My First Color-Grading Control Panel    

editing control panels

As a relative newcomer to color grading, I recently had a chance to try out an inexpensive control surface by Tangent called the Ripple. If you’re not familiar with what a control surface is and what it does, think of it as a set of extra controls that give you the ability to dial in more fine detail in your adjustments in grading, editing and audio programs than you could with a simple mouse or trackball. If you’ve ever used a color-grading program like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you quickly begin to realize that using a mouse can become tedious in comparison. The Tangent Ripple gives you multiple hot buttons, three knobs and three-color adjustment trackerballs to adjust parameters in your editing or color-grading application. Our sister publication Digital Photo Pro reviewed Phase One’s Capture One Pro, which included a look at Tangent’s line of products for video editors.

Now for the inexpensive part: The Ripple sells for a mere $350. In the recent past, the control surface arena was mostly populated with devices that cost more in the $1,500 to $10,000 and up price range. So what do you get for your $350 with the Ripple? How is it built? How does it interface with your computer? Which software does it work with? So many questions, so little space to give you the answers you seek. But I’ll persevere in the name of giving you all of the information you need to make an intelligent buying decision, should you have a need for a control surface.

How Is It Built?

The Tangent Ripple is plastic; it’s almost all plastic. You aren’t going to get a magnesium-alloy work of mechanical art in a $350 control surface. The plastic is nice quality, though; the rotating dials and buttons feel solid enough. Flipping the surface over, you find an attached, hard-wired USB cable with options to route the cable out the left, center or upper-right panel of the device. The Ripple is lightweight, which is handy for throwing it into a computer bag or backpack if you’re going to travel or work remotely with a laptop. Tangent thoughtfully provides a black velvety-looking cloth drawstring bag to carry the Ripple.

editing control panels

The three red trackerballs that come with the Ripple are separately stored and carried in their own smaller cloth carrying bag as well. Unfortunately, when assembling the Ripple, you simply place the trackerballs into each of their respective cups on the top of the device. There’s nothing other than the weight of each ball that holds it in its individual cupped area—no magnet, button or lever to lock each trackerball in. Be advised that if you flip the unit over to change the USB cable routing, the trackerballs will go flying out of their cups. Not a big deal, but it would have been nice if Tangent had provided a way of affixing the trackerballs into the unit.

editing control panels

How Does It Interface With Your Computer?

Setting up the Tangent Ripple couldn’t be simpler; just plug the unit’s USB connection into your computer, or into a powered USB hub into your computer, if needed. As far as software configuration, I was going to utilize the Tangent Ripple with DaVinci Resolve for color grading. I first downloaded the user manual from the Tangent website as well as the Tangent HUB Installer, a 32.9 MB package that was easily installed on my iMac.

editing control panels

Once the Ripple panel was installed, I went into DaVinci Resolve and opened the Preferences dialog. Following the instructions, I then chose “Tangent Devices Element” as the Control Panel Type.

editing control panels

Once finished, the Resolve was configured to use the Ripple panel. In Resolve I selected Color Wheels and set the values view to be Primary Wheels.

editing control panels

Ripple controls the Color Wheels/Primary Wheels as follows. The three trackerballs and dials control the Lift, Gamma and Gain YRGB values. Note that each is mapped to a ball / dial:

  • Left trackerball / dial = Lift
  • Middle trackerball / dial = Gamma
  • Right trackerball / dial = Gain

Note that each trackerball / dial has its own reset buttons that will affect just that ball and dial.

Which Software Does It Work With?

The Tangent Ripple works with a good selection of popular grading, VFX and editing software, but not every popular application that’s often used in production. Here’s the list:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe SpeedGrade
  • Assimilate Scratch
  • Autodesk Flame
  • Autodesk Flame Assist
  • Autodesk Flame Premium
  • Autodesk Flare
  • Autodesk Lustre
  • Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve
  • Blackmagic Generation
  • Codex Live
  • Codex Production Suite
  • Codex Vault S and XL Series
  • Color Finale Pro
  • Colorfront On-Set Dailies
  • Digital Vision Nucode
  • Digital Vision Phoenix
  • Filmlight Baselight 1/2/4/8
  • Filmlight Baselight for AVID
  • Filmlight Baselight for FCP
  • Filmlight Daylight
  • Filmlight Prelight
  • Filmlight Prelight On-Set
  • Firefly FirePost
  • Foolcolor Foolcontrol
  • Fotokem NextLAB Live
  • Fotokem NextLAB Mobile
  • In2Core Qtake HD
  • Marquise RAIN
  • MTI CORETEX Dailies
  • Phase One Capture One Pro
  • Pixel Farm PF Clean
  • Pomfort Live Grade
  • RED REDCINE-X PRO
  • SAM Quantel RIO
  • SAM Quantel RIO Assist
  • SGO Mistika
  • Sony Catalyst Browse
  • Sony Catalyst Prepare
  • Sony RAW Viewer
  • Wowow IS-Mini
  • YoYoyatta YoYo

In Use

I found the Tangent Ripple to be intuitive and much more efficient to use in DaVinci Resolve 14 than my mouse. I was able to quickly change the lift, gamma, HSL controls and other parameters in Resolve. The trackerballs have a nice feel and heft to them that give you inertia as the balls roll, giving you quicker, finer control when making both gross and fine adjustments to your images. Unfortunately, I don’t use any of the other applications that the Tangent Ripple interfaces with so I didn’t have a chance to use it in an editing application.

editing control panels

As far as value, for $350, you can’t go wrong, as there’s not a lot of other competition on the market for control surfaces in their price range. Tangent’s own Element Tk panel is better built and has both trackerballs and rings located right outside the trackerballs, rather than the knobs located above the trackerballs on the Ripple. The Element Tk panel costs a lot more, though, at around $1,200.

If you’re an occasional colorist, grading tech or editor, you may find that for $350, the Ripple offers a lot of bang for the buck. If you’re a professional colorist, on the other hand, the Ripple isn’t really aimed at you, although it could still be handy if you carry around and work from a laptop often. My first experience with a control surface was a productive one; I could see myself purchasing a Ripple once I have more time to learn the finer points of color correction and grading.

You can learn more about the Tangent Ripple here.

Writer, producer and cinematographer Dan Brockett’s two decades of work in documentary film and behind the scenes for television and feature films have informed his writing about production technology for HDVideoPro Magazine, Digital Photo Pro Magazine and KenStone.net. Visit danbrockett.com.