I know Contour Design for as long as I write about Mac products, which is well over two decades. I have always been fascinated by their ergonomic shuttle device, the ShuttlePRO. Over the years, Contour Design released a ShuttleXpress and the ShuttlePRO v2. With the introduction of the new driver (v3), I finally got the opportunity to review the ShuttlePRO v2. I was prepared for a device that I could use in NLEs and a few photo editors only, but I found that one of the reasons why the ShuttlePRO v2 (and ShuttleXpress too, for that matter) is such an interesting device is its impressive application support.
The ShuttlePRO v2 is not a mouse replacement. It is not intended to be, although you could use it to scroll through Finder windows, provided you first place the mouse in the window that is in focus. That extra step is why the ShuttlePRO v2 isn't just another mouse. It's really a specialised tool to enhance the user experience in specific applications.
And enhancing it does. The design of the ShuttlePRO v2 is such that it helps to keep your wrist and shoulder healthy. From the images on the web, you might think the ShuttlePRO v2 still has a border the height of a centimetre or so, but that's an optical illusion. In fact, it's so flat you hardly notice it sits under your wrist/hand.
The big turning knob in the middle — the jog — has three recessed 'pits' to place your finger. There are three of these only for ergonomic reasons. The shuttle (whence the name comes from, I assume) itself is a robust ring enclosing the jog. It's a spring-based shuttle ring, and because of that I thought it would be very limited in usage, but the ring has 15 zones in all, with transition points in-between each zone. These points work unidirectional: for example, if you assign an action to the transition from zone 5 to 6, you can still assign a different action to the transition from 6 to 5. All of these are customisable through the driver.
Furthermore, the ShuttlePRO v2 has 15 customisable buttons. The two top rows have a transparent plastic cap that you can remove with a set of tweezers and for which you get a generous page of labels (non-sticky) in the box. The labels are pre-cut and there's a set of commonly used pre-printed labels, as well as a bunch of blank ones. Personally, I find the labels a nice touch. Others may find them essential.
Again personally, I prefer working with the driver's capability to create a printable PDF of all button/jog/shuttle zone assignments for each application set. And no, I wouldn't prefer to see all those buttons on-screen as with Wacom's Intuos 5 driver. Such an on-screen representation makes sense for the few buttons and the ring of the Intuos 5. It would — in my opinion — just sit in your way with the 60+ possible assignments of the Shuttle.
Let's first focus on the user experience. I used Final Cut Pro X and after trying out the default Final Cut Pro X set of actions, I can safely say that working with the ShuttlePRO v2 is much, much easier and much, much faster. With the Magic Trackpad or a mouse, you need to move your hand for almost every action or learn the shortcuts. Insert a clip: drag it to the Storyline. Skim through the Storyline: swipe, i.e. move your hand in an awkward position.
The ShuttlePRO v2 makes all these manipulations possible without lifting your hand. True, you could learn the shortcuts, but that would still not prevent you from having to move your hand/wrist frequently. From an ergonomic point of view, I don't think you can compare the keyboard/mouse way of working with the ShuttlePRO v2 way. You simply move your wrist a lot less. The movements that you make are mostly finger movements. And your wrist and hand are comfortably supported by the shape of the ShuttlePRO.
In addition, I also found I had more control over skimming and scrolling with the ShuttlePRO's jog than with a the trackpad or mouse. It looks cooler too, of course.
The ShuttlePRO driver v3
I liked the ergonomics a lot. But without a good driver, the best device becomes just more waste made of plastic and metal. The first thing I did was see if the driver would bog down my system. So I put it through its paces and then launched Activity Monitor to watch its memory usage and CPU cycles. Note that we're working with a public beta here, but I saw no memory leaks, and a nice low CPU usage. The visible portion of the driver is the menu app. Many menu apps behave in terrible ways, but not this one.
To compare with another driver that creatives use a lot: the Wacom driver takes up about one third more memory space.
Now for the driver's GUI and capabilities. The GUI is simply brilliant. It's loosely based on the iTunes GUI and automatically recognises your ShuttlePRO (both versions) and ShuttleXpress. In the "playlist" at left you'll find a long list of readily available application settings. Some applications have multiple settings. In that case, you can select the setting of your liking through the menubar or… set one of the ShuttlePRO v2's buttons as a settings switcher.
Settings are application-specific. They are made up of a button/jog/shuttle zone/shuttle transition, an action and a comment. The latter serves as the description that you'll see in the PDF I spoke about earlier.
Actions can be anything from simple keys over macros to scroll behaviours. Actions can be repeated at specified intervals. Selecting a button to bind it to an action is easy as pie: you press the button on the ShuttlePRO v2 and the driver automatically selects it, ready to be loaded with an action.
Sets can be imported and exported (which means you can share them). I tried making a set for Melodyne and for Da Vinci Resolve. On the Contour Design forums I found a discussion covering the older driver where people complain because the driver doesn't recognise Da Vinci Resolve as an application. If that happens, you're 'stuck' with the "Global Settings" set.
However, my test version did recognise Da Vinci Resolve just fine and I was able to jog and shuttle through the timeline and even manipulate the colour jogs right below the colour wheels. I did have to position the mouse over the correct wheel first — there's a reason why Blackmagic Design sells a 4K+ USD control surface! Still, it's no small feat to be able to interact with an application that has more tabs, windows, sliders, buttons, wheels, and what have you got than the average space station.
Creating a macro with the driver is just as easy, but I would have thought there would also have been the ability to run an AppleScript script.
The ShuttlePRO v2 lives up to its promises in a grand way. It is an ergonomic device that doesn't stress your tendons or muscles. It promotes faster working, especially in creative applications and certainly in video editors such as Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro.
And it allows you to control work with smaller movements, all without effort. At approx. 97 EUR, the ShuttlePRO v2 is not dirt cheap, but given the time saved and the enjoyment you'll experience from using gear that is body-friendly and well-designed in every sense of the word, it's certainly not over-expensive.