SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Before the industry gets stuck in with v15, here’s what we’ve learnt about v14.
Over the last few years, DaVinci Resolve has steadily evolved from a “colour grading only” tool into a sophisticated editing and finishing suite. DaVinci Resolve 14 continues down that path to incorporate Fairlight – a complete DAW.
Blackmagic Design claims that the move from Resolve 12.5 to Resolve 14 (they must be superstitious) represents their biggest upgrade yet, and they’re not wrong. As a professional colourist here in South Africa I use Resolve daily, and v14 has been jam-packed with new and extremely useful features. There are almost too many to mention in this review, so I’ll stick to what I feel were the most important impressions from using v14 throughout my professional work so far.
For me, the most significant improvement to Resolve with version 14 are the updates to its performance. BMD has overhauled the playback engine, making performance up to 10 times faster than before, and it’s very noticeable when put to the test. As soon as you upgrade, you can tell that the JKL keys are much more responsive, and playback on h.264 files is much smoother, making it a lot more user friendly as an offline editing tool. Resolve 14 Studio also supports frame rates of up to 120 fps, and resolutions up to 16000×16000.
Another new feature that impressed me was Resolve’s collaborative workflow for multiple users. This allows editors, colourists and audio mixers within the same post-production facility to work on the same project at the same time. Apart from dramatically streamlining the post-production process, working on one project on one common application eliminates any conforming issues, and any changes are immediately updated – there’s even a dialogue function so the operators can communicate any changes. There’s also a new “Live Save” function, which saves any changes as they happen for anyone working on the project, although the legacy “auto save” option is still available.
Though it seems to me that most of BMD’s efforts have been concentrated on the Edit and Fairlight pages with Resolve 14, there are still some very interesting new features in the colour page such as the new OFX plugins, which really help add to the colourist’s arsenal of tools.
The De-banding plugin, for instance, is very useful for situations where an image has suffered some compression artefacts. It’s also possible to confine the plugin to specific areas of the image by using a window or a key. De-mist is great for scenes that have a lot of atmospheric haze, and Warper is very useful for adjusting the geometry of elements within a frame to make something smaller or larger.
One thing that surprised me was the Face refinement feature – this got many people excited when it was first demonstrated, as it allows users to track and edit specific elements of an actors face such as their lips or eyes. However in practice, I’ve found that it doesn’t always work that well, and sometimes analyses the facial features incorrectly.
The Camera Shake plugin, however, is a different story. I never thought I’d use it, but recently I had a situation where a 2nd camera operator had his camera mounted on a tripod, while the 1st camera was handheld. The two camera styles were noticeably different, until I used this function and adjusted the “randomness” of the movement to match the main camera. The soften/sharpen filter is also incredibly useful. It’s a great alternative to the blur tool, as colourists can now choose between softening or sharpening fine, medium or large detail. This is great for taking the “edge” off of GoPro and drone footage, and also useful to smooth out skin tones for beauty re-touching.
DaVinci Resolve’s editing functionality has definitely improved in version 14, and there are many additional features that support what BMD seem to be doing in terms of making Resolve offer the same toolset as other dedicated NLE’s. You can now open a separate floating bin window on both the Edit and Media pages, for instance, as well as perform a replace edit on an empty track, and set in/out points on the media pool thumbnails.
Previously, the playback speed has always been one of the biggest drawbacks to using Resolve for editing, especially when using a laptop outside of a normal post-production environment. With Resolve’s new speed enhancements, though, it looks like this problem has been solved – I’ve been using a 6 core Mac Pro without any playback issues, and if that’s not enough, there is always the option of using optimised media.
An important thing to note, of course, is that for now, editors still seem to be sticking with tried and tested NLE’s – partly because of their familiarity. If Blackmagic continue to develop Resolve down this NLE path, though, I do believe this will probably change as a new generation of editors embrace Resolve from the offline to finishing stages of post-production. There is a free version available after all, for anyone to try!
When Resolve 14 was first released, this was Blackmagic’s big news. After acquiring Fairlight in 2016, with version 14 the development team announced they had integrated Fairlight into DaVinci Resolve to result in an entirely new audio page. Since it is a dedicated audio tool, the timeline is presented with “audio only” tracks, which can now be colour coded in the Edit page for easy identification (such as dialogue, music, FX etc). Each audio track on the Edit page is split into individual audio “lanes” in the Fairlight page – so a single stereo clip in the Edit page will be separated into its component channels in Fairlight.
This is huge – I do believe it to be the holy grail of post-production. Yes, you can argue that Resolve 14’s editing and Fairlight pages aren’t currently as feature-rich as its industry-standard, award-winning colour grading toolset. But that, to me, is minor – it’s something that will only improve for the future (if BMD’s Resolve development history is anything to go by). Keeping an entire project – editing, grading and audio mixing – within the same application makes complete sense. It means no more metadata getting lost, no more conforms that don’t work, and no more issues with speed ramps or frame sizing being interpreted differently from one application to another. And oh, did I mention that they have also dropped the price for the studio version from $999 to $299?
Written by Donovan Bush, colourist