How to Decide
As I said in my last post, I highly recommend both panels. And I do mean that.
For some really quick small projects, the Ripple is all I need and is fast to use, and even with the Elements sitting there, I'll just grab the Ripple & work. Also, the Ripple is very portable and easy to use on any system you find yourself sitting at … on the go, at home, wherever. The Elements … fantastic support of Premiere Pro, even into a number of editing features making me hope they include even more "mappable" editing functions in the future. And in SpeedGrade … oh my, that's a sweet panel!
But for now, let's talk the smaller one.
The Ripple, at around USD $350, is a lot easier on the budget, and is quite a capable tool. Left to right, you've got three sets of controls and in between the outer sets and the middle ones, a couple "extra" buttons. You'll want to download the mapping control software from Tangent, and take the few minutes that's required to master modifying this tool to extend your work in Lumetri ... by a long ways. You will want to adjust the "granularity" control as at factory settings it's way too fine, and takes for-EVER to see anything changed. And it's very easy to adjust settings in the Tangent Hub mapping control software, using the sections to set the controls for each control panel tool in each Lumetri tab.
The dials are always the "Z" control, the balls either as a "just a ball", or by using the ability to set left-right (Tracker-ball X axis) and up-down (Tracker-ball Y axis) actions to separate controls, each ball can control two different Lumetri tools. It's very easy and fast to create new mappings, to save named versions, and to switch from one to another.
The three sets of controls ... a dial with two little buttons on either side and a wheel or ball ... can be set for all sorts of things, depending on the Lumetri panel currently active. If you leave it on the 'factory' settings, where it's set to run the Color Wheels section of the Lumetri panel "Edit" mode, it's a fast way to adjust luma/chroma for your clips any time without even being in the Color workspace. Left dial is Shadow Luma (lightness) control, left ball is Shadow Chroma (color) ... and to the right, you go to Mids and then Highlights pairings in the same manner. Ball movement totally matches the movement of the color shown in the Vectorscope making it incredibly intuitive to adjust color. In the Color Wheels tab of the Lumetri panel, you can watch the adjustments make the exact same corrections in the Wheels.
The two little buttons on either side of each dial reset one of that set's controls ... the left button resets all things done by the ball, the right one resets the controls set by the dial.
The button in between the middle and right set of controls cycles you into the next Tab down on the Lumetri panel while activating that panel in the interface on-screen. And you also can easily and quickly use the button between the left and middle control sets (shown as "Select Alternative" in the mapping controller) while held down, as either a jog control (standard mapping) or with a re-mapping, to "bypass" the Lumetri panel to do a quick check comparing the clip at present versus before corrections. The mapping software is fast, easy to learn, and does a good job.
For instance, I've never found the Basic tab worth using while working with a mouse or pen-tablet. But with the Ripple, I've turned that entire tab into a fast and furious (besides intuitive!) place for basic "neutralization" of clips, the first step in grading. Here's an image of the way I've mapped the Ripple controls for the Basic tab ... you see there are three lines of text below each control set.
The top line is what the dial above the red ball is set to control (that Z axis), the middle line is what the horizontal ("X axis") motion of the red ball is set to control, and the bottom line what the vertical ("Y" axis) motion of the red ball will control. This is very easy to set ... just click on a control, and step through the available options.
From left to right in the Ripple settings for the Lumetri Basic tab, I've got left dial set for Blacks, center dial for Exposure (a mush-up of "brightness/gamma" and exposure/contrast), and the right dial for Whites. This allows me to quickly set black point, white point, and basic "brightness" of a clip. I'll be working two or three controls at the same time watching the Lumetri scopes while working.
The left ball is my "Contrast" control tool … mapped so that the Contrast slider is left-right motion, and the Saturation slider is up-down motion. I realize most people don't think of "Saturation" as a contrast control, but it most definitely is! You have two forms of contrast: Luma (brightness) and Chroma. Both are set with one hand … easily, and quickly, intuitively.
The right ball I have set for shadow/highlight control, and it's useful … mostly … though to my taste, the Shadow & Highlight sliders in the Lumetri panel both affect way too much of the image "scale". Moving either affects the other only a little less than the section you expect to be adjusting, so you really do need to use these against each other.
I have the middle ball set so that left-right motion sets color Temperature and up/down motion sets Tint. The motion here isn't quite as "intuitive" as using the controls in "Color Wheel" mode, where movement of the balls precisely matches the direction of color change shown in the Vectorscope. However, I have mastered the use of this as it does become second-nature fairly soon.
With this mapping, I can blast through the first job with any clip ... neutralizing it ... in a very few seconds, often under 20 seconds! With the Wacom pen-tab & mouse, well ... it's a lot longer per clip to do the fine level I want.
One of the other big time-savers? With mouse or pen-tab you need to switch sections within Lumetri by hand, of course. Click after click. With the Ripple, see that button labeled "Next Mode" ? You just push that button and cycle to the next tab down.
As you get used to using it ... you want to use it for everything you can! If you do your own color at all ... it's a total no-brainer to get. It will save you TIME. A lot of time! And give you better end results too.
Among other personalizations I've done ... the standard HSL tab mapping for the Ripple involves only the Color wheel controls of that tab, things you do after you've set the key. But setting the key is the more time-consuming part ... so I re-mapped so that when I tap the button into the HSL tab on the Ripple, each of the three control sets is for a particular section of the KEY! As shown here, left to right, left dial is Hue center, horizontal axis sets the Hue range, the vertical axis sets Hue fall-off. Middle set (dial/wheel) controls the Saturation key, and right set controls the Luminance part of the key.
But I didn't lose the ability to control what happens to the keyed media ... see the button labeled "Select Alternative Function"? Yep, I mapped the Color wheels controls of the HSL tab to be active with the Alternate mapping setting as shown in the image with the little box highlighted, showing those things controlled with the Alternate button. I have most of the controls I routinely use in the HSL tab on the Ripple, so I don't even touch the keyboard or mouse! Slick & fast!
And another thing ... that little black box of text highlighted in the Alternate mapping image? That can be set to pop up any time you use the Ripple, at three different sizes, anywhere on the screen you want to see it ... and it's your "HUD" ... heads-up display. It tells you what each control of the Ripple will do in the tab currently active ... and it only pops up when you touch a control, and goes away within a few seconds ... unless, of course, you wanted it to stay visible ... which you can. Or, when you're really running with it, you can set it not to show.
There's so much you can do with just the Ripple. However ... the Elements panel ... if you're a one-man shop like me ... will encourage you to get faster at editing so you can spend more time grading. Not because it's slow, as it's blindingly fast to use! It's just ... way, way too much pleasure to work with. At around USD $3500, it takes a bit more justification. However ... using it for just a couple weeks, this thing was so fast, so easy to learn, and enables such intuitive work with luma/chroma ... it drastically changed my concept of how valuable this is for me as a budgeted cost item compared to not having one, and spending a lot more time.
And then ... I realized how many editing functions can be mapped to the controls ... and I am having to completely re-think my working process. And loving it!
The left section has buttons for selecting the working space in PrPro, out of the box set for Lumetri: Basic/Creative/Curves/Wheels/HSL/Vignette/Edit/; then Master Clip, and a couple workspaces, the Color and Edit spaces, plus moving the 'highlight' or selection focus within PrPro to the Lumetri and Scopes panels.
All of those can of course be mapped however you want them.
And that's just the "A" settings ... the lower left button of that section is the "A" or standard mapping, the lower right button is the "B" or Alternate mapping ... so you've got double the controls available. So far, I've concentrated on using this for color work, but ... and this is a HUGE "but" ... there are many, many of the functions of standard editing that can be mapped across the controls of this panel.
Anyone taking a few minutes to start working with the editing sections, to set up the mapping for the way they work, will get a massive boost to their editing speed & confidence. But what about having to learn what everything is set for? That's not a problem ... see the little tabs that stick up from each section? Those backlit panels show what every control of that section will do in this mode at this time.
I'm only beginning to explore the potential uses for me within this panel ... and totally boggled at the options. Wowza ... this is an amazing editing tool! Compared to using keyboard shorts, which you have to work to memorize or print yourself a listing, this shows you where all your fav controls are. Learning the muscle memory is fast and better yet ... when you decide to alter things, it's also easy then to re-train your muscle memories.
The track balls and rings are very positive to the touch, and easy to set the speeds at which they react to movement. Currently I've got the right two panels with the spinning knobs on the outside, but as those are the controls I spin for most of the sliders within Lumetri, I'm thinking I'll swap those two panels. Have the tap-buttons to the outside, and the spinning knobs right next to the three wheels. And yes, each of those sections has their own A/B buttons for packing in the control options, and all of those show up on the backlit heads-up tabs.
The Elements panel of course does so much within SpeedGrade if you still ever use that app, besides working very nicely with BlackMagic's Resolve color editing program. So ... besides being an editors playground and speed-tool, it's totally useful across a range of colorist/grading apps.
But without hesitation ... if you do ANY color work in your video post-processing, or have thought of doing some color corrections within Premiere Pro, you should get one of these, or, seriously, both. Once you're used to a surface in Lumetri, being able to travel and keep the Ripple with you is a huge benefit. The changes in Premiere Pro 2015.3 (and carried into CC2017) were that big, in what they allow ... and encourage ... in workflow and in capabilities.
And finding out how much of editing can be mapped to the Elements panel ... and how easy it is to transport the Ripple and say, use it on a laptop ... these are both marvelous production tools.
R. Neil Haugen