Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is one of the most powerful editing and color grading apps out there, but there are a number of motion graphics, sound design, and even visual effects tools that you should take advantage of as well.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is the standard color grading application for the vast majority of productions. Between high-end studios like Company3 to indie and one-mule team productions, the combination of the affordable price tag and the powerful feature set has made it practically ubiquitous for color and finish. The program is free or a one-time payment of $ 299 for some additional features in Studio.
In recent years, intensive work has been done to expand the editing toolset so that more and more productions are natively edited in Resolve from the start and then remain in Resolve until the end.
In addition to the color and editing tool sets, however, Resolve has two other tool sets that get less attention but deserve just as much respect: Fairlight and Fusion.
Both tools started as robust standalone tools that were purchased by Blackmagic (much like DaVinci Resolve itself) and then incorporated into Resolve. The overall design of the product suite is designed to make it easy to do incredibly challenging work on your project, from a single timeline, without the need for a round trip or handover process.
If you’re already coloring, or even editing, in Resolve, it’s time to spend some time doing Fairlight and Fusion.
Fairlight is the name of the digital audio workstation (DAW) tool set that Resolve has built into its user interface.
Unlike other DAWs, there is no cut-to-sound transition before you have to start working on the sound. Let’s say you have frame lock and are ready to start designing your sound. Just click another tab and start working on your sound design.
Best of all, if the client wants to make a quick change to something after the sound is designed, it’s super easy to go back to the editing room, make your change, and keep all the work you did under wraps.
If you’ve tried in the past to make image changes after the first handover to the sound, you know how tedious the old workflow is and how wonderful this new workflow can be.
Fairlight has a robust toolset that not only lets you apply effects (noise correction for noisy clips, EQ, reverb, pitch shifting, and more) and organize your audio for the mix, it can also be set up for a variety of outputs, including the classics of Stereo and 5.1, but also Dolby Atmos (when working in the studio).
In addition, there is one of our favorite features, the integrated sound library.
You can import all of your external sound libraries and keep them fully indexed through the Fairlight user interface. Then when you need a door opener or a wind sound, you can use a keyword search to search through all of your library sounds and find something to add to your timeline.
Real-time playback is one of the most important aspects of working with audio. If it doesn’t perfectly match your image, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate your choices. In image-only editing, this isn’t too difficult for a system to handle, but once you get into serious sound design the audio track count starts to stack up and that can seriously slow a system down.
Remember, if you have five or 20 video tracks, most of the time the system doesn’t need to mix this video together, it just shows the top track. With audio tracks, the system needs to mix your audio into something audible in real time. The more separate pieces of audio you add, the harder the system has to work.
If you only get up to 20-30 tracks (like you might with a quick run-through of sound design in a short clip) you’ll be fine on most machines. But if you get up to 350 music, sound design, and dialogue tracks and stack your effects on those tracks, you may find slowdowns that make it very difficult or impossible to work with.
To help with this, Blackmagic has the Blackmagic Design Fairlight PCIe audio accelerator, a handy piece of hardware that allows dedicated playback acceleration when working with audio in Fairlight. With support for up to 1,000 tracks and the ability to add multiple cards, there’s really no limit to the amount of sound you can create for your project.
They also have quite a few dedicated ones plates including mixing, editing and EQ panels to create a dedicated audio finishing station.
If you’re looking to get your feet wet with Fairlight, a good first place to start is with a little bit of basic noise correction. Look for a loud tone (or record a part of you speaking into your phone in a windy situation or near a refrigerator) and include it in your edit timeline.
Now click on Fairlight and you will see it there. You can find your Noise Correction plugin in your plugins folder and now you can choose – will you apply it to the clip or the entire track?
Applying it to the entire track can be useful if, for example, you are working on dialog, have all dialog for a particular character cut on track 1, and want to make sure that you are applying the same effect to all dialog. In this case, however, we can only create the one clip.
Also note that although the stereo audio only occupies a single track in the Editing Room, Fairlight gives you access to both the left and right channels of this stereo clip. This keeps your editing space cleaner while you focus on editing, and then allows more power when you get into the clay.
The plugin settings should appear, offering a variety of preset options or the ability to manipulate different settings to get the sound you want to remove the noise.
You will find that things get a little messy when you get into noise correction; The same thing happens with images where too much processing can go too far. But if you manipulate it a bit (attack refers to how fast / slow the NR is coming in, for example, while dry / wet refers to how much of the original signal is mixed back into the output) you should see the power you put in Have Fairlight at hand.
Now go back to the editing room and your work is still there. Make changes in one room and they will appear in all rooms. If you’re having playback issues, you can turn on render caching to speed things up.
The other important tool to look out for in Resolve is Fusion.
It’s a little more intimidating compared to Fairlight at first, and especially when compared to the Editing and Editing Rooms, both of which are easy to find out with just a few clicks. But spend a little time getting to grips with the basics and you should go to the races.
Why is it worth getting to know?
Well, Fusion is a full 3D compositor that integrates with your editing software for free, with no round-trip flight required. That means you should be able to do basically anything you would After Effects or Nuke right in Fusion, and do that on clips in your timeline without having to pass them to VFX and then render them back to the timeline for editing.
Just click the Fusion button to instantly open a Fusion composition with every shot you’re working on. If you want to put some shots together, you can highlight them, right click and “make a fusion clip”.
Bam, you are ready for fusion.
The downside with all of this performance is that it takes a while to get used to. It’s especially tricky as Fusion has long been a fairly popular standalone app with a bevy of users with the standalone apps’ UI, which means it feels a little different the first time you open it.
For many users, this can leave them opening it up, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and immediately closing it to get back into the familiar world of the Edit tab.
Well worth doing this, and there is an easy way to do it. When you’re learning something new, it’s great to start with just having something to work on right away. It can be frustrating to spend too long on “prep” before you get any results.
Blackmagic has built a number of pre-built Fusion Effects into the Effects Library, which you can access in the Editing Room. Working with them can give you an idea of what Fusion does, and with the titles you can even see how Fusion works under the hood.
Scroll down your Effects folder and you should see your Fusion Effects. Drag one of the title effects onto the timeline and you’ve got an entire pre-made Fusion node tree wrapped in one easy-to-navigate clip. You can edit the text from above in the Inspector, and you can take advantage of the full power of Fusion without ever opening the Fusion tab.
However, to get a feel for how things work in Fusion, highlight a Fusion title on your timeline and click on it above the Fusion tab. You will now see a node tree that shows how the title is composed. You will immediately notice that the nodes do not look like the nodes in the color space and behave slightly differently.
First of all, you need to have a “MediaOut” node, otherwise you will not see anything in the node tree.
It has color too, but it’s just the little green dot on the right. In Fusion, it’s a whole node of its own.
Nodes in Fusion function similarly to a plane in After Effects. They allow you to apply a variety of image processing actions to the image. The fun thing about nodes, however, is that you can make these processes more interesting and flexible.
You can have the output of one node sent to multiple other nodes, which can be done in tiered systems, but is more complicated. With a node system, it’s as easy as clicking and dragging.
Nodes in Fusion also differ from Resolve in that they have “foreground” and “background” inputs by default, while the color space has only a single input (except for the alpha input, which Fusion also has).
The simple trick to remembering is that green is the foreground, the way grass is near you when you are outside, and yellow is the background like the sun is far from you . Not the easiest system for storage, but it works.
Fusion is an incredibly powerful toolkit with 3D cameras, shapes, generators, and an entire programming language to produce a whole range of motion graphics and VFX.
If your workflow includes any of these activities now or in the future, it is worth getting an idea of what Fairlight and Fusion have to offer.