I’ve been using Adobe Premiere since I’ve started editing, 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 compare the two. 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 a little more refined and offer more options for power users. It’s not a make or break for me; I work mostly with live shoots, which aren’t as demanding as films or documentaries.
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 use crossfades a lot, so this isn’t a small matter. 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.
Giving up your GPU means giving up some tremendous processing potential, and that shows; even at 1/4 resolution, Premiere can hang and stutter while playing back footage. In my testing so far, Resolve had no problem playing back graded footage with effects, making editing & previewing a seamless process.
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.
The workaround? I sync in Premiere, then export an XML to Resolve.
Color Correction & Grading
This shouldn’t surprise anyone; Resolve started out as a professional grading application and it’s still centered around its roots. 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 some speed. With GPU acceleration in Resolve, renders are very fast; about 1x realtime even with grading, effects and compositing applied.
Render Codecs & Quality
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. The “Best” quality option on H.264 produced visible artifacts on render; much worse than the compression applied by YouTube! It was especially noticeable on smooth gradients:
I was able to get usable results by manually cranking the bitrate up to its absolute maximum of 240MB/s, but without the ability to specify a minimum bitrate, I still ran into artifacts and banding on gradients. And after all that, it still wasn’t as clean as Premiere’s export at 50 MB/s; that’s a huge difference in quality and efficiency.
The workaround? Render in lossless formats, and re-encode in Adobe Media Encoder. This isn’t a perfect solution (as each render causes generation loss), 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. However, it’s my hope that with continual updates, Blackmagic will be able to resolve (ahem) the issues I found and make it the full-featured editor we’ve all been dreaming of. So for now, I’m migrating over to Resolve as my main editor.