How We Upped Our Color Game: Making the Transition to DaVinci Resolve
From the moment I decided to graduate from Windows MovieMaker and enroll in film school, my default editing program has always been Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s sleek, fairly user-friendly, extremely powerful, customizable, and integrable with other Adobe programs like After Effects and Audition. I dabbled in a few other programs like Final Cut Pro when I was forced to, but they lacked so much of what I loved about Premiere.
On the flip side of the coin, Premiere is also one giant, splitting headache in software form. The bugs it has (and has always had) often leave me screaming at my computer, angry and desperate for the damn thing to work like I want. Whether it’s glitchy exports (if you can get it to export at all in some cases), corrupt project files, sudden and unprompted crashing, or the countless other issues I’ve experienced, Premiere has been the bane of my existence for the last 8 years. Yet, I keep running back to it every single time, no questions asked.
Premiere Pro is my toxic relationship.
Back in 2015, I worked with BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve for the first time. At that point, I was working on a local indie feature and the director wanted me to use Resolve to cut some dailies since we were shooting with a BlackMagic camera. To put it bluntly, I hated it. It felt too constricted like Final Cut with a complicated layout and a confusing workflow. The color tools were powerful, but I didn’t even know where to start with color at that point in my career. I put it down and didn’t touch it again…
… And then a few years later, word was going around about how great it was.
A common discussion we’ve had here at Living Frames is how to up our color game. Using Resolve has been in the talks for years, but since everyone here is familiar with Premiere Pro, we always shelved the option until there was more time to devote to learning Resolve’s ins-and-outs.
(Spoiler Alert: There is never more time)
When we decided to go as a team to NAB Las Vegas in 2019, I decided to take that opportunity to really delve into Resolve to see what all the fuss was about. I took classes, listened to seminars, spoke with sponsors at the BlackMagic booth and played with their control panels. I was really surprised to learn that the idea of switching over to Resolve for more than just color was growing on me. The features were now pretty user friendly after having gotten my color workflow down in Premiere. The tools in Resolve impressed me by the amount of control it gave the user.
What really hit home was all the feedback from editors just like me who switched over to Resolve full time from Premiere Pro. While attending a Premiere Pro Power Tips seminar, the speaker polled the room on issues with the program, projecting the incoming answers on the screen behind him. The screen lit up with everyone’s angry complaints, hundreds of them that filled every empty space available.
When I attended the Resolve Power Tips seminar, the speaker did the same thing and polled the room on their issues with Resolve...
...Five popped up.
The visual contrast was undeniable. I wasn’t alone in my problems with Premiere, but it seemed like Resolve had almost none of the same issues. This piqued my curiosity, and after a few days of learning the best ways to transition to Resolve, I made plans to get home and immediately put this new knowledge to practice.
A few months went by, and I had barely opened Resolve. I tinkered here and there, but honestly, by the time I wanted to try to implement what I learned, the knowledge was slipping away. I had projects to get done. I didn’t have time to get to know another program. I didn’t have time to relearn what I was forgetting. I didn’t have the time to even try it. Or that’s what I told myself. It was another full 9 months before I made the active decision to start a project in Resolve and figure it out, even if it took more time than I wanted it to.
After watching a few tutorials, it was pretty easy to jump back in. There were a few setbacks to learning the new workflow such as settings that needed to be adjusted and some things overall I needed to get used to. But the addition of Resolve to my workflow has done exactly what I wanted in relation to color. I can barely stand to color in Premiere anymore. Resolve being an editing software that does audio, effects, and color all in one place ain’t bad either.
There are some features that truly take it above and beyond. For example, there are two different types of color wheels: log color wheels and primary color wheels. Log color wheels focus only on the highlights, midtones, and shadows which allows you to dial in colors and contrast to those exact areas. The primary color wheels work with a larger curve so any adjustments are more tapered off than adjustments in the log wheels. Mixing the two create some amazing opportunities to fine-tune color and contrast that other programs are severely missing.
Learning how to work with nodes instead of layers hasn’t been a big adjustment either. They’re basically a more efficient way of organization that I’ve come to like better than layers. So it really comes in handy when you want to keep separation between basic color correction, a keyed skin color correction, and a stylish grade. I use separate nodes for everything from contrast to (the amazing, built-in) noise reduction.
No crashes. No strange glitches. Resolve is working pretty well for me. It’s also pretty easy to take it back and forth to Premiere if needed. Is it perfect? Of course not. It lacks some power in the audio mastering panels and using any effects in Fusion can get extremely confusing. Will I stop using Premiere completely? Probably not. But I have canceled my personal Adobe Creative Cloud subscription at home.
There’s still plenty to learn in Resolve, and I’m sure it’ll take me years to master it like I did Premiere. But in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m graduating to that next level again. I’m adding more tools to my skillset which makes for better videos. I feel where this knowledge will really shine is the integration of Premiere and Resolve to bounce back and forth, using bits and pieces of each depending on their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses.