Welcome to my review of the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor. Hardware products designed to supplement and speed up video editing used to be quite rare. In the last few years, there have been quite a few to come along and I have reviewed many here on the Editblog. When I review these products I believe in digging as deep as I can as I use them in real-world editing projects. These reviews are not meant to be short, quickly posted feature summaries but rather an in-depth discussion of what they can and can’t do, how they might fit into professional workflows and what they often get right and wrong. Not every feature in given product will be covered and since these tools are used in real world editing workflows some things don’t fit in a particular review period. I always try to be fair and impartial. If you’re interested in the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor I hope you’ll grab a beverage and dig in. Feel free to post questions and comments and I will try to answer them. You will not find another review of the Speed Editor as in-depth as this one out there on the internet. Thanks for reading.
This is Part 1 of a two part review. Part 1 covers most all aspects of the Speed Editor except for the multicamera editing functionality. Since a large part of the Speed Editor’s functionality (and overall surface area) is dedicted to multicam, and becuase this review was getting long, I’ve saved the mulitcam editing for Part 2. Part 2, Multicam and Multi-camera Editing is online.
Review: DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor
At its core, the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor is a cutdown version of the Resolve Editors Keyboard that I reviewed in October 2019. It quite literally chops out the middle keyboard section of the Resolve Editors Keyboard, adds mulitcam edit keys as well as some new options to the middle, and grafts on some additional functions to a number of the other keys. Like the Resolve Editors Keyboard, it’s well constructed and fun to use. At $295 it really is an easy purchase if you’re doing a lot of editing in Resolve, though you will have to actually use the Cut page to get the most out of it. You can even get a copy of Resolve Studio when you purchase one. You can go activation key or you can go dongle.
One early question to get out of the way is where do you place the Speed Editor for optimum usefulness? One of the Resolve splash screen images suggests this:
That looks to me like the Speed Editor could supplant the keyboard for editing. While you could place the keyboard above the Speed Editor my attempts at this had me quickly switching back. You could bring the Speed Editor front and center during early edit assembly and be good to go. When using a laptop you don’t have much choice as it isn’t really a beside the keyboard device like the Loupedeck CT or Tourbox can be. I worked with the Speed Editor mainly in desktop situations, kept it above the keyboard and it worked well.
There are times, a lot of times actually, when you have to use two hands on the Speed Editor. Yes, that can make for some reaching when it’s located above your main keyboard. More than you’re used to. It’s not as awkward as I had originally feared. Once you’re deep into project editorial I just don’t see how it can replace the keyboard and I needed the keyboard way more than the Speed Editor, hence the arrangement I settled on.
You must become a devotee of both the Speed Editor hardware and the Cut page to get the most out of it
The Speed Editor is designed to shine on the Resolve Cut page. It’s quite obvious over the last couple of major revisions to Resolve that the Cut page is important to Blackmagic. The simplicity of the Cut page can’t be denied but its usefulness in the Resolve ecosystem is up for debate but that’ll have to wait for another time.
When it comes to basic cutting with the Speed Editor there is no doubt you can zip around footage with an ease that isn’t really possible on a keyboard. While JKL scrubbing has been a staple of non-linear editing systems since near the beginning the Speed Editor search dial adds something new to the overall editing experience. It really is a new way to speed around a batch of footage, mark IN/OUT points as well as trim. The quality construction of the search dial combined with the Cut page being built for the thing makes using the search dial a much better experience something like a Contour Shuttle Pro will ever be.
I’m not going to go into tons of detail about how all of the buttons on the Speed Editor work and what many of the different trimming functions are. I went over a lot of that in my review of the Resolve Editor Keyboard so you can read that or check out the Blackmagic video introducing the Speed Editor as that goes over a lot of the basic functionally. Also, take a look at the article about the Speed Editor on Mixing Light as there is a lot about how the Speed Editor works on different Resolve pages.
If you want to get the most out of the Speed Editor you’ll have to become a devotee of the Resolve Cut page. While many of the keys on the Speed Editor work on the Edit page, BMD makes no bones about it, this thing was designed for the Cut page. Trying to use it extensively on the Edit page will lead to frustration. I do hope the BMD engineers adapt the Speed Editor to more Edit page functions. It would make the Speed Editor even more useful and open up for a lot more sales.
The most defined item is the Search Dial. Like the Editor keyboard, the construction is top-notch and it’s very satisfying to use. Unlike the Editor keyboard, there is no clutching mechanism that can change the feel of the search dial as you move between shuttle/jog/scroll. The dial is nicely weighted and personally I liked using it better than the clutching of the dial on the keyboard. I’ve seen several internet comments about pushing down the search dial and asking if that has some functionality. While it does feel like a button, pushing down on the search dial doesn’t do anything and is probably just a by-production of the construction. JOG (Jog) zips you along the timeline or throught footage with good precision and is where you’ll spend most of your time.
SHTL (Shuttle) is an attempt at a replacement for JKL scrubbing as the more you turn the dial the faster the playhead shuttles/scrubs with audio. I found it too difficult to be precise and get 3x playback, for example, so it’s a poor replacement for traditional JKL scrubbing. JOG (Jog) and SCRL (Scroll) is where you’ll spend most of your time when using the Search Dial to move around the timeline. I would say most of my time is spent on the jog function with the occasional jump over to scroll to really move the playhead quickly. I rarely ever used the shuttle function. The STOP/PLAY button will be hit with your thumb to stop and play.
But honestly, the Speed Editor seems to discourage actually playing footage in real-time and watch any video about it and you’ll see more jog and shuttling and less playing. I felt the same way when Final Cut Pro X came along and introduced skimming to the world. I know we have less time than ever to deliver content but it’s still video and you watch video so playback should be encouraged.
Building the rough edit
When it comes to building your rough edit, that is a place where both the Speed Editor and the Cut page can shine. Your right hand can operate the Search Dial and toggle between the SOURCE media and the TIMELINE while the left-hand marks IN/OUT points and moves that media to the timeline with the edit buttons.
These editing buttons are how you’ll get media onto the timeline. They direct you away from any drag and drop, mouse-based editing and if the Speed Editor helps editors to mouse less then it will be speedier and worth the investment. The Speed Editor discourages mouse use.
A typical Speed Editor workflow might have you jumping into the Cut page’s source tape mode (using the SOURCE button) to go through all of your media, tossing everything you might need into the timeline. Then jumping over to the timeline (using the TIMELINE button) for the trimming and refining of the edit which is where the Speed Editor will shine. I don’t think you’ll do a much editing in a selects timeline with the Speed Editor and Cut page as you might without it. It’s fast enough you might not feel the need to make selects sequences. While the Speed Editor, in general, discourages basic real-time playback of your media using the Source Tape mode, in conjunction with the Search dial it is fast and fun if a little bit less precise than the tried and true JKL method of working.
Once you have a lot of clips in the timeline you have to refine, trim, and dial everything in, down to the frame. Combining these trim buttons with the search dial makes this refining process quite interactive.
The Cut page and the Speed Editor can feel like a very spaghetti on the wall way of working and might not be the best method of editing for the experienced editor. But then the Cut page wasn’t really made for the experienced editor now was it?
To use the Speed Editor to its optimum usefulness, the other thing you must become a devotee of is the Smart Indicator (image above) on the Cut page. That is the little white animated downward arrow thingy that sits in the Cut page timeline ruler and points to where any edit operation will take place regardless of the playhead, usually.
I say usually because sometimes you can get an ORANGE Smart Indicator (image above) when you mark an IN point on the timeline. That orange indicator at the IN point takes precedence over the white one for inserts and overwrites which makes sense as you’ve consciously marked an IN point.
But the Smart Indicator is honestly less about where you’re laying your clips into the timeline and more about how you’re trimming it. You’ll learn the Smart Indicator quite well as you dig deep into the Cut page.
Refining the edit
Those Smart Indicators are better understood when it comes to refining your edit with the many Trim tools that the Speed Editor gives fast and fun access to.
But there are still things that are just weird. They are weird on the Editor keyboard and they are weird on the Speed Editor. They are weird, less because of the Speed Editor and more because of the Cut page. That’s because the Cut page depends less on the playhead and more on that Smart Indicator when it comes to refining the edit. That is going to be a BIG shift for the experienced editor.
Gone are the days when you have to consciously selected edit points to trim them.
In the above GIF holding the TRIM IN button and spinning the search dial makes the trim as that’s where the Smart Indicator is pointing.
But what about the out point?
Above is the result of holding the TRIM OUT button and spinning the search dial. There is no Smart Indicator for the out point in this case and since the 14 clip is a clip on V2 it just trims the out point of that clip on top.
Things behave a bit differently when you have two clips on V1 with the Smart Indicator hovering over the edit point.
In this scenario, holding TRIM IN is trimming the IN point of the next clip after the Smart Indicator. And since the Cut page timeline acts a lot like the Final Cut Pro X magnetic timeline it’s a ripple edit and all clips after the edit point move along with the trim.
The same clip setup using the TRIM OUT button trims the out point of the clip as you might expect. It doesn’t matter if your playhead is before or after the edit point as long as the Smart Indicator is there.
But what happens when you have clips on V2 and edit points on V1? That’s where things get a little weird.
TRIM IN trims the IN point of clip 14 on V2 as expected but TRIM OUT trims the OUT point of the 02 clip beneath on V1. I guess that should be expected too since that’s the out point nearest the playhead and Smart Indicator but I think an argument could be made that you could expect it to trim the OUT point of the green clip 14. Maybe weird is the wrong word … things are a little different.
You will not be immediately faster when it comes to trimming and refining more complex edits.
All that is to say that if you want to properly learn how to use the Speed Editor and learn to use it really fast it’ll take time to understand how exactly it works along with the nuances of it’s integration with the Cut page. You will not be immediately faster when it comes to trimming and refining more complex edits. If you’re an experienced editor, until you get to know it well, you’ll be slower … and possibly frustrated. If you’re new to non-linear editing then you might pick up on it faster but you won’t know what you’re missing when it comes to the power of the Edit page.
The Cut page may be about speed but the Edit page is about power. It depends on what you need at any give time so having both … 🤔🤔.
I could post a lot more of these GIFs for the other trim keys but I think it’d be a bit redundant so I’ll briefly discuss them below.
ROLL performs a double-sided rolling trim at the Smart Indicator.
SLIP SRC (Slip Source) performs a slip edit on the clip in front of the Smart Indicator.
SLIP DEST (Slip Destination) performs a slip edit on the clip behind the Smart Indicator.
Okay one more GIF. In this scenario above I first hold the SLIP DEST key and spin the search dial. That slips the 14 clip in place as that is the “destination” clip after the Smart Indicator. I then hold SLIP SRC, spin the dial and nothing happens as there is no “source” clip before the Smart Indicator. I then do a slide edit by double-press and hold on the ROLL key to enable the SLIDE function as that key can do double duty. If you’re not careful in the above setup you might move the playhead just enough when messing around with the Search Dial that the Smart Indicator jumps to another edit point such as the one between clips 02 and 03. That would give you a different outcome so you have to be aware of what you’re doing and that Smart Indicator.
I feel like I’m spending as much time talking about the Smart Indicator as I am the Speed Editor.
As mentioned but worth noting again, some of the Speed Editor buttons have functions printed on the side of the button. You execute those functions with a double press, or press and hold. Some of the buttons have a tiny red light that illuminates if a certain function is activated. For example you can toggle snapping with the SNAP button which turns red when snapping is turned on. Many of the other red lights only illuminate when you’re in the live multicam mode but we’ll talk about those in Part 2 of this review. There less that 50 buttons on the Speed Editor so that really isn’t a tremendous amount.
My button soapbox
As fun as the Speed Editor is to use I’ll go to my grave arguing that it could be more useful if the buttons were better thought out from the standpoint of a working editor and not someone who is just playing around or engineering a product around functions that design thought was cool. The same can be said about parts of the Resolve Editor Keyboard but this is even more of a standout on the Speed Editor.
One example of this is the lack of a basic, dedicated Overwrite button on the Speed Editor. That is such a common function it seems like a glaring omission. The closest equivalent is PLACE ON TOP but there are times when you want to overwrite what is in your timeline without creating a new video track, even on the Cut Page. And while RIPL O/WR (Ripple Overwrite) is a very cool, Resolve exclusive editing function you’ll use it less than a basic Overwrite. Since many Speed Editor buttons serve double duty by placing a second function on the side of the button (activated by a double press) why not put a basic Overwrite somewhere on the thing?
The other missing function on the Speed Editor is a GO TO IN/OUT option. A double press of the dedicated IN/OUT buttons will clear them but there is no way to quickly move the playhead to your IN point if you decide to refine that IN before dropping a clip into the timeline. I’m sure the argument would be that GO TO IN/OUT aren’t needed since you can use the Search Dial to quickly get back to your IN point but there is no indicator in the interface to see if you’re sitting right on the IN point. You can go to your keyboard and hit shift+I to go to IN point but I don’t see a way to do this on the Speed Editor.
You can press the SOURCE button a second time to jump into the current IN to OUT and then spin the Search Dial to the head frame which will be your IN point. Then you need to hit the ESC (Escape) button to jump back to out to Source Tape mode but the playhead doesn’t stay on the frame it was parked on when viewing only the IN to OUT in this zoomed in Source Tape viewing mode. It feels very haphazard and not well thought out. Not at all precise. I’m sure an argument against this is just to throw marked clips into the timeline and precisely trim it there. But you can cut down on your edit time with a bit more precision on your source footage first. That’s part of editing.
When in Source Tape mode you can mark an IN to OUT on a range of clips and a press of the SOURCE button will jump in to only show the clips in that range. That is some nine, extra duties for the SOURCE button.
And I’ll jump on my soapbox again about dedicating an entire button in the transition buttons to the Resolve Smooth Cut (SMTH CUT).
Let me quote the Resolve 17 New Features Guide in the section about the Speed Editor:
“Transition Keys. This set of keys provide immediate shortcuts to the most commonly used transition commands.”
If you don’t know, the smooth cut is a special transition “designed to make short jump cuts in the middle of a clip unnoticeable.” Like that interview where you want to cover a jump cut. We all know this kind of transition often doesn’t work well. It’s a transition you use sparingly and honestly try to avoid. And it gets its own dedicated key. This is a waste of key real estate.
Another key that could be considered a waste of key real estate is a key for the Sync Bin. While the Sync Bin is a preeminent feature of the Cut page it’s a tool you won’t use anywhere near as often as something like the Inspector, which you’ll use a lot. Why in the world the Sync Bin gets a dedicated key and the Inspector doesn’t is beyond me. But a lot more about the Sync Bin in Part 2 of this review.
To add insult to injury here there is also a dedicated TRANS (transition) button. Press and hold the TRANS button and you can use the search dial to spin through a thumb-nailed list of transitions and apply the one you need (which is quite cool).
Why not have the TRANS button in place of the SMTH CUT button and then let editors choose if they really truly need the smooth cut bound to a dedicated key? If you’re in a place where you need the smooth cut over and over you could choose smooth cut from the TRANS button and have it stick until you needed another transition as much… like the Eye Iris (which many editors will use as much as a smooth cut!) Putting the TRANS button in place of the SMTH CUT button would free up space for a whole other dedicated button. Like the Inspector.
I get the feeling that someone at Blackmagic is really proud of the smooth cut transition.
A few random observations from working with the DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor
- Holding down AUDIO LEVEL and spinning the Search Dial will change clip volume and it’ll do that while playing back. A nice feature. Changing volume with a dial and not a mouse is superb.
- You’re being asked to use two hands for a lot of the Speed Editor’s best functions. So do you put it in front of the keyboard or behind? Either way you’re having to reach when using the Speed Editor. You’re having to reach a lot more with the Speed Editor than you are with the Loupedeck or Tourbox. But then the Speed Editor is doing a lot more.
- A double-press and hold of the MARK button (the side function of AUDIO LEVEL) will bring up the very handy rotary selection for Marker colors. Spin around and you can choose from the many different Resolve marker colors in a very visual way. Unfortunately you can’t add clip markers this way, only timeline markers and this rotary marker pop-up doesn’t work on the Edit page which is unfortunate. I think this could be equally useful, or more so, to use it to change clip colors.
- The SMTH CUT (Smooth Cut) button can be enabled as the default transition when editing in the multicam Live Overwrite mode. Under what possible scenario would you ever, EVER want to apply a Smooth Cut to many different edit points in a multicam edit. It’ll never, NEVER happen and an absolutely silly option to have.
- A double press and hold of the SNAP key will let you use the Search Dial to resize the viewer without having to click and drag in the interface. This is a great feature and something I want in every NLE.
- The CLIP secondary function that is printed on the side of both the SMART INSERT and APPND (Append) buttons will edit the entire clip and ignore your IN to OUT marks. That’s a nice touch.
- If you have the Resolve Editors Keyboard and you like it you do not need the Speed Editor. The few additional functions aren’t worth it as you get the core of the Speed Editor minus the dedicated multicam functions.
The Speed Editor has a lot to like. The construction is good, the battery seems to last a long time and there is no lag in the Bluetooth connection. Of course you can USB-C connect it as well but the Bluetooth is great. The deeper you fall into the Resolve Cut page the more you’ll get out of the Speed Editor. That doesn’t mean those editors that are most comfortable on the Edit page can’t get good use out of the Speed Editor and the Cut page. As mentioned, I really enjoy using the Source Tape feature on the Cut page for a quick cull of footage. Adding the Speed Editor makes it fast(er) and fun. I didn’t get into multicam editing as that is Part 2 of this review. Sneak preview… the mulitcam is iffy.
I apprecited Blackmagic sending me a Resolve Speed Editor to test out for this review. Despite my reluctance to completely embrace the Cut page (as well as my issues with Cut page mulitcam editing, coming in part 2 of this review) I see real value in the Speed Editor. The price is right and, for me, I can see it saving time going through footage and organizing that early part of an edit. Add to that it adds some fun back to the edit which is a nice by product. As soon as I returned the loaner Speed Editor back to BMD, I bought my own from our sister site Filmtools. That’s about as good of an endorsement for a product I can make.
UPDATE 1/16/2021: If you’re wondering why your Speed Editor is on back order:
DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor Availability. Due to limited availability of a button part, we haven’t been able to build as many Speed Editors as customers have ordered. We are building more each week, and we are trying to catch up as quickly as we can. We apologize for the delay.
— Blackmagic Design (@Blackmagic_News) January 15, 2021
- The Speed Editor is fun to use. How often do you get to say that about video editing hardware these days?
- Combine the Cut Page Source Tape view with the Speed Editor and you really can speed through mountains of footage and begin to trim it down into something managable.
- Two hands on the Speed Editor control surface and none on the keyboard is going to be a different way to edit.
- There isn’t any reason why the Speed Editor doesn’t do more on the Edit page. Hopefully that will expand in the future.
- Some of the buttons will have limited usefulness as you’ll try to avoid using the Smooth Cut transition.
- Two hands on the Speed Editor control surface and none on the keyboard is going to be a different way to edit.
- The Search Dial is sensitive so you might accidentally move the Smart Indicator to a different edit point when you don’t mean to.
- It feels like you’re using the ESC (Escape) key about as much as you’re using the SOURCE and TIMELINE keys. I wish they had put the ESC key in the same bank as SOURCE and TIMELINE. That would add room for one more key as well as keeping those three keys grouped close together.
- When using the secondary button functions with a double-press, some of them will execute the single press action first before doing the double-press action, mainly on the edit buttons. Something to be aware of as the first time you see it happen it’s a bit strange.
- The CUT key doesn’t add an edit at the playhead, that is what the SPLIT key is for. The CUT key is to remove transitions when not in a mulitcam mode.
- Some side button functions don’t require a double-press and hold to use, like the MOVE function. Press once and hold to grab a clip and move it with the Search Dial. If you double press thinking you’re going to move the clip at your playhead you’ll split it first and be moving the clip to the right of the playhead.
- This isn’t a caution but more of wondering out loud … I wonder if support for the could be built into Command Post?