IMPORTANT: Before you start, please read this tutorial on The Critical Importance of Project Settings in DaVinci Resolve. It will save you pain.
The problem with learning new video editing software is similar to that of cooking in someone else’s kitchen. You know they have everything you need, you just don’t know where they put it.
I’ve made sporadic attempts to learn DaVinci Resolve over the years. Yes, I know; it is excellent software. Yes, it is upgraded frequently and, yes, those upgrades are significant. And, yes, Resolve has more integrated editing features than either Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro.
I really should learn it. Sigh… But, well, the older I get, the harder it is to learn something new. I call it my “Four Stages of Learning.”
Currently, I’m wading through Stage 3. But, I’ve discovered that Resolve is easier to learn than I thought – mostly because it builds on what I already know.
The process of video editing is infinitely complex, but, in brief, it consists of five main steps:
Resolve supports all of these processes in one application. It does a lot. So much that Resolve’s User Manual runs 4,140 pages! That’s enough to scare anyone!
The good news is that DaVinci Resolve provides a simplified approach to getting started that allows you to dip your toe into the very deep pool of Resolve features without fear of drowning.
Let’s create a simple edit and use it to explore Resolve.
If you haven’t already, download the free version of DaVinci Resolve and install it. The current version – for this tutorial – is 18.6.4.
During installation, Resolve asks you to create a library/database. You only need to do this once. My recommendation is that you create a Resolve folder on your fastest drive, then point to that folder. Resolve uses this location to store media, projects and work files.
Resolve takes about the same amount of time to launch as Premiere – which is slower than Final Cut. The first window (above) is the Project panel. To create a new project, double-click the Untitled Project icon. To open an existing project, double-click its icon in this panel.
By default, Resolve opens into the Cut page. This is a streamlined screen for simple editing. It allows you to get started without bogging down in the entire interface. If you are new – or in a hurry – this is a great place to start.
Type Cmd + I (menu: File > Import > Media) to select media to import into the project. This is the same process as Premiere or Final Cut.
Images courtesy of John Putch “Route 30, Too!” (www.route30trilogy.com)
Imported media is displayed in the Media Pool window in the top left of the interface. This is the same location as Premiere or FCP. The screen shot above shows the metadata view. Click an icon to change the display:
Unlike Final Cut, the Viewer does not automatically toggle between displaying clips in the timeline and the browser. Unlike Premier, there is no Source monitor. To view a clip in the Media Pool, scrub the image in any view except List. If the Viewer does not show the media, type Q.
Here are other key editing shortcuts:
You can also select a clip in the Media Pool, display it in the Viewer, then scrub in the Viewer to set an In or Out.
NOTE: To toggle between viewing the Source clip and the Timeline, type Q – or click one of the icons indicated by a read arrow (above).
To edit a clip into the timeline, either:
NOTE: While an Append edit is exactly the same as in Final Cut Pro Premiere does not have an equivalent. An Append edit places the selected clip at the end of all current media in the timeline on the lowest layer.
To insert a clip between two clips in the timeline, put the playhead at or near an edit point, then:
NOTE: Unlike Premiere, you don’t need to target a track before editing a clip into a higher layer. Also, unlike Premiere, the Cut Page timeline acts like the magnetic timeline in Final Cut Pro. If you don’t like the magnetic timeline, use the Edit page for editing.
Just like trimming in Premiere or Final Cut, grab an edge and drag it to trim an edit.
MOVING THE PLAYHEAD
There are two playheads in Resolve:
The top playhead moves, the bottom one does not. This difference drives me nuts! I’m always grabbing the wrong one. So, to move the playhead:
– OR –
SET AUDIO LEVELS
Audio needs its own tutorial, but, if you are in a hurry, select the clip(s) you want to adjust, then, in the Audio Inspector at the top right, drag the Volume slider till you get the level you want.
NOTE: Resolve includes Fairlight – a full-blown, high-quality audio mixer. Truthfully, for any edit where I care about the audio, I wouldn’t change audio settings during the edit, but click into the Fairlight page and start enhancing there. But this is a Get Started tutorial, not a book.
Normally, once the edit is roughed in, it’s time to add effects and clean up the audio mix. But, for now, we are simply looking at an overall workflow for a simple edit.
Click the Deliver page to shift into Export mode (screen shot above).
Select the output format in the top-left – H.264 is a good choice for social media. ProRes 422 HQ is a good choice for the master file.
Actual compression settings are similar to Adobe Media Encoder or Compressor – there’s nothing new to learn.
Should you need to make tweaks, you can review the entire project in the Deliver page; however, you need to switch back to the Cut (or Edit) page to make changes.
What IS new, though, is that we don’t just “export” – we add the movie to a Render Queue. The advantage is that you can queue a number of exports, then process them all at the same time.
When you click Add to Render Queue you can specify the output file name and location, the same as any other NLE.
For instance, here, I’m exporting two versions: H.264 and ProRes 422 HQ. Click the Render All button to start the export process.
Resolve does not auto-save, unlike Final Cut Pro. So, when it comes time to quit, go to File > Save As and save your work (shortcut: Cmd + S).
The next time you open Resolve, you’ll see your project in the Project panel.
Yes, Resolve is complex. Yes, Resolve has its unique quirks. However, at heart, it’s just like any NLE – and very similar to both Premiere and Final Cut. In fact, Resolve borrows many of Final Cut’s keyboard shortcuts and behaviors; both from FCP 7 and FCP X.
The lesson here, at least for me, is that when it comes to learning new software, many times we are our own worst enemy. The software is far easier to learn than our fears make it and provides a different feature set which we can leverage to accomplish tasks that might be harder in the software we are currently using.
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