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Why I Might Edit My Feature Film On DaVinci Resolve, And Why You Should Consider It Too

I’ve been using DaVinci Resolve extensively as a color grading tool for the past few years, but with version 12 just around the corner I am very tempted to use it to cut my next feature. Those of you that read this blog frequently know that I use all of the major NLE’s, and often lean towards FCP X for my personal work. That said, some of the benefits of editing on Resolve 12 are going to be hard to pass up, especially for the unique needs of my upcoming film.

Much like cameras, I think of editing platforms as individual tools that should be chosen based on the job they’re being used for. I may have my favorites (FCP X certainly being one of them), but am not married to any one platform and never have been, just as I am not set on using the same camera for everything that I shoot. Every platform has it’s strengths and weaknesses, and you really should always “pick the right tool for the job”, no matter how cliche that may sound.

Up until this point I have been using FCP X for the majority of my editing work and Premiere Pro for certain jobs where I feel it’s a better fit. To this day I’m still not a big fan of Avid, although I will occasionally use Media Composer on specific jobs as needed – usually based on the other editors involved on those projects.

With all that in mind, DaVinci Resolve 12 is the new kid on the block and it may just become the most powerful and useful editing system out there.

DaVinci Resolve 12 Interface

The current version of Resolve (11) already has some incredible editing functionality built right in, and I’ve even used it to edit a couple of short form commercial projects from end to end. But even though version 11 is undeniably a powerful editing system in it’s own right (in addition to being a world class color grading platform), I have never really been tempted to edit any long form material in it, as it isn’t quite at the level of FCP X or Premiere Pro in some ways. With the added functionality coming to Resolve 12 though, that all may change…

There have been countless new editing-centric features integrated into Resolve 12 that will truly take it to the next level and make it a viable candidate for long form editing. Below are just a handful of reasons why I am considering using it for my feature length narrative film:

New User Interface

I am very comfortable working in Resolve 11, and have no real complaints about the interface. That said, it does still feel like a color grading system with an editor built in, whereas Resolve 12 feels like a true hybrid platform. By consolidating some of the ‘pages’ within the UI, Resolve now feels like an editorial finishing system with integrated color tools, instead of the other way around.

DaVinci-Resolve-User-Experience

The UI certainly wouldn’t be the only reason I would choose one NLE over another, but in this case it’s a very important factor. Working quickly and efficiently in any editing platform partly hinges on the design of the software itself, and it’s comforting to know the Blackmagic has really designed Resolve 12 with the editor in mind. It no longer feels like you are using a workaround to edit in Resolve, but rather than the software was truly intended for that purpose – and your user experience is heightened as a result.

Using LUTs & Color

I will likely be shooting my feature on either the Arri Alexa or the Blackmagic URSA, both of which shoot to a very flat log setting. This will of course mean that I’ll need to use 3D LUTs within Resolve to give the footage a Rec. 709 look, and get away from the overly flat log footage on the RAW files. Just about any editing system now can use 3D LUTs (either natively or via a 3rd party plugin) to give your RAW footage a presentable look as you work on the offline edit, but Resolve takes things a few steps further.

Often times, technical issues in your footage (especially in shots that are slightly over or under exposed) will be amplified by a 3D LUT, and ultimately that can be very distracting while editing. Resolve’s seamless integration between the edit and color pages gives you the ability to fine tune looks as you go, and correct any issues that may be exacerbated by the LUT. For me, this huge… That’s not to say that I am going to color each clip as I go through the offline edit (that would be crazy), but it’s great to know that if I’m unsure about whether or not I can use a specific shot based on color, I can make some adjustments on the fly and give myself peace of mind as I am editing. Not to mention, if I need to do a cast/crew screening or show the producers a cut before the color work as been done, it will be really easy to get my rough cuts looking really polished without having to grade everything prematurely.

No Roundtripping

I am so used to roundtripping my projects (sending them from my NLE to Resolve, and then back again), that it’s just become ingrained in my day to day workflow. That said, it will be pretty incredible to have the ability to edit, color, and finish all within DaVinci Resolve.

DaVinci Resolve 12 Tools

No matter how great your workflow is, and how organized your project may be – there are always potential translation issues that can and will occur when you port your project from one software to another. One of the reasons why I love FCP X right now is because of it’s near perfect integration with Resolve (especially when compared to Premiere Pro which I always seem to have issues with). But editing directly in Resolve takes things to a whole other level of simplicity… Now my offline and on-line edits can happen in the exact same place and there is no need to use translation files (such as an XML file) to send things back and forth, effectively eliminating potential issues and speeding up my process substantially.

Brilliant Features

Blackmagic didn’t just integrate more basic editing functionality into Resolve, they have gone above and beyond and created some highly original and powerful features. In many ways, they have taken some of my favorite elements from the major NLEs and integrated the best of them into Resolve 12. This is something that I’ve felt Adobe has tried to do with Premiere (as it has many FCP X inspired features, and many Avid style features too), but they haven’t been able to quite nail down. Resolve on the other hand seems to have found the sweet spot by combining only the best proven features from various applications into their system.

One highlight for me is the ‘Smart Bin’, which essentially works like ‘Smart Collections’ in FCP X. This tool allows you to organize your footage automatically based on certain parameters that you set, which can save a lot of time in the early stages of your edit.

I am also really impressed by the timeline and editing tools in Resolve 12. Much like any other editor, you can use ripple editing, slip/slide, etc. within Resolve, but the integration of these tools is second to none. For instance, rather than manual switching your tool settings to change your editing mode (ripple to slide, let’s say), you can simply position your mouse over a different part of the clip on your timeline, and Resolve will automatically know which tool you want to use. Little details like this can save a load of time when editing a feature.

There are all sorts of other little gems hidden in Resolve 12 too – like the ability to set different in and out points for your video/audio on any given clip, or the ability to select multiple clips in the timeline and apply the same edit to all of the clips at once.

Not to mention, the extremely detailed control that you have over keyframes or transitions by using their curves editor is really impressive.

DaVinci Resolve 12 Keyframing

Change Is Good

Creatively speaking, I am a firm believer that you need to embrace change and find new ways of approaching your work if you want to grow as an artist. I will often challenge myself to use a camera that I am not as familiar with or an editing system that I don’t have as much experience with just to shake things up creatively. When you step out of your comfort zone and force yourself to think and work differently, great things can happen and new ideas are inevitable.

On top of all of the technical and logistical benefits of using Resolve 12 for my feature, I really do like the idea that it will be a new experience. Much like how the office or studio you work in may inspire the work that you do in it, the software that you use will play a part in your creativity as well, whether you realize it or not. Resolve will offer a new experience and a new way to look at my story that I am certain will result in an enjoyable creative process.

Final Thoughts

Resolve 12, much like FCP X feels like the future of editing to me. Hardware and software are converging at a rate that’s faster than we have ever seen before in the film industry, and Blackmagic seems to be at the forefront of that movement. Cameras are essentially computers now, so it’s no big surprise that Blackmagic is focused on creating an end to end pipeline (from cameras to finishing software), that will serve today’s filmmakers throughout the entirety of their production/post pipeline.

It goes without saying that I will still use FCP X and Premiere Pro extensively as they will still be the best options for many projects. My ability to work quickly in FCP X is still unmatched by any other NLE and I doubt that will change in the near future. Even still, for my upcoming feature film where I won’t need to blow through hours of footage every day and the color integration will be paramount, Resolve 12 may just be the best tool for the job.

I haven’t fully committed to using Resolve 12 for the feature at this point, simply because I haven’t used it yet. Once it’s officially released and I can test it out with some longer form content I will make my final decision, but right now it’s looking like Resolve may be the way to go.

If you missed it last time, here is a quick no-budget mood film that I shot for this feature (titled ‘Ivy’) as part of the development process:

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To read more about Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve be sure to check out www.blackmagicdesign.com

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

14 Comments

  • Nate
    May 1, 2018 at 2:41 am

    Final Cut Pro runs so well even on low spec machines, that it’s hard for me to recommend Resolve to anyone at the “Grass Roots” level. This means 13 year olds who want to tap into their artistic side with their iPhone and a 2 year old consumer iMac can edit in iMovie and Final Cut Pro up to 4K without issue, while Resolve will crash and burn before they can really even set the project up.

    One might say “that’s fine, it’s for Pros”, but the whole point of dropping the price and giving out a free version is to get more people onto the tooling and accustomed to the tools so that they may (hopefully stick with it and buy Studio licenses and Blackmagic hardware later on. With the software being so unapproachable to the part of the market they’re trying to break into (broke students/graduates/freelancers, grass roots artistic kids who may want to get into this, budding), it’s not good.

    I want to use it, but it runs considerably worse on my machine than almost any other NLE that I’ve used (and I’ve installed trials of everything from Video Pro X to Avid Media Composer) just cause people kept telling me it’s my PC, and I wanted to see if anything else gave me these problems. The performance is bad, the playback isn’t that great. The CODEC support isn’t great; especially for non-Pros who just want to “learn” on this software.

    Most people I know with Macs went from iMovie to Final Cut Pro. Probably 75% of the people I know on Windows went from something like Sony Vegas, PowerDirector, VideoStudio, or Premiere Elements straight to Premiere Pro.

    I wish they would stop adding in so much stuff, and take one release to focus on properly scaling the software down to “consumer hardware.” It still feels like it expects to run on “rich market” equipment.

    Buying your kid (talented [s]he may be) a new $2,000 machine to run this is a very hard sell when they could just plop Final Cut on their MacBook Air and be on their way (not saying it should run on this kind of equipment, but that’s what they’re competing against in this $0-299 market).

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      Excellent point, Nate. Hardware is a huge consideration… Thanks for your insight.

      Reply
  • joe cas
    November 24, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Hi Noam,

    1.5 years later, what are your thoughts and experiences with editing feature films in Resolve, especially 12.5(.3)? Also would look forward to a Blog for best practices in Resolve, especially for smooth playback! Love your site! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Hey Joe! I haven’t edited my feature in Resolve yet (we’re still working on it), so I will need to get back to you on this once I’ve cut something truly long form in it. For now though, I can say that it’s been really amazing on smaller projects and I’ve been using it more and more. Also – great article idea, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for the future.

      Reply
  • […] to any one editing platform, and my goal is always to pick the right tool for the job. This year, I’ve shifted many of my projects to DaVinci Resolve 12.5 thanks to it’s incredible new editing toolset, but I still regularly cut projects on Premiere […]

    Reply
  • Amaru
    September 11, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Update? Have you edited your next feature in Resolve yet? If so, how did it go? Making a decision right now based on the issues I am having with my feature in FCPX at this moment. I have had Resolve since the release of 2.5 BMCC release. I have only used it for some color grading but mostly to convert. Instead of going CC and paying out more money for an NLE I am thinking Resolve plus I have been using the editing feature a little more between transcodes. The more I type the more I am wondering where my dongle is . Hmmm. Can’t hurt to try. I am already going to be set back a few weeks from this issue seeing that my FCPX keeps crashing.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Hey Amaru! My feature hasn’t yet been shot, but I have edited many other projects on Resolve and have had really good results. I’d suggest trying it out on a short project to see what you think. For me, it’s one of the best options out there… But to really know if it’ll work for you, the best thing to do is test out a project on it and see how it feels. Let me know what you think if you do!

      Reply
  • Adam Prest
    July 13, 2015 at 5:01 am

    What’s the compositing in DaVinci 12 like? Would it mean round tripping to after effects etc?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 21, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Hey Adam – I haven’t done too much compositing in DaVinci, but the tools that i have used within it have been really great. That said, a tool like After Effects or Nuke which is designed with compositing in mind will definitely still be the better choice for the time being.

      Reply
  • Steve M
    June 19, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I aqree, I’m really looking forward to eliminating roundtripping. For me, this is the single most important reason to switch. Especially when working with raw files. A huge timesaver, and the peace of mind that you won’t experience broken links between files!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 22, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Glad to hear Steve! I bet a lot of editors are going to feel the same way.

      Reply
  • Paul Saccone
    June 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Awesome article! With respect to USING LUTS & COLOR — It gets even better with Resolve 12 because of the new DaVinci Color Management features that let you set input, timeline, and output color spaces.

    You can make settings for entire projects, or even on a clip by clip basis. That means if you shoot on an ARRI, you select those clips (I like making a Smart Bin to show me all ARRI, BMD clips, etc.) and then changing the input color space. Simply tell Resolve 12 what camera it was shot on and you instantly get a color space transformation WITHOUT having to apply LUTs!!

    LUTs are awesome, but they do basic mapping from one space to another and can sometimes result in clipping. DaVinci Color Management in Resolve 12 does a proper mathematical transformation in realtime so all of your color and dynamic range data is retained. It’s non-destructive. You no longer have to worry about when you grade (pre- or post-LUT).

    It makes it super easy for editors to cut with great looking footage without needing to apply LUTs!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Great to know, Paul! I am very much looking forward to using Resolve for my picture edit, and appreciate you sharing the info with us.

      Reply
  • Jonathan
    June 9, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Noam –

    Great insight as always. I’m curious how you think the NLE integration in Resolve compares to the pending SpeedGrade implementation into Premiere. Would that tempt you to complete your project in Adobe at all or too little too late?

    Regards,

    Jonathan

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 10, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks so much Jonathan. To answer your question – I definitely think the Resolve option is a much better choice than Premiere even with SpeedGrade integration (for my purposes at least). The Speedgrade tools are a welcomed addition to Premiere, however their functionality within Premiere will still be a lot more limited than what is possible inside of DaVinci Resolve. Since Resolve was designed as a proper color correction software from the get go, you are able to really streamline your color workflow and fly through the grading process at a speed that I don’t think would be possible in Premiere… That said, for another type of editor/filmmaker, it might be the better choice!

      Reply

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