DaVinci Resolve 12 – Little Gems #1

(plus, why this Gem is slightly cracked)

What’s one of the fun things when working in a brand new, completely updated version of the software you use professionally? Why, discovering all the little features that didn’t make it into the marketing material! That’s what this little series is about. As I discover nifty stuff about Resolve 12, I’ll point them out right here in this Little Gems series.

About Resolve 12’s new Curves editor

Before we dig into Gem #1, DaVinci Resolve 12 has given us a new ‘unified’ Curves interface which can use a little explanation.

Starting with Resolve 12, no longer do we need to jump into a larger ‘gigantor’ interface to make niggly tweaks to our custom curves. In addition, more closely mimicking the Avid Symphony curves editor, the end-points of our curves are now free floating. This has been a feature request of mine for quite a few years!

The Resolve 12 New Curves Editor

The curve editor in Resolve 12 has been completely redesigned.


Why? First, it make Resolve more approachable to Symphony colorists who can draw curves the way they’re used to (although to get to parity with Symphony’s curves, this new curves interface needs little Text boxes so we can numerically tweak our points more precisely than a mouse allows). But there’s another reason I wanted free-floating end points…

Free-floating end points allow more precise LAB corrections

I’ve got an example from a job I graded earlier this year, BloodyCuts.co.uk’s ‘Outer Darkness‘. For one scene, I used LAB to handle the Saturation expansion. The scenes had low light levels and I found LAB saturation expansion worked very cleanly and really popped the skin tones where I wanted them to pop. Here’ a screenshot with the LAB node active, graded in Resolve 11’s old Curves editor:

Resolve 11's Gigantor Curves Interface

Resolve 11’s Gigantor Curves Interface with the green and blue channels set for contrast expansion of AB in the LAB colorspace (click to open full size).

My problem here? Look at the roll-off at the 100IRE and 0IRE marks. See how the curves sharply roll-off? And then there are the additional points I need to add to the middle of the graph to straighten out the contrast expansion as much as I can. I need to write 3 points simply because Resolve 11 (and earlier) wouldn’t let us move the end points and create a perfectly linear contrast expansion.

(Also notice how the very center of the grid is being used to keep this contrast expansion as neutral as I can… we’ll be coming back to that)

I consider this a Faux-LAB grade. It works. I use it. But other apps  do this more cleanly and I prefer a perfectly linear contrast expansion since I’m a bit compulsive about these things.

In Resolve 12 I imported this project and pulled up the same shot

The import worked perfectly. It precisely replicated the grade I created in Resolve 11. Next is a screenshot from Resolve 12 with the Green channel rebuilt, pulling inward the two endpoints to give me a perfectly linear contrast expansion in the A channel. The type of curve I’ve wanted to write (but couldn’t) in the last few versions of DaVinci Resolve:

A linear green curve overlaying the 'old' blue curve

A linear Green channel (with the endpoints moved) overlaying the ‘old’ Blue Channel (with the endpoints pinned)


Take a close look on the overlay between the A and B channels (click to open the screenshot full size). The blue B channel meanders giving us more and less saturation as blue pixels move up and down the tonal range, compared to the A channel’s perfectly linear slope. THAT’s the advantage of being able to move our endpoints in the Curves graph, much greater precision in our curve writing.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post…

Gem #1: The New Curves ‘Copy To’ Command

While playing around with LAB, I pulled down the ‘ellipses’ option menu and found the ‘Copy to’ command.

The new 'Copy to' options in DaVinci Resolve 12

Click on the ‘ellipses’ pull-down menu to expose the new ‘Copy to’ commands.


When working in LAB, you’ll usually want to start with the A and B channels perfectly aligned to each other. Doing this by hand would be imprecise but thanks to the ‘Copy to’ Command, having made my change to the green A channel, I can perfectly copy that curve to the blue B channel.

Thank you, my Blackmagic overlords.


The Cracked Gem: No grid for referencing endpoint placement

If you scroll up to the Resolve 11 screenshot, you’ll notice a nice neat grid in the background of the Curves editor. I use this to more precisely ensure my LAB contrast expansions are perfectly symmetrical, with 50% always passing through the 50% mark. Take a look at this correction again, with the green A channel copied to the blue B channel, perfectly overlaid and answer these next questions:

Are the bottom endpoints pulled into the box precisely as far as the top endpoints are pulled in?

Is the center point of the AB channels perfectly crossing the center point of this graph, keeping the correction completely neutral?

The green and blue channels perfectly overlayed in Resolve 12

Using the ‘Copy to’ command, the blue channel perfectly matches the green channel (click to enlarge)


I have no idea. In Resolve 11 I’d just have to make sure the curve passes through the mid-point of the lined graph and I’d know my correction is ‘passing through neutral’.

In Resolve 12 I have to take a ruler and measure my screen. There’s a reason Photoshops Curves editor has a selectable grid size. Grids are USEFUL!

This is especially true when grading LAB. LAB benefits from the precise adjustments of the endpoints. The best we can do with this new interface is approximate. Which is all we could do in Resolve 11 but a completely different approximation.

So – while I appreciate the new Curves interface; while the new ‘Copy to’ command is indeed a Little Gem—we’ve gained one form of precision while losing another.

How do you make a HappySad emoticon?

– pat

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