Expanded for Editing: Big Developments in Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 11

Blackmagic Design adds “nonlinear editor” to its list of product offerings with the release of DaVinci Resolve 11, which sports more editorial tools than ever before.
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Blackmagic Design adds “nonlinear editor” to its list of product offerings with the release of DaVinci Resolve 11, which sports more editorial tools than ever before. It comes in three versions, including the free Resolve 11 Lite and $995 Resolve Software. Both free and paid versions support a variety of third-party control surfaces, including the Avid Artist Color and Tangent Devices Element panels. Although you can operate Resolve without third-party I/O hardware, if you want external monitoring or output to tape, you’ll need to purchase one of Blackmagic Design’s PCIe capture cards or Thunderbolt I/O devices.

Color Match

The interface is divided into four modules: media, edit, color and deliver. All color correction occurs in the color module. Here you’ll find a wealth of grading tools, including camera raw settings, color wheels and primary sliders. Color Match is a new correction tool. If you included a color chart when you shot your footage, Resolve can use the image of that chart to set an automatic correction for the color balance of the scene.

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Resolve 11 features extensive node-based grading tools and supports dual- and single-monitor configurations.

The Color Match palette lets you sample one of three types of standardized color charts: X-Rite ColorChecker, Datacolor SpyderCheckr and DSC Labs OneShot. If you used one of these charts and it’s in your footage, then select the appropriate set of color swatches in the Color Match menu. Next, select the Color Chart grid from the viewer tools, which opens an overlay for that chart. Corner-pin the overlay so that the grid lines up over the color swatches in the image and hit the Match button. Resolve will adjust its curves to correct the color balance of the shot so that the chart in the image matches the template for that chart in Resolve. Now you can copy this grade and apply it to the rest of the shots within that same setup.

Editing

As an NLE, Resolve 11 is a mash-up between Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X. It copies a lot of X’s design aesthetic and even some features, including clip skimming in the media bins. For editors who like much of FCP X but are put off by Apple’s trackless magnetic timeline, Resolve 11 becomes a very tantalizing cross-platform alternative. The edit module most closely aligns with Final Cut Pro 7, although there is no multicam feature yet. One big improvement is a very advanced trim mode, which offers good asymmetrical trimming. If you start a project from the beginning in Resolve 11, you can easily import media, organize clips into bins/folders, add logging information and, in general, do all of the nuts-and-bolts things you do in every editing application.

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The new Color Match feature enables you to use automatic correction based on color charts shot under location lighting conditions.

The interface uses a modal design and supports both dual- and single-monitor configurations. Although there are numerous panels and windows that can be opened as needed, the general layout is fixed. Certain functions are restricted to the edit module and others to the color module. For example, transition effects, titles and generators would be added and adjusted in the edit module, which uses a standard timeline. Color correction and other image effects are reserved for the color module, which uses a node-based hierarchy. Resizing and repositioning can be done in either module.

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Extensive editing features turn Resolve 11’s edit module into a blend of FCP 7 and FCP X.

Resolve 11 is optimized to pass the highest quality images through its pipeline, which seems to impede real-time playback, even with ungraded footage. In other NLEs, hitting play or the space bar brings you to full-speed, real-time playback in a fraction of a second. In Resolve, it takes a few seconds, which is clearly evident in its dropped-frame indicator. Even with proper real-time playback, video motion does not look as smooth and fluid in the viewer as I would expect.

Color grades will affect performance. What if you start grading in the color mode and bounce back into the edit mode? This has the same impact on the computer as applying several filters in a traditional NLE. Add a stack of effects on most NLEs and playback performance through those clips is often terrible until you render. To mitigate this issue, Resolve includes “smart caching,” which is a similar sort of background render as that of FCP X. The software renders clips with a grade or an effect applied whenever the machine is idle.

Collaboration

Resolve 11 enables collaboration among multiple users on the same project. This functionality requires a paid version of Resolve 11 for each collaborator, a network and a shared DaVinci Resolve database.

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Resolve 11 supports the OpenFX video plug-in architecture. Compatible filters and transitions include FilmConvert from Rubber Monkey Software, Boris Continuum Complete from Boris FX and NewBlueFX. FilmConvert 2.0 is shown here.

To test this feature, I enlisted the help of colorist and trainer Patrick Inhofer (Tao of Color, Mixing Light). Patrick set up a simple Ethernet network between a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro, each running a paid version of Resolve 11. You have to set up a shared project and open both Resolve seats in collaboration mode. Once both systems are open with the same project, then it is possible to work interactively.

This is not like two or more Avid Media Composers running in a Unity-style sharing configuration; rather, this approach is intended to enable an editor and a colorist to work on the same timeline simultaneously. One person is the “owner” of the project, while anyone else is a “collaborator.” In this model, the “owner” has control of the editing timeline and the “collaborator” is the colorist working in the color module. You could also have a third collaborator logging metadata for clips.

In the collaboration mode, a bell-shaped alert icon is added to the lower left corner of the interface. Whenever the colorist adds or changes a correction on one or more clips and publishes his changes, the editor receives an alert to update the clips. When the update is made, the colorist’s changes become visible on the clips in the editor’s timeline. If the editor makes editorial changes to the timeline, such as trimming, adding or deleting clips, then he or she must save the project. Once the project is saved, the colorist can reload the project to see these updates.

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Resolve’s deliver page.

As long as you follow these procedures, things work well; however, when we went the other direction in our tests, updates didn’t happen correctly. For example, color changes made by the editor or timeline edits made by the colorist did not show up as expected on the other person’s system.

Collaboration worked well once we both got the hang of it, but the feature does feel like a 1.0 version. The process of updating changes worked, but we experienced problems with the “revert” command, which is supposed to allow a user to reject a particular change and take the clip back to the previous grade. Instead, it dropped the grade entirely and went back to an uncorrected version of the clip with all nodes removed.

You might not edit a project from start to finish in Resolve, but you certainly could. For now, Blackmagic Design is positioning Resolve as an NLE designed for finishing. Edit your creative cut in Media Composer, Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro—mix in Logic Pro X, Pro Tools or Audition—and then bring them all together in Resolve 11. 

Product:Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 11
Score:
Pros: New color correction and editing tools plus collaboration mode. Editing module is a solid blend of the best of FCP 7 and FCP X.
Cons: Real-time playback performance is not as good as most NLEs. Audio capabilities are limited.
Bottom Line: Blackmagic Design has expanded DaVinci Resolve 11 into a credible nonlinear editor that is targeted at the finishing market.
MSRP: Software versions include Resolve Lite (free) and Resolve Software ($995).

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