Production & Post Global Viewpoint – December 2018

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

It's unlikely any editor is unaware of the release of Resolve 15. It’s equally unlikely many editors, especially those who use Media Composer, haven’t thought of switching to DaVinci Resolve. Switching, however, isn’t as simple as it might seem. First there is the 2,600-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 11/12/14, 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 verses color-grading dilemma is to “round-trip” media from Media 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. (See Figure 1.) Export an XML file to a folder.

Figure 1: Export XML File from FCP X Project. Click to enlarge.

Figure 1: Export XML File from FCP X Project. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately, if you are editing with Media Composer | First or 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 log the imported clips. You can trim the clips during the logging process.

Switch from the Media room to the Edit room. Next, move the trimmed clips into a Timeline. Although order is not critical, it makes sense for color-match purposes to create a roughly time-ordered assembly for each scene.

In the Color room color-grade the Timeline clips. After switching to the Deliver room, export the clips as individual files using codecs such as DNxHD (1080p) or DNxHR (2160p). These files can then be rapidly Link input into MCF. (Link input keeps UHD files at a 3840x2160 resolution.) Of course, these files can be imported by other NLEs as well.

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. First, create three folders in the system root drive which you want to be used for media storage: Resolve Source, Resolve Exports, and Resolve Clip Exports. Place on your Desktop, aliased copies of the Resolve Source, Resolve Exports, and Resolve Clip Exports folders.

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

Figure 2: DaVinci Resolve 15 Project Manager. Click to enlarge.

Figure 2: DaVinci Resolve 15 Project Manager. Click to enlarge.

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 enter the Media Room (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Enter the Media Room. Click to enlarge.

Figure 3: Enter the Media Room. Click to enlarge.

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

Click Master Settings > Timeline Format: set as shown below (Figure 4).

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

Click the Save button.

Figure 4: Master Settings;Timeline Format page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 4: Master Settings;Timeline Format page. Click to enlarge.

Under Image Scaling: Make the setting shown by Figure 5 so you can work with Cinema 4K media in a UHD project.

Figure 5: Image Scaling page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 5: Image Scaling page. Click to enlarge.

Click the Save button.

Under Color Management > Color Space & Transforms and Lookup Tables: By selecting an appropriate LUT for the 3D Input Lookup Table, Log media will appear as a REC.709 gamma video in your project. (Figures 6 and 7.) See Here a LUT There’s a LUT.

Figure 6: Color Management. Click to enlarge.

Figure 6: Color Management. Click to enlarge.

Figure 7: 3D Input Lookup Table with a selected LUT. Click to enlarge.

Figure 7: 3D Input Lookup Table with a selected LUT. Click to enlarge.

Click the Save button .

Under General Options > Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color: Make the change shown by Figure 8.

Figure 8: Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 8: Conform Options, Audio Metering, and Color page. Click to enlarge.

Click the Save button.

If you aren’t editing Raw footage, you are finished making settings.

When you shoot RAW and want to edit it, first read the ResolveChapter 5: Camera RAW Settings for your camera.

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

Set Decode Quality to Full Res.

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

Figure 9: Camera RAW; Master page.

Figure 9: Camera RAW; Master page.

The remainder of the settings on the RAW page provide more control over how you want your imported RAW files to appear. If, for example, the metadata recorded when shooting defines the look you want, under Camera RAW > Master, Decode Using set to Camera Metadata (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Camera RAW; Master; Camera Metadata page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 10: Camera RAW; Master; Camera Metadata page. Click to enlarge.

When you want more control of the 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.

Figure 11: Camera RAW; Master; Project Settings; Project page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 11: Camera RAW; Master; Project Settings; Project page. Click to enlarge.

This setting overrides the As Shot color temperature. (Figure 12.)

Figure 12: Camera RAW; Master; Project Settings; As shot page. Click to enlarge.

Figure 12: Camera RAW; Master; Project Settings; As shot page. Click to enlarge.

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.

Click Save.

Under Capture and Playback: no alterations.

Under Subtitles: no alterations.

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

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Related Editorial Content

Resolve: A Grading Front-End for Your NLE - Part 2

Part one of this three-part series explained why Media Composer | First, and some other NLEs cannot support round-tripping, the usual way of color grading with DaVinci Resolve in combination with an NLE (such as Media Composer or FCP X). Part 1…

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.