Blackmagic Design: DaVinci Resolve 11 Review

Screen grab of the editing interface.

Say hello to your new best friend. DaVinci Resolve 11 is an elite editing and color correction program that you should consider using on your next masterpiece. The robust Lite version is even available free of charge. Read on to find out if this is too good to be true.

Wish you had free access to the high end color correction software used on more Hollywood feature films than any other program? Since you must be dreaming, why not throw in some free editing software as well? DaVinci Resolve 11 is here and worth your attention at the unbelievable starting price of free for the Lite version. Wondering if there must be some sort of a catch or if this program is right for you? Read on as we cover the editing and color correction capabilities of DaVinci Resolve 11

Editing Capabilities

DaVinci Resolve 11 offers a familiar full-feature editing interface to help you jump right in, as well as a mixed format timeline, so you can work with footage from different types of cameras in real time. This applies even if the footage is RAW-format camera footage shot at different frame rates and sizes. You can move those clips around by dragging and dropping or by using the keyboard.

You have the same editing tools found in popular professional editing programs you’re used to, such as the ability to bring clips in as an insert, overwrite, replace and fit to fill edit. Unfortunately multi-camera editing isn’t available yet. Once the clips are in the timeline you can easily trim the clips, add transitions and adjust clip speed.

Slowing down footage can create a cool look, but when footage is slowed down too much it becomes extremely choppy. Resolve offers Optical Flow retiming capabilities that use powerful algorithms to blend frames to create a smooth slow motion look. This gives you the ability to create fast and slow speed changes in real time. 

Video isn’t the only thing you can edit; you have access to audio mixing capabilities as well. You can adjust the levels in the timeline or the built-in mixer and monitor your audio in the VU meters. If you recorded your footage and audio separately, you can manually or automatically sync the audio and video.

No project is complete without text. If you need rolling credits, lower thirds or a title, Resolve can achieve it. If you want to create your graphics elsewhere or if you prefer to start your edit in another professional program such as Final Cut Pro, you can still bring it into Resolve and make additional changes to the edit or just color correct the footage.

Screen grab of the color tracker
Color Correction

The color correction capabilities of DaVinci Resolve are what make this program famous. It can solve many problems that an editing application 3-way color correction filter can’t. Here’s one of many examples: If you add more saturation and darken this image, the model’s skin tones become extremely red and hard to see. Resolve gives you additional tools to balance out the clip as shown. Let’s examine some of these tools.

Color correction starts with a well-balanced image. This is called primary color correction and affects everything in the image. To make this process really easy you can use a standard color chart that the Color Match tool will analyze to give you your primary color correction. This automatic color balance is a great time saver especially if you’re shooting with multiple cameras. Trying to figure out exactly which colors are in a clip can be tricky, but this feature eliminates the guess work.

Once your primary correction is done you’ll want to do a secondary correction where you are working with an isolated part of the clip. If you need to isolate an area to work with, such as a person’s face, you have different types of masks to work with. These masks are called Power Windows and put endless options at your fingertips. Resolve offers state of the art motion tracking capabilities so you don’t have to manually move masks to ensure they stay on an object. The tracker is so powerful it will even track masks that travel off screen.

Another useful feature is the ability to easily select specific colors. This concept is like keying green or blue screen footage so you can isolate your subject. One example is if your sky isn’t colorful enough, you can boost the saturation or alter the color to something else — like a sunset. You can even invert your selection to get the “black and white with one color” look found in the Sin City movies. Although you can achieve this look in other editing programs it’s much easier to do in Resolve. Plus, with its advanced keying capabilities you will get a better look with cleaner edges.

If you have a lot of similar clips, you can link them together so that when you color correct one clip, DaVinci Resolve applies the same corrections to the rest. If you need to make additional changes to one of the linked clips and not affect the others, that’s no problem either. This feature is a major time saver so you can focus on getting the right look.

The best part is that all of the color correction features mentioned and more can be used as many times as you want. DaVinci Resolve offers endless nodes, which are an alternative to layers. If you’ve never used nodes before, it will take some getting used to, but the ability to combine nodes will allow you to achieve more advanced looks. Although some of Resolve’s capabilities can be found in other professional editing programs, you’ll see a major difference in the quality of the correction if you use DaVinci Resolve 11 to its potential. 

Bait and Switch?

When you go to download the software, you’ll notice that there is a full and Lite version. The Lite version is free and the full version costs money, leaving some to wonder how much you get for free. The great news is DaVinci Resolve Lite offers almost every feature offered by the paid version. No need to worry about watermarks or limited layers. You just won’t have access to collaborative tools, noise reduction, motion blur effects and a few others. There is a comparison of the Resolve paid and Lite versions at the Blackmagic website

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re creating wedding videos, short films or an epic vacation showcase, you can tap into the same power as many Hollywood professionals. You put your blood, sweat and tears into your projects and they deserve a high-end finished look. DaVinci Resolve can be daunting at first, but is worth the effort to learn. This program is versatile, empowering and available at a price point you just can’t argue with. Find out for yourself and download DaVinci Resolve 11 today.

Blackmagic Design Pty. Ltd.
www.blackmagicdesign.com
FREE - DaVinci Resolve Lite for use with 3rd party interface
$995 - DaVinci Resolve Software for use with 3rd party interface 

Tech Specs

Recommended System Requirements
Operating System: Mac OS 10.8.5 or later, Windows 7 or later and Linux RHEL 5.4 or later
CPU: Intel Socket 2011 Core i7, 2x Intel Xeon X5660 2.8 GHz or faster (PC) Intel Core i5 or i7 processors RAM (PC laptop). 6-8 Core CPU for HD, 12 Core CPU for UHD or bigger (Mac)
Storage Space: 512GB SSD minimum (PC); 512GB Internal flash storage (Mac)
Required software (plug-ins only): No
Recommended RAM: 16GB (Windows), 16GB (Mac)
Graphics/VRAM: CUDA compliant GPU with at least 4GB of graphics RAM
Requires Internet Connection: No

Strengths

  • Robust yet free Lite version
  • Amazing color correction capabilities
  • Full feature editing interface
  • 170 new features added to version 11

Weaknesses

  • Program learning curve
  • No multi-camera editing


Stephen Smith is an award-winning producer and editor for Lone Peak Productions.

Issue: 

Stephen
Smith
Tue, 11/18/2014 - 11:24pm

Comments

My thoughts exactly

artsmith's picture

I dithered with earlier 'Lite' versions of this software, then took the plunge with v11. The learning-curve is steepish for a start, but the possibilities amost unlimited. For the amateur, though, with just occasional shots to deal with, 'Resolve' might be seen to impose it's own workflow practices to an extent.  Best kept for the commencement of  fresh and previously untouched project, where 'Resolve' may be used from the outset. Also, there are excellent tutorials, in an easily assimilated modular format available from a British source, which I have found to be particularly valuable, For example, I was wrong-footed when first populating the programme with shots, by the fact that the 'Lite' version did not accept the format I was using. A change to 'Pro-Res' cured that, but use at the appropriate bit-rates caused the purchase of several more hard-drives. However, don't let such details put you off, this is seriously good software. 

 

Ian Smith

Dunedin, New Zealand