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Monogram Studio Console Review

Monogram Studio Console review
Review

Price when reviewed

£499

$499

Our Verdict

It’s hard to describe just how different editing video with the Monogram Studio Console is compared with a keyboard and mouse.

I’m not saying a keyboard and mouse is bad; in-fact, after years of using them, you do get pretty quick at knowing all the shortcuts, but even so, a keyboard cannot compete on any level with a dedicated editing device.

The Monogram Studio Console’s modular design enables you to quickly set-up the dials, buttons and the Orbiter in a way that suits your editing style. Dip into Monogram Creator, and you can then configure the control board to meet your needs; it’s a fully customisable experience.

The instance you make the switch to Monogram, you can feel the potential, and after an hour, you get to grips with just how natural the Orbitor, joypad, dials and buttons are in helping you streamline your workflow.

If you’re deep into editing images or video, then the Monogram Studio Console is a major time saver and ultimately flexible.

For

  • Modular, buy what you need.
  • Incredible Orbiter functionality
  • Dramatically increases productivity

Against

  • Monogram Creator can be complex

What is the Monogram Studio Console?

Monogram Studio Console is a modular user interface that enables you to interact with an application similar to a keyboard and mouse but with buttons, dials and an orbiter rather than keys. Monogram is designed to work with creative applications such as Premiere Pro and Photoshop rather than Word.

The Studio Console kit that I’m looking at consists of 1 core module, 2 Dial modules, 1 Orbiter module and 1 Essential Keys module. Each module clips directly to, or daisy chains to, the main core module; this, in turn, is connected to your computer using a USB Type-C Cable.

Monogram Studio Console review

The Core module forms the basis for the Studio and other Monogram consoles kits pre-packaged by the company. Alternatively, you can construct your own set of modules to suit your needs, again all based around the essential Core Module.

The Monogram modules all fit together with a simple magnet connection; touch two modules together, and they clip. All data is passed between modules by contacts and pins on the side, so you do have to make sure that these interface. Once you have one of the modules in your hands, it’s easy enough to see how it all fits together.

Once all modules are connected, you can then connect it to the computer, Mac or PC, install the Monogram Creator Software and select one of the Profiles in the applications menu. After an application restart, you’re ready to go.

Specification

  • Modules: 1 Core module, 2 Dial modules, 1 Orbiter module, 1 Essential Keys module
  • Software: Monogram Creator app
  • Connection: 1 USB Type-C to A braided cable (1m)
  • Direct integration: Most Adobe Apps, Capture One 11+ and many more

Build and Handling

Monogram is the evolution of Palette Gear, and while Palette Gear was incredible, Monogram is a level up.

Monogram, like Palette Gear, is a modular control board that gives you a more intuitive and reactive way of controlling your apps than a keyboard.

If you think you get on fine with a keyboard and mouse, then I would highly recommend trying out a dedicated control board for any video or image editor; once you’ve tried it, there’s no going back.

Monogram Studio Console review

Look at the market at the moment, and there’s quite a selection; Monogram, Blackmagic Design Speed Editor, Loupedeck Creative Tool and Tour Box.

These devices are good in their way, but only the Monogram offers such a high level of flexibility and depth of integration for so many applications.

While the other control boards are fixed in design, Monogram can be adapted to suit your editing style. For video, you may place the Orbiter in the middle and separate the dials. Whereas with Photoshop, you may want the dials closely packed together without any need for the Orbiter at all.

Essentially the way you assemble and use the Monogram is up to you.

Set up to suit your style of editing

Removing the modules from the box and the first thing that strikes you is the build quality. The modules have a reassuringly solid build and weight. This feeling of quality is reinforced by the metal module tops, high-quality dials, and the large Orbiter design.

Unusually magnets are used to connect each module, and once connected, these form a strong bond. This bond is strong and holds everything together when on the desktop but can easily be broken apart when needed.

Monogram Studio Console review

Assembling the modules on the desk is much like building a jigsaw, and I’m afraid to say that I spent far longer than I should have doing this. Adjusting and repositioning each module to get the perfect layout.

Once done and everything is installed and connected, you’re ready to go. Before you start, however, there are a few more steps to the process.

Using an application such as Premiere Pro, you need to dip into the Preferences > Control Surfaces and then add the Monogram from the drop-down of devices.

The extensions and other clever software bits are all installed when you add the Monogram Creator software to your computer.

Starting is easy enough with the Monogram Creator software enabling you to select from a series of built-in integrations. Cleverly, Creator will only show you the applications on your system with the integration, select one such as Premiere Pro and click OK.

A screen will then appear with the available preprogrammed integrations; click any of these to install. The NOTES section at the base says which module kit the profile is compatible with. There’s a good selection for the Studio Console, which is the kit that I’m looking at, and there are a few more options for the larger Master Console.

To get started, I selected Editing (For Studio Console) and Lumetri Basics (Again for Studio Console).

On entering Premiere Pro, I was instantly impressed with the direct level of control, but while this off the shelf profile was good, it didn’t quite suit my editing style.

One of the great things about the Monogram modular system is that it gives you full flexibility to update the console in any way you like. This is exactly what I did within the first hour, creating a new profile and then assigning the Orbiter, dials, and buttons to each module.

The process is extremely satisfying, and by the end of it, I was left with three Premiere Pro, two Photoshop and a profile for the Mac Finder to increase and decrease the system volume. I also attempted to set-up Grammarly before realising I had to get on with the review.

That ability to customise the use and interaction of Monogram Studio Console is both a blessing and a curse. Allocating buttons, dials and commands do make your workflow faster, but if you’re like me, you can’t stop fiddling and trying to improve the options.

After countless iterations of key configuration, I’m now back to almost my original configuration.

While the Monogram Creator software enables you incredible choice over the set-up, it can also be quite complicated to understand fully. This isn’t any fault of the Creator; it’s more that there are so many options, and it’s sometimes difficult to determine which setting it is that you want.

Not only that, but there are options within the host application, such as ‘Selection follows playhead’ in Premiere Pro, which is worth switching on to ensure a console only editing approach.

Performance

Using the standard Premiere Pro set-up, the in / insert / out options for the three buttons and options for the Oribitor all made sense. But, I soon altered the Orbiter to Shuttle, then set options for the additional three dials to enable faster timeline navigation.

In Premiere Pro itself, I switched on ‘Selection follows Playhead’ and then got stuck into some editing.

Monogram Studio Console review

As ever, when you get started with any new system, it takes a while for muscle memory to kick in. I found that it was better to break myself in slowly to the new way of working using a combination of the Monogram, keyboard and mouse.

Initially, I used Shuttle, In, Out and Inserted to quickly assemble the project in the timeline, scrubbing through clips and dropping in the sections I wanted. On the second run of the timeline, I found myself reverting to the keyboard and mouse to make some of the finer adjustments.

Getting to grips with all the functions and features takes time, and as you go, you find that it’s worth expanding your profiles to include more than a single option for each application.

Monogram Studio Console review

In Premiere Pro, I ended up with four profiles, one for assembly, one for fine-tuning and one for colour. The fourth was for testing as each module has its own set of options.

Using the Monogram for a couple of weeks, and it’s all making sense, but my muscle memory isn’t quite there and there are still some profile adjustments I need to make, but ultimately its a massive change to my workflow.

I’ve already longing after an additional two Oritors to control the colour, another set of buttons and at least three sliders.

A feature that I found useful is that the buttons on the Monogram can be assigned to a change of mouse use, from simple pointer to ripple editor.
After using these for a while, this was one feature that I could see had potential, but for me, I have so far failed to grasp.

As I started this test, my main thought was, will the Monogram improve my workflow? I already had an inkling that it would as I’ve been using Pallet Gear for a few years.

I’m pleased to confirm that Monogram Studio Console has already made a dramatic improvement on workflow speeds, and while I’ve focused on its use with Premiere Pro in this review it’s equally adapt for use with Photoshop.

After a couple of weeks of editing, I have to say it will be hard to go back to using a straight keyboard and mouse. I’ve found that I’m using the mouse and Monogram Console as a fast editing solution that far exceeds my previous use of keyboard and mouse.

Editing feels more intuitive and fun, and I love using the external ring around the Orbiter.

The joystick-style plate in the middle also works well, especially for colour, exposure and tone correction. Although with options for only complete steps, the adjustments are very sensitive.

I’d also like to have seen an orbiter with a sprung outer ring for controlled shuttling and a simple rotate and push the inner dial to move through frames one-by-one and make cuts at the playhead.

Still, this is by far the best control console out there, and with all the configuration options both in the software and physically, this offers an incredible way to increase your workflow rapidly.

Final thoughts

Mind-blowing, distracting and sometimes confusing, the Monogram Studio Console is a product that can save you hours. However, it’s so intriguing that at the same time, you can go down a configuration rabbit hole, lost for hours finding the perfect set-up.

Monogram Studio Console review

The design and build are beyond any other console, and the modular style means that you can expand or retract your set-up as you like. It also means that it packs easily into a bag and can be taken with you.

Once you have adapted the hardware and software to your will, the Monogram stands out as one of the easiest ways to improve your workflow that I have come across.

Once you get your head around Monogram Creator, you can go straight in with the edits; the whole process feels refined and accurate. It’s far more comfortable for extended use than a keyboard and mouse.

I loved Pallet Gear for its intuitive feel and use, but, Monogram is a leap forward. For video editing in Premiere Pro, it’s easy to use, and with the downloadable profiles, it’s almost ready to use out of the box. Likewise, in Photoshop, it makes a major difference in use, especially coupled with a Wacom.

I’ll admit it, I’m now a fan of the Monogram, but like any piece of kit that is this good and so fully featured, I feel that I’m only just scratching the surface of it’s potential.

I’d highly recommend the Monogram; start with the Studio and add as you need, build upon it – for video and stills editing you won’t be disappointed.

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