It’s tough to invest time and money in a software unless you know exactly what you’ll get at the end. When an application is in its prime, like Adobe Premiere Pro, Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, The Foundry Nuke, etc., you know it will be a wise investment for the long term.
But what about Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve? It’s a well-known and popular world-class color grading application. There are three versions of DaVinci Resolve:
- DaVinci Resolve Lite – limited to 1080p but has most of the important features – Cost – Free
- DaVinci Resolve full version – Cost – $945 on Amazon
- DaVinci Resolve with Control Surface + Decklink HD Extreme – Cost – $28,495 on Amazon
To know the basic differences, click here. Is it worth investing in? Only you can answer that, but this crash course is written for those who want to know quickly (and instinctively) what DaVinci Resolve has to offer, and how it can complement, quicken and possibly improve their workflow.
This part will deal with the basics and will look at how you can set up Resolve. I have used Resolve Lite 9 for this crash course.
Where to find help
This crash course assumes you haven’t seen DaVinci Resolve before. You’ll want answers to the following questions:
- What can it do?
- How can it help improve my current workflow?
- How do I set it up?
- How do I import footage or ‘locked’ edits?
- How do I create dailies or proxies?
- How do I export a master?
Before I begin, let me make something clear. You’ll need to read (and reread) the manual at some point. To access the manual within the application, go to Help > DaVinci Resolve Help. You should also visit the Blackmagic Design Support page for
- Support Notes,
- the Manual,
- Detailed (mandatory reading) DaVinci Resolve Configuration guides for both PCs and Macs.
The DaVinci Resolve Manual is well-written and inspiring (How many manuals start with a chapter on the art of color correction?). It’s 600+ pages long, so I’m not sure whether to call it a manual or a guide. Whatever you want to call it, it is a lesson to other software vendors on how to educate and inspire your customers.
Finally, if and when you hit a roadblock, you can find support at the official Blackmagic Design Forum.
What can DaVinci Resolve do?
DaVinci Resolve is a very powerful and capable application for:
- Color correction
- Creating Dailies, and
With Resolve 10, you also get some editing ability. I see DaVinci Resolve also as a powerful ingest and logging tool, with support for metadata.
All said and done, you can use Resolve both in Production as well as in Post Production. When evaluating your needs, you must look into this multi-faceted aspect of Resolve.
The typical DaVinci Resolve Workflow
There are two ways in which you can go about your workflow:
- Load footage -> Grade it -> Export it
- Load EDL/XML/AAF Projects and Media -> Grade it -> Accept Edit changes -> Export it
If you look closely, the first workflow is perfect for creating dailies and proxies. You dump what you have shot into Resolve, render out dailies, proxies or whatever else you want.
The second workflow is designed to accept EDLs, XML and AAF from ‘in-progress’ and locked edits for grading. It has the ability to handle small changes in editing, a habit you might want to learn well, because changes to a locked edit are as common as changes to an ‘normal’ edit.
Finally, you can create your master from Resolve, unless you want to add titles and other motion graphics. Rendering and Exporting is called ‘Delivering’ in Resolve, and it gives you sufficient tools to ensure your renders are acceptable for broadcast as well as cinema.
The beautiful thing about Resolve is that it does not take sides, and round-tripping is as easy as it is possible to be for a standalone program.
When you fire up DaVinci Resolve, you get an inspiring grey GUI. I can’t explain it. If the Speedgrade GUI seemed bland, the Resolve GUI seems filled with energy. Maybe I’m imagining things.
Before you get into what goes where, you’ll want to know how to set up a project like you do with an NLE. In this respect, Resolve is more like Nuke than an NLE, and is built around a 32-bit float node-based pipeline.
Here are things you’ll want to do before you start playing with Resolve:
Check your system preferences
Go to DaVinci Resolve > Preferences…. You’ll get this:
You can check if any connected hardware is recognized by Resolve. You don’t want to be starting a project without realizing your I/O card or Red Rocket isn’t working! You’ll find all of these under Video I/O Hardware. You’ll find drives and connected storage devices under Media Storage. As you can see above, the GPU(s) is listed under System Overview.
It makes me wonder why they didn’t just put everything into one screen?
Choose your resolution and frame rate
If you’re using Resolve Lite you are limited to:
- A maximum resolution of 1080p. The other options you have are 720p and the SD versions. The full version does not limit your resolution, and you can work in 2K and 4K projects.
- One GPU only.
- No AMD GPU support for Windows machines, only Nvidia. AMD is supported on Macs though.
- No 2K monitoring
- Only one Red Rocket.
- Very limited noise reduction and motion blur effects.
- No stereoscopy work.
It’s tough to call these ‘limitations’, because for broadcast work and codecs, all you probably need is Resolve Lite!
If you click the Settings button (wheel – bottom left corner) you get this:
DaVinci Resolve has one of the most elaborate project settings panels I’ve ever seen. I haven’t tested each and every one of them, so I don’t know if quantity means quality in this case.
Other than the usual suspects (resolution, frame rate, color space, bit depth, etc.) you can look at the following:
- Master Project Settings – set your video monitoring option to 10-bit if you have a 10-bit monitoring pipeline. Otherwise let it be 8-bit.
- Image Scaling – Input Scaling Preset – Select ‘Center Crop with no resizing’. Otherwise Resolve scales your input video to fit and you won’t know immediately if there is a project-media mismatch.
- Audio – Enable Audio (enabled by default) or Disable.
- General Settings – UI Settings – Uncheck ‘Resize image in viewer for correct aspect ratio’.
- General Settings – Working Folders – ‘Cache Files Stored at’ – Change to your cache or temp drive (if you have one) for greater speed.
- Camera RAW – select your RAW setting if you are using RAW media. Resolve supports Arriraw, Sony RAW, Redcode RAW and CinemaDNG. What more do you need?
- Auto-save – By default this is set to off, but I recommend enabling it for starters.
Choose your monitoring and color options
I don’t advise you to use Resolve without a two monitor setup:
- One for your GUI, ideally a 27″ display – it looks gorgeous on it.
- The other, calibrated, for critical color grading.
One of the problems with Resolve is that once you have a popup panel open, you can’t hide or move (on a Mac, I haven’t tested this on a PC yet) it. I wonder why this is so. The Resolve GUI fills the entire screen by default.
The rest of the monitoring options are under Master Project Settings, as shown above.
Regarding color, you have the option of starting with LUTs. The default choices for 1D LUTs are:
- Canon log to Cineon or Rec. 709 or Video
- Sony log to Rec. 709
The default choices for 3D LUTs are:
- Arri Alexa log to Rec. 709
- Blackmagic Cinema Camera to Rec. 709
- DCI P3 to DCI XYZ
- Rec. 709 to DCI XYZ
Of course, you can create, save or export LUTs for future use.
You can also save your entire project settings as a Preset. That’s a relief!
When you start Resolve, you will be presented with a ‘log in’ page. If you are a single user, just start with ‘admin’ and go from there. Otherwise, you have the option of creating user names for each session. Once you’re past that you will get the Projects panel:
You have the option to select the Default Project or create your own. If you have saved projects you can load that, too. You can always access the project panel by hitting the Home button (bottom left corner) at any time.
You can group projects by users, and sort within different databases. Each project gives you a quick overview of the resolution, frame rate and when it was last modified.
If you have taken these steps, you are ‘somewhat’ ready to dig deeper into DaVinci Resolve. For now, you know enough to get started.
In Part Two we’ll look at the DaVinci Resolve workspace, and how workflows are structured.