So, you’ve found your first client, congratulations! After all that hard work and grind, someone…
Hello, Senior Trainer Leon Barnard here. Most of the exciting hardware in the world of filmmaking is aimed at production, but in post-production, equipment is just as important.
Often we only use general purpose peripherals like monitors and mice, so I am always particularly interested when manufacturers produce hardware that is specifically for editing.
The Loupedeck is one of those pieces of hardware. This interface allows you to control programs like Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Final Cut Pro with physical dials, buttons and touch interfaces. The objective? To make editing quicker, more intuitive, and maybe a little more enjoyable.
To be precise, this is the Loupedeck CT – out of the range of peripherals Loupedeck offers, this is the best for editing. Is it good? Yes, we wouldn’t feature it if it wasn’t. Is it right for you? Well, only you can answer that, but maybe our experiences and thoughts can be of help.
Software and Compatibility
The panel features a USB-C connection and comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable. I’ve been using macOS, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think that the experience would be dramatically different on Windows.
The panel will do absolutely nothing until its driver is installed, which sits between the panel and the program that you’re hoping to control. What kind of programs can you control with your new Loupedeck? There are two different groups.
First, lots of software developers release APIs that allow third parties like Loupedeck to make cool add on products. Because of that, Loupedeck has been able to create profiles for controlling these programs that integrate really tightly, which it calls ‘default profiles’. If you have any programs on that list installed, Loupedeck will find them automatically.
On the other hand, if you have a program that isn’t natively supported by Loupedeck, you can manually install a custom profile. However, these aren’t as tightly integrated as the default profiles. It’s also worth noting that Loupedeck does not have access to Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve’s API, so compatibility there is very poor. For a full list of supportive programs, visit Loupdeck’s Official Site.
My experience installing the software was pretty seamless, it found all my Creative Suite programs and helped me to install the required plugins. As you switch between different programs, it will adjust the Loupedeck to always display relevant buttons.
The panel is really nicely made, and thanks to its weight and rubber feet it stays put on your desk. Let’s start by talking about the master dial at the bottom – it rotates smoothly, and the screen inside is also a touch interface. Normally, it functions as a scroll wheel, but when I get into Premiere and Final Cut, it moves the play head around.
The soft buttons in the middle are divided into pages. You can get features like a clock, volume controls, program launches, and media controls – they work pretty much as you’d expect. It will also display these controls if you are in a program it doesn’t have a profile configured for.
On the sides, there are six clicky dials, but you can change which page of buttons is displayed with the numbered buttons below. These first four are illuminated, which means in the profile I currently have selected, there are four different pages of soft buttons that I can access. There are other physical buttons, but they feel just like keys on a keyboard. Most of these buttons have more than one function.
We’ve got some other cool keys as well, such as undo, cursor, or enter keys. Additional commands can be activated by holding down on the function key and clicking on these keys. If you’re unsure about what any of these buttons do, the Loupedeck software is very helpful. Hover over the buttons and it’ll tell you what they’re currently configured to do.
Using the Loupedeck
Most of my time with the Loupedeck has been spent in Premiere Pro. The default profile for Premiere has pages set up for editing, color, and audio. Here’s a few highlights…
Once my edit is assembled in the timeline, I love skimming through using the master wheel and the ripple trim tools. I’ll get both hands on the Loupedeck for this, one on the master wheel and one on the ripple controls.
I’ve never been a big fan of Premiere’s Lumetri Color grading interface, but the Loupedeck helps. By selecting different soft buttons, various controls are mapped to the clicky dials and master wheel.
Some features are more helpful than others. I found the implementation of curves to be a little bit bizarre, the audio page was a little less helpful, and a lot of these soft buttons replicate features that I can already control with my keyboard. However, I did like the dedicated dial for audio track height, and being able to use the master wheel to navigate and manipulate audio key frames.
Some features are implemented better than others, but given how haphazard Premiere’s interface already is, this might not be Loupedeck’s fault.
Customizing the panel is easy, by heading into the Loupedeck app. You can edit an existing workspace or create your own. To assign a Premiere function to the panel, find it in this list and drag it onto the virtual panel. I could, for example, set up a workspace for multi-cam editing.
What do I think?
The hardware is beautifully made. It’s really high quality and it’s slender enough to pack into your bag and take on the road. My favorite thing about the Loupedeck has to be the dials. Why? Because they do something that my keyboard and mouse cannot. I love being able to do things like slip or nudge the clips, adjust volume, adjust the zoom. In fact, the zoom dial might be worth the cost of admission alone.
Thanks to the screen as well, I always know what the dials are currently configured to control. And once my memory kicks in, the buttons are tactile enough and easy to find without looking. The master dial makes it possible to navigate your edit in a way that is dramatically more intuitive than your keyboard or mouse. It is very satisfying to jog back and forth over an edit point as you perfect your cut.
For me, the least helpful feature has to be the physical keys. Sure, if I’m already doing something on the Loupedeck, it saves me a trip back to my regular keyboard, but it has all the same disadvantages of hot keys on my regular keyboard. The physical button offers no reminder of what command is assigned and these only start to speed up my work once muscle memory has kicked in.
The soft keys are good, but there is a sweet spot where they are most helpful. I liked using them to access commands that I don’t use enough to remember the keyboard hot key, but are cumbersome to find with a mouse in the menus. It’s not necessarily quicker to scroll through the pages to find the correct button than it is to use the mouse to navigate through menus on the screen. But, when you are using a mouse all day long, it is pleasant to be able to use a different input device.
Is Loupedeck for you?
It’s hard to say. As intuitive as the Loupedeck is, there is a learning curve if you want to truly maximize its power. I’ve got decades of practice using a mouse. I’ve got about a month’s worth of practice using the Loupedeck. So, which do you think I’m more effective with? It takes some persistence to retrain your muscle memory to go for the Loupedeck, rather than use the mouse or keyboard.
There are two groups in particular that I think might appreciate the Loupedeck:
- New editors – they don’t have decades of habits to unlearn to integrate the Loupedeck into their workflow. The default button layouts created by Loupedeck will actually help you to discover and learn features of your NLE.
- Experienced editors looking to further optimize their workflow, especially ones with highly specific workflows. They will appreciate the ability to completely customize the Loupedeck, giving physical controls or buttons to their most used features. It’s nice to see accessories designed specifically for editors, and it does look cool on the desk. If you work primarily in Premiere Pro, After Effects or Final Cut Pro, or make extensive use of other Adobe Suite programs, this panel is for you.
One more thing – if you use Resolve, this panel is not for you, as the Loupedeck does not have access to the Blackmagic API. Instead, consider the Black Magic Speed Editor.
The Loupedeck is not a must have accessory and it might not revolutionize your workflow. For me at least, it wasn’t a quantum leap in productivity, but an incremental increase, and only once I put in the effort required to adjust my habits. At the end of the day, it’s not perfect and it may not make your work quicker, but it might make editing more enjoyable, and that has got to be worth something.
Having the right editing peripherals is key, but to use them effectively, you need to know how to edit first. Head over to our Free Training page to get started with some sample lessons on any topic that you like from general creative editing, to working with music, cutting action scenes, trailers, promos, and a bunch more.
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