During my freelance years I have been working on many different grading systems and panels. Recently I started a new Post house with some people and to keep the costs down we decided to use a Tangent Elements panel instead for going with the large Davinci Resolve Panel.
When using large panels there is often a dedicated button for each function, even functions that don’t have any shortcuts on the keyboard. Some panels can be reprogrammed (like the Nucoda Precision) to fit the colorist. I find that I use some functions more then others and being able to have these functions available quickly at all time is making my work much faster.
Now that I am using the Tangent Elements panel with Resolve I started counting how many buttons I need to push to reach a certain function. In some cases I need to push 5 buttons before I can start adjusting the value with the rotary button.
My muscle memory can remember positions, maybe a few clicks without me needing to look at the panel. But when it get’s up to many clicks I need to look at the panel and leave the SDI monitor with my eyes. Every time I look away from the SDI monitor my eyes need some adjustment time when I look back at the monitor, this can affect the way I see the colors and my eyes get tired.
Another disadvantage of pressing many buttons is that I loose speed and can’t focus 100% on the grade. I want to adjust things while constantly looking at the SDI monitor. I keep my color memory and I get quicker to the result I want.
I used to think that as long as you have the 3 color balls and wheels you are set, but I have changed my mind, it’s also about all the other buttons that make you reach the functions you need in a quick way. I can really see why there is a need for large panels and why they are worth the money.
But the trend seems to be that manufacturers create smaller version of their large panel.
Filmlight created the Slate, Tangent Devices created Elements and Quantel created Nano. The main reason is probably to cut costs for the customer, so the idea is good for our wallets. For some types of work it’s fine with a smaller panel, but as soon as you start tweaking and use a lot of windows etc. they just don’t do the job.
I really hope the large panels won’t disappear since I think they are needed for creative work. It’s those (as well as a skilled colorist) that can make magic happen when you are working on a project with time limitations.