Controlling Apple's Color

From Mouse to the EclipseCX Control Surface

by Patrick Inhofer, Finisher-In-Chief,
January 25, 2007

What follows is a daily diary I kept of my first experience using a JLCooper EclipseCX control surface. I'm trying to answer two questions: Is Color a better app with a control surface and will it, as some professionals claim, double my output? While doing so I'll give a review of the JL Cooper EclipseCX and how well Color interfaces with it. I'm using a diary format hoping that readers will benefit from watching me make this initial transition from color-correcting with a mouse to working on a dedicated colorist control surface.

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When Color was first released by Apple, it made quite a splash. It's a software-based color correction application and was designed to appeal to working professional colorists (or those hoping, one day, to become one). Upon introduction there was no drought of opinions on how well Color succeeds (or doesn't) at its task. One frequent line of comment had to do using Color with an outboard control surface - something considered essential for professional colorists. I'd frequently read professionals make many claims about using Color and control surfaces:

"Color is useless without a control surface"

"Color is an entirely different app with a control surface"

"You'll grade twice as many shots with a control surface than with a mouse"

I happen to know that the first statement is entirely false. I'm living proof not only that Color can be mouse-driven - a career can be made while doing so. Of the other two statements, I was never quite sure how much those were hyperbole or fact. So I'd kept a skeptical, though envious, eye on product developments for this niche of outboard gear (here's a recent roundup).

To quickly summarize, the field serving Apple's Color is currently split between Tangent, a manufacturer of very high-end color-correction surfaces, and JL Cooper, a manufacturer of a broad range of mid-priced control surfaces. Tangent panels are more stylish and polished... but twice the price.

Prologue: JL Cooper Eclipse CX

EclipseCX Colorist Control Surface

Since I couldn't justify the price of the Tangents I'd kept my eye on the more affordable JL Cooper products. Specifically, I had been in contact with JL Cooper's Danny O'Donnell who kept me abreast of their redesigned control surface which was announced at NAB 2007 - the Eclipse CX (additional Eclipse info here).But at $7,000 I had trouble justifying its cost - having never used one. When I finally told him in September of 2007 that I was ready to order a panel, I also said I was going to order the less expensive older model - he countered by offering me the new EclipseCX at wholesale, knowing that I'd eventually do a write-up such as this (since I had previously blogged about it). With this significant price cut the decision became a no-brainer and I quickly jumped on his offer.

12 weeks later, just as the Christmas holiday approached, I got an email notification that the unit had shipped.

I was joyful (understatement).

A week later, a box arrives...

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