Thoughts on DaVinci Resolve and Fairlight (V14 and V15 beta 4)

DaVinci Resolve Screen Shot.png

I want to first say that I'm a fan and supporter of Blackmagic design and their products. I see and appreciate the direction that they're headed. I own several of their products which I purchased with my own money - the Ursa Mini Pro along with the viewfinder and shoulder mount kit, the Ultrastudio Mini Monitor and Mini Recorder. I have the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K on pre-order. I've also been a long-time user of Resolve.

I recently decided to try to use Resolve for my entire post workflow on my YouTube videos. I have attempted to go in with an open mind. For the last three years, I've done most of my video editing in Final Cut Pro X and mixing audio in Adobe Audition and with Izotope RX. There is potential that Resolve could greatly simplify my workflow by obviating the process of moving between applications for different parts of post processing.

Using Resolve V14 and 15 (beta), the potential looks good, but the current experience is still a little rocky.

For example, in version 14.2, I ran into a bunch of issues getting automation to work consistently in the Fairlight panel. I couldn't overwrite existing automation of faders at the start of a timeline (the piece starts with a loud blast of music which should have been faded to sit behind dialogue). 60 minutes of trying to get it to work didn't work out. I may well be missing something, I'm not sure. But for sure, the UI was not working in an intuitive manner for someone who is not a stranger to working with DAWs.

Interestingly, Fairlight works much better in the current beta version of Resolve (V15 beta 4). In fact, automation of faders worked so nicely I started feeling much more confident and started pushing Resolve to do other interesting things. I added a Fusion lower third to one of my videos, then popped over into the Fusion panel to edit some of the parameters for the lower third. Once things were set up, I waited for a bit while Resolve happily started chugging away at rendering the lower third. But then about 60 seconds later, I noticed that the little bar above the clip was still about 30% red and hadn't progressed in a while. When I went to move the mouse, I found the macOS spinning beach ball. After about 10 minutes of beach ball, I force quit and sent a bug report to Blackmagic.

Now I want to say something very clearly; I know I am working with beta software, and I am not complaining that I lost about 30 minutes worth of work. That's the risk one takes using beta software. With my background in software, I also understand and appreciate the idea of iterative development and taking an agile approach to software.

So here's my personal assessment of the situation: It seems to take about two full releases before a new panel in Resolve becomes usable for semi-serious work - a tool that you can generally depend upon. This seems to be the case with Fairlight. Also, with Fusion in it's first iteration as a panel in Resolve, that seems to be the case so far as well - not quite reliable just yet. The editing panel also took about the same amount of time/releases before it became reliable. Color seems rock solid in my experience, and of course, it's been around the longest.

One thing I haven't figure out in Fairlight just yet is the Loudness meters in the meters panel. This isn't showing LUFS or LKFS. It doesn't appear to be RMS levels either. The version 14 manual says this:

Farther to the right of these, a set of Control Room meters show you the monitored output and loudness meters for a precise analysis of your mix’s perceived loudness.

The version 15 beta new features manual doesn't mention loudness at all. I'll need to spend more time here, but for now, Blackmagic Design, may we please have LUFS/LKFS loudness meters, please?

So for me, the upshot appears to be that once 15 is out of beta, I think I can rely on it for editing, coloring, and audio finishing except for loudness normalization. That will require bouncing the mix to a new file, taking that into RX for loudness normalization, and then bouncing that back to a wav file and bringing it back to Resolve.

Looking forward to a bright future with Resolve for post!