DaVinci Resolve Crash Course for Beginners (Part Two): The Workspace

In Part One we looked at how to set up and get started with Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve.

In this part we’ll look at the DaVinci Resolve user interface (GUI), and how to understand and organize the workspace.

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The DaVinci Resolve workflow

Unlike Speedgrade, DaVinci Resolve prefers you follow a set workflow pattern, and the GUI reflects that quite clearly:

DR Workflow

The five stages (called ‘pages’ by Resolve) of the DaVinci workflow are:

  • Media – this is where you import, ingest and log media.
  • Conform – this is where you import EDLs, XMLs or AAFs of projects/timelines from other software.
  • Color – Guess what this does.
  • Gallery – this is where you organize and work with still images.
  • Deliver – this is used for exporting and rendering.

Let’s look at each stage one by one.

The Media page

The Media page is what you see first on default. This is what it looks like (click to enlarge):

Resolve Media GUI

Here are the main sections or panels of the Media page:

  • A – Library
  • B – Playback and Capture
  • C – Media Pool
  • D – Metadata
  • E – Audio

The Library works like the Finder or Windows Explorer, and is fairly simple to use. Unsupported files do not show.

The Playback and Capture panel shows the selected clip for immediate review. You can also log clips here before you import them. One odd thing I noticed was that the logging icons (In and Out point icons) are the same as the step forward and step backward icons. Thankfully they are to the far right so you won’t be clicking the wrong button often.

The Media Pool displays all footage that is imported. You can add bins into which you can organize your clips, and sort them. You have the following quick tools in the Media Pool:

DR Media Pool Options

Some of these options are shared with the Library panel as well. You can access them by right clicking a clip. Without going into details, here’s what you can do:

  • Log and tag footage.
  • Change presets or how footage is interpreted.
  • Transcode footage to create intermediaries or proxies.
  • Apply a LUT.
  • Edit RAW codec settings from various cameras.

What seems like a simple import pane has now become a powerful ingest and logging tool. It is laudable how Resolve hides its complexities and power until you are ready to use them. We’ll go into more detail on the import and conform workflow in Part Three.

The Metadata panel displays the metadata in each clip. You can select which type of metadata to view from the top corner of this panel.

The Audio panel shows how many channels each clip has, and the levels while you play back the clip. You can mute and un-mute audio with a simple click at the bottom left of the panel.

The Conform page

Click the ‘Conform‘ tab and you’ll come to the Conform page (click to enlarge):

Resolve Conform page

The Conform page is kept separate because it deals with two scenarios:

  • Direct import of EDL/XML/AAF timelines from other software.
  • The above, plus the import of media unrelated to the above.

To make use of the second scenario, you’d first have to use the Media page to ingest media unrelated to your external timeline or project. Either way, the buck stops here. The parts of the Conform page are:

  • F – List of timelines imported
  • B – Clip playback
  • G – Timeline playback
  • C – Media pool
  • H – Effects and filters
  • I – Timeline

The basic idea is: You import your timelines from other software like NLEs, etc., and then arrange them in the order you want to work. You can correct problems with clips upon import, or make modifications to suit your current project requirements. This entire process is generally called conforming, and now you know where the name for this page came from.

The Color page

Once you hit the ‘Color‘ tab, you’ll get this (click to enlarge):

Resolve Color Page

This where all the color correction happens, and is the bread and butter of DaVinci Resolve. It has the following parts:

  • G – Timeline playback
  • J – Stills Gallery – you can use this space to ‘dock’ your waveform, vectorscopes, etc.
  • K – Node view
  • L – ‘Compressed’ Timeline
  • M – Color tools
  • N – Keyframe animation panel

You work with each section on your timeline one by one – color correcting, matching, etc. You can use the gallery view for reference, etc.

The Node view gives you a top-level overview of how the effects are stacked or layered, and you can turn them on or off individually.

When you add masks (Power Windows in Resolve) and animate them, you’ll be using the Keyframe panel. The DaVinci Resolve manual is an excellent place to start reading and learning about its color capabilities.

The Gallery page

The Gallery page looks like this (click to enlarge):

Resolve Gallery Page

It is used exclusively for still images. The parts are:

  • O – View Stills and Looks from other projects or databases available on your system.
  • P – Displays the contents of what you’ve selected in the Stills panel.
  • Q – Project Memories – presets applied to stills that you can use later.
  • R – Project stills – Organization of stills into Albums – these are stills used in the current project.

The Project Memories and Stills panels are available in the Color page under the title ‘J’. These offer a more expanded view, though, and are not exactly the same thing. You can use reference stills and memories to help you grade your projects. After all, Resolve is a tool for video, and still images take a back seat.

The Delivery page

The Delivery page looks like this (click to enlarge):

Resolve Delivery Page

This is used for exporting your project, or sections of your work. It has the following parts:

  • S – Render Settings
  • T – Render Queue
  • G – Timeline playback
  • L – Compressed Timeline

You can queue renders, like any other professional application. You can also quickly study the timeline that you’re rendering out via the Compressed timeline and playback panels.

Go through sections A to T again. You’ll see that the basic workflow pattern is simple and linear. There are very few GUI design elements that interfere with this workflow. The only thing you need to do is ‘get a hang of it’. To be honest I can’t see how Blackmagic Design can make the interface any more simpler or intuitive.

In Part Three we’ll look closely at how DaVinci Resolve imports and conforms footage and timelines.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.