The Contour Design ShuttleXpress is a USB hardware interface that takes some of the hassle out of editing video and audio whilst on the move. Already being at a disadvantage without multiple displays, and then further without dedicated buttons, sliders and important looking things, editing on the road can be tricky.
The Hardware of the Contour Design ShuttleXpress
The ShuttleXpress is available in two colours – black and silver – the ShuttleXpress will probably fit into the colour scheme that you may have going on with your workspace involving Apple products, that is of course unless you travel with Alienware products, in that case it has a severe lack of blue and orange lights.
The box itself is of a similar high quality and styling to that of Avid/M-Audio; black with a minimalist approach. It’s good for a retail environment and first impressions, but you’ll probably get rid later on. Inside the carton is a sturdier box that is useful for putting it in before throwing it into a backpack, and is also where the ShuttleXpress comes packed. It is a well-made product – minimalist with just the right number of buttons for most uses. It is a travel product for video editors on the move, so if you’re familiar with more high-end hardware interfaces then you may come away a little disappointed from the initial hands-on experience.
My silver ShuttleXpress has a satin finish to it, making it look like brushed aluminium. ‘Look like’ are the key two words, as it is in fact mainly constructed from a reasonably solid-feeling plastic – more like a netbook than a MacBook Air. The exceptions to this are the ultra-grippy feet and spring loaded rubberised rotary encoder. The five feet that cover the bottom of the ShuttleXpress in a pentagon shape hold it in place so well that it almost seems as if it is screwed down or attached with an adhesive.
All five programmable buttons have a nice amount of tactile feedback to them, enough to make it clear that you have clicked it but not enough to be annoying and loud. The center-most three have contours (No prizes for guessing that Contour pride themselves on their ergonomic designs!) in them for your fingers to rest into. Perhaps this isn’t something that is too important for a product intended for the travel or light user, but it doesn’t hurt being there. The bi-directional infinitely turning jogwheel and spring-loaded wheel are also programmable, adding even more possibilities to your workflow.
Moving to the middle, the centre wheels have a similar level of quality to them. It features both an infinitely scrolling wheel that is best used for scrubbing through your projects with precision. This wheel is encased by the black-covered wheel – this is limited and spring-loaded, meaning that it returns to its central position upon releasing pressure.
The ShuttleXpress fits the hand of more or less any adult; The buttons themselves are large and contoured meaning that any button on the controller is always within reaching distance of your fingers as it measures a mere 4.25″ in diameter. It is light enough to not care about the weight – and the feet are grippy enough to keep it firmly grounded. When you add in the weight from your hand, it’s not going anywhere fast.
The USB cord is nothing remarkable. Sitting at about 1.5m, it can and does get in the way – plus it is fixed so can’t be removed. A pity as it is something that would be made all the more portable if the cable could be removed, which means if it breaks then you can’t replace it without soldering it.
The Contour Design ShuttleXpress Software
The drivers for the ShuttleXpress are on an optical disk, which I just couldn’t get to fit into my MacBook Air running Mountain Lion 10.8.4 but is available to download here. In terms of compatibility, the ShuttleXpress is compatible with recent versions of OSX and Windows – and although it is a USB 2.0 product, is compatible with USB 3.0 ports.
The software that the ShuttleXpress utilises is where it really shows off. Most jogwheel/transport controllers only allow you to configure the controller for one application at a time, but the ShuttleXpress allows the functionality of the controls to change as you go from application to application without any extra clicking. Not only is the ShuttleXpress delightfully compatible with all of your relatively large-name applications, it also comes with a ton of configuration profiles straight out of the box working with everything Adobe Illustrator to Pro Tools HD to Apple iTunes.
One of the best features about the ShuttleXpress is that I can jump from a Final Cut Pro editing window to working in Photoshop and it will have remapped itself automatically for the task at hand in the active window, that’s a huge timesaver and something terribly overlooked by other manufacturers.
The Verdict on the Contour Design ShuttleXpress
Considering that the ShuttleXpress is mainly aimed at creative types who travel a lot, it definitely ticks all the boxes on what users expect from a portable device with it being lightweight, affordable and bus powered. The ShuttleXpress is simple and understated, it does what it does and it does it remarkably well, but the drivers are where the product really shines with them being actively maintained by Contour Design to ensure it works on the latest OS, something that unfortunately cannot be said of companies like Apogee.
As hardware controllers of this nature go, £39.95 is very reasonable, and there’s pretty much nothing else on the market in this price range to touch it, although it is by no means perfect, the ShuttleXpress isn’t far off being the ideal movie-making travel companion. Of course if you’re looking for something to compliment your Cinema Display or even Displays, the ShuttleXpress has a big brother for power users who want something a little more advanced with more programmable feature buttons called the ShuttlePRO v2, that’s well worth a look at and can be had for £84.99 via Amazon. The Contour Design ShuttleXpress itself is available to purchase from Amazon.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Craig for all his hard work over the last two years at Previous Magazine.
We’re parting ways as I’ve encouraged Craig to pursue his own goals, interests and what he is talented at writing about; we both agreed that it’s best to write about what we’re passionate about, for myself and everyone else at Previous Magazine it’s technology within our lives and the creative space as a whole, for him it is cycling and health. Craig is going on to write about cycling in a big way on his cycling blog, In Salita, definitely worth checking out if that’s your scene, we wish him all the best in his future endeavours and we’re looking forward to seeing where his journey takes him. Good luck, Craig!
Hammy Havoc, CEO