In Part Three we looked at how DaVinci imports files, footage and timelines from other applications. In this final part we’ll look at how DaVinci Resolve exports data, and the various kinds of workflows it supports.
There are three ways you can use Resolve:
- As the first software in a workflow.
- As the middle software in a workflow.
- As the last software in a workflow.
The first method is used for creating dailies, proxies or intermediaries for further processing or editing. You can use Resolve as an Ingest and Logging tool, or for on-set color correction, preparing LUTs, etc.
The second method is what is meant by round-tripping. We already saw in Part Three how to import timelines into Resolve from other NLEs. To complete the round-tripping, Resolve will also need to export in the same way back to your finishing application.
The last method is used when you’ve completed everything in your project and just need to color correct your work. You import your project, timeline or files into Resolve, grade, and export a final master. Let’s take a look at the last method first.
Rendering from DaVinci Resolve
Resolve calls this process ‘Delivering’. Resolve supports the following formats or wrappers:
You also get more detailed options under each category. The notable omissions are:
- JPEG 2000
In fact, the strong message one gets (or, I get) is that Resolve half expects your renders to go on for further processing. You can export H.264 for Youtube, and you have five levels of compression options for it, but no control over the precise bit rate.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach. Color grading is hardly the last step in any workflow, because usually there’s titles, effects and re-edits that always happens. If you understand this, you will agree that DaVinci Resolve is not a finishing application, in the sense that an NLE is, or After Effects or Smoke is, a finishing application.
On the other hand, DaVinci Resolve is a finishing application, if you define finishing as just dealing with the image and colors to create a master. There’s nothing stopping you from bringing in your titles (there is support for alpha channels) for grading. Simple projects will never feel the need for anything else, but I like to master from an application that has full control of video encoding and if possible, audio as well. In that sense, DaVinci Resolve is not Adobe After Effects or even an FCP-X.
It is up to you to find how useful Resolve is. Nobody else can do that for you.
You can render individual clips or a group of clips or a full timeline. You can choose the resolution (DaVinci Resolve is resolution independent, which means you can choose whatever you like) and frame rate, audio, compression quality, etc. If you’re rendering proxies or intermediaries for an online or offline editing workflow, you can choose to name your renders accordingly (dealt with in the next section).
Once you have selected your export settings, you hit ‘Add Job‘ and it shows up in the Render Queue panel. Once you have all your renders down, you can batch render by clicking ‘Start Render‘. If everything goes according to plan, you’ll get something like this:
Creating Proxies or Intermediaries for Offline or Online Editing
In this scenario you’ll need to export your graded clips, but you don’t have any EDL, XML or AAF to play with. The difference between this step and mastering is the fact that these clips have to be edited by an NLE. The two kinds of workflows are:
- Proxies – low quality clips edited and then relinked to their ‘originals’ for mastering – offline editing.
- Intermediary clips like Prores or DNxHD – high quality clips edited and mastered directly – online editing.
You create intermediaries using the steps mentioned above. To work with proxies, you’ll need some way to ensure the file names and properties are kept intact. Otherwise, relinking them will be hell.
DaVinci Resolve has a default preset to export to Final Cut Pro, which you get under ‘Presets’:
It’s the ‘Export to Final Cut Pro’ preset (ignore the other two for now). You can create your own presets for Adobe Premiere Pro or whatever. To create proxies, the ‘Render Clip with Unique Filename’ is turned off.
By working this way, you can also use Resolve as a grading application once your offline edit is locked, by using XML or AAF or EDL. If you are planning to do this, you’ll need to turn off ‘Automatically import source clips into media pool’.
The general workflow is as follows:
- You grade and render proxies from Resolve, by ensuring the filenames are the exact same.
- You edit in your NLE (offline) and lock your edit. Nested sequences are not supported by Resolve, so you’ll have to ‘collapse’ your timeline.
- You export an XML, EDL or AAF from your NLE.
- Import the XML, EDL or AAF back into Resolve.
- Reconform your footage with the ‘originals’, which should be easy because the file names are the same. Just point to the original directory.
- Carry on grading.
- Export master to NLE or finishing application via XML or AAF (see next section).
Of course, you can stop with step number two if you intend to finish in another application. There’s nothing wrong with using Resolve only as an on-set ingest, logging, dailies creation and color correction tool.
Round-tripping with DaVinci Resolve
Resolve supports all the major methods of import or export:
It supports XML (Premiere Pro, FCP 7), FCPXML (FCP-X), AAF (Avid Media Composer) and EDL (everyone else). Of course, EDLs will be seriously limited in their capabilities, and unless you bake in your work, there’s no point using them.
DaVinci Resolve recommends XML or AAF for round-tripping. As shown in the Presets image, you have two defaults presets for round-tripping:
- Final Cut Pro XML Round-trip
- Avid AAF Round-trip
Why would anyone want to round-trip from Resolve? Here are some scenarios:
- You want to create titles or other motion graphics over your video.
- You have visual effects work left to do.
- You want to use a more versatile encoder to create your deliverables or your master.
- You want to make major changes to your edits.
These scenarios are the norm rather than the exception. It is important to understand which features and effects of Resolve get exported this way. After all, if you lose all your work round-tripping, what’s the point of using Resolve at all?
Round-tripping involves bringing in and taking out effects, cuts and transitions along with your clips. Just because FCP-X or Premiere Pro has a cool effect doesn’t mean Resolve will have the same. Even simple effects, like cross dissolves, can be programmed differently and might not be the same. You can’t blame the software vendors for keeping their secret sauces secret.
When you’re working with XML or AAF, the effects that you applied in the NLE, whether supported or unsupported by Resolve, is saved internally. When you export an XML or AAF to round-trip, all these unsupported effects reappear on your timeline in your NLE – this time applied to your color corrected or rendered output.
The effects that Resolve supports aren’t baked in either – unless you render them as such. In this case, when you export an XML or AAF, the rendered media is stored separately, and you will need to replace your clip with this new footage in your NLE.
Nobody said round-tripping was easy. The bigger and more complex the project, the more careful you’ll need to be, and the slower it gets. A detailed chart on which effects are rendered by DaVinci Resolve, and which effects are returned back as-is, is available on page 566 of the manual.
XML Round-trip workflow
When you select the ‘Final Cut Pro XML Round-Trip’ preset, it also applies to FCP 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro. ‘Render Clips’ must be ‘Source’, and the ‘Render Clip with Unique Filename’ is turned on.
From the Conform page you will need to export the appropriate XML format to go with your rendered clips.
Avid AAF Round-trip workflow
Select the ‘Avid AAF Round-Trip’ preset. ‘Render Clips’ must be ‘Source’, and the ‘Render Clip with Unique Filename’ is turned on.
From the Conform page you will need to export an AAF to go with your rendered clips.
I have barely scratched the surface of the export capabilities of DaVinci Resolve, including its features when exporting to tape (HDCAM SR, for broadcast, etc.), rendering for visual effects, and so on. It is a supremely versatile tool that must not be taken lightly.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this four-part crash course, and I hope I have given you enough information so you can decide if Resolve is the right tool for you or not. Your next stop, if you choose to use DaVinci Resolve, is to read (or at least skim) the manual from end to end. You might have to bookmark the sections you’re interested in, because it really does cover a lot of ground.