By Brady Betzel
Have you ever become frustrated while color correcting footage after a long edit due to having to learn a whole new set of shortcuts and keystrokes?
Whether you’re in Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer or Blackmagic Resolve, there are hundreds of shortcuts you can learn to become a highly efficient colorist. If you want to become the most efficient colorist you can be, you need an external hardware color panel (clearly we are talking to those who provide color as part of their job but not as their job). You may have seen the professional color correction panels like the Blackmagic DaVinci Panel or the Filmlight Blackboard 2 panel for Baselight. Those are amazing and take a long time of repetitive use to really master (think Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule). Not to mention they can cost $30,000 or more… yikes! So if you can’t quite justify the $30,000 for a dedicated color correction panel don’t fret. You still have options.
One of those options is the Tangent Wave, which is at the bottom end of the price range. Before I dig in, I need to note that it only works with Avid if you also use the FilmLight Baselight for Media Composer plugin. So Avid users, keep that in mind.
Tangent has one of the most popular sub-$3,500 set of panels used constantly by editing pros: Tangent Elements. I love the Tangent Elements panel, but at just under $3,500 they aren’t cheap, and I can understand how a lot of people could be put off — plus, it can take up your entire desktop real estate with four panels. Blackmagic sells its Mini panel for just under $3,000, but it only works with Resolve. So if you bounce around between apps that one isn’t for you.
Tangent released the first generation Wave panel around 2010 and it took another eight years to realize that people want color correction panels but don’t want to spend a lot of money. That’s when they released the Tangent Wave 2. The original Tangent Wave was a great color correction panel, but in my opinion was ergonomically inefficient. It was awkward — but at around $1,500 it was one of the only options that was semi-affordable.
In 2016, Tangent released the Tangent Ripple, which has a limited toolset, including three trackballs with dials, reset buttons and shift/alt buttons, costing around $350. You can read my review here. That’s a great price point but it is really limiting. If you are doing very basic color correction, like hue corrections and contrast moves, this is great. But if you want to dive into Power Windows, Hue Qualifiers or maybe even cycling through LUTs you need more. This is where the Tangent Wave 2 comes into play.
Tangent Wave 2
The Tangent Wave 2 works with the Tangent Mapper software, an app to help customize the key and knob mapping if the application you are using let’s you customize the keys. It just so happens that Premiere is customizable but Resolve is not (no matter what panel you are using, not just Tangent).
The Wave 2 is much more comfortable than the original Wave and has enough buttons to get 60% of the shortcuts in these apps. If you are in Premiere you can re-map keys and get where you want much faster than Resolve. However, Resolve’s mapping is set by Blackmagic and has almost everything you need. What it doesn’t have mapped is quickly accessible by keyboard or mouse.
If you’ve ever used the Element panels you will remember its high-grade components (which probably added to the price tag) — including the trackballs and dials. Everything feels very professional on the Elements, very close to the high-end Precision Panels or DaVinci Panels. The Wave 2’s components are on the lower end. They aren’t bad components, just cheaper. The trackballs are a little looser in their sockets, in fact don’t turn the panel over or your balls will fall out (or do it to someone else if you want to play a joke, just ask for the serial # on the bottom of the panel). The accuracy on the trackballs doesn’t feel as tight as the Elements, but is usable. The knobs and buttons feel much closer to the level of the Element panels. The overall plastic casing is much lighter and feels a lot cheaper.
However, for around $900 at the time of my writing this review) the Tangent Wave 2 is arguably the best deal for a color correction panel there is. Between the extremely efficient button layout and beautiful ice-white OLED display you will be hard pressed to find a better product for the money. It is also around 15-inch wide, 11-inch deep, and 2-inches tall, which allows for you to keep your keep your keyboards and mice on your desk, unlike the Elements which can take an entire desktop on their own.
Before you plug in your Wave 2 you should download the latest Tangent Hub and Mapper. Once you open the Mapper app you will understand the button and knob layout and how to customize the keys (unless you are using Resolve). In Premiere, I immediately started pressing buttons and turning knobs and found out that once inside of the Lumetri tabs the up and down arrows on the panel worked in the reverse of how my brain wanted them to work. I jumped into the Mapper app, reassigned the up and down arrows to the way I wanted to cycle through the Lumetri panels and without restarting I was up and running. It was awesome not to have to restart anything.
As you go, you will find that each NLE or color app has their own issues and it might take a few tries to get your panel set up the way you want it. I really liked how a few recent LUTs I had installed in the Premiere LUT directory showed up on the panel’s OLED when cycling through LUTs. It was really helpful and I didn’t have to use my mouse to click the drop-down LUT menu. When you go into the Creative Looks you can cycle through those straight from the Wave 2, which is very helpful. Other than that you can control almost every single thing in the Lumetri interface directly from the panel, including going into full screen for review of your color.
If you use Resolve 15, you will really like the Tangent Wave 2. I did notice that the panel worked much smoother and was way more responsive inside of Resolve than inside of Premiere. There could be a few reasons for that, but I work in and out of these apps almost daily and it definitely felt a little delayed in Premiere Pro.
Once you are getting into the nitty gritty of Resolve you will be a little hamstrung when accessing items like the Hue vs Hue curves. You can’t pinpoint hues on the curve window and adjust them straight from the Wave 2. That is where you will want to look at the Element panels. Another shortcut missing was the lack of Offset — there are only three trackballs so you cannot access the 4th Hue wheel aka Offset. However, you can access the Offset through the knobs, and I actually found controlling the Offset through knobs was oddly satisfying and more accurate than the trackballs. It’s a different way of thinking, and I think I might like it.
Without Resolve’s GUI Matching where I was on the Wave 2 panel, I wasn’t always sure where I was at. On the Resolve GUI I might have been in the Curves tab but on the Wave 2 HUD I may have been on the Power Windows tab. If Tangent could sync the Wave 2 and the Resolve GUI so that they match I think the Wave 2 would be a lot easier to use and less confusing, I guess I wouldn’t even call it an update, it’s a legitimate missing feature.
In the end, you will not find a traditional color correction panel setup that works with multiple applications and satisfies all of the requirements of a professional colorist for around $900.
I love the Tangent Element Panels but at over half the price, the Tangent Wave 2 is a great solution without spending what could be used as a down payment on a car.
Check out the Tangent Wave 2 on Tangent’s website.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.