DaVinci Resolve – the best free video editing program

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In the past, filming was reserved for a few people with appropriate education and access to advanced tools. Over time, technological progress has made camcorders, cameras and mobile phones popular. Thanks to this revolution, the world of film has opened up to practically everyone who has the courage to try their hand at it. More and more people are shooting interviews, short videos and whole films. While making a short video is no longer a problem for most of us, editing it properly is no longer so simple. Fortunately, we can now learn it for free with DaVinci Resolve, which is a professional solution for people who want to combine images into stories.

What are editing?

Perhaps while standing on the other side of the lens, it seems to us that we have just shot material that Bertolucci himself would not be ashamed of. However, when we upload the material to our computer and look at it again, it is far from perfect. The camera shakes unpleasantly, the recorded sound drowns out the noise and the camera settings make the image underexposed. In the past, the editor and sound technician who worked on postproduction came to the rescue. Today, advanced programs gather a number of film processing possibilities in one place.

One of the most popular solutions are Final Cut, Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas or DaVinci Resolve. The latter has one great advantage, in its basic version, which will satisfy 99% of assembly enthusiasts, it is completely free. So what can we expect from the US manufacturer Blackmagic Design?

DaVinci Resolve is a fantastic alternative to the movie applications from Adobe. The latest version is 16 and is a powerful tool for editing video files for computers running Windows and MacOS. The software provides advanced functions for processing HD, Full HD, Ultra HD, 4K and even 8K films, as well as a rich package of special effects and audiovisual filters. DaVinci Resolve also has tools for colour management, inserting elements into the film and editing several video files.

The vast majority of users starting their adventure with more advanced and demanding film editing will appreciate its capabilities. The developers of DaVinci Resolve software have tried to make the editing process easy and pleasant. The tool allows you to work with many video and audio files – we can merge them, remove individual elements and add special effects. Everything will depend on the performance of our computer.

Tab bar

A great advantage of the software is its clear interface, which is intuitive to learn and helps to take first steps in the world of film editing. When you run the application, the number of buttons, windows, tick and untick options can be overwhelming, but over time you will find that it is not as black as it is painted. Beginner users should focus on the bottom 7 tabs.

Subsequent tabs change the appearance of the windows and also open new possibilities of film editing. Basic views are: Media, Cut, Edit, Fusion, Color, Fairlight and Deliver – each responsible for another important element of video editing.

Media – this tab is used to view, copy and import videos and soundtracks into the software. Here we manage our multimedia files, which can be grouped into folders, for example. It is worth noting an innovative solution in the form of so-called smart bins segregating files according to their metadata (i.e. audio tracks separately, video materials separately). Here you will also find the most important information about the source file: resolution, framerate, audio frequency.

Cut – here we can review the source materials and decide which of them are suitable for the “assembly table”, the timeline available in this tab at the bottom. Basic material editing and selection is best to start right here.

Edit – this is the tab where the novice editor will spend most of their time. It is here that we make so-called material cuts, merge them into a larger whole, add effects, change soundtracks and set them in the right order. We will find here the possibility of watching the same image from two other cameras, so called multicam (of course if we have recorded on two separate devices), automatic audio synchronization, or the possibility of using a wide range of built-in effects, which every beginner editor should be familiar with. Among the options of DaVinci Resolve software there is also fast image stabilisation, an intelligent editorial module and dozens of other effects that tune up our material. To start with, I recommend the transitions, which merge one video with another in a much less invasive way.

A good knowledge of the Edit tab is 90% of the success for a novice editor. Appropriate cuts, merges and sound levels will give our amateur material a cinematic touch. It is also worth getting used to the “razor blade” tool, with which we can cut our material. It is a basic tool of every editor.

Fusion – this is a tab for more advanced users, where you can work on 3D effects, object masking, blurring, stabilisation and many other advanced effects. At this point, I recommend that you test the option of adding subtitles to your video. What would a film be without even a main title? There are dozens of text editing options. We can use our own fonts, colour the text, move and animate. Each subsequent element is added as a timeline block.

This quite a complicated tool at first sight turns out to be ingeniously designed over time. The proper shifting of “blocks” makes some elements visible and others hidden under them. Here, too, we can build dependencies, and we can also set up the effect of a particular film element. I would start by raising skills with the Fusion tab.

Color – another tab in the programme is the panel responsible for the so-called film colouring. Contrary to appearances, the colours that dominate our image have a great influence on its reception. Different cameras record reality in a different way, so it is often necessary to “colour” subsequent frames so that the end result is consistent and satisfactory. Playing with colour is often a challenge even for professionals. At first contact the bookmark can be overwhelming, but it only takes a few minutes to discover how to increase the exposure of the image or gently warm up (add a yellow tint) our material.

Fairlight – this is a view that resembles a DJ’s or a sound engineer’s console. Dozens of channels with a division into volume. It is here that it will be easiest to control the soundtrack of the material, mute individual channels, or boost the volume of dialogues. It is also in this view that we will add sound effects. The extensive Fairlight module also allows you to synchronise dialogues, increase the volume and mix several files simultaneously. It can easily handle the creation of the 5.1 multi-channel path. One of the most important effects is the automatic removal of noise that appears in any amateur film material.

Deliver – as you can guess from the name of this tab, this is the window responsible for exporting files. It is here that you choose in what format and resolution you want to export the video, as well as its bitrate, i.e. the compression of the rendered file. It is probably the favourite tab of all editors, as reaching it most often means that the material is assembled and ready for export.

Summary

DaVinci Resolve in its latest 16th edition is a brilliant and free software, which will be useful to all those who are just beginning their adventure with film editing. It is the most extensive free video software I have ever seen. I am inclined to say that it is close to Premiere Pro, which is being put forward as an unrivalled example in the industry. All the options that appear in the paid version of the software (an extensive panel for image colouring, decoding HEIF, HEVC – h.265 or 10-bit h.264 files) are tools that will be needed by very advanced users.

I can sincerely recommend DaVinci Resolve to all those who want to try their hand at the beautiful art of storytelling with images. Going through each of the successive tabs: Media, Edit, Fusion, Color, Fairlight and Deliver makes our material go through all the important stages of film editing. It is worth giving the software from Blackmagic a chance, it really does not cost anything. The software can be downloaded from the developer’s website. Finally, it is worth mentioning the many guides and tutorials on DaVinci Resolve available online.

CONTACT WITH Editor in Chief

Michał Serwiński

+48/ 698 059 620‬
michal.serwinski@frsi.org.pl

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