I’ve been doing a lot of headshots this year and I often have to do a few things to a lot of images over and over. Mostly it involves culling through images, making a few tweaks in Camera Raw, and then bringing the shots into Photoshop for the final post work. This involves a lot of clicking and dragging of on screen sliders as well as some keyboard shortcuts that are less than ideal at times for speed. Enter the ShuttleExpress.
ShuttleXpress Black 72dpiThe ShuttleXpress is a small round controller that looks like a small flying saucer has landed on your desk. In the center is a spinning dial or “jog wheel” and it is surrounded by a rubberized “shuttle wheel”. Across the top half of the circular controller are five buttons. At the top of the base (at the 12 o’clock position) is a 20 inch (51cm) usb cable.
The central dial has a small indentation that lets one spin the dial with just a fingertip. This dial has no stopping point and will spin either direction endlessly as long as it is turned. The shuttle wheel that surrounds this dial is spring loaded and provides increased resistance as it is turned further to either side. It does not spin around entirely and snaps back into its original position when released.
These types of jog/shuttle arrangements are quite common on video editing control surfaces with the wheels providing playback control of the video footage. They work equally well for audio transport controls and the ShuttleXpress software comes with configurations already set up for many audio and video editing applications.
Of course my primary use would be for Adobe Bridge / Camera Raw / Photoshop so I wanted to see what how this could integrate into the applications and hopefully improve my efficiency. Let’s see how that worked out.
In what seems like a throwback to a different time, the ShuttleXpress controller is not actually plug and play. One needs to install the drivers for their PC or Mac in order for the device to “connect”. Included in the installation setup is a configuration set that has profiles for many applications including Adobe Photoshop. This is nice that so many applications are covered right out of the gate. Of course for my purposes I wanted to be able to create a custom setup and this is something the ShuttleXpress excels at.
After installation there will be a small icon in the Windows system tray for the ShuttleXpress (I do not have a mac so I cannot speak to how this appears on one). Right clicking on this icon will provide access to the control panel and it is here that the fun begins. In the control panel you will be presented with a list of all of the application configurations that were set up at installation. It is quite the long list and it includes some applications not in the listing on the Contour website such as DaVinci Resolve, a video editing/color grading suite from BlackMagic Design. This was a welcome surprise as I use Resolve for my own video projects.
There is also a set called Global Configuration which tells the computer what the controls will do when there is no application specific profile for the current application. I quickly cleared these settings so that I wasn’t accidentally calling any functions or keystrokes while getting started. Next I cleared the settings for Photoshop and created a new set for Adobe Bridge. In case you are wondering this device should work just as well in Lightroom as it does in Bridge/Camera Raw.
Creating and customizing configurations is very easy and pretty quick except for maybe the spring loaded shuttle dial, but more on that in a minute. First, if you are creating a new setup for an application not in the list, you will need to choose the target application. This opens an explorer window so that you can browse your PC to the exe file for your application, for instance, bridge.exe.
From there you simply press a button or turn a dial to see it appear in the list “User Actions”. Then you use the “Computer Response” list to determine what happens. Choices include keystrokes (including combinations), modifier key presses, and mouse clicks and wheel spins. There is also a setting for “same as lower value” which is specific to the shuttle wheel.
Programming goes pretty quickly and I was soon able to setup the controller to let me scroll through my thumbnails in Bridge and even use two of the buttons for “Select” and “Reject”. It was a little clumsy at first but it soon becomes second nature. Moving into Camera Raw from Bridge, I set up the shuttle dial to adjust sliders that I click on with my mouse. I can click on Exposure for instance, and then using the spring loaded shuttle dial, I can raise or lower the slider setting. Turning the dial further in either direction makes the slider move faster.
This last setting is pretty interesting and is easy to set up despite taking a few extra minutes. When programming for the shuttle dial, there are seven degrees of “position” that are available. Turning the dial will change the position number in the User actions list so you can tell exactly how far each step takes to be reached. The next step is determining what happens at each step.
For Camera Raw sliders I set the dial to send an up arrow or down arrow keystroke when twisting the dial right or left. I then set those keystrokes to repeat “X” number of times per second the further I turned the dial with “X” increasing the further the turn. This procedure can take a little time but the results are worth it. There are several option for using the shuttle dial’s progressive nature so there may be even better ways to achieve what I did.
Since one can program the ShuttleXpress for each individual application on your computer, I created a new profile for Photoshop for the tools I wanted to have it use. By far the most useful tool/shortcut was to set up one of the buttons as a CTRL+TAB shortcut. This allows me to quickly scroll through all open images in Photoshop which is handy when doing final post a on a batch of headshots. Using the central dial for a brush size adjustment also helps me keep my hands away from the keyboard.
I’ve been very pleased with how quickly and easily the ShuttleXpress has integrated into my workflow. I’ve been looking at getting one of these controllers for years and I’m wishing now I’d taken the plunge sooner. The ability to customize it for most any application you use means it should remain a relevant input device for a long time.
The device is well made for its price but “just” so. It is still plastic and if it were any lighter it would feel a bit cheap for its $59.95 msrp. As it stands it is a reasonable value from a durability perspective, but the bump in workflow speed is well worth it for me.[/tatsu_text][/tatsu_column][/tatsu_row][/tatsu_section]