Every expert was once a beginner.
In this blog post I would like to answer questions that arise when getting started with DaVinci Resolve. Questions like: “What are the best courses, the best YouTube channels? Which monitor should I buy? Which hardware? Why do the colors look different in Quicktime Player or on YouTube? What format should I render my movie in?” This blog post is a collection of links paired with my own experiences and tips that will hopefully help you to evolve your color grading skills.
These books are about color in general. They deal with subjective perception and objective color principles and present the key to understanding color. If you click on the covers, you will be redirected to Google. (Support your local bookstore if you can.)
If you are new to DaVinci Resolve I highly recommend to start with the Training Videos by Blackmagic Design. Also check out the “Training Books”. (All FREE)
I have mixed feelings recommending courses. I am more of a minimalist, as you can tell by this site. I often like “fundamental courses” more than “creative ones”. Sometimes “advanced courses” are going in a direction I personally would not recommend (For example: “Qualifying the skin”). In any case, it’s important to understand that there is not ONE right way when it comes to color grading – there are many.
With that in mind, I’d recommend starting with DaVinci Resolve’s tutorials first. Learn the basics. Learn how to read the scopes. The next step is to find a teacher / course that suits you. Every technic is just a tool and just because some professionals prefer certain tools it doesn’t mean you have to use the same tools if they don’t feel right to you.
Learning tools is one thing. What I also highly recommend is to take a closer look at the philosophical aspects of grading and communication with clients. I really enjoy watching interviews from colorists whose work I admire. What I do is this: I go to IMDB of a movie I like and click on “Full Cast & Crew” and search for “colorist”. I copy the name into google and search for videos, articles and interviews. This way you will find some great and inspirational content.
I encourage you to do the same. Here are just two examples:
1. Walter Volpatto interviewed by Edi Walger. ColorDoctor.
2. Colour on Stage: Eric Weidt / Creating the unique look for ’Mindhunter’
One last advice on this matter: Don’t get lost in courses and training videos. Learn the basics and then grade projects. You only get better by practicing and working on real projects.
Start with the Training Videos by Blackmagicdesign:
The Art of Color Grading
“Learn how and why you should use the primary and secondary grading features, along with how to read scopes. This will teach you how to make informed decisions so you can accurately balance shots.”
I really enjoyed fundamental tutorials, like for example this one:
Masterclass in Color with Chris Jacobson
“In this masterclass in color grading, Hollywood colorist Chris Jacobson invites you into his color suite to show you every detail about his color work with the popular tv-show SUITS. Chris will take you through the full technical process in DaVinci Resolve from setting up the project to final delivery.”
“MixingLight.com is the partnership of Patrick Inhofer, Dan Moran and Robbie Carman. Colorists and educators, each of MixingLight’s co-founders has a unique perspective on all things color and each address subjects on Mixing Light that interest & challenge them as professional colorists and teachers.”
Learn with Masters
12 noted colorists.
10+ hours of training.
More information on TAC Website.
Here are some of my favorite YouTube channels. There are many more great channels out there. This is just my personal list that I can recommend to 100%. Be sure to check out Goat’s Eye View. Daria Fissoun talks a lot about DaVinci Resolve 12.5, but most of her advice is still valid today.
Senior Colourist and founder of Online Creative post facility in the UK – established in 1999. He regularly color grade for BBC and most of the UK terrestrial broadcasters.
Daria Fissouns old youtube channel. Daria is the woman that teaches you how to start Color grading in the Video “The Art of Color Grading” on Blackmagics Website.
Interviews with some of the world’s renowned cinematographers, who share their advice and behind the scenes stories from their experiences throughout their careers.
Color Grading / Filmmaking / DaVinci Resolve Tutorials.
Professional colorist, image scientist, and educator obsessed with the power of a well-crafted image.
- CPU – Get the fastest CPU you can afford.
- GPU – Get the fastest GPU you can afford. More VRAM = better
- RAM – Get as much ram as you can afford.
For specific Hardware selection, check:
Hardware selection and Shopping Guide for DaVinci Resolve 15. (PDF)
by Blackmagic. This PDF needs an update. It might be still helpful to get an overview about hardware selection.
DaVinci Resolve Minimum System Requirements | A Reality Check
by Richard Lackey. August, 2021
Hardware Recommendations for DaVinci Resolve
by pugetsystems.com (not sponsored)
© Tim Yemmax / Farbkanal
On these pages you will find detailed information on setting up a grading suite. As a beginner, at least make sure you have good backlighting for your monitor. 6500k, High CRI. I can recommend the lights from “MediaLight”. (not sponsored)
Anatomy Of A Grading Suite: Design
by Robbie Carman / mixinglight.com
The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Color Grading Suite
by Ben Bailey / blog.frame.io
MediaLight Mk2 Eclipse (not sponsored)
THE BASICS, DELIVERY, PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS
A good starting point is this article called:
Colour Management for Video Editors
by Jonny Elwyn / jonnyelwyn.co.uk
It covers the following questions:
- Which colour profile should you set your monitor to for video editing?
- How do you know what colour space to be working in?
- How do I correctly colour grade for internet delivery?
- Do you need to have an external video I/O box between your computer and the monitor?
- Why does the colour look different in Quicktime vs VLC vs YouTube vs Vimeo vs Chrome vs Safari, all on the same monitor?
Another great article comes from Cullen Kelly for frame.io:
Grading for Mixed Delivery: Cinema, Home, and Every Screen in Between
Please also check out these three articles that give you more Information about Levels, Rec709-A and color shifts. All three articles are by Dan Swierenga.
1. How to Deal with Levels: Full vs. Video
3. Matching Color: DaVinci Resolve’s Viewer & Mac P3 Displays and Applications (for macOS High Sierra)
All three articles by Dan Swierenga. He is a colorist and Flame artist with over 10 years of experience in post production coloring and finishing feature films, shorts, documentaries and commercials. Dan is the co-founder of the post production blog ThePostProcess.com.
CODECS / FORMATS
H264 / RAW / ProRes / DNxHR
This graphic is very simplified. Yes, DaVinci Resolve Studio “supports” some h264 codecs. But often it is still stuttering. DaVinci Resolve (Studio) doesn’t like “Open GOP” formats, and that is fine. H264 is NOT an “editing format” so it is best to convert those files into DNxHR for example. DaVinci Resolve works smooth with ProRes, DNxHR, braw, red, arri files and many more. On slower Computers, go to Project Settings and set the Timeline resolution to 1080p (instead of 4k) before using “Optimized media”. Lowering the resolution often is enough to give you smooth playback. But don’t forget to change your Project settings back to 4k if you want to render “true 4k”.
For more information, check out these links:
AVC / H.264 / HEVC and DaVinci Resolve | Why You Need to Transcode
by Richard Lackey / richardlackey.com
What H.264/H.265 Hardware Decoding is Supported in DaVinci Resolve Studio?
by Matt Bach / pugetsystems.com
Supported Formats and Codecs / DaVinci Resolve / April 2020 (PDF)
by Blackmagicdesign / documents.blackmagicdesign.com
FREE VS. STUDIO
Here are some differences between the “Free” and the “Studio” version.
– Render in 4k (4096 x 2160) and above
– Noise Removal and Motion Blur
– Remote Grading
– Film Grain, Lens Blur, Lens Distortion
– Render only in UHD (3840 x 2160)
– No Noise Removal and Motion Blur
– No Remote Grading
– No Film Grain, Lens Blur, Lens Distortion
Here is a comparison PDF between the “Free” and “Studio” Version by Blackmagic. Maybe they will update this PDF some day:
YOUTUBE & VIMEO
YouTube, Vimeo, and every other video platform often provide detailed guidelines for video and audio. There is no trick how to get better Quality on those platforms. The only “trick” is to upload in 4k. Because your video will be transcoded with a higher bit rate. And instead of uploading a h264/h265 file, you could also upload ProRes and DNxHR files. But do your own tests and see if it is worth it.
YouTube: Recommended upload encoding settings
Vimeo: Video and audio compression guidelines
Vimeo also provides an article how to use “HandBrake” to compress and prepare MP4 videos for the upload on Vimeo. Click here.
99% of the time, I am rendering a DNxHR master out of Resolve. In the second step, I use HandBrake to convert those file into h264 before uploading it to Youtube or Vimeo. Another good converter might be shutterencoder. I did not yet test it out, but I know a lot of people are using this one.
BRAW / PRORES / ARRI / RED
Almost all camera manufacturers are providing sample files you can practice color grading with. Here is a short list:
“Lift Gamma Gain is a forum for motion picture and television colorists, as well as anyone interested in color science, color grading, and technology for film, television, and digital media.”
This is the Blackmagic Design support center. Here you will find the latest software updates, support notes, instruction manuals and all kinds of helpful information. If you need extra help, you can also check out the community forum.
HERE ARE SOME LINKS IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ACES
by Cullen Kelly
4 min. Video / YouTube
Davinci Resolve: ACES Explained, Part 1
by Cullen Kelly – 11 min. Video / YouTube
A GUIDE TO ACES
“The ACES Primer provides foundational knowledge for understanding and using ACES. It outlines the history of ACES, including why it was developed, as well as its current and future value in production and postproduction workflows..”
“In this Flight Path, you learn what ACES is and how the post-production pipeline is executed. ACES-related acronyms are broken down and you learn how to set up ACES on several different, common software platforms.”
SOME LINKS WHERE YOU CAN FIND FILM STILLS
“The Industry’s best research tool. We are the largest library of fully searchable high-definition movie images in the world.”
“The largest growing archive of stills from the best films ever. 160,000+ beautiful stills from 100+ years of cinema.”
“On this site you can view some of my past work and on the blog you can read my thoughts on film, cinematography and visual effects and look at the reference library of cinematography from some of the greatest movies ever shot.”
The Timeline of Historical Film Colors.
More than 20.000 photos of historical color film prints.
If you have any questions / suggestions / comments, feel free
to contact me at stefanATmononodesDOTcom
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then you can ‘buy me a coffee‘. Always appreciated.