Tag Archives: Blackmagic Resolve 14

Review: Blackmagic Resolve 14

By David Cox

Blackmagic has released Version 14 of its popular DaVinci Resolve “color grading” suite, following a period of open public beta development. I put color grading in quotes, because one of the most interesting aspects about the V14 release is how far-reaching Resolve’s ambitions have become, beyond simply color grading.

Fairlight audio within Resolve.

Prior to being purchased by Blackmagic, DaVinci Resolve was one of a small group of high-end color grading systems being offered in the industry. Blackmagic then extended the product to include editing, and Version 14 offers several updates in this area, particularly around speed and fluidity of use. A surprise addition is the incorporation of Fairlight Audio — a full-featured audio mixing platform capable of producing feature film quality 3D soundscapes. It is not just an external plugin, but an integrated part of the software.

This review concentrates on the color finishing aspects of Resolve 14, and on first view the core color tools remain largely unchanged save for a handful of ergonomic improvements. This is not surprising given that Resolve is already a mature grading product. However, Blackmagic has added some very interesting tools and features clearly aimed at enabling colorists to broaden their creative control. I have been a long-time advocate of the idea that a colorist doesn’t change the color of a sequence, but changes the mood of it. Manipulating the color is just one path to that result, so I am happy to see more creatively expansive facilities being added.

Face Refinement
One new feature that epitomizes Blackmagic’s development direction is the Face Refinement tool. It provides features to “beautify” a face and underlines two interesting development points. Firstly, it shows an intention by the developers to create a platform that allows users to extend their creative control across the traditional borders of “color” and “VFX.”

Secondly, such a feature incorporates more advanced programming techniques that seek to recognize objects in the scene. Traditional color and keying tools simply replace one color for another, without “understanding” what objects those colors are attached to. This next step toward a more intelligent diagnosis of scene content will lead to some exciting tools and Blackmagic has started off with face-feature tracking.

Face Refinement

The Face Refinement function works extremely well where it recognizes a face. There is no manual intervention — the tool simply finds a face in the shot and tracks all the constituent parts (eyes, lips, etc). Where there is more than one face detected, the system offers a simple box selector for the user to specify which face to track. Once the analysis is complete, the user has a variety of simple sliders to control the smoothness, color and detail of the face overall, but also specific controls for the forehead, cheeks, chin, lips, eyes and the areas around and below the eyes.

I found the face de-shine function particularly successful. A light touch with the controls yields pleasing results very quickly. A heavy touch is what you need if you want to make someone look like an android. I liked the fact that you can go negative with some controls and make a face look more haggard!

In my tests, the facial tracking was very effective for properly framed faces, even those with exaggerated expressions, headshakes and so on. But it would fail where the face became partially obscured, such as when the camera panned off the face. This led to all the added improvements popping off mid shot. While the fully automatic operation makes it quick and simple to use, it affords no opportunity for the user to intervene and assist the facial tracking if it fails. All things considered though, this will be a big help and time saver for the majority of beauty work shots.

Resolve FX
New for Resolve 14 are a myriad of built-in effects called Resolve FX, all GPU-accelerated and available to be added in the edit “page” directly to clips, or in the color page attached to nodes. They are categorized into Blurs, Light, Color, Refine, Repair, Stylize, Texture and Warp. A few particularly caught my eye, for example in “color,” the color compressor brings together nearby colors to a central hue. This is handy for unifying colors of an unevenly lit client logo into their precise brand reference, or dealing with blotchy skin. There is also a color space transform tool that enables LUT-less conversion between all the major color “spaces.”

Color

The dehaze function derives a depth map by some mysterious magic to help improve contrast over distance. The “light” collection includes a decent lens flare that allows plenty of customizing. “Styles” creates watercolor and outline looks while Texture includes a film grain effect with several film-gauge presets. I liked the implementation of the new Warp function. Rather than using grids or splines, the user simply places “pins” in the image to drag certain areas around. Shift-adding a pin defines a locked position immune from dragging. All simple, intuitive and realtime, or close to it.

Multi-Skilled and Collaborative Workflows
A dilemma for the Resolve developers is likely to be where to draw the line between editing, color and VFX. Blackmagic also develops Fusion, so they have the advanced side of VFX covered. But in the middle, there are editors who want to make funky transitions and title sequences, and colorists who use more effects, mattes and tracking. Resolve runs out of ability in these areas quite quickly and this forces the more adventurous editor or colorist into the alien environment of Fusion. The new features of Resolve help in this area, but a few additions to Resolve, such as better keyframing of effects and easier ability to reference other timeline layers in the node panel could help to extend Resolve’s ability to handle many common VFX-ish demands.

Some have criticized Blackmagic for turning Resolve into a multi-discipline platform, suggesting that this will create an industry of “jack of all trades and masters of none.” I disagree with this view for several reasons. Firstly, if an artist wants to major in a specific discipline, having a platform that can do more does not impede them. Secondly, I think the majority of content (if you include YouTube, etc.) is created by a single person or small teams, so the growth of multi-skilled post production people is simply an inevitable and logical progression which Blackmagic is sensibly addressing.

Edit

But for professional users within larger organisations, the cross-discipline features of Resolve take on a different meaning when viewed in the context of “collaboration.” Resolve 14 permits editors to edit, colorists to color and sound mixers to mix, all using different installations of the same platform, sharing the same media and contributing to the same project, even the same timeline. On the face of it, this promises to remove “conforms” and eradicate wasteful import/export processes and frustrating compatibility issues, while enabling parallel workflows across editing, color grading and audio.

For fast-turnaround projects, or projects where client approval cannot be sought until the project progresses beyond a “rough” stage, the potential advantages are compelling. Of course, the minor hurdle to get over will be to persuade editors and audio mixers to adopt Resolve as their chosen weapon. If they do, Blackmagic might well be on the way to providing collaborative utopia.

Summing Up
Resolve 14 is a massive upgrade from Resolve 12 (there wasn’t a Resolve 13 — who would have thought that a company called Blackagic might be superstitious?). It provides a substantial broadening of ability that will suit both the multi-skilled smaller outfits or fit as a grading/finishing platform and collaborative backbone in larger installations.


David Cox is a VFX compositor and colorist with 20-plus years of experience. He started his career with MPC and The Mill before forming his own London-based post facility. Cox recently created interactive projects with full body motion sensors and 4D/AR experiences.

My NAB 2017 top five

By Brady Betzel

So once again, I didn’t go to NAB. I know, I should go, but to be honest I get caught up in my day job and my family, so usually I forget about NAB until the week before and by that time it’s too late to pull off. I’m hoping to go next year, like really hoping I make plans.

So there or not, I was paying close attention to the announcements that came out of new products, and even updates to older products. Let’s be real, other than doing some face-to-face networking, you can really get the same if not more info by lurking online. Below are five announcements that really got my attention.

Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 14
Blackmagic saw that this year’s Resolve update from 12.5.5 to 14 is so good they skipped 13. There was a significant drop in the DaVinci Resolve Studio price from $999 to $299, while adding features that many of the top NLE/color correction software dogs are lacking.

The beauty of Resolve is that it is first and foremost an industry-proven color correction powerhouse, one that is used on many of the top movies and television shows in the industry.

They are also expanding their footprint laterally to encompass professional audio as well as professional video. In Resolve 14, Blackmagic has added a Fairlight audio page to allow for a much more Pro Tools-like editing experience within the same Resolve app we have all grown to become extremely excited about. In my mind that means that at a professional facility, or your own garage, you can have a editor/colorist sitting with a re-recording engineer to review a movie or a show with the client at the same time.

The Fairlight page within Resolve 14.

As long as you have two separate workstations, the colorist and audio mixer can be addressing notes on the same sequence inside of Resolve 14 because of the newly updated collaboration enhancements. The Audio mixer or colorist could then refresh their sequence to update it with any changes the other had made and see them immediately reflected.

I haven’t gotten my hands on this update in a proper environment to test out the collaboration functionality, but the timeline comparison and review features seem like a godsend to anyone who does any sort of conform work. It is the beginning of Blackmagic’s path toward Avid Media Composer’s lock on the industry with their sequence and project sharing.

On Twitter, Blackmagic’s director of DaVinci software engineering, Rohit Gupta answered my question about whether EDLs and AAFs will fall in line with the timeline review. He said it will work “irrespective of how you create the timeline. So it will work with EDL/AAF too.”

Clip, sequence and bin locking are the future for collaborative workflow inside of Resolve. I would love to see how someone uses these features in a large collaborative environment of 10 or more editors, sound editors and colorists. How does Resolve 14 handle multiple sequence updates and multiple people knocking on a bin? How does Resolve work on something like an Avid Nexis?

Moving on, while I’m not an audio guy I do realize that Fairlight is a big player in the pro audio industry, maybe not as sizable a footprint as Avid Pro Tools in the United States, but it still has its place. So Blackmagic inserting Fairlight technology, including hardware compatibility, into Resolve 14 is remarkable.

The Resolve 14 update seems to have been focused on everything but the color correction tools. Except for the supposed major speed boost and options like face tracking, Blackmagic is putting all its eggs into the general NLE basket. It doesn’t bother me that much to be honest, and I think Blackmagic is picking up where a few other NLE players are leaving off. I just hope they don’t spread Resolve so thin that it loses its core audience. But again, with the price of Resolve 14 Studio coming in at $299 it’s becoming the major player in the post nonlinear editor, color correction, and now audio finishing market.

Keep in mind, Resolve 14 is technically still in beta so you will most likely run into bugs, probably mostly under the Fairlight tab, so be careful if you plan on using this version in time-critical environments.

You can find all of Blackmagic’s NAB 2017 updates at www.blackmagicdesign.com, including a new ATEM Studio Pro HD switcher, UltraStudio HD Mini with Thunderbolt 3 and even a remote Bluetooth camera control app for the Ursa Mini Pro.

SmallHD Focus
There was a lot of buzz online about SmallHD’s Focus monitor. It’s an HDMI-based external touchscreen monitor that is supposedly two to three times brighter than your DSLR’s monitor. People online were commenting about how bright the monitor actually was and about the $499 price tag. It looks like it will be released in June, and I can’t wait to see it.

In addition to being a bright external monitor it has a built-in waveform, false color, focus assist, 3D LUTs, Pixel Zoom and many more features. I really like the feature that offers auxiliary power out to power your camera with the Focus’ Sony L Series battery. You can check it out here.

Atomos Sumo
Another external monitor that was being talked about was the 1,200-nit Atomos 19-inch Sumo, a self-proclaimed “on-set and in-studio 4Kp60 HDR 19-inch monitor-recorder.” It boasts some heavy specs, like the ability to record 4K 12bit Raw and 10-bit ProRes/DNxHR — plus it’s 19 inches!

What’s really smart is that it can double as an HDR grading monitor back in the edit suite. It will map color formats Log, PQ and HLG with its AtomHDR engine. Technically, it supports Sony SLog2/SLog3, Canon CLog/CLog 2, Arri Log C, Panasonic Vlog, JVC JLog, Red LogFilm Log formats and Sony SGamut/SGamut3/SGamut3.cine, Canon Cinema, BT2020, DCI P3, DCI P3+, Panasonic V Gamut and Arri Alexa Wide Gamut color gamuts. While the Sumo will record in 4K, it’s important to note that the monitor is actually a 10-bit, 1920×1080 resolution monitor with SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs.

The Atomos Sumo is available for pre-order now for $2,495. Get the complete list of specs here.

Avid Everywhere
This year, Avid Media Composer editors saw a roadmap for future updates like an updated Title Tool that is higher than HD compatible (finally!), an advanced color correction mode and Avid Everywhere based on the MediaCentral platform.

If you’ve ever seen an app like Avid Media Composer work through the cloud, you will probably agree how amazing it is. If you haven’t, essentially you will log in to Media Composer via a web browser or a light on machine app that runs all of the hard processing on the server that you are logging in to. The beauty of this is that you can essentially log in wherever you want and edit. Since the hard work is being done on the other end you can log in using a laptop or even a tablet that has decent Internet speed and edit high-resolution media. Here comes that editing on the beach job I was wanting. You can check out all of the Avid Everywhere updates here.

In addition Avid announced Media Composer First — a free version of Media Composer. They also released an updated IO – DNxIQ, essentially with the Thunderbolt 3 update along with a live cross-convert .

Sony a9
With all eyes on Sony to reveal the most anticipated full frame cameras in prosumer history — a7RIII and a7SIII — we are all surprised when they unveiled the 24.4MP a9. The a9 is Sony’s answer to heavy weights Canon and Nikon professional full-frame cameras that have run the markets for years.

With a pretty amazing blackout-free continuous shooting ability alongside an Ethernet port and dual SD card slots, the a9 is a beauty. While I am not a huge fan of Sony’s menu setup, I am really interested to see the footage and images come out on the web; there is something great about Sony’s images and video in my eyes. Besides my personal thoughts, there is also a five-axis in-body stabilization, UHD (3840×2160) video recording across the entire width of the sensor and even Super 35 recording. Check out more info here .

In the end, NAB 2017 was a little lackluster in terms of barn-burner hardware and software releases, however I feel that Blackmagic has taken the cake with the DaVinci Resolve 14 release. Keep in mind Blackmagic is also releasing updates to products like the Ursa Mini Pro, new Hyperdeck Studio Mini and updates to the ultra-competitive Blackmagic Video Assist, adding ever-valuable scopes.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.