First Look: Tangent Element

Say Hello to the 'Tangent Element' Colorist Control Surface

The ‘Tangent Element’ is the newest colorist control surface on the market and just started shipping about 3 weeks ago.

The Tao of Color visited our good friends at The Studio – B & H,  the professional video division located inside B & H Photo in New York City, to get our hands on this surface and give it a test drive in DaVinci Resolve.

The Studio-B&H’s Michel Suissa and Tao of Color’s Patrick Inhofer also offer up some buying advice.

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UPDATE 1: I’ve been informed that for DaVinci Resolve, the Buttons panel (Bt) and the Knobs panel (Kb) must be purchased together. One panel won’t work without being paired with the other panel.

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Topics covered include:

  • Physical size versus the Tangent Wave
  • Portability
  • Functionality vs. Wave in DaVinci Resolve
  • Live demo – with DaVinci Resolve
  • Overall Impressions
  • Buying advice for Resolve colorists
  • Buying advice for Scratch ad Scratch Lab colorists

If you want to buy the Tangent Element, scroll down below the video and click on the banner. Your price stays the same but you’ll be supporting this website.

• And here’s the Tangent Element homepage

• If you haven’t already, check out and subscribe to the internet’s best darn (mostly) weekly Color Grading newsletter.

Comments are open. Feel free to let us know what you think of the Element or if you have any other questions you’d like answered.

 

 

 


Related Posts (automatically generated)


FTC Disclosure
Tao of Color is part of the DaVinci Resolve Beta team but purchased Resolve at full retail price and has not received compensation, goods, or services from any 3rd Party mentioned in this post. We hope, one day, this might change. Affiliate links are used throughout this website, sometimes resulting in a commission on sales (which helps support TaoOfColor.com) but without raising the price you pay by one cent.

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Steve Hullfish Interview, Part 2

“Sharpen Your Axes (or, why learn color grading)”

Steve Hullfish, author

Steve Hullfish, author, editor, producer

Steve Hullfish is an author, editor, producer, and all-around good guy. His editing credits span more than 20 years, including editing the Oprah Winfrey Show for which he won a Daytime Emmy. Other broadcast credits include “Investigative Reports” and “Cold Cases” with Bill Kurtis on A&E and numerous PBS documentaries. He runs his own production company – Verascope Pictures – and his clients include Universal Studios, NBC Television, Turner Broadcasting, HIT Entertainment, Jim Henson Entertainment and VeggieTales.

Steve has written or co-written four books on editing and color correction, including “The Art and Technique of Color Correction” and “Color Correction for Video, 2nd Edition“. Steve is also a frequent writer at the Pro Video Coalition Website with his informative blog, CUT. N. COLOR.

Steve also recently teamed up with colorist, and one of the team member’s of Apple’s Color, Bob Sliga to develop a comprehensive DVD Training Set on Apple Color; created and sold with Class On Demand.


In Part 2 of Steve’s interview we discuss:

  • Creating the Class On Demand Apple Color DVD Training Series
  • Early versions (and reactions) of Final Touch (which became Apple’s Color)
  • Making believe we have a social life
  • The importance of video scopes
  • Do colorists need to know color theory?
  • Using vignettes
  • Control Surfaces
  • Does Image Quality count?
  • Why learn color grading?
  • Filming – with the color grade in mind

Leave a comment! (bottom of the page, no registration required)


Listen Now 

Part 1 | Part 2
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More Interviews

Show Notes:

  • Steve’s Blog: CUT.N.COLOR at the ProVideo Coalition website

This interview is part of an on-going interview series with the movers, shaker, and thinkers involved in the field of professional color grading for moving images. When I have new episodes to release, they are released on Tuesdays. To be notified you may follow me on Twitter (@patInhofer), via our RSS feed, and on iTunes.

You can find more interviews here: TaoOfColor.com interview series homepage.


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Yes, I have affiliate accounts with online retailers. Anything on this page that links to Amazon, B&H Photo or ToolFarm is  an affiliate link. If you buy anything from my affiliate link not only do I get a commission, but you get a warm pleasant feeling that you’re helping to sustain the Tao Of Color website! If that what you do – I, and all my readers say, Thank You.
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Moving from Apple’s Color to BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve, Days 4 & 5

Note: This is part of a series of posts documented my transition from color correcting in Apple Color to color correcting in DaVinci Resolve. If this is your first time here, you’ll want to start reading at the first post.

Colorist Diary, Day 3.5

Later that Evening… Grokking It

The Alexis presentation at the NY Final Cut User Group meeting was terrific. And he went above and beyond the call of duty, dragging his MacPro tower down his 5th floor walk-up, into a cab, and clear across town to the B&H Event Space. I try not to think about how, at the end of a long day, he’ll be lugging that behemoth back up another 5 flights of stairs. Shivers.

All I can say: Thanks Alexis! (and… buy his book!!!)

Luckily for Alexis, B & H has a demo unit of the Tanget Wave control surface and they’ve agreed to loan it to us for the presentation (side benefit: Alexis doesn’t also have to drag in his Wave).

In 60 minutes Alexis gave us all a quick overview on how Resolve ‘thinks’. He keeps in mind his audience and puts Resolve in context as to how it differs from Color – including how secondaries work in Resolve (which had me stumped earlier in the day). He also demo’ed two killer features: Automatic Scene Detection and the Tracker.

As I’m watching him I’m picking up pretty quickly on how Resolve implements Nodes.

Or rather… serial Nodes. Earlier that day, right-clicking on a Node I’d noticed several types of Nodes, including ‘Parallel’ Nodes. But he’s keeping the demo moving along and doesn’t bog it down with particulars that don’t belong in this quick overview.

Right-click in the 'Nodes' panel you get these options

By the end of his overview, I’m pretty sure I can get a grade done. A basic grade, for sure…

As to rendering out, tracking, keyframing, working with EDLs, these are all things still ahead of me – but just grading… balancing a series of shots, working inside / outside of my isolations – that much I’ve got down. And my confidence is up.

It was a good evening.

Colorist Diary, Day 4

The next day I pull out the iPad and play along on fxPhd’s DaVinci Resolve 101 training. Over on the fxPhd website I see a few students complaining the training is too basic – they want more meat. I’m thinking to myself, “This is just the right amount of meat for me.”

I’m coming to Resolve cold. A 101 course should focus on someone like me. And it does. The instructor, Kelly Armstrong, is getting the balance just right.

What I’m still finding a bit confusing is project management… how Resolve handles saving Projects and what it calls “Master Sessions”. Even a call to Alexis doesn’t quite solve this confusion for me (sorry Alexis). I’ll be digging out the manual for that.

6 Hours Later…

fxPhd Class 2 took me six long, fun, experimental hours to get through. It was exhausting. Even though I can get through a basic grade – Resolve has a dizzying amount of options, all just a right-click away. Almost every interface element can be right-clicked – revealing lists of options.

Right-click on a clip to reveal this options panel. This is just one of many many 'right-click panels'.

Also not surprising – there are a fair amount of subtabs that I missed in my first go-through of the interface. And the Tracker is located in the Viewer menu – which I had completely missed.

So as Prof. Kelly covers all this, from pulling in the footage to actual grading, I keep stopping and repeated what she’s doing. Then I do it again – right-clicking everywhere and studying everything in the UI… I feel like I’m still not seeing most of it.

I’m also spending time getting the controls on the JL Cooper colorist control surface to feel right. Resolve uses different language than Apple Color (Color’s shadows / mids / highlights  = Resolve’s lift / gamma / gain). It’s not that the terminology is unknown to me – I frequently communicate in those terms – I’m just not used to seeing it labelled that way throughout the interface. So it takes some experimenting to figure out which preferences effect the speed of which knobs, wheels, and trackballs.

'RGB Balance Sensitivity' Parameters effect the trackballs

After a little while, I am happy to report that I feel the control surface has subtly. I’m not waiting for Resolve to react to my inputs, and slight inputs create subtle movements.

I do wonder how much I’ll like the JL Cooper Eclipse with Resolve. This board was designed for Apple Color. And I can really fly around Color’s interface with the Eclipse – getting direct access to any Tab and sub-Tab, more than I can do on the Wave or Euphonix MC Color. But my first impression is that the Eclipse in Resolve is a bit shoe-horned . But I’m not willing to make that call yet. It could just be that after many years of working with the Eclipse in Color I’ve got to give myself time to acclimate using it with Resolve. It could also be that the JL Cooper guys understand how this board is meant to be mapped – or that they’ve had more experience mapping it.

The custom mapping interface for the JL Cooper Eclipse

But here’s the big take-away from Day 4: Finally, I know I can do a job in Resolve.

That is, as long as it doesn’t require me to track, keyframe or render out. (minor details)

But I can grade, isolate, and key.

I’m done for the day.

Colorist Diary, Day 5

Digging Deeper

This morning I’m not getting bogged down in the interface nearly as much on Day 4. I quickly get through two more fxPhd classes. As we dive deeper in, I’m more comfortable with Resolve. Tracking is terrific. And that’s underselling it. Is it MochaPro awesome? Not quite. I do need to work with it more but it doesn’t quite have a Rotoscoping feature set.

Scene detection is powerful. One of these days I’m going to do a post on ‘interface innovations’ – and this will be one of them. Not only does Resolve go through a ‘flattened’ movie file and look for edit points, it has a simple interface for showing you its confidence in those edits. And by raising or lowering the ‘confidence threshold’ you can tell it what cuts to ignore. Of course, you can also do it manually. And you still need to check your work. I also know from Alexis’ presentation at the User Group meeting, you can map an EDL to the Scene Detection – vastly improving your results (and adding handles for dissolves). All in all, it looks like a strong implementation.

White lines show confidence level of cut point, horizontal green line can be dragged up/down to filter out low-confidence 'detections'.

I’m also really impressed with how Resolve treats EDLs distinctly from the footage being graded. I’ve taken some time playing with different sequences using the same footage.

Not only does the sequence in the project re-arrange itself as I load different EDLs, the grades track with the shots. And I can keep multiple EDLs inside the project, all just a click away.

This is a big difference from Color – where the EDL is the project. Literally. A project can be Reconformed to a different EDL, but that blows away the previous timeline. Color has no ability to hold a full 60 minute show, 5 minute teaser, and 30 second spot simultaneously in the same project as well as have all the grades ripple through those EDLs. It can’t come close to that workflow.

Sex’ing It Up

Running through Class 4 of the training, Prof. Kelly helps me find the Blur tab. I watch her talk about the different ways she uses blurs. She digs into Resolve’s ‘Pro-Mist’ blur option, which mimics a lens filter of the same name. Overall, she’s pretty impressed with Resolve’s blurs.

At this point… everything I’ve written about today… it’s all pretty impressive, right? I’m already seeing the value-add in stepping up to Resolve. But now…

On a vignette, isolating the outside of it, I twist the blur knob on the control surface…

Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.

Jaw drop. Literally. My jaw dropped.

One twist of the knob and I know these blurs are in another class beyond what I’ve worked with before.

It takes a moment. I chuckle. I close my mouth.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done (what I consider to be) lots of great work in Apple Color, and I love working with diffusion – but these blurs are just silky. There’s a quality that’s hard define. But having worked with blurs in my grades for years… this is different. Sexy. But with depth. Like Audrey Hepburn in her prime. This is no Gaussian blur.

The various options for controlling blurs

As for the ‘ProMist’ blur option? Simulating diffusion of the same name? Unfortunately, the footage I’m using doesn’t really show it off. But I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to the dozens – hundreds – of hours I’ll spend working with this.

Moving on…

Geeking Out

I also love the ‘Key Mixer’ option in Resolve. For Apple Color graders: Imagine taking your isolations from several of the Secondaries (Vignettes from 2 or 3 secondaries, Luma key from another, color isolation from yet another) and then combining them to create a single key – which you can then work inside / outside on. Extremely powerful. You can work each of those isolations individually – then treat them globally, further down the line.

Several Isolations are feeding into each other, and their mattes are being combined to enable a global inside / outside correction.

Wishful Thinking

But it’s not all roses and honey.

I do find a couple things which I’m concerned about:

  • Once Resolve is configured to work with the JL Cooper control surface – it grabs the control surface, full time. Even if Resolve is closed. If I open up Apple Color, the surface doesn’t work. It turns out, the workaround is to launch Resolve and set the control surface preference to ‘None’. Now Resolve releases the panel and I can work in Color normally.
  • The DaVinci team is ‘hard-wiring’ the mapping of the control surface. This disables the customization feature that JL Cooper has developed for Color, which I was hoping woud come to Resolve. An email to JL Cooper confirms – they aren’t involved. A bummer, since I like setting up the panel to make sense to me. Resolve has much more functionality than any of these sub-$8k panels can implement, the ability to customize the surface for my most frequently used tools is something I’ve greatly appreciated about Apple Color.
  • These controls aren't conducive to mouse manipulation

    Again, regarding the JL Cooper control surface: Lift / Gamma / Gain knob controls for each of the R / G / B channels is missing. I’m a big user of these targeted controls. I have been for a decade. And Resolve’s controls for modifying those parameters with a mouse are very tiny. These controls feel more like an instrument panel (for visual feedback) than a gas pedal and brake (for individual control). I WILL miss these knobs on the control surface. I’d recommend they remove some of the vignette controls (which are easy to control with a mouse) to make room for these knobs. (Or come up with a panel customization feature that allows me to do so, since not every colorist will agree with my preferences.)

  • I’ve also noted a few observations about masking… In Color, when you add a mask you can easily toggle between the Inside / Outside of the mask. Resolve requires adding a new node. This means I’m doing in two nodes in what I used to do in a single “room”. It just feels like an extra step.
  • However… there is a bit of an upside to the Resolve Inside / Outside masking methodology… In Color there’s no obvious indication which side of the vignette you’ve applied a correction. This can get very confusing (and difficult to decipher) – especially if multiple vignettes in multiple secondaries are ‘in play’. In Resolve, it’s very clear exactly where operations are being performed.

    Quick: Which node effects the outside, which effects the inside???

  • Hue Curves. Resolve doesn’t have them. In Color, they are my bread and butter. I can easily isolate skin tones and make tiny subtle adjustments. And I don’t have to futz with doing isolations and masks. Just grab the color I want to tweak, add control point on either side to determine the roll-off… done.

    Apple Color's 'Hue Curve' control

Day 5 Wrap-Up

I’m sure my Resolve wish-list will grow. I know they’ve got people monitoring the message boards and Twitter (including the Product Manager). I’ve already had a response from BlackMagic regarding the first post in this series (which I’ll write about in the next installment) – so the DaVinci team is listening. And responding.

Imagine that coming from Apple (sorry ProApps, I couldn’t resist the jibe).

In the next installment: Grading my first ‘Resolve’ gig

If you liked this article, leave a comment, re-Tweet it, or Like it to let me know!

You might also like earlier posts on Color Grading. To be alerted when new articles in this series come out, sign up for my weekly Color Grading newsletter. I also have a 14-minute short film for training, in which I teach you how to massively improve your color correction skillz – targeted at the working professional.


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Links to product pages are very likely to contain affiliate links. According to the US Congress that makes me an evil blogger, hence, this disclosure.

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Moving From Apple’s Color to BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve, Days 1 – 3

Prologue

Photo from the origianl JL Cooper article

Almost 4 years ago (to the day) I wrote an article titled, Controlling Apple’s Color, From Mouse to the EclipseCX Control Surface. It was a very popular article in which I documented my initial transition from color grading with a mouse to color grading with a control surface.

Fast forward to today – and I’m starting a series of posts documenting my transition from grading in Apple Color to grading in BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve. Having never seen the Resolve in action and mostly skimming reviews of the app  I think I’m in a pretty good position to help Apple Color users figure out if Resolve is for them (or how hard the transition might be).

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting diaries of my mis-steps, successes, failures, and general impression of this latest (and most storied) entry in the desktop color grading market.

I encourage comments, questions, and your own observations at the bottom of this page (no registration is required). If you want to receive updates to these Diaries, just subscribe to my weekly Tao Colorist newsletter – focused specifically on the craft of video and film color grading.

Let’s move on…

Colorist Diary, Day 1

Researching My Options

JL Cooper EclipseCX colorist control surface

Just before Christmas 2010, BlackMagic announced Resolve version 7.1. This is the version I had been waiting for – they enabled support for the JL Cooper Eclipse colorist control surface. I had been waiting for either Euphonix or JL Cooper support. Not because I have anything against the Tangent Wave but because I own the JL Cooper and I have a Euphonix MC Color on long-term loan.

The DaVinci Resolve was designed to work with a control surface, and while I’ve heard that the software team had made huge strides in making the software ‘mouse friendly’ – I don’t have much interest in driving a grading session with just a mouse.

So… after reading the Resolve 7.1 data sheet – I immediately downloaded the DaVinci Resolve Mac Configuration Guide. BlackMagic did an outstanding job with this Guide. It clearly lays out all the ‘blessed’ MacPro workstations (at the time of this post, Resolve supports all MacPro towers from 2008 and onward), the specific video card (Decklink, of course), the various graphics cards, RAM, and even the exact PCI-E slot configurations (depending on which graphics cards you’re using). They also include links to all the various components, just so you don’t get confused (which didn’t stop me, as you’ll soon see).

RAM: I’m running a 2008 MacPro (the oldest supported machine) with 16GB of RAM. The Config Guide shows a rather odd RAM configuration: Either 6, 12, or 24 GB ram. I’m going to have to pull four GB – two of my sticks.

Graphics cards: Resolve requires (2) graphics cards – one to drive the primary display, one that simply handles render duties and shouldn’t have any displays attached to it. The Guide’s speediest configuration includes a discontinued card (nVidia GTX 285). Since I’ll be hobbled (for the time being) with an older MacPro, I want to target the 285 as my main graphics card. I start watching EBay for these cards.

Video card: It’s not enough to drive a main display and render out the footage – while I’m grading I need to view my work on a proper reference monitor. To do that, I need a video card that Resolve can output to feed the monitors and tape decks. Since Resolve is a BlackMagic product it’s logical that the only supported video card is the Decklink HD Extreme 3D. I briefly toy with the idea of stepping up to their Multibridge product, but it doesn’t do 3D – and while I have no 3D projects on the horizon, why spend more when the Extreme card will do what I need?

Of course, installing the Decklink Extreme means I have to pull out the AJA Kona 3 – which has been serving me well for many years. But I hold no grudges toward BlackMagic… A $995 card to run a formerly $200k+ grading system? Come on – let’s not quibble.

The way I see it: BlackMagic Design (along with AJA and Apple) started this whole revolution of 10-bit SDI quality professional editing on a desktop. If BlackMagic wants to limit the hardware to a card they produce to work with software they own, I won’t complain.

My final shopping list looks like this (affiliate links):

Grand Total: $2,415 US

Colorist Diary, Day 2

Pre-Installation

I do have a concern: I’m running a 2008 MacPro and I’m nervous that the NVidia 285 video card won’t work. But this machine is certified and there weren’t any notes saying that my config won’t run. So I jump in…

It’s a bit painful pulling out a perfectly functioning Kona 3 (with breakout box) from the MacPro. Whatever, moving on…

¡ D-OH !

WRONG! This is the PC version of the 285 card, not the Mac version

The nVidia 285 card throws me for a loop! After buying the darn thing off EBay, I realize there are several models of this card including a few over-clocked versions for the PC, PC versions that have had their ROM flashed for use in a Mac, and a model made specifically for the Mac. Of course, I bought an overclocked PC version. I ask around and finally find how to flash the ROM (I’ve since lost that link) – but it’s very tedious and I have no patience for it.

After hunting EBay I finally find the Mac versions of this card… which all run $50 – $100 more than the PC version.

Mac tax. Again, whatever. I’m used to it.

I buy a second 285 card. Joy oh happy day.

Installation

The last item to arrive is the Decklink (3 weeks after ordering). It takes the Resolve software almost two weeks to get to me, which, I don’t grok the delay.

At install, everything goes smoothly.

The 285 requires plugging the card into two jumpers on the MacPro. Apparently on the 2009 MacPro this is a bit of a pain. On my machine, it’s easy as pudding pie.

After rebooting and checking the system profile, it’s clear I’ve done something wrong with the RAM. I have 12 GB installed, but only 8 are being recognized. For years, RAM was installed in pairs across the two risers. I guessed that Apple changed the rules on me… which, after further research, they did (direct link to PDF).

"Allocating Memory" . . . About Darn Time!

I reinstall the RAM properly and everything seems to be running correctly. Both video cards are recognized, the correct amount of RAM is displaying… I chuckle; after 3+ years of 16GB of RAM in my computer, finally some production software that will recognize all of it (Final Cut Studio, I’m looking at YOU).

After installation, I hook up all my cables and spend the rest of the day checking all the runs between the Decklink card and into the tape decks, monitors, and speakers. I call it a day.

Colorist Diary, Day 3

Booting Up Resolve

The CUDA Preference Panel

The CUDA Preference Panel

I install Resolve. As I reboot the machine I’m thinking about getting ready to hunt down the latest CUDA drivers, since I’ve seen various people on the boards talk about a new version of CUDA having been released recently. Surprisingly, right after launch a prompt pops up asking me update the firmware on the NVidia 285 card.

It seems a CUDA control panel was installed with Resolve. Nice. That takes some of the hassle out of keeping my system updated.

The $995 USB Key

Before booting Resolve, I plug the dongle into my computer. I generally despise dongles. I have a Ziplock filled with almost a dozen dongles I’ve acquired over the past 9 years – maybe two of them are labelled. I have no idea what the others do, but clearly I’ve stopped running whatever software they’re supposed to enable.

The $995 USB Dongle

The Resolve dongle is nicely labelled. I might lose it, but I’ll never be at a loss as to which software it enables.

I plug it in, it lights up, a thought flashes through my mind, “$995 USB key”.

Launching Resolve I hit the login page. What next?

After watching Resolve 101 Class 1 from fxPhd, I customize my login

I pull out the iPad which has the October 2010 term from fxPhd on it. I signed up for the Resolve training 3 months ago, knowing this day wasn’t far off. I dive in. Class 1 gets me generally orientated with Resolve’s GUI, preferences, loading up shots, and getting those shots into the Color tab to start grading.

After Lesson 1 I set aside the training and start trying to grade. Beyond some basic primary grading – I can’t get anything else working. I’m floundering. In just a few minutes it becomes pretty clear to me – I’m missing some fundamental notions of the’Resolve method’. Particularly this node-based grading thing.

Here’s the good news: My last meeting as President of the New York Final Cut Users Group is tonight. And who do I have booked? My good friend and colorist Alexis Van Hurkman. His topic: “Why DaVinci’s Resolve? (for Final Cut Studio users)”

I head out, hoping that Alexis’ demo will have me up and running within the 60 minute slot he’s been allotted! The timing of my dive into Resolve couldn’t be more perfect.

Next Post: Days 4 & 5: Figuring It All Out (mostly)

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