DaVinci Resolve Video Editing Software: An Effective Tool for Video Post-Production
Software for Mac/PC/Linux. System Requirements: 8GB system memory, 16GB if using Fusion (visual effects). Latest update May 12, 2021. Free version or $295 for “Studio” with full functionality. https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/
DaVinci Resolve is powerful video editing software that can be used to create polished videos by applied music instructors and college students alike. Users with minimal video editing experience can learn to use basic editing functions and experiment with higher-level editing processes with DaVinci Resolve’s free software.
The program has seven workflow screens: Media, Cut, Edit, Fusion, Color, Fairlight, and Deliver. In each, you can edit elements of your current project, organized into “timelines.” These timelines can be component parts of your final video, different versions, or any sub-projects that use the same material.
Performing musicians will spend most of their time working in the Cut and Edit screens using these functions: titles, video and audio cuts and alignment, crop/transform, and video transitions. These work with a visual “drag and drop” approach or by using familiar commands in the menu. Although these functions will be fairly intuitive for most users, the workflow screens are visually dense, which can look intimidating (see Figure 1, which shows a Cut screen with only one video imported). Previewing preset templates, adding transitions, and changing elements (such as duration, color, size, position, font) are all easy to customize (see Figure 2, showing these options in a sample Edit screen), allowing ensembles and soloists to brand their videos consistently across all platforms.
Figure 1. Cut screen default layout on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with one video imported.
Figure 2. Annotated Edit screen showing Video, Title, Crop, and Transition elements.
One of DaVinci’s most impressive tools is its color editing. As a novice editor, the visual color wheels and scope screens allow for experimentation (Figure 3). For experienced editors, video tutorials can help guide color correction with specific techniques, including altering the entire video’s color palette, altering just one item’s color (within your video), and more.
Figure 3. Color screen showing color wheels and scopes at original video settings.
Audio editing in the Fairlight screen does not replace a digital audio workstation (DAW) but is sufficient for basic post-production needs. Unlike a full DAW, viewing full audio waveforms and zooming in is a bit more complicated than simply zooming in with a trackpad, but settings can be adjusted to achieve this view, as shown in Figures 4 and 5. Users can experiment with Fairlight’s audio effects, like Reverb, on individual audio tracks (see Figure 6).
Figure 4. Fairlight audio screen with default settings and Timeline Options setting to show full waveforms.
Figure 5. Fairlight audio screen with settings modified to show full waveform, maximum zoom.
Figure 6. Reverb effect in Fairlight audio screen, showing visual representation of reverb settings.
If musicians need separate audio and video files for competitions or auditions, the Deliver screen has the ability to render an “Audio Only” file. For video, DaVinci Resolve renders up to UltraHD resolution (4k) in multiple formats and can directly upload to YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter.
Preview playback (especially with Fusion elements) can be delayed, even with the recommended specs. This, however, can be attenuated by enabling a proxy mode, performance mode, changing cache settings, and/or optimizing media. As with advanced color editing, visual effects may be beyond a typical performer’s needs, but the software’s visual templates make experimentation possible.
Overall, DaVinci Resolve is a highly effective tool for video post-production projects for applied music students and instructors. The drawbacks (dense screens, playback delay, and a steep learning curve for advanced techniques) are small issues for free software with robust capabilities.
Colleen White is Assistant Professor of Flute at Kansas State University. She has been published by The Flutist Quarterly, and her work commissioning new music for flute and electroacoustics was featured as part of an educational lecture-performance series supported by the Boedecker Foundation’s Path to Excellence Grant. She has taught courses in flute, chamber music, and entrepreneurship at Colorado State University, the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Boulder.