DaVinci Resolve Review: Video Editing Software for Enthusiasts

Brandon LazovicMarch 11, 2020

Davinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design was initially created for commercial filmmakers, but with several new iterations this video editing software boasts many powerful tools at its disposal.

While there is a steep learning curve, DaVinci Resolve 16 includes high-end video production modules that allow users to perform color correction, audio production, motion graphics, video effects and more. Read on for a full review of DaVinci Resolve and why it's the best video editor on the market.

Our Verdict

Pros:
-Free and multi-platform with no watermarks
-Slick and intuitive user interface
-Strong compositor, sound editor, colour grader
-Fast exports
-Large variety of tutorials and user manual
-Deep application for color grading, compositing, sound editing
Cons:
-Requires a strong computer for higher-end functions
-Learning curve, especially with node-based compositing
-No direct export to social
-No direct import or footage from a camera
-Free version missing some features

What Is DaVinci Resolve?

DaVinci Resolve is a color correction and non-linear video editing application. Initially released in 2004, the software was acquired by Blackmagic Design, an Australian digital cinema company that creates high quality products for feature film, post and broadcast industries.

Since Blackmagic acquired the software, they've made several modifications and enhancements to make it a strong contender for color grading, video editing, special effects and sound mixing at an affordable price.

New Features On DaVinci Resolve 16

Here's a quick look at DaVinci Resolve 15's interface and color correction capabilities.
Here's a quick look at DaVinci Resolve's interface and color correction capabilities.

Right off the bat, Blackmagic supports Apple Metal and CUDA acceleration to aid with your GPU performance for faster rendering.

The interface is rather intuitive, featuring a timeline with the following:

  • Media pool
  • Effects and sound libraries
  • Audio mixer
  • Inspector
  • Unlimited audio and video tracks

Resolve is usable on most operating systems, whether your computer runs on MacOs, Windows 10, or Linux.

Compared to the previous edition, more than 300 new features and enhancements have been added to the Media, Edit, Color, Fairlight and Deliver pages including:

  • Improvements to saving, the overall user interface and exporting;
  • Performance boosts to make Davinci Resolve load even faster;
  • Image quality enhancements including support for “Super Scale” image enlargement;
  • Additional media formats with support for built-in IMF encoding and decoding;
  • The ability to stack multiple timelines to accommodate “pancake editing” techniques;
  • Automatic edit selection and the ability to move to next and previous edits;
  • And optical flow improvement options for speed effects.

Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, wrote in a press release:

“Customers get an incredibly mature and fast set of editing and trimming tools that rivals all other systems, the world’s most advanced color correction tools, a completely integrated digital audio workstation, and now Fusion visual effects and motion graphics. It’s unlike any other software out there and is redefining professional video multi user workflows in Hollywood and around the world! Now teams of editors, colorists, sound engineers and VFX artists can all collaborate and work together on the same project at the same time, all in the same software application.”

DaVinci Resolve Lite Vs. Studio Version

Read on for my full Davinci Resolve review as the best free video editing software on the market photo 1

DaVinci Resolve comes in two versions; one is a free "DaVinci Lite" with limited features, or a $300 resolve studio version that offers extra features for the more engaged editor. The studio version lets users post houses and creative teams without further fees or licensing agreements, which expands the options available for editors, colorists, audio engineers and visual effects artists for simultaneous access to studio projects. The project server software manager also allows for the ability to track edits and changes alongside a built-in chat messaging system.

For most people doing light video editing or audio touch up work the free version is well equipped to take on the task, although the free version is a fully functional software with no limitations imposed on the user.

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The interface is modern, although there is a learning curve that may warrant the viewing of one or two tutorial videos. It offers presets to make it look like other editing softwares in layout. Overall it seems as though Blackmagic kept the overall look of the platform familiar for older editors while adding enough new features to pique the interest of a younger demographic as one of the best video editors for youtube.

Best Free Video Editor Features

Davinci Resolve Video Editing Features Photo

For editing and rendering clips, DaVinci Resolve features a video-playback engine with CPU and GPU optimization, allowing for a smoother editing process and quicker render times without bogging down your computer.

Playback is surprisingly peppy when toggling back and forth using the spacebar shortcut keys, which is a significant improvement when compared to previous editions where playback wasn’t nearly as seamless. I prefer Resolve’s cutting tools when compared to Premiere Pro, which is intuitive and easy to use when trimming clips.

The boost in playback can be attributed to Resolve’s GPU Acceleration for video stabilization, ResolveFX Match Move, Super Scaling and more. Blackmagic boasted up to 6 times improvement compared to Davinci Resolve 14.3 on a late 2014 Macbook Retina.

Compared to jumping in and out of programs that serve different purposes, Blackmagic hit it out of the park as Davinci Resolve has four modules housed in one place: editing, color correction, audio effects and visual effects.

“DaVinci Resolve is a huge and exciting leap forward for post production because it’s the world’s first solution to combine editing, color, audio and now visual effects into a single software application,” wrote Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, in a press release. “We’ve listened to the incredible feedback we get from customers and have worked really hard to innovate as quickly possible. DaVinci Resolve gives customers unlimited creative power to do things they’ve never been able to do before. It’s finally possible to bring teams of editors, colorists, sound engineers and VFX artists together so they can collaborate on the same project at the same time, all in the same software application!”

At the time of launch Blackmagic also revealed a Pocket Cinema 4K Camera and the company made sure its video editor could handle large video files from the 4K camera without hitches or crashes.

Color Correction Capabilities

Davinci Resolve Review Color Grading and Color Correction Photo

One of the greatest benefits to using Davinci Resolve 16 is its color correction and grading capabilities, which are bar-none compared to Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro X as the editing app was originally a color correction tool. Users can pick certain hues and colors and adjust them with precision while using the software.

The program also offers a “live save” option to prevent losing edits on a project if the program were to suddenly crash, which does happen from time to time. This feature lets you specify how often to save a new project backup, whether you want specify minute, hourly or daily backups.

Users can also utilize nodes to layer changes to images while turning off individual nodes and orders to change the picture presented on screen. There are also keying and masking capabilities to correct the image as precisely as possible, although the color correction curves and bars aren’t user-friendly.

Colorists get an entirely new LUT browser for quickly previewing and applying LUTs alongside newly shared nodes to streamline individual changes across all nodes.

Audio Editing with Fairlight

Davinci Resolve Audio Editing with Fairlight Photo

Regarding audio editing Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve is similar in capability to Adobe Audition. The software offers a full professional mixer, several plug-in effects, equalization and dynamics, editing and automation, making it great for anyone who is interested in entering the world of podcasting.

Blackmagic Design originally introduced the integrated audio features of Fairlight in 2017 with the launch of Davinci Resolve 14 after acquiring it in September 2016, which is a smart move instead of making it a standalone feature.

Performing dissolves or audio track fades is an easy process and if you need to perform any extensive audio edits, the dedicated Fairlight audio editor is much easier compared to toggling back and forth between Adobe Premiere and Audition.

Fairlight offers 13 new audio effects including repair audio plugins; added effects to simulate various spaces; access to reverb, hum removal, vocal channel and de-esser; improvements to stabilization, noise reductions and up-rezzing; audio normalization; pitch correction and more.

The Echo and Delay plug-ins allow you to have copies of original audio play back at different timeline points, while the Distortion plug-in allows you to distort the sound as if it were being played through bad speakers or old recording devices.

It goes above and beyond in its capabilities, giving users access to a foley library of more than 500 sounds.

Visual Effects App

Davinci Fusion Visual Effects App Photo

Davinci Resolve comes equipped with Fusion, a powerful visual effects app that’s used in Hollywood films like The Martian and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which serves as a great alternative to Adobe After Effects although it’s sold as a standalone app for $300 and has nearly all the same tools such as 3D compositing, particle effects, 3D text tools and more.

It’s embedded in the video editor and uses a node-based system to layer effects and clips that’s akin to linking Legos. Like I mentioned, Fusion was designed for special effects work in big-budget Hollywood films, making it overkill for the average user with a steep learning curve, but Blackmagic offers numerous tutorials and guides to mitigate any initial frustration.

The Fusion toolbar houses more than 250 tools including the following features:

  • Vector painting
  • 3D particle systems
  • Rotoscopes and chroma keying
  • Text animations and 3D titling
  • Image stabilization

Blackmagic Design has also added support for Apple Metal, multiple GPUs and CUDA acceleration, making Fusion perform even faster.

Davinci Resolve vs Final Cut Pro

Davinci Resolve vs Final Cut Pro

As far as Davinci Resolve goes when stacked up against Final Cut Pro, both programs do a great job for video editing purposes. Final Cut Pro is also quite peppy when performing video playback and has a more lenient learning curve compared to Davinci Resolve.

Both perform great color editing with different interfaces, so it’s up to the individual editor when it comes to their personal preference.

Final Cut Pro is a Mac-only software with a one-time purchase fee of $299, which isn’t an option for windows users. On the other hand, Davinci Resolve is available on Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, which is great news for most editors out there.

DaVinci Resolve Vs. Adobe Premiere Pro

While Premiere has been established as an editing program much longer, Resolve is a powerhouse in full circle editing.

Premiere Pro is great to understand and leverage in the commercial world, where Adobe is often hailed as the gold standard for any kind of design work. However, the capabilities of both the lite and studio version of Resolve easily rival most, if not all, features available in the Adobe Creative Suite.

Having said that, Premiere elements provide better performance with lower specs on a PC. Users can drop any filetype within Premiere and it will play, whereas with Resolve, your media needs to be optimized, your computer requires a super fast SSD for caching, rendering and media, and you need to set up your rendering options properly.

The price point of both services are quite different as well. The Adobe Creative Suite offers subscription models only, whereas Resolve offers a free version, and a one-time fee for the studio version.

File Formats / Resolution Support

Being able to support 4K and 8K, below is a complete list of supported formats and codec for Resolve's media composing:

Import Formats:
Video ArriRaw (ARI / MXF), AVC HD, AVC Intra HD, AVCHD, AVI, CINE, CinemaDNG, Cinema RAW Light, Cinema RAW, Cineon, DNG, DPX (DPX / CDX), easyDCP (DCP / MXF), JPEG, JPEG 2000, MPEG 2 (MTS / M2TS), MP4, MXF OP-Atom, MXF OP1A, Nikon RAW, OpenEXR, Quicktime (MOV / MP4), RED, TIFF, VRV
Audio Independent Uncompressed PCM (WAV / AIFF), Independent IEEE Float, Embedded Audio (MOV / MXF / R3D), MPEG 1 and 2 (MP3), MP4, OP-1A: Embedded Audio, OP Atom: Associated Audio, AAC, WAVE
Export Formats:
Video AVI, Cineon, DPX, easyDCP, JPEG 2000, MP4, MXF OP-Atom, MXF OP1A, Open EXR, Quicktime, TIFF
Audio MP4, Embedded Audio, OP Atom: Associated Audio, AAC, WAVE

Performance

In order to operate this program, your system requires at least 16GB of memory, and 32GB for Linux owners or users making use of Fusion.

Here are a few speed tests for reference using a Ryzen 5, 16GB of RAM and a 6GB GeForce GTX 1070:

SettingsF1 ClipMusic ClipInterview Clip
720p 30fps26.3329.0616.59
1080p 60fps52.8658.9330.49

How Much Is Davinci Resolve?

If you’re looking to edit videos in higher frame rates above 60fps or better quality than 1080p, the paid version of DaVinci Resolve offers those settings. For light and medium-duty editors the free version of the software, Davinci Resolve lite, is fantastic for color editing tools and on par with Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Flash Cut Pro X for non-linear editing.

The paid version involves a one-time fee of $300, which is a fantastic deal compared to other subscription-based services like Adobe Premiere, given how robust the program is and offers more filters such as lens correction and a noise reduction filter. Below are other features available on the studio version the Davinci video editor:

  • 4K and above output
  • Support for multiple GPUs
  • Motion blur effects
  • Temporal & spatial noise reduction
  • HDR tools
  • Lens distortion correction
  • De-interlacing
  • Resolve FX Lens Flare
  • Lens Blur
  • Film Grain
  • 3D stereoscopic tools
  • Collaboration tools
  • Remote rendering
  • External database server

Ease Of Use

While this is a powerful software, the UI requires a steep learning curve to fully master, with many different buttons and graphs. Having said that, the design is sleek and professional looking with the enthusiast in mind.

There are dozens of tutorials out there to walk new users through the interface, and Blackmagic released a 300 page manual that's well worth the read, especially with the sheer volume of controls that are available for use.

Davinci Resolve Free Download

Davinci Resolve is a good free video editing software and arguably the best video editing softwares out there, whether you’re on a budget looking to post on Instagram using Planoly or you're a pro that's moved beyond VSCO X and is seeking a robust tool for color editing.

DaVinci Resolve is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Click here for the davinci resolve free download.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is DaVinci Resolve 16 free?

The free version is available for download on the official website without paying anything. The paid Studio version features everything available in the free version including other tools like HDR Grading, motion blur effects, 3D and more.

Is DaVinci Resolve Trustworthy?

This program is safe, having developed by Blackmagic for use in professional color correction. Films such as The Martian and Avengers: Age of Ultron used DaVinci Resolve for their video editing.

Is DaVinci Resolve Good For Beginners?

While this program has a learning curve for more advanced applications, new beginners can easily perform simple edits using this program. There are also a plethora of tutorial videos to follow, and a 300 page manual to read on Blackmagic's website.

Can You Edit Photos In DaVinci Resolve?

The short answer: yes, you can edit photos by using this program to import and alter stills.

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