I’ve been color correcting for a few years, and using Apple Color since it was added to Final Cut Studio. Apple really has democratized color correction by taking a $25,000 software package and bundling it with Final Cut Studio for no extra cost. But one of the greatest things about the “big iron” systems though is the control surface. If you can just keep your hands over the color surface instead of using a keyboard and mouse, you can go a LOT faster. It has been argued that computer control surfaces pay for themselves in time saved.
I’ve been eagarly awaiting the new Euphonix MC Color control surface for Apple Color. The things I liked, based on Euphonix’s press releases and pictures, were the soft keys, which both the Eclipse and Wave use, and the small size. Since I would be toting this board around to different facilities to do corrections, the small size is a huge plus. I don’t like the ethernet connectivity though with any of Euphonix’s controllers. Most of the facilities I work at have Ethernet SANs, which means not enough ports on the computer and IP conflicts. I feel like I would have to keep an ethernet switch and 100′ of ethernet cable in my bag with the controller. I wonder how well Apple’s $30 USB to Ethernet adapter would work? The Eclipse uses ethernet, but the Wave is USB. The Wave is even powered over USB, which means no power brick to carry around.
But I don’t have a big enough web presence (yet) to get review products from manufacturers. So I need to read some reviews first. I can’t consider buying something without reading at least one critical review. Walter Biscardi of Biscardi Creative Media has just posted his review on Creative Cow for the MC Color. He makes comparisions with the Tangent Devices Wave and the JL Cooper Eclipse, so I have also included links to reviews of those panels too:
$1500 – Euphonix MC Color Review by Walter Biscardi – 2/25/10
$1600 – Tangent Devices Wave Review by Walter Biscardi – 10/27/09
$6200 – JL Cooper Eclipse Review by Patrick Inhofer – 2/8/08
I was almost completely sold on the MC Color before reading Mr. Biscardi’s review, mostly because of its portable size. But after reading his review, and the recent price drop, I’m considering the Wave instead. The Wave’s pros: better soft key displays, transport controls and USB connectivity, greatly outweigh its negative (to me) of large size (the Eclipse is bigger still, but I don’t currently have enough color correction work to justify its cost). As Mr. Biscardi wrote, Euphonix may be able to deal with some of the MC Color’s shortcomings with software updates. Version 1.0 of anything is never perfect. But now I’m more torn than I was before.
Update: I’ve been following the threads in the Creative Cow Color forum since Mr. Biscardi’s initial review of the MC Color. Many people like the MC Color and mostly cite the high quality feel of the track balls compared to the Wave. Some say the trackballs are on par with the much higher end boards on DaVinci and Quantel systems. Apparently some of the shortcomings of the MC Color, such as pressing shift to get more functions out of the soft keys, can be overcome by adding the MC Transport for $400 (all Euphonix MC devices have removable sides so they can be joined together). This then pushes the Euphonix setup to $2000. Some have addressed the Ethernet issue by just carrying a small ethernet switch with them. You’ll need this if you’re attaching both an MC Color and MC Transport. So yes, I’m still torn. I also find it intriguing how many of the colorists on Creative Cow use a Wacom tablet for things like curves and shapes. I gotta try that.
Update (April 2015): Since this old article just got picked up by PremiumBeat (Welcome!), I thought I would add an update. I ended up purchasing an MC Color (Avid Artist Color) and other than occasional Ethernet and networking quirks, it worked great. I ended up using a small ethernet hub for most of the computers that I graded on. It also worked with Apple Color and a few other software packages that the Tangent Element didn’t, so it was great for opening up older Color projects well after I had switched to Resolve. It also traveled very well. All in all, it was a great controller, but the Tangent Element is a better buy due to the buttons. I found myself using the keyboard a lot with the MC Color to make up for its lack of assignable buttons.