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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Report: Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Workshop

This past Tuesday, David Catt of FilmSystems gave a free two hour workshop on DaVinci Resolve organized in collaboration with BOSFCPUG and Blackmagic Design. The event happened downtown at Emerson College.

David has been working with Resolve for more than 20 years and was even product manager for Resolve before moving to FilmSystems two years prior to the sale to Blackmagic.

"But wait!" I can hear you say. "You can barely find your way around the Three-way Color Corrector in Final Cut Pro, and you're going to a workshop on a high-end color correcting tool?!"

Well, true, I still haven't even figured out Apple's Color, but there's something very cool about watching someone who knows what they are doing apply color correction to a scene. To watch David take a somewhat plain scene, and then adjust contrast and brightness, soften the highlight clipping, brighten up the clouds with a traveling matte, then add green to folliage and yellow to rocks using color and luminance mattes to produce a stunning final shot, that's pretty cool.

And it gives me an idea of what I should be trying for...

So here's my notes from the workshop.


  • Hardware: David was running a MacPro with 12 cores, and an expansion interface that adds four more slots. He has three graphics cards just to start with; one for the UI display, one to accelerate the software, and one to output HD video. An expensive setup, but the system was quite happy munching on 2K footage.

  • Graphics Cards: For best value he recommend GTX 285 cards as faster and cheaper, but they draws a lot of power and is no longer available. Failing that, he recommends the Quadro 4000card.

  • Monitors: As your primary screen for color work he recommends Flanders Scientific monitors. For the other two screens he was using has said that just about any monitor would do; though you have to make sure the monitor you're using for the UI is at least 1920 x 1200 (not 1080) or you won't be able to see all the buttons at the bottom of the interface!

  • VTR: Resolve can play your video out live to a VTR (if you still have one of those...)

  • Color Lookup Table: Resolve supports LUTs (Color Lookup Tables) Useful for S-Log produced by the Sony PMW-F3 and Log C produced by the Arri Alexa.

  • RED footage: there's a special set-up section for handling RED footage

  • Workflows and EDLs: Resolve will import EDLs, but not XML. Also, it does not support sound in the EDL, though you can load in a sound file separately. Also, when transferring between systems, you have to make sure your EDL is set up correctly, or it can get confused. Most troubling for some; it only handles one video track at the moment. David is really hoping they will change that.
    While editing, he demonstrated importing the media, and then importing the EDL separately. It seemed that you had to do it as a two step process, which could cause a bit of confusion. On the other hand, it does let you use a function called Color Trace to find the color grading you applied to a clip in another EDL, and then import that info into your current EDL.

  • Scene Detection: If you have a single clip made up of multiple clips that you want to grade separately, you can use a feature called Scene Detection to search and find the edit points automatically. It seemed to do a pretty good job in the demo.

  • Organizing clips: While grading, you can change the order of the clips from source time code to record time code, which will order together clips made at the same period of time. You can then group them and apply the same grading changes to all the clips at once.


  • Four channels of color correction: David referred to Resolve supporting "four channels" for grading. I'm not sure I'd describe it that way - I think it causes confusion - but when editing Black, Gama and Gain (above), in addition to the adjustments for red, green, and blue, you have a fourth master adjustment that alters the other three simultaneously.

  • Soft clipping: to prevent clipping of highlights, there's a Soft Clipping feature.

  • Tracker: Resolve has an awesome tracker. David demoed it with a matte attached to tracking applied to faces and clouds; the latter was perhaps the most impressive looking part of the demo. He explained - and demoed - that if something you want to track goes off screen during the shot, you should track another object that stays in shot but is moving at the same speed relative to the object you really want to track.

  • Control Panel: Blackmagic sells the software alone, or you can buy one of their control surfaces (for a good chunk of change.) A big advantage of the control panel; you can quickly jump from scene to scene and adjust things without having to reach for the mouse.


  • Nodes: Resolve provides a feature called "nodes" to apply multiple levels of effects (above). Welcome to logic theory. If you know what you're doing, nodes appear to give you a great deal of control not only in setting up layers of effects, but for making major changes later - without starting from scratch - when the client changes their minds. But when you're learning the system, I bet that figuring out whether nodes should be in series or parallel will take a bit of time..

  • Rendering: David's system cranked through things pretty fast, and he said that you really didn't have to render overnight anymore. But if you do have to render, Resolve does have a Render Queue

  • Dealing with burnt-out footage: In response to a question from an audience member, David demonstrated filling in a burnt out region of a pear. He added a layer, "qualified" just that region with a luminance key, then added a bit of softness, darkened down the region and took it towards yellow to match the color of the pair. "You don't have the texture," he noted, "but you have the color. The eye will notice if you're looking for it, but otherwise it should be okay."

  • Linked Systems: One other neat power feature; you can link two systems together remotely, and then control one from the other, so the colorist could be in one location, and the director in another. You just have to make sure that all the content files are available on both systems.

FilmSystems
BOSFCPUG (Boston Final Cut Pro User Group)
Blackmagic Design
B & H: Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve - Software [$945.25]

1 comment:

simplexitydigital said...

It was great to be able to see this in person. Also I am surprised no one shorted out the BlackMagic panel with the drool factor! I have been working with DaVinci for a while now and totally love what it can do. Great presentation and nice to see the interest. I am local and am trying to get the word out about color grading for a bit now. It really does help to see what it can do to make your projects come alive. Thanks for having these workshops.

If anyone wants to contact me for some local color grading or to even chat. http://simplexitydigital.com
cjadams@simplexitydigital.com