Better Black and White in Davinci Resolve

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There’s more to monochrome than dragging the saturation down to zero. Learn the nuances of rendering black and white in DaVinci Resolve.

The Traditional Way

While losing all the saturation in a color image is the intended effect, setting saturation to zero at the beginning of the workflow ties our hands since we’re unable to use the color information for later processing. We want to remove the color in a way that still gives us full control of the image.

Better Ways to Work

Using DaVinci Resolve, there are two better ways to work. The first is to create a node at the end of our tree with the saturation set to zero, and then create additional corrections that occur before this node. In this way, we can still pull keys on parts of the image (like the skin) that we would be paying attention to during a session using color images.

In the node tree below, the process containing the move to desaturate is last, allowing me to pull keys on the girl’s skin and dress with ease.

Black and White in DaVinci Resolve: Node Tree 

The second way to work is to use Resolve’s Monochrome mode, which emulates the Black and White adjustment layer used in Photoshop. This preserves the color information underneath and allows us to perform fast moves that give us interesting creative effects.

Monochrome mode can be accessed by clicking in the RGB Mixer tab while in the Color Page. There’s a little drop-down menu where Monochrome can be selected. This gives us single sliders for the red, green and blue channels.

Black and White in DaVinci Resolve: monochrome location

Make sure Preserve Luminance is selected, as you won’t get as favorable results otherwise. Without this checked, you’ll have to make sure the three sliders add up toa value of 1.00 to keep the image at the same luminance before you processed it in monochrome.

Note that the remixing of the color channels doesn’t work in this mode, and any corrections you’ve made to the color image before using Monochrome mode won’t be applied. If you’re using a control panel, any color adjustments will still be applied to the saturated image. Deselecting Monochrome will show you these results.



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Get Better Results from the DaVinci Resolve Motion Tracker

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The DaVinci Resolve motion tracker is fast and simple to use. Let’s explore how to get the most out of this already amazing tool.

The DaVinci Resolve motion tracker’s efficiency always seems to impress clients, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Let’s take a look at how to best utilize this fantastic feature.

Resolve’s lovely tracker at work. The tool automatically picks points within a vignette to analyze.

DaVinci Resolve Motion Tracker: Step 0 - Tracking

Track the Best Object

There are a few basic scenarios where you may want to use tracking. You’ll either have a moving camera, a moving subject, or both. Most of the time, it makes sense to place a power window on the moving object in question and track it. However, sometimes the object is stationary and you just want to compensate for the movement of the camera. In these scenarios, the best object to track may actually not be the talent, but an inanimate object that remains in the frame during the shot.After tracking for camera motion, you can reposition the power window onto the subject.

Let’s assume this was a particularly shaky shot. The interviewee may not be the best place to start, since she’ll be moving around during the shot. The black circles are some inanimate areas that would likely yield a good track.

DaVinci Resolve Motion Tracker: Step 1 - Interview Trackpoints

Track Without Softness

When creating a tracking node, I’ve gotten better results by setting the softness to its minimum. If you’ve performed a correction on the node already, inform the client of the lack of softening which will make the correction stand out temporarily while you perform the track.

A vignette with zero softness, while optimal for tracking, immediately gives away the effect. Notify your client so they know you’re about to perform a track.

DaVinci Resolve Motion Tracker: Step 2 - Window, no softness

Only Track Relevant Data

Don’t create more tracking data than you need. Is the subject moving from left to right? Is there a camera zoom or pan you want to stay with? Before you initiate tracking, consider what elements should be tracked. By default, Resolve will track the pan, zoom, tilt, and rotation parameters inside the power window. That doesn’t mean you need all four for every shot. In fact, tracking data you don’t need can cause the track to get confused and produce inferior outcomes.

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Project Candy on the Horizon for Color Workflows

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Adobe’s sweet new Project Candy app could change the way colorists work. Here’s the scoop!

It’s always helpful for colorists to receive reference images from the client. References are traditionally shared as stills or video, leaving the colorist to manually recreate the look. At NAB 2015, Adobe announced an app called Project Candy that will aid in this collaboration.

The Project Candy app, compatible with iPhone and iPad, will allow users to bring reference images to the session with a corresponding LUT, which provides a great starting point for further color processing. The LUTs are saved as standard .cube fileswhich work in After Effects, Premiere, SpeedGrade, and Resolve.

Check out the video from HDVideoPro Magazine in which Adobe’s Bronwyn Lewis goes over some of Project Candy’s features:

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5 Reasons to Get a Color Grading Control Surface

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A control surface is an essential piece of gear for professional color correction. Here are five good reasons why.

Though this is no secret to seasoned professionals, many aspiring colorists don’t realize the inherent value that a color grading control surface will bring to their work. After all, many professional software packages can be used without additional hardware.

DaVinci Color Grading Control Surface

The DaVinci control surface maps many of Resolve’s functions to dedicated buttons and knobs, making grading a breeze. However, its hefty price tag is out of reach for many. Luckily, third-party surfaces from Tangent, JL Cooper, Avid and newcomerOxygenTec harness much of the DaVinci panel at a fraction of the cost. With fewer buttons and dials, you’ll be scrolling through menus to find the parameter to change,far from a deal breaker to many.

No matter which model you choose, a control surface is an essential aspect of getting any job graded and delivered on time. Let’s take a look at several specific reasons why any surface is a must for the serious colorist.

Tangent Element Color Grading Control Surface
1. Speed and Multiple Actions

The biggest and most obvious advantage to using a color grading control surface is speed. With dedicated knobs, buttons, dials and wheels set to specific functions,muscle memory quickly develops as you learn your panel. When you get fast enough, color grading is no longer frustrating, it’s actually fun! You’ll be wondering how you ever did good work without a panel for this reason alone.

Speed isn’t just about jumping to specific commands to alter your image. When coloring, it’s helpful to adjust several parameters at once to see how the image reacts. This will enable the colorist to experiment with a wide range of looks to gauge a favorable client reaction.

OxygenTec Color Grading Control Surface

2. Trust Me, Your Work Will Improve

Working with a panel enables an organic relationship with your images. By controlling the color wheels, you’ll intuit where the image wants to sit. The physical nature of working with your hands will also prevent you from processing every job in the same way.

Using the color wheels and dials allows for finely-tuned adjustments that are difficult to articulate with a mouse. Many times in session I push the slightest change in the hue of a skin tone to satisfy the client. The software color wheels inside Resolve are small, making these kinds of moves cumbersome.

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DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Extreme Color Looks

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Highly-stylized extreme color looks are easy to nail down through heavy color tinting. Achieve radical color grades with this DaVinci Resolve tutorial.

In a two-part post here and here last month, I took a look at recreating severalInstagram-style looks in DaVinci Resolve. These discussions led us to analyze looks that were certainly stylized, but not all that extreme. One day, you may come across a project where your client is open to a more extreme approach. If you do, hug that client and work with them again. Let’s explore some of these looks.

Approaching the Grade

One way to achieve radical grades is by employing heavy color tinting. To encourage a bit of an unrefined look, adjust the control surface sensitivity in the preferences beforehand. A higher sensitivity number will make the trackballs and dials slide around quicker, allowing you to dial in extreme looks fast.

Try setting the RGB balance sensitivities to around 80 and watch the colors get thrown out of whack with the slightest push. It’s like coloring with a fat marker as opposed to a thin pencil. It’s going to get a little messy.

Click the gear icon on the bottom left in Resolve’s interface and select the Control Panel preferences. To see dramatic changes, alter the RGB sensitivities for the lift, gamma and gain to somewhere around 80, out of a maximum value of 100. DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: panel rgb sensitivity

Just for today, throw realism out the window. Let’s abandon natural skin tones in favor of a color treatment that imposes itself on the image. The challenge will still be to make our images look visually interesting.

Executing the Looks

Here’s the image we’ll be working on. I picked it because it is fairly neutral, but mainly because this lady looks awesome. She’s the perfect canvas for some extreme grades.

DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Original Image

As always, perform an initial balance on the image, then create a new node for screwing with the colors. Here are some looks I came up with, along with the color wheel “answer keys.”

Depending on the type of image you choose, the colors will react quite differently at the outer limits, but since we’re thinking outside the box, there are really no wrong answers. At such extremes, adjusting the saturation by a smidgen will lead to another look itself, so try that too. Trust your eyes and visual acumen to guide you to what looks good.

DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 2a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 2 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 3a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 3 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 5a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 5 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 6a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 6 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 7a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 7 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 8a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 8 DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: Look 9a DaVinci Resolve Tutorial: answer key 9

Pushing the Concept Further

While we’re not touching the luminance values too much for the purposes of this tutorial, it can be helpful to use luminance to qualify sections of the image in the interest of processing them separately. First, pull just a luminance key on half of the image. To do this, increase luminance Low Clip or decrease luminance High Clip.

When about half of the image appears in the qualification, soften the corresponding Softness control. This will ensure that extreme corrections will still have a smooth falloff in the extreme color ranges.

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Tips for Achieving Real-Time Playback in DaVinci Resolve

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As the high resolution 4K TV market grows, let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence playback in DaVinci Resolve.

The inevitable ubiquity of 4K televisions in the near future ensures larger resolutions will be the norm, not the exception. Without adequate hardware support, slow, choppy playback will continue to frustrate us. Professional colorists are at risk for experiencing slow playback since we prefer to work with the highest-quality images available. This requires robust systems that can handle intense processing. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence playback in DaVinci Resolve.

Upgrade Your Graphics Card

Cubix xpander
Cubix Xpander image from Cubix

Resolve, both a hardware and software system, isn’t optimized unless you’re taking advantage of a modern graphics card (and several, if you can afford it). Resolve can use separate multiple cards to power its GPU and GUI.

If playback is lagging, consider investing in a new graphics card or getting a second one for more firepower. You can also invest in a GPU expander chassis like the ones made by Cubix. These take advantage of multiple PCIe slots so you can expand past the physical limitations of your current system.

Rendering clips before playback is the alternative, but you may be waiting for clips to cache for a while, especially on longer projects. In certain scenarios this may be acceptable, but some clients are used to faster service. Besides, wouldn’t you want tospend your time coloring, not watching progress bars?

 Render Cache and Proxies

I’ve explained the much-improved Render Cache before, and it’s a feature I still rely on in session, especially when adding nodes into the double digits. I’ll also tend to use the Render Cache when applying processor-intensive effects such as noise reduction.

Activating the Render Cache and playing the clip once can be enough for Resolve to render the necessary frames for the clip to play real time in subsequent instances. Resolve tries to retain the render even as further corrections are made in additional nodes further downstream.

You can also choose to render to the same preview codec as your final output which can save time during your final render. This preference is located in General Options under the gear preferences located on the bottom left of Resolve. You can also change how quickly the system will start rendering.

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