We set out to find out if Palette Gear could be your analog control for the digital world.
We are typically reserved about Kickstarter tech since most ends up not making it all the way to production, but we finally started to get excited about Palette Gear when Adobe announced support for external control surfaces. Our first formal review of a control surface was of the Tangent Ripple. Unlike the Ripple, Palette Gear offers a modular approach to the control surface marketplace.
Palette Gear is offered either a la carte — you can buy a button, knob, or slider individually — or via a pre-made kit. Alone, a button is only $30 and knobs and sliders are just $50 each. However, a kit is needed to get started since the core — the module that links the other piece to your computer — is not available by itself. There are three kits to choose from: Starter, Expert and Pro — the kit reviewed here. The only difference between kits is the number of buttons, knobs and sliders included along with the core.
Palette sent us the big daddy: the Pro kit containing one core, four buttons, four sliders and six knobs, with the ability to expand to a total of eighteen modules. No matter what configuration, the Palette Gear core is required. Each module is magnetic, so they stick together easily.
The button module is very familiar; it’s an arcade button. The knobs turn as you’d expect, but they also push down like a button. Lastly the sliders — they feel and look just like the faders of a mixing board. Every module illuminates and can be assigned one of six different colors. If you don’t like the colored highlights, the black option provides a more hidden look. We would have loved to see a trackball module, as well, for those who want to use their Palette Gear as a color control surface.
PaletteApp is the application where you choose the program you are going to use and assign each module’s function. Within the App, you can choose what color each module illuminates and assign its purpose. PaletteApp is easy to use, and each program you use can get a pre-made set of assignments. That way, if you move from, say, After Effects to Photoshop, the module functions can be easily changed according to the program. All you have to do is change the tab in the PaletteApp.
PaletteApp is easy to use, and each program you use can get a pre-made set of assignments.
Within each of the programs we used Palette Gear with, the PaletteApp offered a neat feature called keyboard mode. Assign a button with a keyboard shortcut and you now have a button to slap for repetitive tasks.
We started out in Premiere Pro CC 2017. It’s the core program we use for our production, so getting it into our workflow was important for performing real-life tests. The issue with that is that our experience needed to be tempered because support for Premiere Pro is still in beta. By no fault of its own, many different commands that would be handy to use with Palette Gear are not yet available. As time goes on, how well they work and what controls are available to assign is expected to improve. However, what we found to be most handy is being able to assign a keyboard shortcut to a button. If you copy and paste often, just assign it to a button and you’re off to the races.
We started out with just one button assigned to razor all tracks. It was fun to just slap the button when you needed to make a cut. It got us thinking that you might have different configurations depending on the type of editing you were doing at the time — one for cutting, one for color, another for sound, for instance. In the future, we think this is exactly how to best use the modular form factor.
Moving deeper into the experience, we added sliders and knobs to see what they could do. The dials have infinite rotation, so if a zero to 100 with granular feel is needed, you’ll find the knobs lacking. However, because they are also buttons, they work well as a shuttle and play button. The sliders are the least useful in Premiere, currently, because they just didn’t work.
We then gave Palette Gear a whirl in After Effects. Unlike our experience in beta for Premiere, the modules worked great. The type of controls that could be assigned to any of the three types of control modules worked flawlessly and are super helpful. We could adjust the opacity of any object with the turn of a wheel or change in and out points with the slap of a button.
Again, like with Premiere, we found that the faders were not as useful as the buttons and knobs.
We repeated the same process through Audition and found Palette Gear to be much more functional and useful than with Premiere, though support for both programs is still in beta. Lastly, Photoshop offered the most options for tool assignment. Just about all macros can be assigned to a module. Currently, heavy photoshop users will benefit most from these tools because the options for assignments are deepest and richest in that program.
The bottom line is that Palette Gear is a great idea, and we’re glad that it has come into the market. It’s affordable and has an extensive list of good uses but still hasn’t met its fullest potential. We feel that as long as more support is created for products like these, their usefulness and viability in the marketplace will flourish. We liked using them, but would love to see a modular trackball to improve the interface for color grading. They are fun to use, and well worth the money. If you want to save time and speed up your program functions, we recommend trying out Palette Gear.
A la carte - $30-$50
Kits - Pro - $500
Expert - $300
Starter - $200
- Buy in kits or individually
- Assignable colors
- Currently supports a limited number of applications
- No trackball module
The Palette Gear modules are simple, affordable and super helpful. We liked using them and see their usefulness growing over time.
- Post-production specialists
Customizable Control Surface
Modules Can Be Remapped to Keystrokes
Modules Attach Magnetically
Up to 18 Modules Supported
Button Module: 1.8 x 1.8 x 1.2” / 45 x 45 x 31 mm
Dial Module: 1.8 x 1.8 x 1.4” / 45 x 45 x 37 mm
Slider Module: 3.5 x 1.8 x 1.4” / 90 x 45 x 37 mm
Chris Monlux was an avid arcade gamer in his early teens. If it was coin-op, he was pumping quarters in. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.