cheapskate version of the fcp creative controller

This is a simple idea I have been kicking around for a long time now. When I am reviewing a rough edit with a creative there is inevitably a point where this scene unfolds:

creative: “ok stop it (meaning playback)”
me: “ok”
creative: “now back it up a second”
me: “ok”
creative: “no, past that”
me: “past that as in earlier on the timeline, or later?”
creative: “earlier… I think. Just go back like 10 seconds”
me: “ok”
creative: “no that was too far”
etc…

It is mildly frustrating, and is only exacerbated if they decide to take things into their own hands and grab my mouse to try to find their perfect frame / edit / unicorn / whatever. Even when everyone is well rested and on the same page it can be frustrating to all involved.

That was my motivation for building this.
This is the cheapskate version of this device:
I have a much cooler (can you BELIEVE IT!?!) version of this in the works, but this is the quick and dirty one. If you want to only have stop/start then there is a really simple way to do that: hack up a keyboard! I got a broken one from IT at work. It was probably in the junk pile because it had a few keys that didn’t work very well. I recommend getting a free one, because you are about to destroy it.

Take the keyboard apart and separate the “keyboard” part from the circuit board part. You only want the circuit board part. Plug the keyboard in and open up a new text document. Now find a section of wire and poke around on the board. Don’t worry; the keyboard only has 5v running to it, and there is no way it could hurt you. There are generally one or more rows of solder points that correspond to the place that the keyboard used to connect to the circuit board. Try connecting those and looking at the monitor. Garbage will come out when you connect different points. Keep trying until you find the two solder spots that create a space character when they are connected together. Mark those and move on to the next step.

Adding the switch.
Now you need to pull out your soldering iron, or find someone who can do a tiny bit of light soldering for you. You will need to connect a piece of wire to each of those 2 points you previously found. You are going to solder a pushbutton switch to the free end of each wire. I used one similar to this one from amazon, but style and function should dictate your choice.

You want a switch that connects the two terminals when it is pushed. You can test it by holding the wires to the terminals of the switch, pushing the switch, and seeing if it sends a space to the computer.

To test you can plug the keyboard in, open up a text doc, and push the button. A space should appear in the text document if you have done it correctly. It is up to you how long you make the pushbutton wires, and what type of enclosure you use but the hard part is done!

Here is a pic of my ‘finished’ circuit board.

This method is more restrictive than my super secret next method because it is difficult to set up multiple buttons and almost impossible to send combo key presses but it is cheap!
stop start playback from a distance. Control your creatives!
I built mine hardware-wise, then I needed to go through the last steps of making it pretty. I eventually decided for a simple wooden box. A few hours in the wood shop (sadly that part is true) and I was finished!


If you aren’t good with soldering or don’t have a keyboard to hack you can always buy the griffin powermate and get similar results. You simply have to configure the pref panel to have it do what you like. I have to say there is something about building it yourself that makes me happy though. regardless of which route you pick, it still won’t be as mind-blowingly awesome as my next “creative controller”!

Some alternate uses for this could be to wire up two buttons for the vol up and vol down keys (for a jukebox computer) or to wire a button up to the f11 key (on a mac) to hide all open windows for when your boss comes in! The possibilities are endless, let me know if you think up a good one!

Update: as our german friends said here you could also solve this need fairly nicely with a bluetooth keyboard. That might require a bit more education though, and it would certainly open up pandora’s box a bit more.

~ by ross on March 10, 2010.

7 Responses to “cheapskate version of the fcp creative controller”

  1. Very cool idea! I know too well the “back one…no…forward one frame” dance. Well done!

  2. [...] With this project I was finally able to do so. This project came simultaneously with the cheapskate version of the creative controller. I decided to do both, because they have different results and levels of difficulty. To sum up the [...]

  3. [...] this year you may have seen YDWFCP’s version of a “cheapskate FCP creative controller”.  Well, to take gadget tinkering to the next level he’s got a new Final Cut Pro [...]

  4. [...] project came simultaneously with the cheapskate version of the creative controller. I decided to do both, because they have different results and levels of difficulty. To sum up the [...]

  5. Ouch. I couldnt imagine putting any kind of button control like that into the hands of a client. You must have incredible patience! Lol.

  6. [...] for those who haven’t been following long at home, this is the third creative controller that I have put together. I promise this isn’t going to become a “Combine X with Y and [...]

  7. Wondefful post! We will be linking to this great
    poist on ourr site. Keep up the good writing.

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