DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1 Lite – NOT!

The $995 Resolve Tax Is Gone

Around here on the Tao, it goes without saying that BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve ‘dot’ updates are usually much bigger than they sound. Today DaVinci Resolve has been incrementally updated from 8.1 to 8.1.1. For most companies, this is the kind of update you might consider skipping.

And at first blush I thought the same about Resolve 8.1.1. Three new features are released but none seem critical. One is significant price drop. The second is something you might have seen coming. The third new feature? It’s a biggie but not ground-breaking.

Or is it? I’m about to argue that for a large part of the post-production industry – from hobbyists to indie filmmakers to those delivering for Broadcast – the third new feature is very VERY significant.

In fact, as a friend Tweeted to me today:

BlackMagic isn’t content with disrupting the Color Grading industry with a $999 ‘Hollywood Quality’ color grading package. They are now intent on disrupting themselves.

But first, the (first) significant price drop…

The $500 ‘Avid Tax’ Is Gone

Starting with DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1, DNxHD is now included with every install of DaVinci Resolve and DaVinci Resolve Lite.

Yesterday – if you wanted Resolve to play DNxHD files or render out to DNxHD – you had to buy a $500 add-on that enabled this feature. If you talked to the BlackMagic team about this ‘Avid tax’, they said they were passing on the cost of the licensing – but only to those people who wanted DNxHD rather than imposing that $500 ‘tax’ on all the other people who didn’t need it.

Here's the Avid DNxHD product listing from B&H Photo's website

No longer. DNxHD is now a part of every install of DaVinci Resolve – paid and free.

Normally a $500 price drop would be huge news amongst those of us who value integration with Avid products but here’s that innocuous little feature that has big-time implications:

Resolve Lite: Two Nodes, and BEYOND

DaVinci Resolve Lite has added by subtracting – the two color correction node limit has been lifted. DaVinci Resolve Lite now supports unlimited nodes.

If you’re not familiar with Resolve, they’ve just lifted a major restriction. Previously, the  two nodes limitation prevented Lite users from adding three powerful ‘specialty’ nodes. One of the things these Specialty Nodes share in common: They require a minimum of 3 nodes in the node tree.

For example, here’s a node tree from one of the new ‘Looks’ that ship with Resolve 8.1.1 (if you’re keeping track, pre-built Looks is the third new feature):

'Technicolor' Power Grade: This 5-Node Grade would have been impossible with DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1

Do you see that Node labelled ‘Parallel’?

In Resolve Lite 8.1 this specialty node (and two others like it) were off-limits. And the above 5-node color grading tree would have been impossible.

Resolve Lite 8.1.1 now not only makes possible this node tree – it now ships with Resolve and Resolve Lite as a pre-built Look.

This is really big news.

For existing Resolve user let me repeat: Not only is there no restriction on the number of nodes that Lite users can use, all the Specialty Nodes are enabled – resulting in a color-grading software package that is virtually identical to the paid version of the software.

Lite No More

Lest I put too fine a point on it:

For a large number of post-production professional there’s almost no reason to rush out and buy the fully paid version of DaVinci Resolve.

BlackMagic has disrupted itself.

Here’s my case why the free version of DaVinci Resolve should not be called ‘Lite’.

What Are DaVinci Resolve Lite’s Remaining Limitations?

  • Render to SD – and HD- Only – Resolve Lite limits the frame size of your renders to 1080p or smaller. You can grade 2K and 4K material. You just can’t have either a project size at or render out to 2K or 4K. Nor is image processing hobbled in any way, so feel free to do a Premium De-Bayer for your RED HD deliverable. But if you want Cinema sized renders – this limitation means you need to buy the full version.
  • Single GPU Card – Lite is still limited to using a single GPU card. If you’re going to buy an expansion chassis to run 2 or 3 instances of a graphics card (for more Real-Time functionality) – you need to buy the full version.
  • Single Red Rocket Card – Same limitation as above. For RED stereoscopic projects where you’d want two Red Rocket cards – you need to buy the full version.
  • No Stereo 3D features – If you need to grade a stereo project – you need to buy the full version
  • No Noise Reduction – Resolve Lite won’t enable this CUDA-only feature – even if you have a CUDA card.
  • No Multi-Resolve Features – Lite doesn’t support grading from a remote location or sharing a database on a server between multiple Resolves.

Lite? Says Who?

Looking at that list of limitations it strikes me that Resolve Lite isn’t Lite at all.

In fact – there isn’t a single restriction on Resolve Lite that would have kept me from working on a single job over the past two years. Let’s take another look, with commentary:

  • SD- and HD- Only– SD jobs have pretty much disappeared for me. It’s 100% HD… even for jobs that shoot at 2K or 4K! Right off the bat that tells you something about me – I don’t do Hollywood features. For the rest of you who are in my boat, HDCamSR at 1080p is about as ‘big’ a frame size we need… even if the client shot RED at 4K – which, as I said, Resolve Lite fully supports as a source.
    Here’s the kicker: If you DO need  2K / 4K deliverables you can grade at 1080p on DaVinci Resolve Lite, take that project to your local post house and have them render out the 4K deliverables – since DaVinci Resolve Lite projects and DaVinci Resolve Paid projects are fully interchangeable.
  • Single GPU Card – Multiple GPUs are essential for 2K and larger frame sizes. Especially if you need real-time playout at those frame sizes. But 1080p is well within the processing power of a single GPU. And if you’re working with RED material, grading with Proxies to overcome GPU deficiencies and maintain the frame rate is a well-worn workflow.
  • Single RED Rocket Card – See above. Even among RED users, I’d bet only a small percentage are running two Rockets.
  • Noise Reduction – At first blush you’d think this would be a necessary feature that you’d be willing to upgrade to the paid version. Except… most HD jobs have a much bigger problem than excessive noise – they need to eliminate macroblocking artifacts from compressed codecs. Noise Reduction doesn’t solve that problem at all (in fact, it often exaggerates macro-blocking). It turns out that those mostly likely to benefit from Resolve’s Noise Reduction are those who are working at 2k frames sizes with multiple GPUs running dual RED Rockets for Stereo workflows!

Do I need to take this any further?

DaVinci Resolve Lite Free

Are you’re starting to feel a tingle running up your leg? 😉 Do you see what I’m saying?

There is nothing Lite about DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1.1.

It has the full color grading power of the paid version and it’s limitations are remarkably targeted and consistent as being important to a very specific subset of post-production professionals.

In fact (get ready for my completely self-serving plug) – if you were to download DaVinci Resolve Lite tonight and then sign up for the Tao of Color MasterClass training… there isn’t a single thing I’m doing in the training with paid version of DaVinci Resolve that you won’t be able to do with the DaVinci Resolve Free! And I’ve already recorded 15 hours of training on the Paid version having no idea this Free version was just around the corner.

One More Thing…

Apple Color’ists: No Excuses

I know a lot of my Apple Color brethren have been holding off on making the move to DaVinci Resolve. Now is the time to explore and Resolve Lite is the perfect vehicle. It’ll cost you nothing. And unless you need to render out beyond 1080p – you can use Resolve Free for paid gigs. No watermarks. No limitations. Just pick up a Decklink card and away you go… (conspiracy theorists: this just might explain why BlackMagic has released such a powerful tool at no cost)

Aspiring Colorists: No Excuses

Here it is. A nearly feature parity version of DaVinci Resolve that’s costs NOTHING to get started for HD projects. What are you waiting for? Start grading!


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  1. Bart Walczak November 17, 2011 at 3:45 AM #

    I’m waiting for the Windows version to avoid Apple Tax, and I hope to see a cheap ($500-700) grading surface from BlackMagic on NAB 2012 or IBC 2012, compatible at first with Resolve only. THIS would be a total disruption, that would most likely earn BlackMagic tons of money.

    • Patrick Inhofer November 17, 2011 at 9:40 AM #

      Thanks for the nice words about the Newsletter!

      It’ll be interesting to see if anyone ever comes out with a sub $1k control surface. I wouldn’t hold my breath – but you never know.

  2. Paul Abrahams November 17, 2011 at 7:50 AM #

    I’m not a pro but I’m interested in learning color grading for my own videos shot on DSLR I have no grading programs. I have an imac 3.06 GHz i3 > 4GB Ram > Internal SATA 7200 500G >GPU is Radeon 4670. I do have audio set up with an Apogee Duet and some old Emes Monitors. Could I use this to learn color grading on? What program would be best to set up?

    I was considering FCPX but if it has no color grading apps what do we do?

    • Patrick Inhofer November 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM #

      Paul – Like I said in this article, there’s no reason not to use Resolve. But it does have some beefy requirements to run. This article will give you an idea of the minimum hardware requirements: http://www.taoofcolor.com/570/davinci-resolve-the-free-version/

      For the current definitive list of compatible machines, download the Resolve Configuration Guide, skip to the section on iMacs, and see if yours matches. But basically, a 2011 iMac is required for a ‘blessed’ configuration. Here’s the guide for Resolve Configuration for Mac OS X: 

      • Paul Abrahams November 18, 2011 at 3:22 AM #

        Thanks Patrick – My imac doesn’t quite meet the processing requirements perhaps FCPX is the way for  a prosumer like me.

        • Patrick Inhofer November 18, 2011 at 9:21 AM #

          Well – FCPx is a different beast. In an ideal world the two apps compliment each other. Neither is a replacement for the other.

  3. Shawn Nelson November 19, 2011 at 3:40 PM #

    Great article, but your statement ” Just pick up a Decklink card and away you go… ” slightly confuses me. Why do I NEED a Decklink? Just for external monitoring? Or is there some other reason?

  4. Robert Ruffo November 20, 2011 at 1:38 AM #

    This makes me very angry.  I basically just wasted $1000 on software that is now essentially worthless.  The management at Black Magic must be high on something.  i will try and get my money back from B&H, or at least sell on ebay.

    • Patrick Inhofer November 20, 2011 at 10:23 AM #

      If you take the ‘long tail’ view – it’s just a matter of time before we’re all delivering files at larger than 1080. But today, it’s entirely dependent on your client base.

  5. Jpo December 1, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

    I have some reservations about this as well, but I also went through the Final Touch 2K debacle, which was a bigger jump, and thank heavens I never owned a big-iron daVinci.  In reality, Final Touch/COLOR didn’t change the value of my services, just what we pay, as you refer to it, as “taxes” — more like a poker “ante”, in my view.  So maybe BM consider this a penny-slot, where you just need to supply the muscle to pull on the lever, and no penny.

    BTW, there still is confusion about the DNxHD support. Likely not that many people (who actually might need it) will get tripped up on this, but it is pretty much strictly a Media Composer round trip as it is the MXF-wrapper ONLY that is supported, and not the DNxHD Quicktime codec.

    Interesting times given the third-party hardware support that I’m currently enjoying with Avid MC6.
    Once they get the ancillary data thing figured out for Decklink, I’m pretty much set to exit the Apple world.  And its 100% Apple’s own doing.


    • Patrick Inhofer December 1, 2011 at 3:31 PM #


      I’m struggling through the AAF Roundtrip myself as I type. Lots of gotcha’s and potential pitfalls. But assuming proper upfront prep – it’s pretty powerful. I’m working off the 30 day trial of MC – but see myself buying it in the next month as I’m getting more inquiries from Avid shops.

      RE: Exiting Apple – I hear you. I’m now contemplating moving my professional rig to a PC. There’s really nothing holding me back once Resolve is on Windows. And there’s plenty pulling me in, including powerful relatively inexpensive graphics cards.

  6. John Chadwick February 27, 2012 at 9:17 AM #

    Hi I’m new to colour grading a very steep curve (excuse the pun). Am I right in understanding that 8.1.1 lite ships with pre-built looks.In Resolve Lite 8.1 this specialty node (and two others like it) were off-limits. And the above 5-node color grading tree would have been impossible.Resolve Lite 8.1.1 now not only makes possible this node tree – it now ships with Resolve and Resolve Lite as a pre-built Look. If so where are little buggers hiding?

    • Patrick Inhofer March 5, 2012 at 12:40 PM #

      John – In case you haven’t found it yet… Right-click on an empty space in the PowerGrade stills page and select “Import PowerGrades”. This will populate all the built-in Looks.

  7. Virtualevans March 9, 2012 at 11:58 PM #

    Lite in my mac have limited button function in conform window. I can’t add track, split with the button panel (just using the shortcut) no button work whatsoever. Can anyone explain what’s going on?

  8. johnny August 25, 2012 at 1:30 PM #

    Question Patric deck link card would  Intensity Pro work and with this one would need expensive reference monitor for any color grading right. but can one use Intensity Pro and hd tv to do just monitoring and maybe some grading for the personal projects. What about mso2 mini does it work with resolve?



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