From Apple’s Color to BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve: Week 2 Part 1

Note: This is part of a series of posts documented my transition from color correcting in Apple Color to color correcting in DaVinci Resolve. If this is your first time here, you’ll want to start reading from the beginning.

My First Resolve Project – Total Failure

Yup. As much as I hate to admit defeat, my first project on the Resolve never happened. I tried. Very hard. For 2 days.

No Go.

What happened?

Technically . . .

Read The $&@ing Manual

Or more specifically, read the supported codecs PDF.

And by read I don’t mean scan, glance, or quickly survey. I mean READ THE DARN THING.

Here’s the story:

My first gig on Resolve is for a regular client of mine. It’s her personal documentary that she’s been working on for 3 years and is now ready to wrap up. I cut a great deal with her – she’s my Resolve guinea pig, she’s willing to be patient, she gets a super fantastic flat rate.

Her documentary is 26 minutes long and shot on. . . wait for it . . . DV25.

Yup. Mini DV.

Before you start rolling your eyes, I think this is a GREAT test of Resolve. Apple Color for years had trouble with interlaced footage and, from time to time, NTSC frame sizes. Now that Resolve is open to the masses, and I suspect very few Resolve shops prior to Resolve 7 had ever dealt with grading DV natively, this is a perfect time to see how this new software, freshly opened to the masses, would handle a codec of the masses.

Getting back to the $&@ing Manual, here’s what it looks like at first glance:

I’ve blurred the “Codec Details” column to simulate a ‘quick look’ at this document.

What I saw – from glancing at this document (hence the blur in the graphic) – is Resolve Supports several flavors of DVCPro and DV. The Apple XDCam list of codecs ran into the next page.

Fantastic! Resolve supports DV as long as FCP is installed (which it is).

So what happened?

Anatomy of a Train Wreck

After exporting the EDL from FCP and taking it into Resolve  (a straightforward process that didn’t have any hiccups), I graded the first few shots – which are wide exteriors of farm country. As I’m playing down the footage, something isn’t right.

I’m getting lots of Moire in the high-frequency detail, the footage is being deinterlaced and the aspect ratio isn’t being maintained. This is suddenly feeling like my early days with Final Touch / Apple Color. And that’s a BAD thing. Here’s what I’m seeing (click on the image for full size):

As I said:

  1. The aspect ratio is completely wrong. Resolve has several controls to handle this type of thing – but no combination of settings seems to fix the issue.
  2. Look at the horizontal lines wrapping around the silo. ‘Jaggies’ have been introduced in the Resolve render, suggesting a de-interlace gone wrong.
  3. Take a look at the high-frequency detail in the leaves at the top of the silo. Resolution is lost. And when the footage plays down it exhibits a strong moire effect. I’m thinking: Scaling issue.

I suspect these issues are all related to unwanted image scaling (probably related to the aspect ratio) and improper de-interlacing.

Next, I double check my frame size settings in Resolve. And here’s when I start figuring out my problem…

720 x 486 is the wrong frame size for DV25

My Timeline Format is set to the wrong frame size! Coolness.

Let’s just select 720 x 480, right? Opening the pull-down menu:

Where’s the setting I want?

Huh. I’m seeing lots of options here, including 480P… but nothing for NTSC 480i.

Scrolling to the bottom of this list is an option for “Custom”. I select that, enter 720 x 480.

Resolve seems to accept that frame size, I head to the ‘Color’ tab to start grading – and I’m still seeing these darn artifacts! I switch back to double-check my configuration and I find this:

HELLO?

480P?

Grrr…

I spend a few hours on this, going Round after Round with Resolve – trying different combinations of settings to find the ‘magic formula’ to get that 480i frame size to work correctly.

Except, this is NOT working. The PDF clearly said DV was an acceptable codec. There’s a bug. Must be, right?

Here’s where I start thinking: Work Around.

How to proceed?

Bail on NTSC and Up-Convert

Resolve is treating the 720x480i frame size as 480p, blending fields, and producing a terrible image. If I treat the footage as 720×486, Resolve is scaling the image and doesn’t maintain the correct pixel aspect ratio.

It’s now time to bail on NTSC.

I output the Textless to digibeta, then recapture in FCP as 1080i59.94 via a Teranex Mini. So far so good.

EDL Hell

I export the NTSC edl and use it to slice up the recaptured timeline.

But now I’ve got problems with the EDL. The edits don’t line up with my re-captured footage. I use the tool in the “Conform” tab to line up my reference movie to the EDL. The cuts seem to be happening correctly – until I get to the “Color” tab and those settings don’t seem to hold.

Double-G r r r r . . .

I stop. Why am I doing this again? Right. Image quality.

Solving The NTSC Problem

I stop diddling with the EDLs (I exported a total of 6 EDLs, and some of the issues I was having were total Operator Error) and focus on the really big problem: Image Quality.

The good news – in this new workflow the footage didn’t lose any quality!

Fantastic.

I call up a good friend and fellow colorist. His conclusion is the same as mine: This is almost entirely a problem with Resolve not recognizing 480 interlaced material.

A logical next test is to recapture the digibeta as ProRes in NTSC at 720×486 and feed that into Resolve. But I have no time for that now…

Prepping for A Freelance Resolve Gig

I call my client and apologize that after two days I have nothing to show. I explain what happened. She’s cool. She understands.

I bail on her project because I need to get some friggin’ grading done! I’ve signed up for a freelance gig in NYC on Resolve – I need to get a full day of ‘stick time’ so I feel comfortable for this gig.

My plan was to use this documentary to give me that stick time. But I have no patience for it anymore.

It occurs to me that I have some great footage that I know really well – and it’s HD, so I won’t have to deal with this whole NTSC fiasco . . . It’s my Tao Of Color training project, “In Tents“.

The project works beautifully. It’s a narrative short with a simple timeline. I feed the EDL into Resolve, I point it to the folder with the footage, Resolve does the rest. On my first attempt, the EDL loads perfectly, referencing back to the h.264 files from the Canon 5D originals.

Finally… something goes my way.

Unexpected Bonus

This footage was shot single-camera film style and reveals to me a nice feature of Resolve that I missed…

Resolve automatically links my grades to other shots from the same file name… Which, in this case is usually the same take. It’s a workflow that Avid’s been doing for years, and with file based workflows it seems immensely useful.

Its nifty – I grade my Hero shots and suddenly those grades auto populate the timeline. And if I decide they need to be tweaked, they are all linked together and get tweaked. Time saver.

Here’s a screenshot demonstrating that shots 32, 34, and 36 are linked together and share the same grade. If I change one of them, they all change. You can tell they’re linked by the Red Bar at the top of each linked thumbnail.

the Red Bars indicate shots that share the same grade

One of the challenges of this project is the constant changes in the outdoor light between takes – there’s a lot of grade management that’s going on. This linking feature in Resolve lets me visually see which takes are related to each other and makes it easier to understand how the edits are related to each other.

For the next day I practice the skills I know I’ll need on this upcoming gig… Working with masks, HSL selections, and the ever important still store.

At the end of this exercise I print out the manual and start digging into it, now that I’m familiar with the interface. The manual is finally starting to make sense to me. I think it’s the type of thing where the manual works best if you already have a basic understanding of the interface.

Tomorrow starts my first gig grading as a freelance Colorist on Resolve. I’m feeling confident, especially since I’m stepping in as the 2nd colorist, matching shots to all the Hero shots that have been graded over the previous 5 days. AND I’m friends with the Lead Colorist who will be able to help overcome obstacles I may face.

I can’t think of a better way to get up to speed!

Addendum: Resolve & DV25

In prepping this post, and just before I got back to grading my client’s documentary, I took another look at the Supported Codecs pdf. And this time I really read the darn thing. Wouldn’t you know it? Resolve does NOT support DV25 at NTSC. Here’s the same graphic as I started with at the top of this post – without the blur:

The PDF lists DVCProHD under DV

Where a quick glance shows multiple codecs for DV. In fact – the only DV codec that Resolve supports is DV PAL. The rest of those codec are for DVCProHD!

The pdf is missing the DVCProHD Codec Name.

Oops. Sucks for me.

So – as it is when learning any new piece of software, score one for Operator Error… with an assist from whoever wrote that PDF!

Coming Soon: Part 2 of my Week 2 experience moving from Color to Resolve. I learned tons. I think you’ll enjoy.



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12 Comments

  1. expose March 10, 2011 at 12:18 PM #

    why didn’t you used the ptzr to correct the aspect ratio ?

    • Patrick Inhofer March 10, 2011 at 3:10 PM #

      (For those new to Resolve – PTZR is Resolve’s ‘resize’ tool for reformatting frame sizes.) Two Reasons: 1 – In a sense, it would have been the proverbial “putting lipstick on a pig”. Even if I solved the aspect ration problem the much bigger issue of deinterlacing would remain. 2 – At that point I wasn’t familiar with the PTZR tool 🙂 But even if I was – I would have ignored it since it likely would have made the image quality problem worse, not better (scalers rarely improve picture quality – at best they maintain it).

      • Ernest Savage December 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM #

        Hi Patrick, thanks for the wonderful blog. I’m experiencing the same problems you did with DV25, only my source material is DVPal. But I get the same softness and jagged edges. Resizing doesn’t help. Is there anyway to know if Resolve actually does support DVPal? I’m obviously forwarding this to their tech department.

        • Patrick Inhofer December 3, 2013 at 11:26 PM #

          Ernest,

          Here’s the good news… Resolve 10 officially supports NTSC DV25… and does so with great results.

          My guess: If there was a problem on the PAL side with this format… it’s very likely solved. Unfortunately, the Supported Codec List hasn’t been updated for Resolve 10 – so the only way to know for sure is to try it (or email them – as you did – and ask).

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 12:04 PM #

            I’m using Resolve 10 lite, and I’m getting the same results as you. The footage is Pal DV 720 x 576, 16 x 9 in a 4 x 3 space. BM support said to check force fields. I did that after importing the footage, I’ll try before importing the footage. However, you mention that DV25 had great results in 10. Where did you see that? Can I get a link? Or can I talk to the person that experienced the results? I’m guessing I’m missing a button somewhere. The only solution I’ve found is to convert the footage to ProRes. I’m trying to have DaVinci Resolve or their Terenex do all the conversion, instead of FCP. If that’s even worth it? Not sure.

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM #

            Sorry forgot to mention, footage is interlaced.

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 12:17 PM #

            Here’s a link to a test clip if you have time to see what I’m doing wrong. Obviously that’s a lot to ask, so I totally cool if you don’t have time. Thanks for all your help.

            https://secure.logmein.com/f?00_Hfeyuu26cFKTylkboOGqzTM9oQKP9OYVzh4dYjJk

          • Patrick Inhofer December 4, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

            Ernest,

            Your footage is looking fine on my rig. Or – as fine as DV footage will ever look on an HD display. I’m seeing anti-ailiasing artifacts, but that’s normal for how I’m displaying. I’m NOT seeing interlacing issues.

            Here’s a link to a Resolve 10 .DRP file that links back to the shot you sent:

            https://www.dropbox.com/s/t88e8a2kco0ule1/Test-PalDV-16-9-R10.zip

            You can evaluate my project settings. You’ll want to look at:

            • Timeline Settings (PAL 16:9)
            • Output Scaling Preset (for displaying NTSC on a 1080 monitor)
            • Clip Attributes > Pixel Aspect Ratio

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 9:28 PM #

            Thank you so much for doing this. If it is at all possible. I just want to confirm something. The only thing I have been able to do to fix the problem I see on my end, is to export a clip to prores in FCP, and bring the prores clip into Resolve. The clip looks a lot better than the DV. The clip below is the same as the DV clip but in prores. Can you see if there is any difference on your system?

            https://secure.logmein.com/f?00_Ki2FZdUHkgxobGA8aUJBjABCZIpB.xPsE1AZiOqK

            Why don’t I just output all the clips this way? Not sure if the editor screwed up, but media manager is changing clips in the timeline and the raw clip files themselves. I can’t get all files to be the same aspect ratio.

            But if I can know for sure that the DV files are fine to work with, I can work from there. Can I send you a paypal payment our something for your work?

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 9:39 PM #

            Just tried your .drp file. Loaded file, I see your color correction. But still has way more aliasing, and slightly softer than the prores I sent you.

          • Patrick Inhofer December 4, 2013 at 12:55 PM #

            That person would be me… but I’m talking with NTSC footage.

            Also – keep in mind Resolve is relying on that codec being installed by FCP.

          • Ernest Savage December 4, 2013 at 1:48 PM #

            So what am I doing wrong? You mention Resolve is relying on FCP codec. If I view the same footage in FCP through a the same BM 4k Decklink Extreme card, It looks fine. Bring footage into Resolve looks bad. I assume your DV25 footage was interlaced. Is there a button I’m missing? I tried force fields before and after adding media to the pool. Thanks again.

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