A Detailed Review of the DaVinci Resolve Keyboard
In this hands-on review, we take a look at Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve keyboard and how it can increase your editing efficiency.
I’ve never used an editing keyboard. I’ll get that out the way before we begin. I won’t be comparing it to the editing keyboards of yesterday, or how it stacks up against other keyboards engineered for rival NLEs. I’ll be coming at this review from the following perspectives:
- Does this keyboard improve my DaVinci Resolve editing?
- Would I recommend this keyboard to those who have never used one before.
So, let’s discuss design, construction, and what’s in the box.
As with all Blackmagic peripherals, this unit is robust. It’s made from premium metal and weighs just under 2.5KG. This is a significant increase compared to a plastic Logic keyboard. And, while I wouldn’t suggest dropping it, it does feel like it could take a few dings. Regarding size, this is no small keyboard (58.5 x 23.5cm). In fact, I can’t fit the Resolve keyboard in my keyboard desk holder without removing the mouse. Keyboards usually lay flat and only offer a tilted profile when you extend the keyboard legs. However, the Resolve keyboard is already raised, providing a further extension when accessing the keyboard legs.
On the rear of the unit are three ports — two USB-A and one USB-C — allowing you to connect a mouse if you’re using the keyboard away from your workspace, or even the Resolve studio dongle. The keyboard doesn’t come with a Resolve studio license like a camera. However, one could argue that, well, if you’re buying a $1000 editing keyboard, it’s likely that you already own the premium version of the software. There’s one USB-C to USB-C cable included, but if your PC only has USB ports, you’ll need to use a USB-C to USB-A cable, which isn’t included.
Using the Keyboard
When you move to any new keyboard, there’s a sense of unfamiliarity. The keyboard, for many, is a daily extension, and the slight difference in key placement, key size, or just the feel of the key can provoke a sense of the unknown. If, like me, you use an ergonomic keyboard, anything remotely different feels like learning to type all over again. Therefore, during two-week period when I used the keyboard, I was unable to take full advantage of how the keyboard would increase your proficiency, but its effectiveness was undoubtedly prevalent.
Quite like Resolve’s interface, you could say the keyboard divides into working areas that correspond to the various panels.
- Editorial tools, trimming tools, and transition tools are on the left.
- Function keys, as usual, are on the top of the keyboard.
- Labeled character keys are in the center.
- Data control are to the right.
- And the selling point of the keyboard on the far-right — the search dial.
Let’s get the character keys out of the way, as there’s not a lot regarding the functionality of the area. It is, after all, a set of standard keys with labels.
However, the identifying labels are easy to spot and color-coded for specific operations — for example, green for clip and timeline movement. Unlike the Blackmagic Micro Panel, none of the keys are backlit (the CAPS LOCK button does have a red LED indication). The keys themselves, as noted by Blackmagic, are “The same type used by eSports keyboards and each key is certified for over a million operations.”
Which means you don’t have to fully press the key all the way down for the action to register.
The main selling points, and where the keyboard really comes into its own, are the utility buttons that surround the typing area — the keys that reduce a few mouse clicks into a single button press.
On the left-hand side of the keyboard, we have the editorial tools, trimming tools, and transition tools. These keys are primarily for use in conjunction with the search dial. For example, you’d find your in-point with the search dial, select the IN key, use the search dial to jog or scroll right, press the OUT key, then insert or append the footage to your timeline.
By making use of intuitive trimming controls, you could hit TRIM IN (keeping the key pressed), this jumps you to the nearest edit point. You can, then, use the dial to trim your clip. It’s these highlights that really make the keyboard shine, drastically improving your edit speed. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to turn off the snap function because my mouse is increasing the trim too far, and I need that precise frame by frame.
The keyboard wants to move away from the use of the mouse and instead adopt a two-hand workflow. Think Minority Report.
There’s an argument that “you could just assign these functions to a key on your keyboard.” But, the likelihood is that most of the keys have already been assigned a task, and then you move into the territory of creating customized shortcuts that consist of Shift+Ctrl+Letter, and at that level, it’s a lot easier to have a designated button. I’m a regular user of the smooth cut (see what that does here), and having a button that expedites that effect is beautiful. Perhaps the principal selling point of the Resolve keyboard is the search dial. Found on the right side of the unit, the search dial is a machined metal, high-precision, rotary dial that can operate under three functions — Shuttle, Job, and Scroll.
As each function will drastically change how the dial operates, the activation key will illuminate with a red LED to indicate what process is currently active.
The shuttle control will shift the dial into a clutch mode where you can rotate the dial in increments to move forward and reverse down the timeline. You can increase the speed from x0.5-x64 (with every multiplication in between), and the process remains in operation, even when you’ve moved your hand away from the dial.
The jog control will allow pinpoint precision positioning of a frame-by-frame playback, whereas the scroll control will allow you to glide up and down the timeline smoothly.
- Use jog for precise frame finding
- Use scroll to navigate quickly
- Use shuttle to skim through long media files at a user-defined speed
Above the control selection, you can also choose what the search dial affects, either the source or timeline. When combined with the edit tools on the far left, you’ll begin to see how powerful and efficient the keyboard will be.
The function keys (F1-F12) have acquired some beneficial features, which aren’t initially present on a standard keyboard, such as insert black and (more specifically) F3 to freeze frame. You can currently press Shift+R to freeze frame, but that freezes the entire clip. When you press the dedicated freeze button, it only freezes the clip forward from the play head. You, of course, have the standard functions such as insert and overwrite — present on any keyboard — but then we see features such as Pic in Pic and Transitions.
However, upon pressing them, nothing happened. I switched to trim mode, and again, nothing happened. I went through two trains of thought: “Oh no, I hope I haven’t received a busted unit.” And then: “Oh no, it’s for the cut page.” I proceeded to restore the cut page’s visibility, selected it, and hit one of the non-functional buttons to see that it was now functioning.
If you’ve followed any of my Resolve coverage here at PremiumBeat, you know I’m not a fan of the cut page. I think it’s okay for new editors and those looking to reduce Resolve’s steep learning curve, but I don’t think it’s a page as advertised — for editors on-the-go and to remove the bustling layout of the edit page. However, I honestly don’t find it practical. And here’s the thing, the initial overview of the live cut page announcement mentioned that editors could use the cut page in their hotel room making dailies on a compact laptop, as the cut page accommodates smaller screens. But, if you’re on the move and using the cut page to minimize the busy Resolve edit page, then why would you be carrying around a hefty keyboard?
Between the search dial and the character keys is also a timecode numerical keypad and four buttons, which will alter the sort order of the media pool. While I understand their use, outside of testing their functions when the keyboard arrived, I’ve yet to use them again. Although, I can see the ease-of-use of quickly pressing a key to reorganize your media pool when it becomes messy.
I try to endorse a minimalist approach when it comes to equipment and technology — especially equipment that’ll reside on my workspace, as space isn’t plentiful. Likewise, I think it’s too easy to fall into the trap of buying every accessory that a company produces because you feel it’ll benefit you when, in reality, the standard process was never tedious.
That said, I do believe the Resolve keyboard is an excellent addition to a Resolve editor’s arsenal. And, as advertised, it increases your editing efficiency. I had hoped to use the keyboard to cut my next short film, but complications have pushed that back. So, while I only used the keyboard to edit Shutterstock Tutorials content, I can acknowledge how quickly it increased some editing tasks. I can imagine after a month or two of straight editing with the keyboard, you’d be fully versed in its operation and become a more accelerated Resolve editor.
Cover image via Blackmagic Design.
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