Heads Up Displays

Heads Up Displays in iPhotoMany of the new Apple applications employ what the company calls “heads up displays.” These are control panels that are translucent and appear over the image you’re working on, fading in and out as needed. You can see them in iPhoto, Aperture, Motion and Quicktime. They look cool, but more important, they’re functional, because they let you do useful work on a full-sized image. They’re particularly helpful for small (ie. laptop) displays, where screen real estate is at a premium.

As I use my laptop more and more for cutting, I’m starting to see how valuable such displays could be in a mobile editing environment.

Because, in the laptop environment, the Media Composer definitely has some rough edges. When I’m working with the laptop itself, I want one window layout. But when I plug in to a bigger monitor and use the laptop screen as a bin monitor, I want another. The MC can handle this, but it takes a lot of fiddling around. And even when you have your workspaces all set up the way you want them, the system often does the wrong thing.

In general, the MC needs some tweaking around the issue of window activation. For example, when I double-click on a sequence I want the Composer window and the Timeline to activate and move forward. But now, only the Composer window does so. I also want the ability to quickly tab from bin to bin.

And that leads me back to the subject of heads up displays. How about this? Wouldn’t it be nice to work in full screen mode (video playing full screen) — but with a translucent timeline supered over it? The timeline (and maybe the editing controls from the bottom of the composer window — what Avid calls the ‘mini–composer’) would appear when you move the mouse, and they’d disappear when video plays for a moment. That sure would make for a slick, small-screen editing environment.

Heads up displays would also be great in a redesigned full screen title tool, much as they now allow for full screen editing in iPhoto.

What else could you do with this kind of interface?

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2 Comments on “Heads Up Displays”

  1. Mark Burton Says:

    Agreed. HUD windows are a joy to work with and this type of UI thinking could be applied to many areas of an NLE, I’m sure FCP will have some form of semi transparent overlay features one day.

    One small 3rd party tool I’ve used on my MacBook Pro is ‘Witch’ (http://www.manytricks.com/witch/). Once setup to only bring up Avid bins, you can use it just like the Command>Tab feature in OS X, but it will list all the open bins. Especially on a small laptop screen, bins get buried very quickly, with this tool you can quickly (and stylishly :-) find the bin you need.

    One user I spoke with on the Avid forums said it caused performance issues for them on their G5, so you may want to keep an eye on this if you try it, but I’ve had no issues with it at all. Oh, and its free too!

  2. Liam Says:

    Couldnt agree with u more! I think ot would have to be super intuitive though, nothing annoys me more than the hot spots that activate the widget things in OSx!


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