Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 12 Review

Wouldn’t it be great to have access to the same blockbuster software that was used on films such as “Skyfall,” “World War Z,” “Avatar,” “Prometheus” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”? If you aren’t already using DaVinci Resolve 12, then this review is a must read. Not only is this Hollywood’s go to program of choice for color correction, but it’s also free.

Editing

At first glance, DaVinci Resolve 12 looks like any other editing application. If you already understand the editing process, then this will be easy software to learn. This program handles multiple sizes, regardless of if you are working with standard definition footage from your old VHS home videos or footage from a 4K camera.

This program handles multiple sizes, regardless of if you are working with standard definition footage from your old VHS home videos or footage from a 4K camera.

If you have multiple cameras to work with, multi-cam editing is now available, and it’s simple and fast. You can sync your clips by using the in/out points, timecode or sound. This comes in handy for a concert, wedding or even a two camera interview. Using sound to sync clips is a big time saver and works great. Resolve does an excellent job of lining up the multiple clips.

Once synced, you can edit the multiple cameras in real time. They show up in a grid and you just click on the camera angle you like best. Once you’re done, you can make adjustments in the timeline if necessary. Plus, trimming those clips has never been easier.

Trimming is a simple feature that is so powerful it’s strange that the Resolve trim tool isn’t found in other editing programs. In traditional software, you have to memorize the short cut keys or go to the tools window every time you need to access the trim tools such as a roll, slip or ripple to name a few. Instead of forcing you to constantly change your trim tools, Resolve eliminates that hassle and changes the tools for you based on where you place your cursor in the timeline. You can even use this functionality on multiple clips at once. If you have never used any of these trim tools before, now is the time to start.

Resolve’s timeline can handle mixed formats and resolutions in real time. It’s not a problem if you are shooting with different types of cameras. Unfortunately, Resolve doesn’t work with all formats, and it would be nice if they could add more codec support to the program.

Although proxy files aren’t exciting, Resolve’s proxy workflow is. If you’re working with large file sizes such as 4K or 6K video clips, don’t worry. Editing with proxies has never been easier thanks to DaVinci Resolve 12. You can now convert every clip you are working with to proxy files with little effort, even if you already have clips edited in your timeline. If you want to color correct the video clips in their original format, you can switch them back over to the original files in seconds.

Color Correction

DaVinci Resolve 12 is a Hollywood-caliber program for color correction. At first glance it might feel overwhelming, but it’s worth investing the time to learn because it can do so much more than the color correction filters in an editing program. Resolve’s ability to fix footage that wasn’t shot right is one reason it has become a go to program for many professional editors.

Resolve’s motion tracking is in a league of its own, and it just got better with 3D tracking capabilities. Many times, masks are used to help color correct only part of the shot. Objects such as a person’s face rotating or a camera panning used to throw a tracked mask off — not any more. Plus, the program can track a mask off screen. The tracking is automatic and does an amazing job. If you need to make manual adjustments to the tracking, you can switch to the keyframe mode.

Masks apply color correction to select portions of the image.
Masks apply color correction to select portions of the image.

When matching shots is necessary, you can save a lot of time with Resolve’s automatic shot matching capabilities. Imagine if you had multiple scenes that took place in the same location and time, but they didn’t look the same. Now you can just select the clips you want to look the same, and Resolve will analyze the clips for you and make them match. If it isn’t perfect, you at least have a great starting point for making additional color correction adjustments. If you have a beautiful sunset shot and a clip shot during the day, the shot matching capabilities do a great job of making the non-sunset shot look like golden hour.

Graphics and VFX

Chances are your video will need titles. Creating text is easy, and you can do all of the things you would expect from an editing program, such as scrolling text and drop shadows. DaVinci Resolve 12 can also animate the text with motion paths. The path is displayed in the program, so you can easily make adjustments and have the text start and stop smoothly.

The program can key your footage so you can remove the green screen background and whisk your actor away to Delaware or somewhere else. If unwanted objects are in the shot, masks can track and remove them. You can also use the color match feature to make green screen and background shots to look like they belong together.

Delivery

You have many exporting options built into DaVinci Resolve 12. Whether your masterpiece’s final destination is YouTube, Vimeo, movie theaters or just a QuickTime movie file, Resolve can handle it. If you would like to round-trip to another editing program such as FCPX, it’s a simple process. This makes it even easier for people who just want to color correct in Resolve, make a few changes to the edit and bring it back into different editing software.

Wait a Second

There are free and paid versions of DaVinci Resolve 12. The great news is that the free version can do most everything you need. The paid DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio version adds features such as real-time noise reduction, 4K output and amazing motion blur capabilities. In a nutshell, try the free version and upgrade to the paid version if the need arises.

The Bottom Line

This is an editing and color correcting powerhouse for the unbeatable price of free. Many features in Resolve will save you time, allowing you to focus on other things. This program is so packed with goodies that most features couldn’t be covered in this review. Plus, Resolve gives you the flexibility to use as much or little of it as you want to enhance the production value of your video. 

Blackmagic Design
www.blackmagicdesign.com
Free, Studio: $1,000

Strengths

  • Extremely powerful and free
  • Intuitive features save editing time
  • World-class color correction capabilities

Weaknesses

  • Could support more video formats
  • Steep learning curve for color grading tools

Tech Specs:

Recommended System Requirements
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.10.5 or later, Windows 8.1 or later and Linux CentOS 6.6 or later
CPU:  Intel Socket 2011-v3 Core i7, dual Intel Xeon E5-2697 v3 / PC Laptop: Intel Core i5 or i7 processors (PC). 8 Core CPU for HD and 12 Core CPU for UHD or higher resolutions / Laptop: Intel Core i5 or i7 processors (Mac)
Storage Space: 512GB SSD minimum (PC); 512GB Internal flash storage (Mac)
Recommended RAM: 16GB (Windows), 16GB (Mac)
Graphics/VRAM: AMD or CUDA compliant GPU with at least 4GB of graphics RAM
Requires Internet Connection: No

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

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been trying like anything to import projects from FCPX into the free version of Davinci
    Resolve that I downloaded very recently. Yes, I’ve read and watched tutorials. I’ll be very grateful to the person who can tell me how to go about achieving this apparently impossible task. I haven’t edited anything in the program yet. I’m using a Mac.

  2. I have used every free version of ‘Resolve’ since Black Magic removed the price-barrier. One thing I have found common to all of them, is that they are quite difficult to ‘get-into’ initially; once you are ‘there’ they are no problem. That makes ‘Resolve’ not the sort of software you would only drop-into momentarily, to make some changes to a clip on-the-fly.

    However, now that its editing capabilities have been considerably enhanced, it might pay me to begin segments of my current video documentary as ‘projects’ edited entirely within ‘Resolve’ itself, rather than make vain attempts to ’round-trip’ from a video editor which I am reasonably certain is not suitable for that working mode. I am not sure if it is included already as a codec, but HEVC rendering in good quality would be a great asset.

  3. The somewhat breathless approach of the reviewer prewarned me but when this color correction tool was described as an editor I had to sigh.
    Every grading tool and vfx editor is described by the vendor as capable of all stages in the video workflow but no one in their right mind
    actually does this.
    You use a video editor like premier, composer, vegas or fcp and grade in speedgrade or resolve as resolve’s editing capability
    is minor compared with dedicated editors. Ditto for 2D tracking you would use the trackers in a motion graphics editor like After Effects (if you have Adobe CC) or Nuke or Fusion (the latter also from BMD and free !) or for 3D tracking – boujou or PFtrack or 3DEqualizer (if money is no object). You want to put in a nail – use a hammer.

    As I mentioned in the post above – true roundtripping doen’t exist outside a vendor suite e.g. Adobes CC, Avid except maybe with some topend plugins. The whole trick with using tools from different vendors is passing the video on when you have done the minimum preservable work.
    Even within vendor suites support for things like effects and markers is patchy – see Premiere and Speedgrade !

    Main surface change in this release is that previously there has been resolve lite as free and full resolve quite pricey.
    BMD seem to have renamed ‘resolve lite’ to resolve and the former ‘resolve’ is now ‘resolve studio’ and they have their 50,000 $ coloring
    panel solution of course for those with more money than sense. The difference between Resolve studio and Resolve is as previously network collaboration and Resolve (formerly known as Lite) is free. .

  4. The biggest advantage of having editing capabilities in Resolve is making changes. As mentioned by Compass2k he or she thinks editing should stay in a dedicated editing application. But clearly, if you want to do serious color grading you have to go to a program like Resolve. In the past, I would move my project to resolve and if a client made a change to it it was a nightmare. Now I can just make the simple edit change in Resolve and then re-export. I feel this is the best color grading program out there.

    TheKnight, did you ever get importing into FCPX resolved?

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