Video Equipment Review: Bella DV Keyboard with Jog/Shuttle Controller

A lot of cool products come through our front doors. Some are complex and some are expensive. Bella Corporation’s new DV Keyboard is neither. In essence, the DV Keyboard is a full-featured, programmable keyboard with a jog/shuttle dial for video editing. Even more, the keyboard comes with a sticker set to get you using shortcut keys. If you spend more that a couple of hours a month editing video and you aren’t using keyboard shortcuts beyond the spacebar, you need to start learning.

Basics

The keyboard itself is decent enough (and is being used right now to type this review). It is a full-sized board with a number pad and a full range of 17 or so programmable hotkeys for multimedia playback and Web browsing. Programming the various keys is easy. If, for example, you currently use the Backspace key to go back on a Web site and use F5 to Refresh, you might program those keys on this keyboard to Undo and Redo. Or to any combination of keys (e.g. CTRL+S for Save) or to a function key (e.g. ALT). This is all pretty standard for a programmable keyboard. The keyboard also has two USB 1.1 ports.

Jog/Shuttle

The innovative part of this keyboard is the Jog/Shuttle dial which sits where the arrow keys normally reside. In old-school video production, tape-based editing machines (otherwise known as VTRs) were controlled with a jog/shuttle device for precise control. The jog dial was in the middle of the device and allowed the editor to move frame by frame through a tape. The shuttle wheel on the outside set the tape rewinding or forwarding at various speeds, depending on how far it was turned. The jog/shuttle input device on a VTR has a very intuitive feel. Bella has replicated this feel very well on the DV Keyboard.

In Action

The first video editing app we tried was Vegas. Not surprisingly, the jog/shuttle was extremely responsive and quickly became second nature. We then ran the new Premiere Pro and found that the keyboard was equally at home with that app. Unfortunately, it was not as responsive with early versions of Premiere, specifically 6.5, where the shuttle dial lagged a fraction of a second behind. Of course this indicates a software problem and not a problem with the DV Keyboard. Even with the fractional lag, the jog/shuttle dial demonstrated its usefulness quite clearly. MediaStudio Pro 7 was likewise enhanced with the DV Keyboard and the 6.5 version was fine as well. Our only criticism of the jog dial was that it was a little too smooth and the indentation on it was a little too shallow for our liking.

We also tried the keyboard with Microsoft Word. In Word, the shuttle dial acts just like a mouse scroll wheel and the jog dial moves the cursor left and right. There are also two programmable hotkeys that we set to Copy (CTRL+C) and Paste (CTRL+V). The software that drives the keyboard senses when various applications are run and switched to, so we could program one set of buttons for WinWord and another for Outlook. This keyboard has certainly increased our productivity. We did run into a problem when uninstalling the keyboard, however: the software was not listed in the Add/Remove Programs dialog. There is an uninstall app that automatically removed the software, but we had to manually hunt it down in the C:Program FilesDV Keyboard> directory.

Shortcuts

Eclipsed by the flashy jog/shuttle dial and programmable keys are the shortcut stickers. We are huge fans of shortcut keys. Anyone who edits more that casually should spend some time learning the shortcut keys. The hard part is learning the keys.

The DV Keyboard comes with stickers that you can press on the keys to help you learn, and ultimately use, the dozens of shortcut keys found in modern editing software. Pinnacle Studio and Sonic Foundry (Sony) VideoFactory stickers are included (the later are a subset for Vegas as well), but you can purchase additional sets for $14.95. The stickers are high-quality vinyl and are custom designed for these keyboards. (A quick jaunt around our office revealed that the sticker sets will work on many other keyboards. We’re not guaranteeing they will fit your keyboard and Bella explicitly warns against doing so, so caveat emptor.)


Transformational Editing

The DV Keyboard is a very reasonably priced addition to any editing suite, and it will undoubtedly last longer than your current computer. You might also consider their color-coded Professional Series keyboards, especially if you are in a teaching environment. These ‘boards are functionally equivalent, but generic white keys are a dime-a-dozen (or less) and the special colored keys add $60 to the price.

If you spend hours each week at your edit bay, Bella Corporation’s new DV Keyboard will transform your editing in very tangible and pragmatic ways.

TECH SPECS

Model: DV Keyboard

Platform: PC and Mac

Operating System: Windows 98SE/2000/XP; Mac OS 9.2, 10.1.5, 10.2

Connection: USB 1.1

Extras: two USB 1.1 ports, Pinnacle Studio and Sonic Foundry VideoFactory sticker sets

STRENGTHS

  • Space-efficient jog/shuttle
  • Flexible programmability

WEAKNESSES

  • Jog indentation slightly shallow
  • Software uninstaller not in Control Panel

SUMMARY

The DV Keyboard will raise your awareness of keyboard shortcuts and increase your productivity.

$110

Bella Corporation

215 N. Victory Blvd.

Burbank, CA 91502

(818) 563-9500

www.bella-usa.com

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