I say, read the manual. You’ll be so glad you did.

I revisit this subject quite regularly – about every 9 months or so – as I feel it is an important reminder, especially in the current climate.

No, I am not talking about the briny full of Coles Little Shoppers or even the apparent attitude of some politicians to their own also being members of some overseas secret society. Nor even of the torrent of twaddle-y tweets coming from the Oval Office dunny. These are political and environmental climates.

No, this climate revolves around the supply of instructions for the gadgets, gizmos and software we buy. That is, there is none. Vendors these days deem it not necessary to supply any sort of useful paperwork in their product packaging. Unless you count those dozens of pages in teeny-tiny print no-one can read in 17 different languages covering terms, conditions and legal stuff.

No, just about everything these days requires an online web page or a downloadable PDF to make it work. Sure, most things you can turn on (or install), but to actually make them do something worthwhile and, you know, achieve what you paid for, is nigh impossible unless you have the all important destructions, hopefully in English or a semblance thereof.

“Pshaw!” I hear you say. “I don’t need no stinking manual. Not last time, the time before or this time. Or the next.”

Oddly then, when I do write this story on that regular basis, I get a gratifying number or emails from folk thanking me, usually saying that their latest purchase of the rotating flim-flam or the nurb-burbler mark 2 can actually do a few more things than they thought, and many of those are far more useful than the initial function they bought it for.

Think about it.

Your latest camera, camcorder, gimbal, drone, editing console, plug-in, editing application, motion graphics package or even the humble mouse – do you know, or are even aware of all the clever things it can do beyond what you bought it for? Do you even know 50% of its cleverness? 20%? 10%?

I am betting not.

I’ll give an example; I have been using Vegas as my primary NLE for nearly 20 years. I reckon I know it pretty well for the tasks I assign to it, which admittedly are not Lord of the Rings productions. Hell, they are not even in the most cases more than 15 minute productions involving more than one camera and a car and / or a dog in a nice location I have been lucky enough to visit.

But the other day, by accident, I discovered a function I did not know existed and will speed certain parts of my editing up quite dramatically. And this function has been there since version 2. (We are now on version 17).

Similarly, when I get an odd 15 minutes, I might fire up the PDF manual for a camera and have a brief read through, and I usually glean something new.

Tip: I keep all my PFDFs for manuals, cheat sheets, quick starts etc all nicely filed in OneDrive so I can access them from any device at any time. Google Drive or similar will allow the same net effect. It is incredibly handy to be able to refer to a manual at the drop of, as sometimes we just get a mental blank right?

If I do happen to have the luxury of a proper printed manual (Kudos to Panasonic for this one) I keep these inside the lid of my main camera case which is one of those stainless steel / aluminium jobbies from JayCar that cost about $60.

So, go ahead; grab a cuppa, glass of Pinot, pint of James Squire or whatever takes your fancy, and sit down for 15 with a manual for one of your devices or software applications / plugins. Skim through and I’ll bet you find something useful you did not know!



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