When I first started in the world of public relations and digital marketing one of the greatest challenges was content creation. As a journalist I was a strong writer and a pretty shoddy photographer, but the use of the Adobe Creative Suite was a foreign concept that pulled many hairs for months. It also costs $50 a month for full access to the suite, which is over budget when taking a poor college student’s budget into consideration. Blackmagic Davinci Resolve 15 is a great free alternative to Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut X Pro as a robust video and audio editor. Read on for my full Davinci Resolve review as the best free video editing software on the market.
My first time using Davinci Resolve 15 was when I job shadowed at Friendly Chevrolet as part of my training at General Motors. During the training the district digital managers were tasked with creating a video of what we learned during our shadowing.
By this point I had a bit of experience using Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X, but I couldn’t bring my entire editing set up with me to Minnesota. I did have my work laptop, a Dell Latitude with an i5 dual core processor and 6gb of RAM, which isn’t well-suited to intensive editing work. It also wasn’t loaded with any editing software, leaving me with performing edits on my phone or the YouTube editor, which is subpar at best.
I searched around for a copy of Windows Movie Maker, which I couldn’t find with dubious authenticity, but I stumbled upon Davinci Resolve 15 and it saved the day for my video editing.
Like I mentioned before, Davinci Resolve 15 is a free editing software alongside 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.
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 the best video editor for youtube.
At my disposal is a gaming computer that serves as a multipurpose editing workstation when working from home. One of my biggest gripes with Adobe Premiere is how intensive it is to use. Even my gaming computer chugs along and freezes when I try to edit short clips, so I was impressed when my underpowered work laptop ran the Davinci video editor effortlessly. Playback on Adobe Premiere takes a lot of time for frames to buffer, whereas Davinci Resolve plays video almost instantaneously.
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:
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 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.”
One of the greatest benefits to using Davinci Resolve 15 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. I was able to pick certain hues and colors and adjust them with precision while using the software, although my color correction was admittedly minimal when testing the product.
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.
Regarding audio editing Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 15 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 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.
For editing and rendering clips, DaVinci Resolve 15 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. My underequipped laptop had no issues running and editing in DaVanci Resolve 15, which is significant given its unimpressive specs.
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.
I spent nearly two hours editing my General Motors vlog without a single instance of crashing, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the Adobe Creative Suite where I’ve had Adobe Audition and Premiere Pro crash on several occasions within 10 minutes of use. While I haven’t had to use it, the autosave function is a lifesaver where users don’t lose large chunks of work in the event of a crash from heavy video editing.
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 15 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 15 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 files from the 4K camera without hitches or crashes.
Davinci Resolve 15 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:
Blackmagic Design has also added support for Apple Metal, multiple GPUs and CUDA acceleration, making Fusion perform even faster.
As far as Davinci Resolve goes when stacked up against Final Cut Pro, I would argue that 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 me to utilize as I’m a windows user. On the other hand, Davinci Resolve is available on Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, which is great news for most editors out there.
If you’re looking to edit in higher frame rates above 60fps or better quality than 1080p, I would suggest using the paid version of DaVinci Resolve 15, which offer those settings. For light and medium-duty editors the free version of the software, Davinci Resolve lite, is fantastic for color editing 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 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:
Davinci Resolve is a good free video editing software and arguably the best video editing apps out there, whether you’re on a budget or looking to enhance the quality of your videos. If you’re looking to learn more about what’s possible on the platform, Blackmagic released an official step-by-step training handbook “The Definitive Guide to DaVinci Resolve 15” that’s worth checking out.
DaVinci Resolve 15 is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Click here for the davinci resolve free download.