One of the most recent entries to the Lightroom keyboard scene is Motibodo, although Dave & Quin have already been in the keyboard market for some years with their previous DQ Quikeys, and you can see the benefit of their experience coming through in their latest Motibodo line.
I’ve been busy testing the Mac version for the last few weeks, so here are my thoughts…
As long as you have a fairly standard Lightroom installation (I don’t!), the Motibodo setup is quite straightforward. There are a number of steps involved, including setting up the F keys to work as F keys instead of volume and other controls, removing other shortcuts that also use those F keys, and showing and hiding a number of Lightroom’s panels. Those are all one-time setup steps, and the instructions on the website take you through step-by-step, so you don’t need to be a technical genius to get started with Motibodo.
Getting Started with Motibodo
Before you get stuck into trying to use Motibodo, do spend some time watching the training videos on their website – you will save yourself a lot of frustration. When you buy Motibodo, you’re not just buying a keyboard – you’re buying a workflow – and that’s not something that could easily be explained in a written manual. It’s far better to sit and watch over Dave’s shoulder as he guides you through his process.
The Keyboard & Software
The Motibodo software runs in the background, and I have to say, it’s very well thought out. They’ve considered a lot of details, for example, when you switch to another program, it automatically switches the keyboard back to normal QWERTY controls, so you can use Motibodo as a standard keyboard without having more hardware cluttering up your desk. If, for some reason, you need to switch back to using it as a standard keyboard within Lightroom, the Motibodo software can be disabled with a quick key press.
Anyone who has used an Apple keyboard knows that they have a lovely feel, so you can understand why Dave & Quin chose that keyboard for their Motibodo keys. They couldn’t have made a better choice, in my opinion. Key presses are responsive and adjustments are fast, so you don’t have to worry about the lag that came with early attempts at Lightroom keyboards.
The keys have been printed with colorful labels, enabling you to identify the keys at a glance. At first the key labelling looks very busy and confusing, but there’s logic behind this jam packed keyboard. Different colored keys relate to different tools, for example, the main Develop sliders are shown in shades of green whereas presets are blue.
At the top of each key is the Develop module primary function, and a few keys have an extra note of different functionality in the Library module. The label in the bottom right corner shows what happens when you add the Shift key, and in the bottom left of each key is standard QWERTY label for using with other programs.
As Motibodo is replacing your existing keyboard, most of Adobe’s shortcuts go out the window, with some surprising results when you forget yourself. Press C to get to Compare view and you end up decreasing Clarity. Press W to get the White Balance tool and you get the adjustment brush instead. It’s not the end of the world (unless you’re me and need to know Adobe’s own shortcuts…), but be aware that you will need to un-learn a few things along the way.
Although the key positions are not customizable, they do fall very naturally under your fingers. With some practise, I can imagine it becoming second- nature, just like touch-typing on a standard keyboard. All of the controls you’re likely to need in standard processing are catered for, so I’m not sure there’s anything significant that I’d change, even if I could. They’ve obviously taken a long time optimizing the layout. I did miss having the iTunes/volume controls at the top of my keyboard, and I don’t use Lightroom’s presets too often, so I changed the Mac Keyboard Preferences back to use the Fn key for F keys. That meant that I had my special keys back to normal and just add the Fn key to apply a preset, so a good compromise.
Nothing is perfect… so what’s the catch?
Price, for one thing. There’s no trial available, which seems to be a major omission considering everyone has a keyboard, so I hope they’ll find a way to create some kind of trial version in the future. At $500 US for the software/keyboard package or $400 US for the software/silicon skin (to use with your own Apple keyboard), it’s more expensive than Lightroom itself, and then there’s shipping on top, and also customs charges if you’re not in the US. That pricing probably puts it out of the reach of most casual Lightroom users, but if you use Lightroom professionally to process a higher volume of images, it’s still worth considering, after all, how much is your time worth?
Secondly, a lot of the controls are referenced against screen positions. That means that you have to have Lightroom set up in just the right way, with specific panels open and others hidden. On the right hand panel group in Develop, you only have the Basic and Effects panel available. Want to turn on the Lens Corrections? Ooops, you can’t. Increase the noise reduction on this photo? Nope, can’t do that either. You’d have to show the panel, turn on the correction and then hide the panel again, largely negating all of the time saved by using Motibodo. I asked Dave about this issue, and he said that you can have the other panels showing after all, but you’d lose the use of the vignette buttons and you’d have to keep scrolling back to the top of the panel. Solo Mode would another compromise, as long as you opened the Basic panel again after using another panel. Only you can decide whether that would be an issue for you, and that would likely depend on how often you flick around the other panels (and how often you should be flicking around those panels, considering you’re trying to speed up…)
Finally, as with other Lightroom keyboards, there’s no guarantee that Motibodo will work with future Lightroom versions. If Adobe move any of the slider positions, like they did between LR1 and LR2 when they moved the Crop and other tools to below the histogram, your Motibodo probably won’t work in the way you expect. Logically, Motibodo could just issue a software update which would solve that issue, but there’s no definitive answer on whether that would be a free or paid upgrade, and there could be a delay in getting it working with the latest software, depending on how major a rewrite is involved.
The Motibodo system works really well as long as you’re willing to work the Motibodo way. If you’re a newer user, or you don’t already have your own workflow, Motibodo is ideal as it teaches you a fast way of working. If you already have your own way of working, you would have to unlearn your existing Develop workflow and shortcuts and adapt to the Motibodo workflow, rather than Motibodo adapting to you.
So will it be finding a permanent home on my desk? No, but that’s primarily because I’ve spent 5 years designing a workflow that’s perfect for me, and that workflow easily adapts to living on the Lightroom cutting edge. That said, if you don’t want to spend 5 years working it out for yourself, then Dave & Quin at Motibodo have done a great job of designing a clean fast workflow for you. Those who have jumped in feet-first seem to think Motibodo’s the best thing since sliced bread, so who am I to argue!
Want to find out more? Head over to the Motibodo website at http:// www.motibodo.com/motibodo-board-for-lightroom/ where you can see an introductory video of Motibodo in action.
Do you jump in and out of LR to Photoshop?
What did you think of the Motibodo skin doing such?
Poor guy at WPPI. His voice was gone by day three.
[Yes, you can switch to PS, and it recognises that you’re no longer in LR. I haven’t tried the PS Motibodo skin though, so I can’t comment on that. – VB]
Hi! Do you think that this could be used by a disabled person holding a stylus-type solid plain pencil-like tool if they could hold such a thing in their fist? Just, like a stick and hit the keys? Thank you! -Barbara R.
Victoria Bampton says
If they can use a keyboard by doing that, then yes. It’s a plain Apple small keyboard with colored buttons, so they’re easy to press.