Using Resolve 11.3 as an NLE

Blackmagic has added more than 80 new functions to Version 11’s built-in editor—an investment that may indicate Blackmagic envisions Resolve becoming a competitive NLE. I had a preview of using Resolve as an NLE when I used the Edit room during my round-tripping experiments. Therefore, I decided to more fully test Resolve’s NLE capabilities.

While developing a round-tripping workflow between FCP X and Resolve (You can see that article here), the limits I encountered forced me to wonder whether it might be far more efficient to simply edit in Resolve.

Resolve imports DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO-HD, HDV, XDCAM, ProRes 422, DNxHD, F65 RAW and SstP (HDCAM-SR), F55 RAW and XAVC, F5 XAVC, Alexa RAW/65/ProRes 4:4:4:4 XQ, AMIRA ProRes 4444, as well as RED One, EPIC, Scarlet, and Dragon R3D files (including +5K, monochrome, and HDRx images), Canon 5D/7D H.264, Canon C300/C500, and of course, CinemaDNG lightly- or non-compressed RAW.

Resolve requires OpenCL (ATI) or CUDA (NVIDIA) support employing one or two GPUs. Your display resolution must be least at 1680x 1050. I use the QuickRes app to quickly switch resolution from MBPr (1440x900 effective) to 1920x1080.

Divinci Resolve media page.

Divinci Resolve media page.

Resolve’s support of CinemaDNG means these files can employ colors paces and gammas other than REC.709—for example, DCI. Because Resolve can directly edit CinemaDNG files one neither needs to convert to a less capable editing format nor convert to a proxy format as a first step in a round-tripping workflow.

Other Resolve features include: insert and removal of 3:2 pulldown from 60i tape media (pulldown insert and removal should be supported for file-based media),easy AV split edits, image stabilization (unfortunately only clip-by-clip in the Color room), clip re-timing, and speed changes (Optical Flow is supported, but based upon my experience, when clips have motion, use Frame Blend or Nearest.)

Resolve’s Export room supports standard video formats (ProRes 422, ProRes 4444, ProRes 4444 XQ, DNxHD) and, after selecting MXF as the export format, DNxHR HQ/HQX/SQ. Exports of H.264 are accomplished without internet templates. (Of course, uploads to YouTube can be done with ProRes LT.)

It goes without saying—the ability to use Resolve’s Color room tools for grading/color-correction directly on whatever format one has imported is a huge advantage over other NLE’s. Moreover, Resolve runs under OS X, Windows, and Linux.And, not a small feature, it’s free.

If one needs 4K DCI import/export, Sony AVC Intra encoding, dust and scratch removal, real-time noise reduction and motion blur, plus stereoscopic 3D grading and convergence adjustments, the non-Lite dongle version costs $995. (You can compare versions here

None of these features have any value unless the Editing room provides the functions and performance you need for your editing process. When I read through Resolve’s documentation, I found those functions I would expect in modern NLE, with the exception of unique features such as FCP X’s Magnetic Timeline.

Resolve seems much like Apple’s Final Cut Pro Classic. Without FCP’s “RT Extreme” capability you must enable Smart Caching. Unfortunately, rendering to cache is very slow. And, even with video in the cache, audio can cause playback stutters—especially at the beginning of a clip. Particularly, annoying are long waits for Timeline and Media Pool thumbnails to appear—and this is true even when no audio waveforms are present. Timeline performance is Resolve’s Achilles Heel. Resolve also has a fair number of bugs, especially when working with XML imports. Both its code base and documentation require corporate commitment to quality.

No matter the capabilities offered by an NLE, if it isn’t compatible with your working style it’s not likely you’ll use it. Resolve provides the ability to use Resolve, FCP X, Premiere Pro, and Media Composer keysets. Because I had already customized the FCP X keyset, I was happy to find I could also create my own Resolve keyset that was compatible with both Resolve and FCP X. (To obtain a list of shortcuts go here.

My editing began in the Import room with a ProRes file carrying multiple 16mm shots. I found being able to use the entire screen for import functions to be liberating. To overcome Resolve’s preference to work only with a disk’s root directory, I placed four folders in root that had aliases placed in my Movie directory: Resolve Import, Resolve XML Import, Resolve XML Export, and Resolve Export.

To obtain individual clips from the ProRes file, I used Resolve’s Scene Detection function—shown in Illustration 1. The resulting clips were placed in the Media Pool, as shown in Illustration 2. I viewed these clips, discarding those I wouldn’t use. Bins can be created to organize a Media Pool.

Illustration 1: Resolve has a scene detection, shown here.

Illustration 1: Resolve has a scene detection, shown here.

Illustration 2: The detected scenes are stored in the Media Pool<br />

Illustration 2: The detected scenes are stored in the Media Pool

Next I switched to the Edit Room where the current Media Pool was available under the Media tab. Under the Timelines tab, I created a new Timeline as shown by Illustration 3. Multiple formats, frame-rates, and aspect-ratios are supported within a Timeline. Audio tracks can be mono, stereo, or 5.1—although a Dolby encoder is not provided.

Illustration 3: Here is the time line, developed after scenes are selected.

Illustration 3: Here is the time line, developed after scenes are selected.

Multiple window arrangements are possible in the Edit room: a Media Pool with or without Folder View; dual Timeline viewers (with an FCP-like drag-to function) or a single Timeline viewer with an FCP X-like Inspector; the Timeline with or without an effects window; and a Timeline with either 8- or 16-VU meters. Illustration 3 shows one such arrangement.

Above the Timeline there are icons that represent several editing functions. Resolve supports: Insert, Overwrite, Replace, Fit-to-Fill, Place on Top, and Append to end. Two icons represent Select (pointer) and Trim (<[]>) modes that are mapped to the S and T keys, respectively. (See Illustration 4.)

Illustration 4: The Timeline supports the standard editing functions.

Illustration 4: The Timeline supports the standard editing functions.

The effects window (Illustration 5) is where I discovered that there are no clip-effects/filters—although OpenFX plugins can be installed. A small set of video wipes plus a cross-dissolve and dip-to-color transitions are provided. An audio cross-dissolve is also available, but no audio EQ functions. Blackmagic has announced version 12, which will be available in July, will have a more powerful audio engine plus support for VST and AU plug-ins. (Resolve does have a pop-up audio mixer.)

A set of title templates and a set of generator functions are also included in the effects window.

Illustration 5: While OpenFX plugins can be installed, Resolve does not come equipped with clip-effects/filters.

Illustration 5: While OpenFX plugins can be installed, Resolve does not come equipped with clip-effects/filters.

Adding clips to a Timeline was straight forward. However, once I deleted, or tried to trim a clip, problems arose so it was time to read the long-winded documentation. 

Briefly, here’s what you need to know about trimming in Resolve. Illustrations 6 through 10 show the cursors for trim out-going (}), trim in-coming({), roll-trim (}{), slip-trim ([<>]), and slide-trim (<[]>), respectively.

Illustration 6:Trim Outgoing Cursor.

Illustration 6:Trim Outgoing Cursor.

Illustration 7:Trim Incoming Cursor.

Illustration 7:Trim Incoming Cursor.

Illustration 8: Roll Trim Cursor.

Illustration 8: Roll Trim Cursor.

Illustration 9: Slip Trim Cursor.

Illustration 9: Slip Trim Cursor.

Illustration 10: Slide Trim Cursor.

Illustration 10: Slide Trim Cursor.

1. Pressing the delete key non-ripple removes a clip leaving a gap. I assigned the backward slash key below delete key to Resolve’s ripple-delete function.

2. Use the Select mode (pointer) to non-ripple edge-trim an outgoing (}) or an incoming ({) clip to have a shorter duration. Either trim will leave a gap. Lengthening the duration of either edge of a clip will destructively shorten the other clip. Select mode also useful for trimming audio clips. (Audio scrub is supported.)

3. Use Trim mode to ripple edge-trim to either shorten or lengthen the duration an outgoing (}) or incoming ({) video or audio clip. When a clip’s duration is changed, program length is also changed. Therefore, downstream video and audio clips will shift to the left or right.

4. Use Trim mode to “roll” trim clips by dragging the edit junction (}{) between two video or audio clips. Program length is not altered. Roll can also be performed in Select mode.

5. By dragging within the upper-portion of a clip ([<>]) a “slip” trim is performed. (Shades of Avid’s Smart Tools.)

6. By dragging within the lower-portion of a clip (<[]>) a “slide” trim is performed. Audio clips can also be slid or slipped.

7. An fade-to-black or fade-to-silence effect can be defined by simply dragging inward the green mark at the upper-end of a video or an audio clip.

Don’t be surprised by the annoying cursor shape inversion that occurs once you start to drag an edge. Illustration 11 shows that dragging is immediately signaled by the trimmed frames readout.

Illustration 11: Trimmed Frames Readout.

Illustration 11: Trimmed Frames Readout.

Because the Trim cursor (<[]>) automatically becomes a pointer when it is not within a clip, you can simply select Trim mode (what Avid calls film style editing) when you start trimming. (There will remain situations where you have to choose Select mode.) In Trim mode, the viewer presents a useful 4-up display. Watch this video to see how powerful Resolve’s trimming can be.

When I completed my rough-cut, I returned to the Media room to import graphics and audio. I was able to import .psd, .jpg, .png, and .tiff image files. Only .wav and .aiff audio files can be imported.

Although it is possible to drag an audio clip’s sound level lower or higher, I was not able to keyframe sound level changes either directly or via the audio mixer. This inability is likely to keep many editors from using Resolve. However, with Avid to release a free version of ProTools, it should be possible to export multiple tracks of sync-audio from Resolve, import into ProTools, mix with additional audio, export an audio file, and import this file back into Resolve.

I’ve been editing with Resolve 11 for the last several months. I’m impressed by its almost limitless capabilities. Even when grading isn’t required, it’s nice to be able to pop-into the Color Room and maximize image quality.

Trimming with Resolve still does not feel natural, nor is it anywhere near as fast as with FCP X or Premiere. Version 12 includes Timeline performance enhancements. If these enhancements are significant, Resolve may be able to move into the top-tier NLE market.

You might also like...

Transforms: Part 4 - Discrete Fourier Transforms

As we saw earlier when discussing transform duality, when something happens on one side of a transform, we can predict through duality what to expect on the other side.

2022 NAB Show Review, Part 2

With fewer exhibits and smaller crowds, the 2022 NAB Show aisles were easier to navigate and exhibitors had more time to speak with visitors.

2022 NAB Show Review, Part 1

Many annual NAB Shows have become milestones in TV broadcasting history. The presence of the 2022 NAB Show marked the first Las Vegas NAB Show since 2019.

Transforms: Part 3 - Superhet Analyzers

Here we dip a toe into spectrum analysis. The water’s warm.

Creative Technology: Getting It Right In Camera

With the advent of log recording and higher resolution, and large-format cameras, DOPs are increasingly entertaining the notion that just about anything can be ‘fixed’ or finished in post.