Diving in Headfirst (or how I learned to stop worrying and love DaVinci Resolve)

I call myself an editor. But my job title is “Media Producer” right now, which is another way of saying that I have to do everything. I cut, make graphics, mix and grade. From time to time I’m even on shoots, shooting, swinging a boom, running and data wrangling, but thankfully that’s only once every six months or so. But I think it’s fair to say that the traditional editor’s job description went out the window a long time ago… I’m fine with that. I know that the thing that I love, the thing that I’m good at, is editing. I’m an editor. But now, to stay employed, I have to know about everything else.

I’ve never had any real training for any of this. I had a couple of days on FCP 7, but that was just “where the buttons are” training, not “how to construct an edit”. Valuable in its own way, sure, but nothing I couldn’t have figured out for myself. And besides, I don’t use FCP 7 anymore.

The way I’ve learned every bit of software I’ve ever used, is to use it. I’ve had people show me things, but more often than not, I’ve looked things up in a manual, or watched some demo online (thank you LAFCPUG). At the beginning of this year, I saw a demo at the Broadcast Video Expo of DaVinci Resolve, which was clearly a step up from the grading I’d been doing up until then. Since then I’d been waiting for a side-project to appear that let me really play with it, but without a horrible looming deadline and a client standing over my shoulder, and finally last month it came along.

Charity Shop Sue is a five-episode web series about (funnily enough) the staff of a charity shop in Nottingham, led by the titular Sue. Here’s the first episode;

I came into the process quite late – everything was already shot (on a 7D) and cut (in Premiere Pro), the guys just wanted to polish it up visually whilst the audio was being done. We had a deadline for the first episode, but far enough away that I knew if I really couldn’t make Resolve work for me, I could do it in FCPX as I had with everything else the past couple of years.

Resolve to me is fairly intimidating the first time you open it. The different panes you work in, the second/third pages within a window… It’s hugely powerful but not so easy to navigate if (like me) you’re just opening it and hoping the first thing to do is obvious, the way it is in Final Cut. (There’s a big button that says “Import media”; that’s fairly user-proof). Fortunately, the Resolve user manual is *fantastic*, so that’s a good place to start. Big kudos to Alexis Van Hurkman on that.

In this project all I really did was correcting the images, a few power windows and trackers but nothing too complicated. But it’s a first step into a larger world… I’m far from a great user of Resolve yet, but it’s obviously hugely capable. And at least now I’m not afraid of it. It’s not necessary for everything I do, being that a lot of my work is corporate, but I get the sense that the tide is rising for Resolve, with version 10 looking like it’s going to have some great new features including basic editing which will be interesting and some nice UI tweaks, I can see myself using it a lot more in the future.

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