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First hands-on look: DaVinci Resolve 11

4 minute read

Blackmagic DesignDaVinci Resolve 11

Blackmagic have made a habit of buying up companies, revamping the products and then re-releasing them at a massively reduced cost. Certainly that has been the case with DaVinci, with their Resolve colour grading software now available for a fraction of the price and the lite version for free. And they didn't stop there, not only is Resolve now incredibly good value but the performance and capabilities get stronger with each new release.

 Since the first release of DaVinci Resolve as a software only package Blackmagic have been steadily adding to the functionality and performance. With the release of Resolve 11 they have added more editing functionality and some indispensable on-set tools, whilst at the same time lifting some of the restrictions of the lite version to make it an absolute must have for anyone working with digital cameras.

 Resolve is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and it will take adavantage of multiple graphics cards to process your grades in real time. If you are working on a lower specced system Resolve 11 now has multiple options for caching of media and grades to improve real time performance. Working on a Macbook Pro with Retina display I was able to maintain real time playback of my media at all times by tweaking the caching and proxy options so that I never felt that I was being held back by the hardware.

Resolve 11 can now support dual monitors and if you have a Blackmagic I/O card you can also have a reference monitor which can be calibrated. Both your UI and your reference monitors can have a LUT (Look Up Table) applied to them to ensure that you are seeing your media as intended.


The editing capabilities of Resolve have been extended with support for seperate video and audio edits and trimming. You can now use JKL controls for scrubbing and in fact you can load keyboard maps for Adobe Premiere, FCPX and Avid Media Composer, or indeed create you own custom keybaord mapping for all of the shortcuts.

There is now a broader range of video transitions and the titling tool has added functionality so that you could easily use Resolve to edit many projects without ever having to use another editing package. Of course there are still a range of options for sending projects to and from other packages including Avid and FCPX and these have been enhanced too, with many more settings directly supported in FCPX.

The User Interface has been given a revamp with the most obvious change that the viewer is now in the centre of the screen, with the Gallery panel to the left. The Gallery page has gone and it is replaced by the ability to expand the gallery panel into it's own floating window when managing saved grades and looks.

Enhanced raw

There are enhanced controls for dealing with raw format footage from the ARRI Alexa, RED or Blackmagic Cinema Cameras with far greater control over the look of the RAW media. This even allows photographers who are shooting in raw format to take advantage of the controls in Resolve and use it to grade their stills.

There is also a new Color Match tool, which will attempt to apply a neutral grade based on a reference color chip chart from X-Rite, DataColor or DSC labs. Simply shoot the chart on location and then drag a grid over the shot in Resolve to get a match. It works but you have to be quite careful about the lighting on the chart.

The grading tools are basically the same with some small ergonomic improvements, but you now have the option to apply OpenFX filters such as those from Sapphire as part of the node tree or as transitions. This makes look creation in Resolve even more powerful and certainly sets it far ahead of the grading tools in most editing packages.

One of the major new features in Resolve 11 is the ability for multiple users to collaborate on a project. This allows editors and colourists to work on different parts of a project simultaneously and to be able to update their timeline to accept the grades that have been made by the other users.

On-Set Tools

Another addition in Resolve 11 is the inclusion of on-set tools. The first is Resolve Live, which allows you to grab a still from the camera whilst shooting and apply grades in Resolve. The still is referenced by timecode and later when the media is brought into Resolve the Live grades can be automatically applied. The second is a new clone tool that allows cloning of Camera Media to multiple destinations simultaneously. All the copies are checksum verified so that you know you have perfect copies of your media. Incredibly this is included in the free version of Resolve so I would definitely recommend you get this even if just for the clone tool.

The other major thing is that Resolve Lite now has the ability to work at 4K resolution. Previously the Lite version was restricted to HD only but that restriction has now been lifted. Resolve Lite now also supports 2 GPU's on the new Mac Pro and a single Red Rocket card.

The full version

So why would you buy the full version? The full version of Resolve supports Spatial and Temporal Noise reduction as well as Motion Blur and it also has full support for Stereoscopic projects which Resolve Lite does not. It also supports up to 8 GPU's (on Linux, 3 on Windows or Mac) and remote grading which allows two Resolve systems in different locations to be connected and controlled by the colourist in one suite whilst the client is at the other location.

For a full comparison of the difference between Resolve and Resolve Lite, and all the new features in Resolve 11 take a look at this page on Blackmagics website, I warn you it will take a few minutes to scroll through the list!

So what are my overall thoughts about Resolve 11? I think it is amazing that Blackmagic design have managed to create such a well rounded, easy to use and incredibly capable editing and grading system. By providing the Lite version for free they have put Colour grading and look creation into the hands of anyone with a camera and I applaud them for that.


Tags: Post & VFX