BlackMagic Design recently acquired DaVinci Resolve, a professional color grading tool costing several thousands of dollars. They have now brought it to the Mac to be at a very competitive price of $995. BlackMagic‘s Resolve has been used on several Hollywood blockbusters which include Avatar, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Salvation, and the recent Star Trek film just to name a few.

To accompany the Resolve, BlackMagic Design has 2 other powerful tools. The DaVinci Resolve control surface specifically designed by colorists and the DeckLink HD Extreme 3D capture card. Combine these with a Nvidia Quadro graphics card and you have a very powerful color grading tool.

 

I was not able to get my hands on the Control Surface, however BlackMagic Design was gracious enough to send me not only the Resolve software, but the DeckLink HD Extreme 3D capture card. Setup was relatively no brainer, thanks to BlackMagic Design’s fantastic instructional pdf. the DeckLink HD  Extreme 3D card was easily installed into my MacPro along with DaVinci Resolve in just a matter of minutes.

 

 

DeckLink HD Extreme 3D

 

The DeckLink HD Extreme 3D card supports both 2D and 3D workflows, which also includes HD-SDI, HDMI 1.4, analog component, and AES/EBU. The DeckLink Extreme 3D has the ability to switch between SD and HD and supports 3Gb/s SDI, 4:2:2, 4:4:4 RGB, native 12 bit and variable frames rates. The card also features the ability to down and cross convert footage. A truly remarkable tool.

If you are familiar with other capture cards then you feel right at home with the DeckLink HD Extreme 3D. The card does take up two slots in you MacPro which is something to keep in mind when building your color grading suite. Other than that, it truly is a plug and play scenario, which is fantastic.

The Software bundled with the DeckLink HD Extreme 3D provides you with a panel in System Preferences. There you can set your output, inputs via HD-SDI, HDMI and so forth. BlackMagic Design also gives you the option to select HDMI outputs when in 3D mode. A really nice feature.

The software also allows you to control the processing for both inputs and outputs, set A-frame VITC reference for NTSC while using a 3:2 pulldown. They even provide you with the ability to control level meter display, and the cooling fan speed for quieter operation. Although this is a very quite set up as is.

BlackMagic Design also bundles some very nice plug-ins such a Photoshop plugin for capture, and output of still frames. A BlackMagic Media Express that allows you to control a deck remotely via RS-422 for capture and playback of clips, and BlackMagic Disk Speed Test checks your disk array in frames per second. All of these prove to be invaluable.

 

DaVinci Resolve

Jumping into Resolve and the first thing you will notice is this looks nothing like Apple Color, its actually a lot more user friendly. The interface is very clean and intuitive. BlackMagic Design has done an outstanding job here.

When working with DaVinci Resolve the first thing you will notice is that there is no send to feature like the ” send to Apple Color” from Final Cut Pro. Now this really is not that much of a big deal at all. Resolve requires you to conform using an EDL and metadata. This is actually a great innovation as most television series and length form cutting require this from their editors at any rate. Therefore, if you have done your original prep work than this will be a non-issue.

 

Automatic Scene Detection

 

DaVinci Resolve also has another stunning feature, that I was only made aware of after having a discussion with BlackMagic Design’s technical support, which by the way is just amazing. Resolve has the ability to pull in a self-contained Quicktime file from let’s say a promo or even an entire film ( this would take much longer), and cut up the individual shots for grading. The effect is called Automatic Scene Detection, and it works pretty flawlessly. Working in promos, this is an outstanding feature, and a real time saver! Great job BlackMagic Design.

Grading in Resolve

 

Resolve’s is incredibly effective here offering you familiar scenarios such as Primary and Secondaries to do all of your heavy grading. Where Resolve really excels is its use of nodes within the Color Tab. Something I am very familiar with, and miss about the now dead Apple Shake. If you have ever worked with Shake, then you will know what I mean.

The nodes provide you with the ability to drag and drop color grades, attach, and reflect each other like Layers in After Effects or Photoshop. But at the same time provide you with a a very nice visual landscape of node graph. Each node can be “hooked” or unhooked from one another, allowing you to try out different scenarios with out losing other layers. Resolve also allows to create an incredible heavy grade using a serial set of nodes and keys. I found this a joy to work with, and found this often very addicting as you can change the entire look or feel of scene all together. The possibilities seem endless.

Object Tracker

 

DaVinci Resolve has even more tools to offer with a 3D tracker. The object tracker can track an object in real time with out the use of key frame generation. This is unbelievable, as I normally use After Effects to key frame my object tracking, which can be very time consuming. Just drop a Power Window onto an object, turn on 3D tracking and press play. The 3D tracker will automatically follow the objects movement, position and size. The 3D object tracking uses 1 to 99 tracking points for real time perfect tracking lock. Unbelievable, and Outstanding!

Resolve does all of this in realtime! Resolve harness the power of the GPU in your Nvidia card. Just remember when you are using Cuda drivers you may need to update them for Resolve. Nvidia Cuda driver basically leverages compute engine in Nvidia graphics processing units (GPU) to solve complex computational problems in a fraction of the time required on by your CPU. This is how BlackMagic Design is able to provide you realtime tracking and color grading with various footage formats from Raw RED R3D 2K and 4K files to Avid DNxHD and of course Apple Pro Res.

Mobile Grading

 

Can Resolve be installed on a Macbook Pro for mobile grading? Well yes and no. Although Resolve can be installed and run on a Macbook Pro, it runs with very limited abilities. As I mentioned above Resolve really depends on GPU power, and the MacBook Pros just don’t have large amounts of GPU. You can get away with grading a small SD file in a offline proxy, but you simply can not grade larger HD files such as R3D. Grading HD files on the Macbook Pro is not recommend, as it can ultimately end up in the dreaded software crash. Therefore, I highly recommend MacPro towers with a Nvidia Quadro to get the best out of your Resolve.

 

Outputting

 

Outputting from Resolve is simple enough and supports both input and output from tape based decks such as HDCAM SR. Rendering window gives you options to select carious parameters for outputting your final grade. The codecs supported may vary depending on your own set up. However BlackMagic does allow you to output QuickTime, DNxHD with timecodes. This can be handy when working with multiple editors on a server based editing system.

 

Final Thoughts

 

After working few months with DaVinci Resolve, I find myself even more impressed with it than before. BlackMagic Design has the ultimate in color grading tools. They provided you with all of these features I have mentioned and many more. Then add to that the unbelievable tech support, and continuous updates, and you have a very stable environment for your color grading.

BlackMagic Design’s Resolve is absolutely top notch quality, as well as impeccable performance. This really is the online colorists go to software for producing impressive grading. Resolve has really become one of my favorite tools I have ever used to date. It’s Combination of performance, tools and competitive pricing make it absolutely invaluable.

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