At NAB 2010 the biggest Post Production buzz, by far, was the new DaVinci Resolve software package for $995.
Not only that, the software is being opened up to work with third party hardware such as AJA video boards and Tangent Wave control panels. For many facilities, such as mine, designed around Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, this means many of us already have the hardware in place to run the software. Or we can start running with minor modifications.
For those of you who don’t know what DaVinci is, it has long been the standard for color enhancement for both film and television. The systems consist of proprietary software and hardware with $500,000 (US) and up being a fairly common price tag for one top of the line system. Many facilities in New York, LA, Atlanta and around the world run multiple systems at prices from $400 to $700/hour and up. In other words, you really had to be a dedicated colorist in a major facility to run one of these units and you had to have the clientele to support the hourly rates. DaVinci was not something that “anybody” could get in to. Until now.
Within minutes of the blockbuster announcement, Twitter and internet forums like the CreativeCow.net Apple Color forum lit up with people praising Resolve as the long awaited answer to Apple’s Color. This is the tool that everyone needed to become a true colorist and we can finally move on from Apple Color.
Well, let me first say I am purchasing a copy of DaVinci Resolve because it will plug in very nicely to our upcoming color enhancement suite. But I’m not buying it to replace Apple Color. I’m simply adding it as another tool in the toolbox so we have choices as to which tool we want to use based on the project at hand. It also opens up our facility to freelance colorists who are fluent with Resolve but might not work with Apple Color at all. And of course it opens up our facility to work with pretty much any NLE on the market since it will work with EDLs and XMLs meaning we’re not locked into a Final Cut Studio workflow for color enhancement.
What many people fail to realize in praising Resolve (and boy it DOES deserve a lot of praise as an awesome color tool)
and dismissing Color is that neither one with make you color grade a project better than the other. Knowledge and practice in the art of color enhancement is what will make you a good colorist. The tool is immaterial.
I was reminded of this last night while watching the first pass of our feature documentary, “Foul Water, Fiery Serpent” (foulwaterfieryserpent.com) with colorist Ron Anderson. See I know Apple Color pretty well and I’ve done colorist work on probably 100 projects now, a mix of broadcast, corporate and independent films. Because our post production schedule is so crazy right now and this is our first major feature to come out of our shop, I asked Ron to be the Colorist on this film. He has a sweet Apple Color Suite set up in his facility using a JL Cooper Eclipse panel with the Flanders Scientific 2450W monitor and of course the 18% grey wall with a 6500k light. He’s a 30 year colorist who has been working with daVinci systems his entire career and in his facility and he’s running Apple Color 1.5. Why? Because it’s affordable and extremely powerful.
His work on the film is nothing short of remarkable. The film is entirely shot in Africa with blazing sun, dark skin and a host of lighting / exposure issues caused by both. What I watched last night was the work of someone who has been doing feature films for 30 years and what was spectacular about it was the fact that it all looked completely natural. There was nothing that said “color trick here,” it was just all natural to the eye. Color enhancement is truly an art. I’m learning the craft for sure, but what I saw last night reminded me that color enhancement is less about the tool itself and more about the artist and the proper environment.
The environment, there’s something to think about.
Using the Apple Color forum on CreativeCow.net as an example, I was amused that so many people were so eager to spend $995 right off the bat for the DaVinci name but we have so many people on that very forum who find $2,495 (US) too steep to purchase a proper monitor. Or $1,500 (US) too much to purchase a control panel to drive Apple Color or now Resolve. Ok, so the software is just $995 but you need to purchase a good beefy Mac Pro, two graphics cards (one to drive your computer monitors and one to render Resolve), an AJA or BlackMagic video card to feed the video signal to your monitor and a proper broadcast monitor or film projector to properly monitor your footage. Again, if you’re a Final Cut Studio facility like mine, you might already have much of that in place and Resolve will drop in nicely. If you don’t, you need to allocate funds to properly surround the Resolve software or you’re just wasting the $995. Unless of course you want to train yourself on the software so you can drive someone else’s system or offer yourself as a freelancer to other facilities.
One thing that comes with the DaVinci name is an expectation.
The expectation that you are a serious colorist using professional equipment. Remember that $500k price tag I mentioned earlier? Most Producers who use DaVinci colorists know all about the huge expense of these systems and that’s one reason why they are willing to pay the high hourly rates. Plus the folks who drive them have usually spent years learning the craft. So if you plan to simply plug in Resolve on your laptop and call yourself a DaVinci colorist to take advantage of their reputation, you might have a hard time convincing clients you’re serious.
I’m not trying to be a snob here, just realistic. Paying $995 is just the starting point. If you want to be a professional colorist and charge clients for your time, do them the courtesy of surrounding the tool with the correct equipment and environment. It’ll be good for you and your clients.
So what BlackMagic has done for all of us independent and small shops out there, has given us a a major known tool for a fraction of its original price
. It’s a new tool that gives options that were simply out of the financial reach of many of us. It’s a true game changer in the same way that Final Cut Pro opened up a professional video tool for everyone. It also brings to Avid and Adobe artists a very powerful color correction tool that in my opinion is better than any other CC tool they had available.
In a complete fluke on the NAB show floor, I got a spontaneous one hour chat with Grant Petty. I was walking to see the Resolve demo and he was adjusting some products on the show floor. As he explained it to me, the plan is for Resolve to support a lot of third party hardware, not just be restricted to BMD and DaVinci proprietary equipment. AJA & BMD video cards, Tangent & JL Cooper panels and the like. It does require nVidia graphics cards to render the files and you need to run two graphics cards in your system. One card to drive your computer monitors and one to do the rendering.
Resolve is a different kind of interface than most NLE based color correctors and even Apple Color. They’ve done away with the three color wheels and there’s a real emphasis on curves, which quite honestly I prefer to the wheels. And there’s a really nice node interface that controls pretty much everything you do in Resolve.
The big thing Resolve brings that completely blows away Apple Color is its ability to play video in realtime in full frame rate. This is remarkable to me since Apple’s own Color software can’t do this using the exact same Apple hardware. I’m used to working with 1/2 to 1/4 frame rates it was so nice to see the video playing back in full frame during the demos.
Some people are really excited that Resolve plays back audio while you’re playing the video. I’ve asked several colorists around and they do the same thing I do when grading. Listen to music. I’m partial to country, my buddy Ron is a jazz kind of guy. I’ve never had a client ask to listen to the audio as I’m working on a scene. But I guess this is kind of cool if you require it.
Ok, I’ve gone all over the place with this post, but I’m incredibly excited with the opportunity that BlackMagic is giving us smaller guys by making Resolve to affordable to install and giving us yet another option for color enhancement. They’ve taken what Silicon Color and Apple started with Apple Color and completely raised the bar to a whole new level.
So just remember, this is truly exciting stuff to have a tool so affordable. But please, if you plan to charge clients for your work, put together the right environment whether you’re working in your home or a major facility. The means a proper video monitor or projector at the very least. And if you’ve never read this, please do. The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction
by Steve Hullfish. (link below) This should be required reading for all folks new to color correction.
Happy Grading everyone!
SEE UPDATES BELOW, I've updated this story twice since the original entry.
We took delivery of the brand spankin' new 27" i7 iMac last week and connected it immediately to our Final Share SAN in about 5 minutes for video editing. Quick tests showed the SAN was connected and working fine.
Then today I started really editing on it and I'm dropping frames every 10 to 30 seconds. Now it appears the ethernet controller that is in the new Mac cannot support the speeds necessary to edit video via the SAN. Our 2 year old iMacs can, but the brand spanking new, most powerful iMac cannot.
I'm at a loss as to how Apple can improve every aspect of this machine, including the absolutely stunning 27" LED backlit display, but then cut back on something as simple as an Ethernet Controller that should be designed to work with today's equipment running high speed internet instead of stepping backwards to the speed of older model PowerMac machines.
We're working with a few folks to see if this can be addressed at all with a driver update or if it's just all that the card can do. If this is all the speed we get, this machine is going back and we'll move on with another machine. My original plan was to install up to 4 of these 27" iMacs in our new facility, but that may have to change now if Apple is going to stay with these crippled controllers instead of giving us the speed we're paying for.
I'll update you guys as more information becomes available. To say I'm disappointed right now is an understatement. Wonder what I need to do to get on a beta test team because I seem to the person pushing all the systems further than any of their beta testers are. Everyone always tells me "you're the first person to find this......"
UPDATE #1 - 2/25/2010
I've been told the problem is limited to the 27" i5 and i7 Quad Core iMacs.
The Core Duo machines appear to support full Jumbo Frames across Ethernet. We're going to do definitive testing on both my i7 and a Core Duo machine this afternoon. Will update with more later.
UPDATE #2 - 2/25/2010
We took the iMac to one of the local Apple Stores where the technician at the Genius Bar confirmed that the Broadcom 5764 Ethernet Controller in the i7 iMac 27" does not support speeds over 1500. This same controller is in the i5 iMac 27" machine too.
From what he could gather, the Broadcom website is very vague as to whether the controller itself cannot support higher speeds or if it's just a driver issue. I've been told by outside sources that the documentation on the 5764 states it does not support Jumbo Frames so that leads me to believe 1500 is the max.
Now the Intel Core Duo 2 machines, which is pretty much the rest of Apple's lineup, all support Jumbo Frames. This includes the Core Duo 2 iMac 27" machines. I've returned the i7 and have ordered the 3.33Ghz 27" iMac.
I'm dumbfounded as to what happened with the design of the i7 and i5 machines. How was something as simple as an ethernet controller allowed to become a bottleneck on the flagship machine of a company? I don't know, but be aware that if you plan to use this in a professional environment and will require true high speed ethernet data transfer, as of right now, the i5 and i7 iMacs will not support that.
Again, to say I'm disappointed with Apple right now is an understatement.
As usual, the guys at FSI keep adding in more and more features based on user input and the latest round of updates have a couple of especially neat updates. And of course, these are free to all current owners of FSI monitors, just download the update from the website.
True 2.35 EBU standard gamma setting for the monitor for anyone delivering material to european broadcasters. Yes, 2.4 is mighty darn close, but because of a request from a European user, they decided to make the monitors go exactly to the European gamma spec.
The monitors themselves can now display on screen timecode pulled directly off the SDI feeds using LTC, VITC 1 and VITC 2. So no more having to turn on the TC display via a tape deck or a camera, the monitors themselves can now display on screen TC. I've actually asked for a few improvements to this feature already.
You can set the monitor up to 7.5 IRE if you're working on SD material that requires 7.5 delivery.
Now you can put the scopes in any of six positions instead of just having it in the lower right.
Active Boundary Marker.
This is really really neat and it took me a moment or two to really figure out what they had done here. Because the monitors have the ability to show full resolution video without using up the entire screen, it can be difficult to tell if you're missing any lines of image in the picture. For example, in 1:1 SD mode on any of the monitors. You see black on the top and bottom of the image because it's sitting in the middle of the monitor so if there are any lines of resolution missing in the image, you can't tell because it'll just look like the black border around the image.
Turn on the Active Boundary Marker and a line is placed 1 pixel above and below the image frame. Now you can see where the edge of the image SHOULD be. If you see black between your image and that line, then you're missing image information.
And of course there's more stuff in the latest updates, but these are some of the highlights that I've noticed so far. Very cool stuff!
Ok so the "official 18% grey paint" is something like $80 per quart and up. Thanks to this tip from Dan Desmet at Flanders Scientific, here's a really REALLY close knock off of that color for a lot less.
You want Sherwin Williams SW 7071 color.
The one to get is Duration Home, Extra White Matte Base, 6403-63925. The BAC code should be
BAC Colorant 02 32 64 128
B1-Black - 20 1 -
Y3-Deep Gold - 5 – 1
Why do you need 18% grey? Well it helps to keep your eyes neutral while you edit and color grade a scene on your monitor. That's the theory anyway.
I posted this originally in the Apple Color Forum but through I would share here as well....
Just had an all-day demo of four Flanders Scientific (FSI) monitors
here in the shop. Overall extremely impressed and yes, you CAN have an accurate monitor for $2,495. I'm not going to go into full details as Nick Griffin will be publishing an article shortly on everything we saw here today but basically....
LM-2450W (24") and LM-1760W (17") look as accurate as my Sony CRT Multi-format monitor.
Excellent blacks, excellent whites and good solid color throughout. The 24" has an option for the ND Filter which I'll be getting, but you don't necessarily need it. The 17" is simply the cheapest monitor I've seen out there that I consider accurate enough to recommend. Honestly can't believe there's a monitor this inexpensive and this high of quality.
The LM-2430W (24") and LM-2130W (21") are considered "grade 2" monitors
and while extremely accurate, the viewing angle is tighter. Also, when I put up a scene that was completely black on one side, you could see some light spill coming in from the edges. This is a limitation of the panel itself and the prices are lower, accordingly. These would be great editing monitors and could be used for final mixing if you don't have the budget for the 2450W.
Are they as accurate as the $10,000 and up LCD's? Probably not, though I would love to see a side by side comparison, I would not be surprised to see them look really REALLY close. One great thing about them, 30 day money back guarantee so if you don't like it, send it back no questions asked.
I'm ordering 2 of the 2450W's and one of the 1760W's for our shop so if anyone wants to purchase my Sony PVM20L5/1 and/or my PVM14L5/1 just shoot me an email. As soon as the FSI's are here, I'll ship them to you.
If you want to know more about the specs, just click on the yellow banners throughout the Cow or look up Flanders Scientific. They're a locally owned company right here in Atlanta, super nice guys to boot!