DaVinci Resolve Review
DaVinci Resolve is a heavy-duty, professional video editor that, surprisingly has a free tier available for dabblers. As we describe in this full DaVinci Resolve review, it's a powerful, versatile tool, but it'll take some time to tame this beast.
Free plan available
DaVinci Resolve is a professionally focused video editor from the Australian company Blackmagic Design. The program has a wealth of features and is a great choice, both for experts and aspiring creators alike.
Much of its marketing material shows people with professional workstations hooked up to it. If you’re used to working with these multi-buttoned behemoths, DaVinci Resolve may be the video editor for you. Blackmagic makes film industry hardware, as well as software, and DaVinci Resolve is an excellent tool for production-quality video work.
It has been used on many top movies and TV shows, such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Spectre and Deadpool 2. Read our how to watch Game of Thrones article for another show on its credit list.
Despite being pitched at professionals, it has a free version available, so if you want to work with the same tool used to make top movies, you can. We’re big fans of DaVinci Resolve and included it in our recent guide to the best video editing software.
- Highly professional feature set
- Free version available
- Largest manual ever
- Out-of-date documentation on website
- Expensive full version
- Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
- Visit Corel VideoStudio UltimateCorel VideoStudio Ultimate Review
DaVinci Resolve has seven buttons at the bottom, allowing you to move between areas focussed on different tasks. These include a media area, screens focussed on editing, cutting and color correction, and an area for rendering your output. There are also two areas, Fusion and Fairlight, for visual effects and sound.
Fusion and Fairlight used to be distinct applications, so these areas have plenty of subfeatures and controls. They look complex, and figuring out how to use everything will take time.
Resolve’s free and paid versions have plenty of transitions, with all kinds of fades and wipes to link your clips. There are shape-based fades, including a heart-shaped one, though for a whole category of romantic effects, check out our CyberLink PowerDirector review.
The Fusion area is full of special effects, and these go way further than the quick and easy drag-and-drop style you get in less advanced tools. Most have several settings and can be combined in different ways.
As an example of how detailed it is, you have 40 different default lens-flare effects, and they all give you several sliders to tune exactly what they do. Advanced visual effects, such as Chroma keying, are also included and let you add spectacular moments to your work.
Color Correcting with DaVinci Resolve
The color correction and grading tools are comprehensive. Many tools give you a selection of quick effects that you can drag onto clips to create a mood, but DaVinci Resolve gives you various controls to tune things yourself.
You can draw an area on your video to have different color settings, too, so if you want split screen effects or different color grading, you can do them, and you have scope to let your imagination run riot.
It goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to audio editing features. The FairlightFX plugins can analyze and control your sounds in all sorts of ways, including noise reduction. You also have access to a foley library of more than 500 sounds.
There are many effects, such an echo, a compressor, a flanger and pretty much everything you could wish for.
DaVinci Resolve can handle various kinds of video work, such as 360-degree shots and multicam. It also has features for action cameras. It is available for Windows, Mac and is one of the few video editors that supports Linux.
DaVinci Resolve Features Overview
DaVinci Resolve has a free version and a full version costing $299, making it one of the more expensive tools out there. It is a top-quality tool, though, so it’s worth the money if you’re using it on professional products. In that price range, it’s competing with heavyweights, such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Final Cut Pro X.
The Pro version, as you’d expect, includes tons of extra features. If you want to take advantage of multi-user collaboration, the more advanced 3D tools, a huge range of extra plugins, effects and its AI-powered Neural Engine, you’ll need the upgraded edition.
Either version of DaVinci Resolve is worth checking out. Because you can get it for nothing, it earned a place in our best free video editor guide
There is a lot to get to grips with in DaVinci Resolve. At times its UI resembles a science laboratory, with all sorts of buttons and graphs on display. Though it looks complicated, it is slick and well designed, with a professional feel to it.
You can pick which general area to work on via buttons at the bottom. You can focus on editing, delivery or managing your media library.
Working with video is likely to quickly eat your drive space, so check out our best cloud storage for video guide to give yourself some breathing room.
Learning and Optimizing DaVinci Resolve
If you really want to get the most out of DaVinci Resolve, have a look in its help menu for the reference manual. This staggeringly large document runs to almost 3,000 pages. We haven’t quite finished it yet, but we suspect you can find answers to most of your questions in there.
There’s also a handy list of shortcuts available. Those can help you use the software much more quickly, so take a look and figure out those shortcuts most relevant to your workflow.
There are a few videos on Blackmagic Design’s website that can help teach you the basics and some of DaVinci Resolve’s more advanced features. You can watch these on the site or download them. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube, if you hunt around.
The website includes several training books. Take note that clicking the “download” button on the site gives you the books for free in a PDF format, while the Amazon button lets you buy the physical version of the books. We’d rather get the free versions than pay $49.99, but professionals might be happy to pay for them.
The books currently available are for the previous version of the software, but much of the information should still be relevant. Keep an eye out for new versions, too.
Finding Answers with Blackmagic Support
There is also an excellent forum full of capable people who quickly answer questions. If you have a query, you’ll likely find someone willing to help you.
Curiously, you have to use your real name on the forum, so be aware of that, if you have privacy concerns. You might also like to read our online privacy guide, which explains how to protect your identity online.
You can contact Blackmagic directly with questions via a contact form. There’s also phone support available with Blackmagic’s page offering a selection of numbers for offices around the world.
We gave Blackmagic’s support a try ourselves, as we couldn’t find an up-to-date list of formats supported. They got back to us within 24 hours, and you can see what we learned in the next section.
DaVinci Resolve gives you plenty of help and support, but the tool takes time to learn. If you want a quick, easy-to-use tool, you might want to look at our HitFilm review.
For those who are willing to invest the time, though, DaVinci Resolve will reward your efforts, and its team has done plenty to help you get to grips with it.
File Formats / Resolution Support
DaVinci Resolve can handle 4K, and it also supports 8K editing, so if you’ve got a beefy PC, you can create movies in ultra-high definition.
It supports a huge range of formats. We’ve listed a summary below, but if you want all the details, take a look at this supported formats and codec list. That list is for the last version, we couldn’t find a more recent update. Be aware that there is some variation between operating systems, with a few notable omissions for Linux owners, such as MP4.
|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|
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|
If you’ve got Final Cut Pro X installed, you can use a wider range of QuickTime files with DaVinci Resolve. In addition to standard video and social media output, it can also produce output for Final Cut Pro and Premiere XML. It doesn’t burn to disc, however.
Most people will find themselves catered for, but if you do have a file that DaVinci Resolve can’t use, take a look at the best video convertor for help turning your media into something usable.
We couldn’t find DaVinci Resolve’s system requirements on its website but, fortunately, they are included in its installer.
To run the program, you’ll need Windows 10, macOS 10.14.6 or CentOS 7.3. At least 16GB of memory is required, with a huge 32GB needed for Linux owners and anyone using Fusion. Because 32GB is a lot of RAM, Linux owners looking for a video editor for their OS may need to invest in an upgrade if they want to use it.
Confusingly, the GPU requirements simply state that you need whatever NVIDIA, AMD or Intel drivers are required by your GPU.
We tried rendering our usual test videos on our test system, with an Intel i5-7600 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 6GB GeForce GTX 1060.
|Settings||F1 Clip||Music Clip:||Interview Clip:||Average:|
DaVinci Resolve didn’t upscale our source clips to 60FPS, which some tools, such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC, can do. We also noticed Resolve renders faster when there is less action in the video. There is also a minor bug where it mixes up the names of renamed videos in its render queue.
It’s speeds are respectable, though if you want to try the fastest tool we’ve used to render at 30FPS, check out our Corel Videostudio Ultimate review.
DaVinci Resolve is also generally responsive, though not the snappiest tool we’ve used. We didn’t experience any crashes, but if you want to make sure you don’t lose any work, read our how to automatically back up video guide.
DaVinci Resolve includes Fusion, a special-effects platform by the same company. Formerly separate software, it is another high-quality offering aimed at professionals who want to go the extra mile in creating impressive and convincing effects.
It includes advanced 3D features, allowing you to import meshes and apply spectacular particle effects, as well as add volumetric effects, such as mist and fog. If you’re interested in this area, take a look at our best 3D graphics software article.
Fairlight is another integrated tool that started out as a separate piece of software. It is similarly comprehensive, giving you all kinds of options for manipulating audio. It has an internal sound library with thousands of clips available. Features include automatic dialog replacement, sound normalization and 3D audio.
These specialized tools add a lot to DaVinci Resolve’s capabilities and go way further than most video editing software.
DaVinci Resolve is a top-quality editor full of features pitched at professionals. It offers depth and complexity, and it will suit anyone serious about video editing.
We often found that we had to work harder to do things that were straightforward in other tools, but DaVinci Resolve gives you a granular level of control over things that will let you craft things according to your vision. It will take time to learn how to get the most out of it, but if you are prepared to put that time in, the results will surely come.
It does almost everything and has no real weaknesses other than its price and high learning curve. Its free version means you can try before you buy, too. We rate it as one of the best tools around and a worthy alternative to the two best editors in this category, which you can read about in our Adobe Premiere CC review and Final Cut Pro X review.
If you’ve given DaVinci Resolve a try and have anything to say about it, please let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.