Review: DaVinci Resolve v16

Just in case you are brand spanking new to the video editing world (hello and welcome by the way if so), DaVinci Resolve is one of the stalwarts of the NLE packages available, along with AVID Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut X, Grass Valley EDIUS, Vegas Pro, Pinnacle Studio and Corel VideoStudio, and is somewhat unique.

You see, unlike its learned colleagues, it is free. Oh yes, there are other “free” NLE programs, but with little exception (and that probably being Hitfilm Express), the “free” programs are lightweight cutdowns of REAL editors.

And DaVinci Resolve, make no bones about it, is a real editor and has been since inception (2004), when it cost a small fortune and was head and shoulders above most video editor packages available at the time.

In 2009,  Aussie company Blackmagic Design, famous for its range of TV switches, decoders, converters etc plus its excellent cinema cameras, stepped in, bought it and made it free, except for a an upmarket version called Studio which also includes features to create motion graphics, professional-grade audio editing tools and AI tools.

(Blackmagic applied this thinking to software called Fusion, a powerful visual effects and 3D compositing tool too, but that is another story we’ll deal with in a later edition of Australian Videocamera).

OK, so what makes DaVinci Resolve so good?

DaVinci Resolve 16

As you’d expect, DaVinci Resolve lets you cut up clips and stick ‘em on a timeline, apply transitions, tweak audio, add effects and so on. And it is famed for its Colour Correction toolset, probably better than any other package around.

And you can get it from Mac, PC or LINUX. Did we mention it is free?

But DaVinci Resolve’s latest version has a few new party tricks up its sleeve as well. A good starting point here is the new Cut Page.

If you are an editor whose major work is news cutting or even TV commercials or other short form video, then speed is of the essence. What the developers of Resolve have done is let you import, edit, trim, add transitions, titles, automatically match colour, mix audio etc all in the one location using what they have called The Cut Page, an alternative to the standard edit window. The Cut Page has a new set of tools to make life, well easier and faster.

Whilst it may appear that all that happened is a simplification of existing processes, in reality the Resolve boffins have looked at a different and better way of doing things.

So, what are these new tools is the next obvious question.

In the Cut Page (see screen shot at top of page), DaVinci Resolve 16 has combined several tools and workflow and made each of these available inside the Cut Page process. These groups are:

  • Dual Timeline: letting you quickly navigate the whole edit and trim without wasting time zooming and scrolling
  • Source Tape: Quickly review all clips in a bin as if it was a single “tape”
  • Dedicated Trim Interface: Lets you see both sides of an edit and trim in frame accurate detail 
  • Intelligent Edit Modes: In the timeline the edit modes can intelligently sync clips and edits for you.
  • Fast Review: Quickly review an entire timeline or clips with variable speed playback that’s automatically set based on clip length.
  • Transform, Retime and Stabilise: Tools for picture in picture effects, retiming, stabilization, dynamic zoom, text, audio and more, all in one place
  • Quick Export: Render, upload and share your project to online services such as YouTube and Vimeo.
  • Media Import: Import individual files or entire directory structures with subfolders as bins
  • Portable Editing: The interface is scalable and works well on smaller laptop screens

Other New Features

But wait there is more as they say (and I really wish they wouldn’t)

Grouped under the separate categories of Editing, VFX, Colour Correction, Collaboration and “Fairlight” (more on this later), Resolve has another 30+ major new features / additions / updates that have been added to the old version 15 as follows:

Editing

There is now the ability to customise different timelines settings such as frame rate, resolution and output all in  the same project, there are colour adjustments that can be applied to a stack of clips in one operation, bins can be created using facial recognition technology plus improvements in stabilisation, keyframing, audio scrubbing, encoding and speed changes / retiming are all available.

VFX

In the VFX realm, 3D performance has been improved and GPU acceleration applied to dissolves, effects motion, pinning and time effects employed. Masking is now faster as is planar and camera tracking and the Resolve engineers have tweaked caching and memory management technologies.

Colour Management

As mentioned, DaVinci Resolve is famed for its Colour Management tools – indeed, a number of people prefer editing in Premiere Pro or Vegas or other NLE and still switch to Resolve simply for Colour Grading. Functionality has been improved here too, via better viewing and editing of keyframes, GPU accelerated scopes, updated histogram curves, auto colour balancing and much more.

Collaboration

Blackmagic claims that Resolve is the only post-production solution letting different people work together on the same project at the same time. (At time of release this may have been true, but Vegas Pro now allows this functionality too, albeit using a different methodology somewhat).

Markers can now be shared, each user has their own cache, a read only mode stops anything from affecting other users and with support for collaborative Dolby Vision and HDR10+ projects, each user has access to the SDR and HDR elements they need.

Fairlight

Fairlight and audio are synonymous in the world of sound. Fairlight originated in the 70s in Sydney and Blackmagic Design acquired the technology over the last few years. This has been integrated in Resolve giving high end audio post-production tools previously only generally found in top-of-the-range dedicated audio tools (AVID ProTools springs to mind here).

Designed for film and TV, you get a massive set of recording, editing, mixing, sweetening, finishing and mastering tools all inside DaVinci Resolve.

Conclusion

As a video editing system, DaVinci Resolve is brilliant. Considering the price, even for the “base” version, it is extraordinary. Whether you are a Mac aficionado, a Windows lover or prefer LINUX, you can get DaVinci Resolve up and running in minutes, and your existing NLE knowledge will quickly be able to utilise the Resolve Interface.

Sure, the new Cut Page system (if you decide to use it) may take a bit of a mind warp from the “old ways”, but in practice for short form stuff, I find it to be easy, flexible and above all, fast.

If at Australian Videocamera we gave a star rating out of 5, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 16 would easily top the score.

Have a look at it – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

DaVinci Resolve 16 and DaVinci Resolve Studio

DaVinci Resolve 16

Free

Download Now

DaVinci Resolve Studio 16

Includes everything in the free version plus DaVinci Neural Engine features, multi user collaboration, stereoscopic 3D tools, dozens of ResolveFX and FairlightFX plugins, HDR grading, film grain, blur and mist effects, and more.

A$495

Download Now

Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty discusses DaVinci Resolve 16.

Read an in-depth interview Australian Videocamera had with Grant with Petty.

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