Tip #9 – Scroll Wheels

Later versions of the Media Composer and Xpress finally make decent use of a mouse with a scroll wheel. Many editors don’t know this because they are using older mice that don’t have them, but the scroll wheel is great for moving quickly through large bins, navigating in the project window, or even scrolling up and down through your tracks in the timeline. Even better, if you have a scroll wheel that functions in two dimensions you can use it to move the timeline left and right. Apple’s standard Mighty Mouse works well for this purpose — the scroll wheel is a little ball that can go up and down or left and right.

Recent Apple laptops have trackpads that allow you to scroll by dragging two fingers on the trackpad surface. If you don’t have that capability you can create scroll areas on the side and bottom of the trackpad with a piece of shareware called SideTrack. I’ve been using it for several months and like it a lot. (Apple distributes something called FFScroll which allows older machines to do a two finger scroll, but I haven’t tried it.)

Scrolling in the timeline is instantly addictive because the scroll wheel produces a result that’s proportional to the amount of turning you do. Clicking and holding on an on-screen button is ‘dimensionless.’ You have to watch the result to see how far to go. But with the scroll wheel, your input (how far you roll the wheel) and the output of your action (the movement of the timeline) are proportional and that means you can do it with less conscious attention. It feels more organic, more like an extension of your body.

However, I still prefer my favorite mouse, the venerable Microsoft Intellimouse Optical (available at Amazon), because I can program the right button to be a double click. That one feature has eliminated a persistent pain I had in my forearm and has probably saved my wrist. But the Intellimouse has an ordinary scroll wheel, and that means I can’t use it to scroll horizontally.

For that and other reasons, I wish Avid would go a step further and add a setting that would allow us to control a scroll wheel. It would be great to be able to use that up and down wheel, in the timeline, to move left and right. And it would also be great if we could adjust the sensitivity of the scroll wheel. I can set the sensitivity in System Preferences, but unlike every other program I’ve got, the Media Composer ignores it. Windows always scroll at the same speed no matter what you do and often that speed is too slow.

And last but not least, it sure would be wonderful if we could scroll the timeline while video continues to play.

Explore posts in the same categories: Avid Technical Tips, Avid vs. Final Cut

5 Comments on “Tip #9 – Scroll Wheels”

  1. travis Says:

    It would be great if you could use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out of the timeline. I guess it would be best if it was configurable to do whatever you want.

  2. Steve Says:

    I haven’t tried it, but I understand that the shareware SteerMouse lets you to program the Mighty Mouse’s buttons to do many things the Apple driver doesn’t allow, including making the right button be a double click.

  3. Martin Baker Says:

    You might want to have a look at ep 2 of our Hot Tips video podcast which has some techniques for mouse scrolling in FCP.


  4. Steve Says:

    Very helpful. Good podcast. Thanks.

    It looks like Final Cut does most of what I’d want from a scroll wheel in the timeline. You can use a standard scroll wheel to move the playhead or the timeline itself, or scroll through your tracks, depending on which option keys you hold down and where the cursor is when you start scrolling. It works even better if you have a two dimensional scroller like a mousepad or Mighty Mouse.

  5. Harry Miller Says:

    I still prefer the Kensington track ball, but am in the minority. I program three of the four buttons, and the ‘click’ on the scroll wheel itself. It has 6 other programmable buttons I’ve yet to figure out how to use. But certainly something could improve the timeline movement. Without a wide screen, I’m constantly adjusting the timeline zoom and position.

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