Production & Post Global Viewpoint – December 2018

Resolve: A Grading Front-End For Your NLE—Part 1

It’s unlikely that any video editor is unaware of the release of Resolve 15. It’s equally unlikely that many editors, especially those who use Media Composer, haven’t thought of switching to the truly free Resolve NLE. Switching, however, isn’t as simple as it might seem. First there is Resolve's 2900-page manual. Then, there is realization that an NLE’s most powerful feature is one's experience using it.

Even though I learned to use Resolve 11/12, I feel more comfortable editing with Media Composer | First—except when trying to color grade media. The same conflict is faced by those who use other NLEs that do not have a powerful color grading capability.

The solution to this editing-color grading dilemma is to “round-trip” media from your Composer (or a different NLE) to Resolve and then back to your NLE. This is accomplished by first sending an XML file from your NLE to DaVinci Resolve. After grading in Resolve, an exported XML file will be used to round-trip the project back to your NLE. (See Case Study: Round-tripping FCP X and DaVinci Resolve 11.2.)

If using, for example, FCP X, issue the File > Export Project XML… command and create a folder that will contain all necessary media. (See Figure 1.) Export an XML file to this new folder.

Figure 1: Export XML File from FCP X Project.

Figure 1: Export XML File from FCP X Project.

Unfortunately, if you are editing with Media Composer | First and some other NLEs, there is no export XML file command. Thankfully, there is a way to use Resolve that overcomes this limitation.

Media Composer | First provides two ways to input media files: you can Import some formats and Link other formats. Unfortunately, there are limitations to each. For example, while 10-bit DPX files can be Link input, 16-bit DPX files cannot. Moreover, errors can occur during Linking and/or Importing.

The solution is to employ Resolve to import your media, which can be most every available format. Once imported you can, if you wish, create Bins and then log the imported clips. You can trim the clips during the logging process.

Next, place the trimmed clips into a Timeline. Although order is not critical, it makes sense for color-match purposes to create a roughly clip-ordered Timeline for each scene. Now, color grade the clips in a Timeline and then export the clips as individual files using codecs such as DNxHD or ProRes. These files can then be rapidly Linked into MCF. (Link input keeps UHD files at a 3840x2160 resolution.)

However, before you can accomplish these tasks, you need to setup Resolve. This process looks so difficult that many give-up after launching DaVinci Resolve. That’s understandable because there are many settings on many preference pages. You’ll encounter settings such as: Color—Embed timecode in audio output, Color—Use legacy Log grading ranges and curve, and Color—Use local version for new clips in timeline.

Therefore, Part one of this three-part article will focus on getting Resolve ready for your use.

Launch DaVinci Resolve 15 and its Project Manager will open (Figure 2

Figure 2: DaVinci Resolve 15 Project Manager.

Figure 2: DaVinci Resolve 15 Project Manager.

Now click the New Project button, enter its name, and click Create.

  • To open an existing project, double-click its icon.
  • Delete a project by right-clicking its icon and selecting Delete….
  • Close Resolve by clicking the upper-left X.

After a new project window opens, click the Media button to select the Media Room.

Issue the DaVinci Resolve > Preferences command.

Click the System button.

Select the Configuration > System Configuration page (Figure 3).

Set GPU processing mode to Auto.

System Configuration page.">

Figure 3: Media Room with Configuration > System Configuration page.

Create four folders on the root of the drive you want to be used for media storage: Resolve Source, Resolve Exports, Resolve Clip Exports, and Resolve Storage. Place on your Desktop, aliased copies of the Resolve Source, Resolve Exports, and Resolve Clip Exports folders.

Next, select the Media Storage > Media Storage Locations page (Figure 4).

Media Storage Locations page.">

Figure 4: Media Storage > Media Storage Locations page.

Select the mounted drive and click Remove.

Click Add and enter the full path to the Resolve Storage folder.

Click OK.

Click the Save button to terminate Preferences.

Click the lower-right Gear button in the Project Window to define Project Settings.

Click Master Settings > Timeline Format: set as shown below (Figure 5).

Timeline resolution: 1920x1080 HD or 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD

Pixel aspect ratio: Square

Timeline frame rate: 23.976 or 25 or 29.976 or 50 or 59.94

Playback frame rate: 23.976 or 25 or 29.976 or 50 or 59.94

Timeline Format page.">

Figure 5: Master Settings > Timeline Format page.

Click the Save button.

Under Image Scaling: there is no need to alter these settings. See Figure 6.

Figure 6: Image Scaling page

Figure 6: Image Scaling page

Under Color Management > Color Space & Transforms and Lookup Tables: By setting 3D Input Lookup Table to an appropriate LUT, Log media will look like a REC.709 version of the footage (Figure 7).

Lookup Tables page.">

Figure 7: Color Management > Lookup Tables page.

Click the Save button if any Color Management settings were altered.

Under General Options > Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color: No alterations are needed as shown by Figure 8.

Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color page.">

Figure 8: General Options > Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color page.

When you shoot RAW, read the ResolveChapter 5: Camera RAW Settings.

Then, for example, under Camera RAW > Master: set RAW Profile to Canon RAW.

Set Decode Quality to Full Res.

To use Resolve’s definition of your camera’s RAW settings, set Decode Using to, for example, Canon Default (Figure 9).

Master page > RAW Profile page.">

Figure 9: Camera RAW > Master page > RAW Profile page.

The remainder of the settings on the RAW page provide more control over how you want your imported RAW files to look. If, for example, the metadata recorded when shooting defines the look you want, then this option will likely be your choice.

Under Camera RAW > Master, Decode Using to Camera Metadata (Figure 10).

Master > Decode using page.">

Figure 10: Camera RAW > Master > Decode using page.

When you want more control of the image’s look, under Camera RAW > Master, set Decode Using to Project (Figure 11). Now the sliders under Project Settings can be used to adjust different aspects of the RAW image. For example, set White Balance to Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, or Flash. This setting overrides the As Shot color temperature.

Project Settings page">

Figure 11: Camera RAW > Project Settings page

Once you switch Decode Using to Project (Figures 11 and 12), both the sliders under Project Settings as well as Use Camera Metadata can control how the RAW media will look. The Project Settings sliders will likely never need to be used because you’ll have the same controls when you color grade each clip in the Color Room.

Project Settings and Use Camera Metadata page.">

Figure 12: Camera RAW > Project Settings and Use Camera Metadata page.

Click Save.

Under Capture and Playback: no alterations.

Under Subtitles: no alterations.

Part 2 of this article will cover the import and export of media. Part 3 will cover a very rapid way to color grade clips.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Related Editorial Content

Introduction to Avid Media Composer | First - Part 1

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but video editors now have a choice among four “free” NLEs. Last year the venerable Media 100 became a free download. Davinci Resolve and Lightworks have been free for years.

Introduction to Avid Media Composer | First - Part 2

An Introduction to Avid Media Composer | First - Part 1 covered: window and toolbar set up, creating a Project, media input, and creating a Sequence. These are fundamental editing tasks to master. Now, we’ll look at tasks that are used t…

Here a LUT…There a LUT

A way too cute title—I agree. But LUTs are indeed everywhere. Before we look at the ways LUTs are used, let’s be sure we understand what a LUT does.