Editing with a gaming mouse
This article was written in May 2019. I'm always updating my settings and interested to hear if people use a similar or different approach. If this article is helpful to you, please do drop me a message. Either through email or on twitter.
For a few years now a 'gaming mouse' has been a consistent part of my editing setup. As an Assistant Editor I was always looking for ways to speed up my workflow. The way I saw it the quicker the editor got the rushes, the better. Even if they were swamped, at least they have them in their project. From my point of view it meant I was free to get on with other work, or go play some table tennis with the DIT. I would frequently remap my keyboard settings to try and find the most efficient combination of keystrokes. If something required three buttons to be pressed at once, I was looking for a way to bring it down to one.
One of the first editors I heard of using a gaming mouse was Eddie Hamilton. Eddie is an incredible editor and more importantly a very decent person. His recent credits include Mission: Impossible - fallout & Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Whilst I was still a student back in 2008 Eddie kindly took a few hours out of his day to meet with me. Some of the advice he gave me that day helped me immensely and I've always kept a keen eye out for what he's up to. So when I heard Eddie was using a gaming mouse to speed up his editing, my interest was firmly captured. Soon after this I read about Alan Bell (Editor of 500 days of Summer & several of The Hunger Games films) using a gaming keypad, the Logitech G13, to program shortcuts and speed up his workflow. Alan is a great follow on Twitter by the way. The idea had really caught me by this point. In Gaming your ability to react quickly is paramount to your success and in my mind editing needs to be as efficient as possible to give you as much time across the board.
I started off using the Razr Naga that Eddie Hamilton and his team all used (wireless version pictured). At first I'd say my progress was slow. All the muscle memory you've built up from editing predominantly on a keyboard has to be reprogrammed. If I found myself tapping a key that I had programmed to the mouse I would undo the action, then repeat it using the mouse buttons instead. After a couple of weeks it all began to flow a lot smoother. Over time I refined the buttons that I used on the mouse. Some that I thought would be useful proved less so than others. Avid's immense ability to let you map keys and menu items to individual buttons helped this process.
After a year with the Razr Naga it felt like a part of my hand whilst editing. I felt faster and more efficient throughout my work. Unfortunately for me the downside of the Razr Naga comes with the software required to change any of your programmed keys. In order to open the program and use it to its full potential it must be connected to the internet. My experience with many post houses and facilities is that the Avid stays disconnected from the internet, and rightly so. Far too easy to screw something up with a virus. For me though that impaired the functionality. I don't carry a laptop with me and often an edit suite will have no other machine with internet access. If I was working on a cut where I found myself using a certain option a lot more than normal, I want to be able to map it. So I started to shop around and landed on the Logitech G600. It had internal memory to support up to three different modes which really lured me in. As an assistant I could have a mode for editing, a mode for organising rushes and bins and a mode for doing turnovers and exports. Each setting uses a different customisable colour to make it obvious which you're currently using.
Two years on and it's an essential item I bring with me to an edit. I've refined my shortcuts to suit my needs now as an editor and it's rare to see me press two keys at once on a keyboard.
My first and probably most often used setting is the 'Blue' setting. As you can see from my pictures the mouse has 16 keys on the left side. On top it features two buttons (marked B & C in the second image) along with the scroll wheel being clickable down, left and right. As well as scrolling as you'd expect. Most of these shortcuts are straightforward. In and out markers are a hugely used shortcut for most editors. I like to be able to switch waveforms on and off on my clips so I have that option mapped to F5. I don't see the need to have two sets of buttons that let you mark an in and out point so I remap the E & R buttons to toggle the source and record options. I find this really useful when playing through clips. The rewind and fast forward shortcuts are Avid's option to move forwards/backwards to the next clip without entering trim mode.
The next mode is my 'Red' mode.
This mode is generally for trimming. Using the key U on my previous mode I'll jump to trim on the timeline, then quickly hit the button on my mouse that changes modes (to the right of the right click button). In here I have most of the keys I need for trimming clips in any fashion. Avid's trim mode remains the gold standard in editing applications and these shortcuts really help to make that process as smooth as possible. Rather than having them spread over several inches on a keyboard, they're spread by a smaller distance on my mouse. Moving between them becomes effortless.
Lastly, my 'White' mode. This is really my most changing set of shortcuts. I always like having the CTRL+/ to view the whole timeline. JKL are normally there too, but depending on the show I may opt to remap the multi cam shortcuts to something more appropriate if we're only filming single camera.
Below is an image of how I typically setup my Avid keyboard to program in these settings. It's very much how I've come to work over the fourteen years I've been using Avid. There's probably stuff in there that other editors find strange, but the whole process of editing is very personal and over years I've found the settings that help me to edit smoothly and efficiently. That said, if you happen to think of something I'd find useful, I'm always interested in seeing other peoples setups and considering new ways to refine my workflow. The post production online community has been a big factor in my learning over the years and hopefully my workflow can return that favour to someone out there.