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On the Set or in the Suite: Developing DaVinci Resolve Workflows

Blackmagic Design’s purchase of DaVinci Systems put a world-class color grading solution within the reach of every video professional. DaVinci Resolve 9 sports a more versatile user interface that makes it easy to run, whether you are an editor, colorist or DIT working on set. Resolve 9 comes in two basic Mac or Windows software versions: the $995 paid and the free Lite version. (The software bundle included with the purchase of a Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes the full (paid) version of Resolve, plus a copy of UltraScope.)

The first step in any Resolve session is bringing clips to be graded into the Media Pool.

The paid and free versions of Resolve work the same way, except that the paid version offers larger-than-HD output, noise reduction and the ability to tap into more than one extra GPU card for hardware acceleration. Resolve runs fine with a single display card (I’ve done testing with the NVIDIA GT120, NVIDIA Quadro 4000 and ATI 5870) but requires a Blackmagic video output card if you want to see the image on a broadcast monitor.

Work in Resolve 9 generally flows left to right, through the tabbed pages, which you select at the bottom of the interface screen. Tabs include Media (where you access the media files that you’ll be working with), Conform (importing/exporting EDL, XML and AAF files), Color (where you do color correction), Gallery (the place to store and recall preset looks) and Deliver (rendering and/or output to tape).

Camera raw settings can be changed globally by using the Project Settings panel.

Many casual users employ Resolve in two ways: correcting camera files to send on to editorial, and color correction round-trips with NLE software. This tutorial is intended to highlight some of the basic workflow steps associated with these tasks. Resolve is deep and powerful, so spend time with the excellent manual to learn its color correction tools, whose scope makes them impossible to detail here.

Creating Edit-Ready Dailies – BMCC (CinemaDNG Media)
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera can record images as camera raw CinemaDNG image sequences. Resolve 9 can be used to turn these into QuickTime or MXF media for editing. Files may be graded for the desired final look at this point, or the operator may choose to apply the BMD Film preset. This log preset generates files with a flat look comparable to ARRI Log C. You may prefer this method if you intend to use a Log-to-Rec. 709 LUT (lookup table) in another grading application or a filter like the Pomfort Log-to-Video effect, which is available for Apple Final Cut Pro 7/X.

Step 1 Media: Drag clip folders into the Media Pool section.

Step 2 Conform: Skip this tab, since the clips are already on a single timeline.

Step 3 Color: Make sure the camera setting (camera icon) for the clips on the timeline is set to Project. Open the project settings (gear icon).
Change and apply these values:
    1. Camera Raw – CinemaDNG
    2. White Balance – As Shot
    3. Color Space and Gamma – BMD Film.
 

Resolve includes a number of 1D and 3D LUT presets that may be applied as input or output settings.

Step 4 Deliver: Set it to render each clip individually, assign the target destination and frame rate and the naming options. Then choose Add Job and Start Render.

The free version of Resolve will downscale the BMCC’s 2.5K-wide images to 1920 x 1080. The paid version of Resolve will permit output at the larger, native size. Rendered ProRes files may now be directly imported into FCP 7, FCP X or Adobe Premiere Pro. Correct the images to a proper video appearance with the color correction tools or filters available in your NLE.

Creating Edit-Ready Dailies – ARRI Alexa / BMCC (ProRes, DNxHD Media)
Both the ARRI Alexa and Blackmagic Cinema Camera can record Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD media files to onboard storage. Each offers a similar log gamma profile that may be applied during recording in order to preserve dynamic range: Log C for the Alexa and BMD Film for Blackmagic. These profiles facilitate high-quality grading later. Resolve may be used to properly grade these images to the final look as dailies are generated, or it may simply be used to apply a viewing LUT for a more pleasing appearance during the edit.

Render settings are defined on the Deliver page. Easy Setup presets are best for NLE-specific round-trips.

Step 1 Media: Drag clip folders into the Media Pool section.

Step 2 Conform: Skip this tab, since the clips are already on a single timeline.

Step 3 Color: Make sure the camera setting for the clips on the timeline is set to Project. Open the project settings and set these values: 3D Input LUT – ARRI Alexa Log C or BMD Film to Rec. 709.

Step 4 Deliver: Set it to render each clip individually, assign the target destination and frame rate and the naming options. Check whether or not to render with audio. Then choose Add Job and Start Render.

The result will be new, color corrected media files, ready for editing. To render Avid-compatible MXF media for Avid Media Composer, select the Avid AAF Round-Trip from the Easy Setup presets. After rendering, return to the Conform page to export an AAF file.

Round-Trips: Using Resolve Together with Editing Applications
DaVinci Resolve supports round-trips from and back to NLEs based on EDL, XML and AAF lists. You can use Resolve for round-trips with Apple Final Cut Pro 7/X, Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer/Symphony. You may also use it to go between systems. For example, you could edit in FCP X, color correct in Resolve and then finish in Premiere Pro or Smoke 2013. Media should have valid timecode and reel IDs for the process to work properly.

Creative editing often takes place with log-profile camera files, which are then exported for color correction. In this image, the editor has placed a basic color correction effect on an upper video track to present a more pleasing look for the client during the offline edit.

In addition to accessing the camera files and generating new media with baked-in corrections, these round-trips require an interchange of edit lists. Resolve imports an XML and/or AAF file to link to the original camera media and places those clips on a timeline that matches the edited sequence. When the corrected (and trimmed) media is rendered, Resolve must generate new XML and/or AAF files, which the NLE uses to link to these new media files. AAF files are used with Avid systems and MXF media, while standard XML files and QuickTime media are used with Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro. FCP X uses a new XML format that is incompatible with FCP 7 or Premiere Pro without translation by Resolve or another utility.

Step 1  Avid/Premiere Pro/Final Cut Pro: Export a list file that is linked to the camera media (AAF, XML or FCPXML).

Step 2 Conform (skip Media tab): Import the XML or AAF file. Make sure you have set the options to automatically add these clips to the Media Pool.

Step 3 Color: Grade your shots as desired.
 

An example of grading a log-profile image from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera using DaVinci Resolve.

Step 4 Deliver: Easy Setup preset—select Final Cut Pro XML or Avid AAF round-trip. Verify QuickTime or MXF rendering, depending on the target application. Change handle lengths if desired. Check whether or not to render with audio. Then choose Add Job and Start Render.

Step 5 Conform: Export a new XML (FCP 7, Premiere Pro), FCPXML (FCP X) or AAF (Avid) list.

The Round-Trip Back
The reason you want to go back into your NLE is for the final finishing process, such as adding titles and effects or mixing sound. If you rendered QuickTime media and generated one of the XML formats, you’ll be able to import these new lists into FCP 7/X or Premiere Pro, and those applications will reconnect to the files in their current location. FCP X offers the option to import/copy the media into its own managed Events folders.

If you export MXF media and a corresponding AAF list with the intent of returning to Avid Media Composer/Symphony, then follow these additional steps.

Step 1 Copy or move the folder of rendered MXF media files into an Avid MediaFiles/MXF subfolder. Rename this copied folder of rendered Resolve files with a number.

Step 2 Launch Media Composer or Symphony and return to your project or create a new project.

Step 3 Open a new, blank bin and import the AAF file that was exported from Resolve. This list will populate the bin with master clips and a sequence, which will be linked to the new MXF media rendered in Resolve and copied into the Avid MediaFiles/MXF subfolder.