I’ve been using Adobe Premiere since I first started editing nearly ten years ago, and while it’s been gaining momentum as a professional editor, I’d always been curious about Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. With version 14 hot off the presses, I thought I’d dive in, give it a spin and see if it could replace Premiere as my go-to NLE. After 12 hours (straight), here are my thoughts:
Your ability to edit depends more on your familiarity with the NLE than the software itself, and as it’s a pretty standardized process, you won’t find major differences between programs. With both Premiere & Resolve, I was able to cut together a multicam within an hour or so of messing around; no need to open up a manual. But if you go beyond basic edits, Premiere shows its pedigree; its tools are more refined and offer more options for power users.
One of my biggest problems with Premiere is that in order to use GPU acceleration, you have to use linear color. For some (fundamental, intractable) reason, this means your crossfades look terrible. I’ve tried everything from custom presets to manually automating opacity, to no avail; if you want smooth crossfades in Premiere, you need to turn off the GPU. For the convenience of not having to switch settings back and forth to preview crossfades, I’m giving this to Resolve.
Resolve just added a full mixer, allowing you to use it as a DAW as well as an NLE. It would get my vote for that, but it doesn’t affect me either way; I use a set of dedicated tools for mixing, and I won’t be changing that anytime soon.
One of the requirements for editing multi-camera shoots is being able to synchronize clips. I’m sorry to say it, but as of this post, audio sync in Resolve was not useable for me. I tested it with multiple concert shoots, all with live audio on the video tracks. While Premiere had no problems aligning multiple audio & video clips accurately, Resolve didn’t put the clips anywhere close to where they should have been (we’re talking mismatches of 20 minutes). I’m sure it works fine with timecode, but I’m not going to drop $2,000 on a Lockit kit when audio sync should work just as well.
Color Correction & Grading
This shouldn’t surprise anyone; Resolve started out as a professional grading application and it’s still centered around that. Despite being a novice at grading (and having only used the program for a day), I was able to get my images looking a lot better a lot faster with Resolve. For grading multi-cam shoots, node groups are a godsend. I haven’t even begun to delve into qualifiers and trackers, but they’re insanely powerful tools.
Plugins & Effects
Despite being a relatively young program, Resolve has an impressive suite of effects. Its core effects (crossfades, titles) are a little more accessible than Premiere’s, and it includes some very capable noise reduction and film grain algorithms (in Premiere, you’d need to find or pay for 3rd-party plugins for that functionality).
However, Premiere’s effects have a lot more parameters and options, and their text generator is much more developed. Also, you can keyframe parameters directly within the editor; in Resolve, that process is a little clunky and involves going back and forth between separate windows. I’m calling a tie.
Just like with playback, I have to turn off GPU acceleration in Premiere to get smooth dissolves, which takes away a lot of speed. With GPU acceleration in Resolve, renders are very fast; about 1x realtime even with grading, effects and compositing applied. That’s very impressive.
This is one of the areas where Premiere really demonstrates its maturity; Premiere has a wide range of codecs and compression options, and it does a great job of rendering high-quality video without creating huge files. By comparison, Resolve is lagging pretty far behind. Render options are limited and confusingly arranged, and the quality of the files that the presets produce is noticeably worse. I was only able to get good results by rendering out to visually lossless codecs like DNxHR HQX, which are intermediate rather than delivery formats.
The workaround? Render our the grade in lossless formats, and do the final pass in Adobe Media Encoder. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s my best option for now.
I’m only using the free version right now, but $300 for lifetime upgrades is a great value. I’m paying $50/mo. for Creative Cloud, and while I use several other programs in the suite, after a couple years it’ll have surpassed the price of Resolve.
Both programs are very powerful, and you couldn’t go wrong with either; I know I’ll be using both for years to come. A few more versions down the road, I may end up using Resolve as my NLE, but right now it’s not quite up to the job. In the end, I ended up sticking with both for their original strengths (surprise); Resolve for grading, and Premiere for editing.