DaVinci Resolve v15 – reviewed



Written by Daniëlle Nel, editor/post workflow consultant.

Working as an editor and post workflow consultant for everything from Tomb Raider to National Geographic wildlife documentaries, I’ve certainly dabbled in Resolve in the past: I’ve known about it as a colour correction tool since version 9. In all honesty, though, I never paid too much attention to it until version 12 a few years ago. This was when Blackmagic Design added an editing page to the software. For the first time, I could see the possibility of it going from well-known colour correction tool into a fully-fledged nonlinear editor. The fact that this was also a piece of software that was free to download (even for commercial projects) made it attractive to many.

With version 15, which was first announced at NAB this year, Blackmagic have improved the nonlinear editing toolset even further. This year, I was in the middle of an edit on a feature length documentary when the producer gave the instruction to move the project from Avid Media Composer to Resolve 15.


We moved over to 15 and relinked to the original media, most of which was ProRes 422/4444. In total, we had 280hrs of initial rushes that we had to edit down into a 93-minute documentary using a 12 core Mac Pro ‘trashcan’ with 64gb of RAM and an AMD FirePro D700 graphics card and Drobo 5D3. It was a pretty challenging project!

At first, I had my reservations about moving to v15 as it was still in beta when we first began the transfer, but I needn’t have worried. We didn’t even have one crash the whole way through the edit. We kept the standard of procedures as we did for Media Composer by keeping the project in reels. This gave us the ability to work on each reel independently and also we found that 20-30min timelines worked better to allow us real-time playback. It was only at the end that we ‘stitched’ all the reels together into one long 93min.

With other NLEs, I typically had to wait up to half an hour in the morning just for the project to load, but thanks to Resolve 15’s new video playback engine with GPU optimisation I’d open the project, and would be ready to start cutting and trimming in minutes, even with 4K CinemaDNG raw material. At no point was I yearning for a particular tool inside Resolve, I felt at home editing on this NLE. I also found an amazing shortcut – Command Y – which selects everything in the timeline to the right of the playhead! This was such a timesaver – especially when we started intercutting scenes.  I also quite enjoyed the option to have the Data-Burn ins on during editing and it did not slow down the machine.

The main issue I had with it was that sometimes I had to select a clip to use the trimming functions but this has since then been fixed as it was a beta niggle. Another problem I experienced was that while getting the project as an AAF out to Pro Tools for final mix was possible in theory, the preset for Pro Tools didn’t do the trick as it also outputs video and doesn’t link up so I instead had to use a manual custom setting.

Overall though, I’m truly pleased with my first experience editing in DaVinci Resolve and am very much looking forward to seeing how this piece of software keeps on improving for the future.


Blackmagic have added quite a few interesting new features in the v15 release, not all of which I was able to test on my editing for the wildlife documentary. It looks like Blackmagic are really pushing to have DaVinci Resolve become four applications in one, allowing users to edit, grade, complete audio using Fairlight, and create visual effects using Fusion without having to round-trip to another piece of software.

In version 15, their standalone Fusion compositing and visual effects software has now been integrated as a new page in DaVinci Resolve, which is ideal for editors who would like to add effects or do some quick green screen keying work.

The Fairlight audio tab also has an update with over 300 new features and improvements. The editing page now features new tabbed and stacked timelines, the ability to add on-screen annotations, subtitle tools and more. For colourists, Blackmagic have added a new LUT browser to quickly preview and apply LUTs, as well as over 20 new ResolveFX filters that make it easy to remove dust, fix dead pixels, and more. There is also a face enhancement tool that automatically recognises and tracks facial features to brighten eyes, smooth skin, and even change lip colour.


Overall, I was very impressed with DaVinci Resolve v15, both while testing it on the documentary and when looking at the new features. Keep in mind, Resolve, even as a free version, is a fully capable NLE. I personally feel with the inclusion of Fairlight and Fusion, and the constant improvements to Editing and Colour, this is the future.



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