow up!

As for the desk, that's something I found at NAB in 2006, a company called Anthro out of Oregon and it's the Fit System Console unit and I added the side shelves on either side and two Standard Monitor arms so those monitors can move around depending on whether I'm working sitting down or standing up. The keyboard shelf can raise and lower approx. 3 feet for full adjustability and yes it does tilt back and forward for maximum comfort. We just ordered a second one for the JungleLand suite.

I can't recommend this company and console enough. They're somewhat expensive and I was a bit leery at the price tag at first, but the quality is outstanding and they just make it easier to get my work done. There's about 60 accessories you can purchase with it as well so you can customize the heck out of it.  In addition to this unit, there are quite a few other desk options as well.

Nice setup
by Sterling_76

What kind of desk do you have? It looks like the front is raised and angled down a bit for the keyboard vs. the "standard" on the same level as the screens or a sliding keyboard tray.

You score bonus points for not hiding your creative companions. I'm glad I'm not the only one that has a couple friends to share ideas with me as I work.


Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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