DaVinci Resolve is one of those unusual pieces of video editing software: fully featured, extremely powerful, yet completely free.
There’s some logic behind that decision: Blackmagic Design, the company behind the tool, sells a lot of hardware that complements this impressive free video editing software for professionals, so this business model must somehow subsidize the work on Resolve.
There is an even more powerful version called DaVinci Resolve Studio, which includes more than 50 advanced features on top of what Resolve offers. It’s available for $295 for a perpetual license – meaning all future updates, no matter how important, are free to you from then on. The video editor even has its own package VFX softwareFusion – one of the best Adobe After Effects alternatives there for designers.
When we tested DaVinci Resolve 17we called it “an incredibly impressive piece of software. It may look overwhelming at first because it’s so fully featured, but that’s because it contains pretty much everything you need to catalog, organize, edit, modify and assemble, at a price that is really hard to beat.
Of DaVinci Resolve 18 now in beta and ready to launch, we take a look at what’s new, what’s improved and what to look out for in DaVinci Resolve version 17.4.6.
Resolve is huge and thankfully is divided into several ‘pages’. There’s one to check your ‘Media’, another to prepare and ‘cut’ your footage, and another to ‘Edit’, although you can also edit in ‘Cut’. Fusion lets you build and apply effects to clips through a node-based interface (it’s more confusing and less straightforward than how other special effects editors work, but it’s also hugely powerful). ‘Color’ is where your color correction takes place, ‘Fairlight’ is for intensive audio work and manipulation and ‘Deliver’ focuses on exporting your final product.
Despite not being a huge leap in version numbers, this iteration of Resolve still packs in quite a few improvements, from the subtle interface tweak to the big under-the-hood performance improvements.
We’ll take a look at a few that caught our eye as we experiment with a video editor that we consider to be one of the best alternatives to Adobe Premiere Pro†
The Edit page is where you probably spend most of your time. It’s the section of Resolve where you build your video, one clip at a time, and it’s gotten a lot of small, but very useful tweaks that would be welcome in most workflows.
For example, it is now possible to quickly mark a gap in your edit with in and out points using a simple keyboard shortcut. This way you can quickly fill that gap with a selected fragment from the Media Pool. Anything that shaves a few seconds of work is an advantage in our book.
When it comes to working with audio directly from the timeline, your options are pretty limited, but you could always change the gain by dragging a clip’s volume line up or down. The downside of this was the difficulty in performing precise changes. Until now. All you need to do now is hold down the Shift key while you drag to get more precise control over the volume of that clip.
If you’re working on a complex edit, you probably have multiple timelines open at once. As before, they all appear as tabs that you can click to switch from one to the other, but now you can use the customizable hotkey feature to set a shortcut to the ‘Next Tab’ and ‘Previous Tab’ commands . It is strange that such shortcuts are not set by default.
If you like to play with visual effects, the Fusion page is the place to be, although you’ll find many other areas to make simpler changes. The Composite Mode menu in the Video tab is one such. Prior to this upgrade, you had to select a new mode to see what the effect looked like on your chosen clip and the one below it. If you weren’t sure which one to pick, it would take a lot of travel to this menu to select one and then choose another, and another, and another.
You know how much we love it when video editing software saves us time, and now this tedious process is no longer necessary. Just hover the mouse over the menu and the main preview section will immediately show you what the mode you’re hovering over will look like, taking out tons of guesswork and speeding up the selection process significantly. When improvements are this cool, you’ll wonder how you managed without them before and why it took so long to implement.
Details in the Cut
You’ll also find improvements elsewhere, such as in the Cut Page, where you can easily access your transitions, for example. Resolve and so many other video editors assume by default that you want to put a transition between two clips right in the middle: half on one clip, half on the other.
For example, some let you put the transition completely on one of these clips, but Resolve does it better now: by holding down the Command or Control key (depending on the platform you’re using), you can asymmetrically trim video or audio transitions, giving you precise control so that the effect looks exactly the way you want.
You’ll also find additional controls in the Text tool, which has seen many improvements, including support for combined glyphs, and finally right-to-left support.
Color and Fairlight
Perhaps the most interesting addition in ‘Color’ is ‘automatic color management’ in the form of the ‘DaVinci YRGB Color Managed’ option. With it enabled, your options are significantly limited as Resolve automates much of the process for you, simplifying your workload.
And when it comes to audio editing work, you will find multi-channel support for Linux systems and support for VST3 plugins for Macs and Windows.
You’ll also definitely notice manual plugin controls on each channel strip, allowing you to drag to reorder plugins, move them to another channel, or drag with the option to duplicate them.
Time to deliver
One thing worth noting when it comes time to export your work is your ability to color code markers so you can specify which color is the color you use for chapter markers. For example, if you go to ‘Delivery’, you can set that color when saving the file as QuickTime or MP4 format. This also works when you send the video directly to YouTube, so you have to manually do it yourself later.
Under the hood
Let’s not forget all the under-the-hood improvements. Like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut ProResolve is now fully compatible with Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, and you’ll see significant performance gains when working with those chips.
Blackmagic’s info claims an increase of up to 5 times faster, and those chips can handle up to 12 streams of 8K footage.
Decoding speeds of 12K Blackmagic RAW files are now 3 times faster and the performance of the DaVinci neural engine is up to 4 times faster for real-time face detection, object detection and smart reframing.
DaVinci Resolve is a tough app to beat. It’s incredibly powerful, it’s updated regularly, and to top it all, it’s free. It puts a lot of competing software to shame. The only downside is that so much power leads to a complex interface.
But if you’re serious about video editing, this shouldn’t overwhelm you, and you’re perfectly able to stick to the Cut and Edit pages, for example, and leave the more difficult pages for a later date. They will still be there when you are ready.
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