A Comprehensive Look at DaVinci Resolve's Features and Performance
DaVinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design isn’t just another run-of-the-mill video editing software; it’s a powerhouse trusted by the film industry’s elite, from blockbuster creators to Oscar-winning directors. But what sets it apart is its accessibility to passionate enthusiasts, thanks to a robust free version that packs a punch. However, delving into this expansive and feature-rich software demands an investment of your time and effort, if not your wallet.
In the realm of video editing, motion graphics, color grading, and audio production, DaVinci Resolve stands as an all-in-one solution, akin to a toolkit of creative possibilities. While some consumer-grade apps offer similar features, this behemoth of a program not only lives up to expectations but also introduces innovative tools that can redefine your editing experience. Yet, it doesn’t adhere to the familiar conventions of video interfaces and workflows, making it a thrilling but initially challenging journey to navigate.
First Boot impressions
Embarking on your DaVinci Resolve journey requires setting up a compatible environment to ensure a smooth experience with this versatile software. DaVinci Resolve is known for its flexibility in terms of system requirements. Here’s an expanded breakdown of the software’s compatibility:
Operating Systems: DaVinci Resolve is available on multiple operating systems, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
macOS: You can use DaVinci Resolve on macOS starting from version 10.14.6 Mojave onwards. This compatibility includes the latest versions of macOS, ensuring that Mac users have access to this powerful tool.
Windows: For Windows users, DaVinci Resolve is compatible with Windows 10, beginning with version 1703. This means that both older and newer Windows 10 systems can run the software effectively.
Linux: DaVinci Resolve is also available for Linux, specifically on CentOS 7.3 or later. CentOS is closely related to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which ensures stability and reliability for Linux enthusiasts.
Minimum RAM Requirements: To ensure a smooth performance, it’s recommended to have a minimum of 16GB of RAM. This amount of memory allows you to run DaVinci Resolve efficiently for basic video editing tasks.
Advanced RAM for Specific Needs: If you plan to use DaVinci Resolve on Linux or want to explore the realm of Fusion motion graphics, it’s wise to aim for at least 32GB of RAM. This increased memory capacity provides the resources necessary for handling more complex tasks and projects effectively.
Apple Silicon CPU Support: For users with Apple Silicon CPUs, the good news is that DaVinci Resolve supports them natively. This native support not only ensures compatibility but also promises improved performance. With the increasing popularity of Apple Silicon, this is a significant advantage for Mac users.
Downloading DaVinci Resolve is a breeze, with the installer weighing in at a reasonable 3GB. This is slightly more streamlined than Premiere Pro’s 3.3GB offering, sans the motion graphics and Media Encoder software. My test setup involved a Windows version running on a Core i7 PC armed with 16GB of RAM.
Upon acquiring the installer, you proceed with the installation of the DaVinci Resolve program. Optionally, you can also install its Control Panels, Raw Player, and Fairlight Audio program. Interestingly, the installation requires a system reboot, a rarity in today’s software installation landscape. Nevertheless, DaVinci Resolve managed to start up reasonably quickly given its size.
As you embark on your creative journey, the Project Manager window welcomes you with hover-scrubbable thumbnails for each of your ongoing projects. Here, you can seamlessly open, import, or export projects, whether they reside on your local machine, a network, or within the Blackmagic cloud.
Launching a new project reveals a minimalist window featuring a single entry: ‘Untitled Project.’ Unlike some other video editing tools, DaVinci Resolve doesn’t hold your hand extensively, nor does it offer the kind of assistance that Adobe is integrating into Premiere Pro or the user-friendly guidance found in consumer-focused apps like Movavi Video Editor Plus. However, it compensates for this with comprehensive help documentation that can guide you through any hurdles.
DaVinci Resolve introduces a unique organizational structure for its features, setting it apart from conventional video editing software. Rather than traditional modes, it offers seven distinct pages: Color, Cut, Deliver, Edit, Fairlight (specifically for sound), Fusion, and Media. These pages can be accessed conveniently through buttons along the bottom of the program window, but for users accustomed to a different approach, adapting to this arrangement might present a steep learning curve.
Given the complexity of this software, maximizing screen real estate is essential, and DaVinci Resolve excels in providing a full-screen view. Users can select from Auto, 100%, 150%, or 200% UI scaling options, making it adaptable for high-DPI displays. In my case, with a QHD display, the Auto setting provided crisp and readable scaling, a challenge that many other applications struggle with, particularly on resolutions beyond HD or 4K.
The Media page serves as the hub for discovering and organizing your media assets, making use of color coding, bins, and metadata. Additionally, it allows for the convenient pre-trimming of source clips using the I and O keyboard shortcuts.
Transitioning into Editing mode, whether on the Cut or Edit page, you’ll encounter the familiar three-panel interface. The top left houses the source panel, the top right offers a video preview, and the timeline stretches across the entire bottom. Much like Final Cut and Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve provides tools such as take selectors, compound clips, and nested timelines, resulting in a flexible and potentially intricate timeline structure.
Notably, the Cut page presents two timelines: the primary one at the bottom, displaying image frame previews and audio waveforms, and a solid blue one at the top, primarily useful for navigation purposes. While you can view source material in thumbnail, metadata, strip, or list views, the thumbnail size remains fixed.
The Source panel grants you control over what appears in this section, offering options such as Media Pool, Sync Bin, Transitions, Titles, and Effects. A search box simplifies the process of finding specific assets across all pages.
DaVinci Resolve lets you decide between a locked or free playhead mode. In the former, you move the clip while the playhead remains centered, akin to a different editing style. The latter option resembles what you’d find in most other editors, where you move the playhead rather than the media itself. However, I encountered a minor hiccup when trying to zoom the timeline using the Alt-Mouse wheel action in the Cut page, although it worked seamlessly in the Edit page. Fortunately, there are buttons for Full Extent Zoom, Detail Zoom, and a custom zoom slider to compensate for this.