Tag Archives: Tangent Elements

Review: Tangent Wave 2: Color Correction Surface

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.

Summing Up
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 bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Review: Tangent Element color panels

These compact surfaces can help editors gain control of their color work

By Brady Betzel

More and more these days offline editors are also color correcting or grading footage in some way. For those who are new to this and unsure of the differences between color correction and color grading, let me help…

Color correction is the process of balancing different cameras color properties, exposure and contrast to create a visibly and technically pleasing image — helped by an external waveform monitor, such as Tektronix products with the Double Diamond display. This can mean hours, days or weeks of work depending on factors such as white balancing or poor lighting.

Color grading, on the other hand, typically happens after the colorist balances the footage. This is where they will add “creative” looks to the content, such as the ubiquitous orange and teal look. While some software packages (Magic Bullet Looks, for example) are great, they are designed to be only color grading packages — for the most part tools such as Blackmagic’ DaVinci Resolve, Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master, FilmLight’s Baselight, Adobe SpeedGrade and others are built to correct as well as grade.

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There are a lot of conversations and arguments to be had about correcting and grading, but there is one thing that all colorists I’ve met agree on: color correcting and grading are more efficient and creative with hardware panels.

If you’ve never seen a colorist work, I highly suggest you find a way. At the beginning of my career, I had the opportunity to tag along with a friend to watch the colorist for a Barry Sonnenfeld show, called Pushing Daisies, at work. I was blown away.

To be honest, I don’t remember what panel or software was used (or even his name), but, like most “creative” people who work in any medium will tell you, it’s not the tool that should define you. In the end, I remember the colorist balancing and grading a day-for-night shot. It was incredible. I had seen what amateur colorists could do, but holy cow! A dedicated colorist really is a pro for a reason. It was magical.

element-tk_lg

Some vendors who produce color software also make color correction and grading panels — for example, the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Control Surface and the Digital Vision Nucoda Precision Panels. These surfaces target dedicated and high-end colorists and are often $20,000 to $30,000. Plus, there is the additional cost of equipment needed to run the software, like an HP z840 or Mac Pro, and a local storage server. It can set you back a lot of cash. This is where Tangent Element panels can help.

Affordable Control
In my opinion, the Tangent Element panels are great for someone who loves to learn everything about post production, including color correcting and grading… so me, for instance, (an editor/VFX artist who wants to color but doesn’t want to commit $30K to purchase a full panel) or a wedding videographer who really wants to dial in their color without that hefty price tag.

Tangent makes different panels and iOS apps that work well with a variety of software apps, including Resolve 12, Digital Vision Nucoda, Baselight and many more. If you’ve ever tried to color correct on your MacBook Pro or HP z800 with your mouse, a tablet, a keyboard, or a combination of all three, you probably understand how constrained your creativity becomes.

A color panel set typically contains different banks of buttons, knobs, scroll wheels, maybe a built-in tablet, roller balls and rings. Tangent sells a set of panels — that can be purchased separately or as a package — for way under the price tag of the Blackmagic control surface, the FilmLight Blackboard 2 or others in that price range.

Element Mf

Element Mf

The Tangent Element package costs in the neighborhood of $3,300, and the pieces are sold individually as well. For example, a place like B&H sells them individually: Element Mf costs $1,040; Element Bt costs $660; Element Kb costs $850; and Element Tk costs $1,135. Add that all up and it’s $3,686, but if you purchase the entire package all at once, you can save over $300. Oh, what do those letters after the panel’s name mean? They stand for each product’s function. Tk = Trackball, Mf = Multifunction, Kb = Knobs and Bt = Buttons. For an in-depth description of each, check out Tangent’s site.

Digging In!
When I opened the Tangent Element boxes and felt their weight for the first time, I was blown away at the build quality. I have been around some high-end color bays over the last few years, as an editor and online editor, and have been lucky enough to spin the track balls a few times. The expensive and luxurious panels are awesome, smooth and easy to navigate, but did I mention they are also expensive? So when I picked up the Tangent Element panels I was expecting plastic, or a lightweight set — like the difference between a Hyundai and a Mercedes. While they both do the same basic function, the feeling and weight are incomparable. This was not the case with the Tangent panels. The knobs were smooth, the rings rotated graciously and the balls rolled like butter. Considering the price, I was shocked at the quality.

What you will notice with a color panel is that every action has a button or a knob. Tangent requires that you download and use its software, Tangent Hub, including Mapper for certain applications. This helps in assigning functions to buttons in different programs. In some programs you are locked to what functions the manufacturer sets for the Tangent Element panels, such as Resolve, SpeedGrade and Baselight. This includes the Avid plug-ins for Baselight as well. Nucoda, however, allows for mapping using Tangent Mapper, which is a pretty big deal for such a powerful color application.

element-bt_lg

Element Bt

I tested the panels using Adobe SpeedGrade. As an editor, even if you just do a color balance pass, just one panel like the Tk can improve your color correcting tremendously. Keep in mind that when buying panels for Resolve, Tangent’s Application Compatibility list states that you must buy the Bt panel if you are buying the Kb panel. While it’s pretty awesome to have the full Elements set, if you wanted to go bare bones, you would likely want the Tk and the Kb panels, so it would kind of stink to have to shell out the extra $660 to get the knobs to work.

While I’m not digging too deep into the particulars of color correcting — and I’m looking at it from an editor’s perspective — the Tangent Element panels are a night and day difference when compared to color correcting with a mouse, tablet and/or keyboard. If you want some down and dirty talk about how Tangent Panels compare to others or whether functions like the soft clip are properly mapped to the panels in Resolve 12, you should sign up for the Lift Gamma Gain forums. They are one of my favorite resources next to Denver Riddle’s, where you can find some great tutorials to get you up to speed. (On a side note, I have Alexis Van Hurkman’s paperback book “Color Correction Handbook,” and it’s a phenomenal resource for color correction rules and techniques.)

For the price, the feel of these panels is great. The trackballs are great, the rings are smooth and even removable. The rings are attached by magnets and can be removed for easy cleaning, although I would leave that to a professional. You definitely don’t want to clean the trackballs on your own if you are unsure. You will most likely damage your panels and trackballs permanently.

Summing Up
I love these panels! The trackballs are at a great height and the button placement is great. I chose not to magnetically connect my panels edge to edge because I like to have them angled a little… just a personal preference. My line-up, from left to right was Mf, Tk, Bt and Kb.

One thing you should keep in mind when blindly purchasing color correction surfaces is button and trackball placement. Will you be comfortable with knobs and buttons above your trackballs? Personally, I find myself touching the trackballs and adjusting grades by accident when using compact color panels with the knobs and buttons placed on top, but the Tangent Elements panels have few buttons above the trackballs exactly for this reason.

The one thing I wish was different? I would love it if each panel had a separate USB plug with no hub to connect them all together (you need to purchase your own hub separately). It might be nice if one of Element panels had a built-in hub to help clean up the cable mess, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

If you are an editor who finds yourself editing, onlining, coloring and mixing your work (which hopefully you can do at least at a basic level), then you want the right tools to do the job. The full Tangent Element panel set is definitely a luxury item for the editor who dabbles in color, but it will increase your efficiency ten fold, if not more. Like any tool with keyboard shortcuts, the more you practice the faster you become. Next to my Wacom Intuos tablet, I really feel that these Tangent Panels are worth every penny. Check them out for yourself; I’m sure you will be impressed.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.