A year or so back I took the plunge and invested in DaVinci Resolve Studio 15. Previously I had used FCP X with a smidgen of Adobe Premiere thrown in for compatibility with one of my clients. But I had usually used Resolve for correction and grading - well as far as what this non full time 'colourist' can class as grading at any rate. So it made sense with Resolve's ever increasing NLE abilities to gradually move over. Particularly as I was using it increasingly more.
The short story is that I really like editing in Resolve, so I was very interested to take a look at the current public beta of version 16, announced last week at NAB. Primarily I wanted to see what the new Cut page was all about and how it might help me work more quickly for fast turnaround projects. My (article) editing duties at RedShark take up a lot of time, so when I do edit with video, anything that makes it as quick and as painless as possible is a massive bonus.
The Cut page has been designed with such a purpose in mind. It is a streamlined interface that not only adapts to your screen size, making for the most clutter free editing experience possible, but it also adapts to project length as well when it comes to timeline display and clip trimming. But as you'll find out later, "streamlined" does not really mean bare bones.
After loading a few clips onto the timeline the first thing that became apparent was that it is a completely different editing paradigm to the standard edit page. It's a bit like an editor within an editor. In fact that's exactly what it is. But you can go seamlessly between the original edit page, and the Cut page. This is absolutely vital to its success.
Scrubbing through the timeline is different. You hover your mouse over the timeline marker point, and the timeline scrolls past it, the marker staying central to the screen. This is a different way of scrubbing to the standard editing page.
The immediate question therefore is whether this is a good idea? After all, it could become confusing moving between the two types of editing page, but having two totally different ways of navigating through the timeline and clips. We shall see if this has an effect as people use it long term. For now, I like how responsive and intuitive it is.
Dual timeline displays
An overview of the Resolve 16 cut page showing the dual timelines
The timeline, as you will know unless you have been under a rock for the past week or so, has two different displays. At the top is a window that shows the entire length of the timeline/edit. Beneath it is a fixed zoom portion of the timeline. The zoom on this cannot be changed. But it isn't a problem because clips can be edited, trimmed, moved, and navigated through using both of those timeline views. The whole idea behind it is to elininate the need for you to use those zoom keys in the first place.
It can take a little getting used to at first if you are used to using the + and - keys and shift-Z all the time. Everything about the cut page has been designed for speed and to minimise things you need to do.
One example of how things can be sped up drastically is if you want to move a clip from your existing place on the timeline. For example you want to move the clip you are currently working on to the end of a long edit. Normally you would need to select the clip, zoom out so the new position is visible, then drag the clip, or copy and paste it.
With the new Cut page you can simply select the clip you are looking at, and drag it up to the full length timeline view, and into its new position. Right there you have save a lot of clicks, drags and/or key presses, even if you mostly edit from a keyboard. This is just one way of many in which time can be saved.
On the 'zoomed' portion of the timeline if you hover your mouse over the middle of a clip a "slip" icon appears. Click and hold the mouse over this and you can slip through a clip without needing to change tool.
Want to add a transition? You can select all types of transition that you can in the normal edit page, but there's one big difference. When you select the transition you want, the timeline marker only needs to be roughly in the vicinity of the cut. Resolve will place the transition over the cut that is nearest to the marker.
Selecting an edit point allows frame level fine tuning in the Source window
This sort of 'predictive' editing extends to adding clips into the timeline. Resolve can now smartly look at the nearest cut to the marker and it will insert or append the new clip to that cut point.
Want to fine tune the edit point or transition length? Simply select the cut point or transition and you can edit it right down to the frame in the source window. The really clever thing with doing this is that you have three different zoom levels all visible at once. A frame level zoom in the source window, a zoom showing the general area of the timeline you are currently working on, and an overview of the entire timeline.
If your clip has audio, if you drag the in and out point of the clip using the audio waveform part of the clip display, Resolve automatically zooms in to frame level as you move the in/out marker. This means that if you are editing footage which is audio point critical, such as a dialogue scene, or maybe a music concert where you want to cut to precise beats, you can be absolutely certain your edit point will be bang on exactly where you need it with no need for further zooming in and trimming on the main timeline later.
A clearer view of how the two timeline views interact
Dealing with your clips from the media bins is also made easy. Select a bin and in the viewer/source window you can select "Source Tape" view. This automatically displays all of your clips in one big long real. You can then scrub through a ton of footage really, really quickly. But Blackmagic has thought of the detail. Let's say you have a few hours of footage. You can insert an in point and an out point, then click on the tape view icon again. Resolve will then 'zoom' into this portion of the reel of clips so you can make a more fine tuned selection of what you want.
While I haven't used it in full anger on a project yet, I can see this saving a lot of time looking in clip bins trying to find the right thumbnail. With this you can literally sweep through a load of clips in seconds. You can even get Resolve to play through it all at speed, dynamically adjusting for the length of clips so short length shots don't pass by so quickly that you miss them. It's a bit of a hark back to the days of linear editing, but it appears to be very well thought out.
What's quite odd is that as I write this, such descriptions of what you can do sound quite normal, and you could be fooled into asking what the big deal is. So it really is a case of actually using it to see what it can do.
There's quite a few neat ideas and nuances within this new page, far more than I have the time to go into fully here.
The Editor Keyboard
It goes without saying that I can't talk about Resolve's Cut Page without mentioning the new Editor Keyboard from Blackmagic Design. We plan on reviewing this soon, but given the speed increases using simply the mouse and a standard keyboard, editing using the Cut Page should be speeded up a huge portion more with the new product. At around £1000, the Editor Keyboard might sound expensive, unless you look at the alternatives! In other words, for a keyboard with such functionality it is very affordable, and may become an essential control device to own for Resolve editors. We covered some of the possibilities using it in our article earlier on in the week.
Just a really good idea
It is quite staggering how BMD has come up with such a clear and clutter free interface, and yet it still has access to all major functions you need while editing, right down to cropping tools, stabilisation, titles, and effects etc. If you are dealing with 4K on a 1080p timeline, there's a punch-in option, which automatically digitally zooms into footage 2x as you add it to the timeline, which could be useful for interviews.
There is one limitation though, and I hope it is addressed hopefully with a smart tool of some kind, because it is incredibly important for editing dialogue scenes, and even intercutting interviews in many cases. I haven't yet found a way to do a J or L cut on a clip without going to the traditional edit page, separating the audio from the video, and then going back to the cut page. It could be nestled somewhere, but I can't find it if it exists. J and L cuts are so important that this does need to be addressed. The software is still in beta, so with any luck there's still time for it to be added. It could be incorporated into the cut-point edit toolset where you can fine tune the clip transition point. At the moment you will need to place clips on a track above or below each other, which could slow things down again if fine tuning is required. Or I might just have missed it.
That said, this is a powerful new toolset and one that I can see myself using a lot. Given its intended purpose, apart from L and J cuts, I haven't found any part of it I don't like. I think Blackmagic has well and truly nailed it, and it will be fascinating to see how it develops as it moves towards a full release.