I’ve never used DaVinci Resolve before. Ever. So doing a DaVinci Resolve 11 tutorial is going to be quite the learning curve.
It’s one of those things that I said I’d get to one day and its taken this long for that day to arrive.
I decided to arm myself with as much training material as I could get my hands on and work through it all.
When I’m finished, I am hoping that I can be proficient at getting the sort of grades that I see in my minds eye on to the screen. Having said that, if my mobile rings one day and they need somebody straight away for the next Spielberg film I’m sure ill be able to clear my schedule!
I also hope that by reading this and watching the videos I post you will also be on the same page as me – we can all sit around Spielberg’s house drinking coffee and talking about how awesome our colours are!
Lets start with some resources that you can use to learn some bits and pieces about Resolve.
- nofilmschool.com – a page with a free training course you can watch.
- Warren Eagles on YouTube – this guy is one of the gurus of colouring. He has a range of videos you can can watch and learn.
- If a real book is your go, then one of the most recommended is Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema by Alexis Van Hurkman. I haven’t read this myself – yet – but it has a lot of great feedback and is used in Schools throughout the world as part of learning colour.
There is also the obligatory Google, YouTube and Vimeo searches that you can do as well. If you have any recommendations of your own, please add them in the comments section and I’ll add them as a resource.
As we work through this together I’ll post some different footage that we can play with. I’ll shoot from different cameras and different conditions so we can correct. Ill even put a few together have some issues we need to fix so we can work through that also.
So what do we need to do first? Well, check your machine meets minimum system requirements. I’m going to assume yours does so we can skip on. You can check details here.
I’m running with a 2014 Mac Pro, 2 Apple Thunderbolt displays and a Samsung LED for viewing. This isn’t necessary. I’ll also do this tutorial on my laptop, MacBook Pro, and ensure everything is transferable to that machine. You dont need anything special for this – just the minimum specs will do.
If you don’t know how to get your spces, from a mac it is Apple Menu > About this Mac and click on the More info button. This will show you something similar to the below:
The next step is downloading DaVinci Resolve. You can do this from here.
There are 3 versions of resolve. The first is free and it is called DaVinci Resolve Lite. The second is software only. Its costs around 1K and provides some further features can be used with a range of control surfaces. The last is full DaVinci Resolve Control Surface. Its the software and the desk at around 37k. You can see a further description of the differences of each version here.
I’m going to just be using my mac with keyboard and the software only version. Whatever version you have will be fine.
I’ve got a video below that goes into a bit more detail as far as using Resolve goes, but ill give a step-through here also.
I’m also going to use a number of videos throughout the tutorials, but to start with you can go here and download them all. There will be more, but these are our starting point.
Click here to access the folder on Google Drive. 2 files are from my Red Epic and the rest from 5ds.
To start Resolve you need to click its icon in the dock. It will go through its checks for hardware, dongles etc and display this screen:
The + icon to the bottom left, circled in red, is the one we want to press. This will allow us to create a new user.
The new user screen will appear. Enter the name of the user, in my case ‘grading’, and a password if you like. I’m not going to bother entering one as ill remove it once we’re done – and nobody else will use this machine or have access to this profile.
If you need secure access, by all means enter a password. You can also add a photo if you like.
Press the Setup New User button and you’re good to go.
The login screen will now display your newly created user. Either double-click the users icon or press the log in button.
Once you’re in, you will be presented with the default Project Manager page:
The numbers represent the different areas of the screen:
- This is where projects you are working on are located. You can an image, at this point blank, of the files you are working on.
- This changes the display type
- This area allows you to group projects, for example an Ad where you need to have 15, 30 sec versions etc as well as the user info. You use this area to log out, quit or view your account info (or change your password!)
- The button you press to open your project
As we have no projects to speak of just yet, you can double-click the Untitled Project or press the Open button to get inside our first project.
This brings up the default screen:
We’ll breakdown this screen in a minute, but first there is something we need to change.
You need to open Resolves preferences and navigate to the Media Storage tab.
Press the + icon to add the file folder we will use for these tutorials. Wherever you copied it to, add that directory and press Save. You will then need to exit Resolve to have the changes make effect. When you log back in using the user you created earlier you will see your Library added.
This means you now have access to the files needed for this set of tutorials. its also a good place to added your usual project working directories you use in FCP X, Premiere, Avid etc.
We now have a Library set up where we can get to our work quickly. Phew.
So, lets have a better look at the interface.
I’ve marked the initial screen with numbers, and we can dive into each with a bit more detail.
This is the Media area as you can tell by the section marked number 7.
The numbered areas:
- The Library area – these are the places that you can get to from within Resolve to be able to work on. If its not here, you’re not able to work on it. When you select a location on the left, the right-hand side will show either a list of files or clips you have access to. You can scrub the clips, change the views and double-click to view the clip in the viewing area.
- Viewing area – view the clips from your library, see what you like and dont like. This is where you can make decisions about what you do and don’t want in your project. You can drag single clips, groups of clips or folders into the Media Pool area (we’ll get to that in a minute)
- Embedded Audio area – if your clip has audio, then it will be metered here.
- Media Pool – if you want to work with any clips it needs to be within your pool. You can have a single pool, multiple pools and nested pools. Its up to you as to how you want it to go and whatever makes sense for your workflow.
- Media Pool continued – these are the actual clips that sit within the areas you create as part of point 4. They are both related. Its like a Finder window but for your clips. Make them make sense – break them up as needed, but most importantly do it properly so your can work easily and more efficiently.
- inspector – This displays info about the clip you have selected. Is it Red? Its an r3d. Straight out of your 5d? H.264. It gives frame rates, resolution, time, etc. You can have as much or as little info displayed as you’d like. Again, the more you add the easier you might find it in the future when you’re looking at 2am for ‘that clip from LA when it was dark and my shoes were wet”.
- We’re in the Media section at the moment. But you can move to edit, color or finish from here.
Lets do something
If you’ve downloaded the clips and shared the folder you now have access to it in your library area. Click on it and navigate to the RAW footage folder (or whatever you called the folder that contains the clips).
Your library will now show you the clips:
Now you can view your files as small pictures. You can drag the slider to change their size or change their view type using the buttons at the top.
Double-click any of the clips in the library and you’ll see your clip ready for playback. You will also notice that the double-click added your file to the default media pool. This is good – now we can do some work on it.
I’ve chose A002_C026_0222JC_001.R3D to work with.
I chose this clip for a few reason. The first is that it was shot using a Red Epic so we have a lot of data to play with. Its also a bit yellow, has some passing lights that we can dull and we can give the talents face a bit of a makeover.
So lets go over what we have. We have our media screen open with our files available. Our pool has the clip we want to use in it (you can have more than just the one in there) and the ability to watch it in our play area.
Now we are getting somewhere.
Lets skip over to the Edit section by pressing the edit button we saw at the bottom of the screen earlier.
Now we have a new screen. This is where you can make your video. Its the Resolve version of an NLE. It works much the same as all the rest of them and you can pick it up very quickly to do simple jobs.
Lets look at the important areas for us today:
- This is your timeline/media pool area. If you click on the media pool button you’ll see the clip(s) you added previously. Click back on the timeline button and you’ll notice there isn’t one there. This is important because you wont be able to work on a timeline until you have created one. Right-click in the middle of the Timelines window and select Create new timeline. Give the timeline a meaningful name, for me I’m going with ‘Man at night’ as this is going to be a very short film with just the single shot! Press the create new timeline button and your timeline appears. Note also that you are able to create multiple timelines and this is something we’ll come back to in later tutorials.
- Now that you’ve added your timeline you will notice that the timeline area has changed as well. We now have the default video and audio clip added but nothing there… yet.
Go back to the Media Pool tab and double-click the clip to display it in the viewer. You can mark in and out points for this clip here using I and O as you do in other editors. I’m just going to use the entire clip and drag, from the middle of the clip, down to the timeline. You should now have the clip in your timeline looking like the below (I’ve scaled up my timeline using the slider on the bottom right of the timeline)
You can now scrub this clip, view it, all the normal things you can do with other software – but we are here to colour.
Lets get into it then. Press the Colour tab at the bottom of the screen and you are presented with all the tools you need at your fingertips.
There are 2 new sections in the Colour screen that we will look at for the moment.
- Primaries, curves, mixers and wheels – they’re all here ready to play with.
- Nodes – this is an area we need to understand and will touch on shortly.
You can see just above section 1 that your clip(s) are there – in the same order as they were on your timeline. So if you go back to your media pool and add another clip, then add it to your timeline you will notice that it appears next in the color tab.
So the first thing we need to do is Primary Colour Correction. This is the nuts and bolts and the part to get right. The aim for primary colour correction, or primary as ill now reference it, is to create an overall balance of contrast and colour. We want a balanced image to start with so that any changes we make down the line for looks (called secondary) is built on a solid foundation. Better to build a house on a concrete slab than a muddy riverbed.
Now its always a nice idea to show scopes. Right-click on the viewer (the area where you correct selected clip plays) and select Show Scopes.
By default you can see that 4 scopes are selected. We are going to start simple and change that to 1 scope and select Parade.
Your screen should now look something like this:
So we are trying to balance this clip first off. Always balance first.
What are the problems with this clip? Is it a bit too dark? Is there too much yellow? Do we have enough detail of his clothes?
There are lots of questions you can ask but its hard to make decisions without knowing the context of this shot. So, lets make it easy. This clip is whatever you want it to be, it just needs to be balanced first. Lets get everything at a great starting point so that we can tackle anything we need to next.
Lets name this first node ‘balanced’ so that we can go back to it at any time. Do do that, right-click on that clip in the node area and select Change label.
Once you’ve done that your label is changed and you know exactly where you sit.
So lets start doing to primary.
Our first step will be to increase the contrast of this image. Lets look at the parade:
You can see this image is broken up into the 3 colour areas or red, green and blue (RGB) and the scale is set from 0 to 1023.
This is telling us a few things. Firstly, there isn’t much contrast. Nearly all this image sits below 640 which means we have no detail for anything above that. It also tells us that the blue is in worse condition as it is almost black and doesnt have much contrast at all above 100.
This means looking at our image, you see no detail in his jacket, the background is muddy and is that a t-shirt he is wearing under the jacket? That plus a range of other questions.
With our color wheel selected you can see the highlighted area above. These are the controls we are going to use for the moment.
Now, before we start correcting lets remember one thing. This was filmed at night with only street lighting so it will be dark. Its easy to get carried away over-correcting things but our aim is to get this shot to a great starting place. Colour correcting is also a bit of a balancing act that you will soon see very shortly!
Lets start by increasing the Gain. Our waves start to move up towards the top of the parade.
This is a good place to start. You can see how our parade is now much more across the spectrum.
Move the lift slider left and right and see what happens. if you move it too far left you end up with colours crushing at 0 and it looks terrible – move it too high and it looks like you’ve white-washed your image.
Try and move the lift slider so that none of your colours hit zero. Then you know you have some night blacks without crushing other info.
Let’s briefly touch on what Lift, Gamma and Gain mean in this parade.
Look at this image:
This is how a lot of people would, logically, see lift gamma and gain relating. 0 is black and 1023 being white. But its not that simple. They all interact and work together. There isn’t a dividing line. Move one and often the others will move as well. Its roughly a third each.
Lets start and balance the blacks. Look at the parade we have from before. Now, reset it by pressing the reset icon next to the lift, gamma, gain titles.
looking at the lift area, or lower part of our parade, are the rgb level? The blue appears to be darker than the others and you can see this in our image we have a bit of a redish tinge to it. We want to reduce the Red and increase the blue in our image so on the lift control, drag the circle towards the blue and you will see your parade starting to even up in the Lift area.
Lets look at the whites next, our Gain. We dont have much at all in gain at the moment and you can see that in our image as its very dark.
The most obvious part of this is that there is barely any blue in this area at all. Compare to the red and green and blue is pretty much a no show.
This is easily fixed as we can drag our circle in the Gain area this time and even out out parade a little bit more.
Once you have the gain area level you will notice something else happened. Our Reds and our Greens reduced and the contrast of our image has reduced.
So now, under Gain, we can move the slider to the right to increase the contrast of our image. As you do that the relationships in the RGB change so you will need to adjust your gain again.
Adjust it and you can see we are really getting there with this image.
You can then make a few small changes with saturation etc below the colour wheels, but for the most part we are done with balancing this image.
To see your before and after shots, hit the number at the bottom left of your image on the node window.
Now you have your balanced grade you can make a still of it for your gallery.
To do this, just right-click on your balanced image and select Grab Still. It will then place it in your stills collection. Give your still a name by double-clicking on it and typing the name you want to give.
This reminds me, being a majority FCPX user I have got used to never having to press a save button. Its just there and always saves whatever ive been doing. Resolve, however, does not auto-save so you need to remember to save everything. If you havent already hit save and give your project a name.
Thats our primary correction done. There are a few other ways to do this that will will look at done in coming tutorials, but I think this is a good place to stop for the moment.
Pat yourself on the back and get ready, because its not getting easier from here!
If reading isn’t your thing, you can watch the video here: