Since 1984, the DaVinci has been the premier color corrector for major motion pictures. While it was awesome, the $500,000+ price tag made it impossible for the small shop. The good news is that Blackmagic Design purchased the company, and released the DaVinci Resolve for Mac at a price that is truly affordable.
Depending upon your configuration, the “Resolve” system consists of five or six components, not including monitors.
You start with a Mac Pro, and in this case, bigger is better. Silverado Systems, an Apple systems integrator located in Folsom, California, told me that the tests they ran showed that the Resolve used all 12 cores of a Mac Pro fully and evenly. You can use a smaller, slower Mac Pro, but the amount of “nodes” that you can use in real time will be less. The first system that I tried was a Mac Pro 2.26 GHz eight core. It worked fine for HD work, but would probably be slow for 2K work…
I bought the 12 core 2.93 GHz Mac Pro from Silverado Systems, and added 24 GB of RAM from LifetimeMemory.com as it works well, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying it from Apple. This pretty much handled the first component needed to complete my Resolve system.
The second component that you need is a Blackmagic Decklink HD Extreme 3D card. At the moment, this is the only card that will work with the system. I put it in slot number three, where it seems to be happy. I use the SDI output to power my 17 inch TV logic reference monitor that has been giving me true images for over two years now.
I also use a larger 24 inch 2s2 reference monitor which is plugged into the HDMI output of the Blackmagic card. 2s2 makes some great stuff, and between the two monitors I can get pretty good idea of what my final images will look like.
Another popular addition would be a Panasonic 50 inch plasma monitor, calibrated to be as true as possible. This option allows you to take advantage of the blacker blacks that plasma monitors are known for.
The third thing that you’ll need is a graphics card for your monitor. This card will only be used by your monitor and not for processing. Silverado Systems supplied me with an NVIDIA GeForce 120 card. This card works well because it has no Cuda cores, which is what you want for your monitor.
Evidently, you only want graphics cards that use CUDA technology for the processing part of your system, not for the monitor, as the software will try to use every Cuda core that it can find, and get confused.
Now, for more graphics weirdness. Normally, your graphics card would go in slot 1. If Apple would give us what we need, which is four, 16 X slots, life would be good. Since the two, 16 X slots in the system are needed for other components, my GeForce 120 card is installed in slot 4, which is only a 4X slot. Amazingly, this powers my single Eizo 24 inch monitor at full resolution, without any problems.
While I’m here, I might as well talk about your computer monitor. My Eizo ColorEdge CG243W has great color, which really helps to accurately select colors in the Resolve system. Since selecting areas to change is a huge part of your workload, it’s important to have a good monitor. Another advantage to this particular monitor is that it can also be calibrated for various types of Photoshop work.
Resolve uses CUDA core technology to enhance graphics processing for real-time viewing, and this brings us to our fourth component. I used an NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac professional graphics card with my smaller system, and two of them with my 12 core Mac Pro. Each of the Quadro 4000 cards has about 256 cores, so two of them give you 512 cores to help with your graphics processing.
Graphics processing units (GPU’s) are not the same as the CPU cores in your computer. From what I’ve been hearing, five CUDA cores roughly equal one CPU core. Since my 12 core Mac Pro actually has 24 virtual cores, the 512 CUDA cores should speed up the processing by a factor of 20, making 2K real-time playback a reality. This brings us to the fifth component of the Resolve for Mac.
The fifth component is an optional bus extender box from Cubix that will hold your extra NVIDIA cards. Since the Mac Pro only has four slots, you will need this if you wish to use more than one Quadro 4000 card. I used the GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 that holds two cards. It comes with its own power supply, and the power cables needed to power the cards.
The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 consists of two components. The actual box with fans and a power supply, and the card that plugs into slot 2, which is a 16 X slot. A cable connects the box to the card making for an easy set up.
The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 is thoroughly professional. It has a solid metal case, power cables for the Quadro 4000 cards, and even a locking system for both the front and back of the cards. It has fans to cool the Quadro 4000 cards, which run pretty hot, and four LED lights on the front of the case that let you know everything is running properly.
Mine sits right on top of my Mac Pro, and although the fans aren’t silent, they are not annoying either. The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 is just a great piece of gear that also accelerates Adobe CS 5.5, but that’s another story.
The sixth and last component is important if you want to do high-definition or 2K work. This is your RAID system. I use an ATTO R380 SAS controller card, connected to 16 Seagate SAS drives in two CI design cases. This allows me to write data at about 850 MB per second. According to Apple, the ATTO R380 SAS controller card should be installed in slot 1, which is the other 16 X slot.
The DaVinci Resolve for Mac system will work at this point, but there is another product that will make your life much easier. This is the Wave controller from Tangent. At under $1600, it gives you many of the controls of the $30,000 DaVinci controller that is available from Blackmagic. I found that having knobs, dials, and trackballs for everything was a lot easier than using my mouse. The playback controls are also very helpful, allowing you to jump from clip to clip, or frame to frame.
I have been reviewing products for over 10 years now, and I’ve got to tell you, that the DaVinci Resolve for Mac has got to be the coolest product that I have ever reviewed.
The Resolve is so quick and powerful that it just amazes me. I took their test footage of several motorcyclists riding up a winding mountain road. The second rider was wearing a white T-shirt, and was sometimes hidden by the first rider. I decided to change the color of his T-shirt, and track it throughout the clip. Since the riders were in constant motion, this would normally take some time.
Let me tell you how easy this was to do using DaVinci Resolve for Mac. First, I had to Shuttle over to the middle of the clip so that I could reach a point where the shirt was visible. Next, I hit a power window button, and used my mouse to position it over the white T-shirt. Then, using the zoom, aspect, and softness controls I sized the Power window to fit the shirt.
Now that I had the work area selected I hit an HSL qualifier button, and sampled the color of the shirt.
The highlight button allowed me to see what I had selected. Hitting the forward track button tracked the shirt to the end of the clip, and the reverse button tracked it back to the beginning of the clip. Tracking only took a few seconds.
For fun, I gave the macho biker a pink T-shirt by simply rolling the Mid Range trackball toward pink. The whole thing took less than a minute, and played back in real-time. How cool is that?
Another of the test clips has a parrot in a wooded green park with a waterfall and a washed out sky. An HSL qualifier button, and a trackball turned the washed out sky to a pleasant blue. Another qualifier controlled the lushness of the greens, which could be shifted toward red orange to make the summer clip look like it had been shot in autumn.
With the low, mid, and highlight controls you can precisely control only the part of your image that needs work, without affecting everything else. The power windows mark the area that will be affected, and the qualifiers are used as fine-tuning selectors.
All of these controls have sub controls that allow you to select precisely what you need to correct.
There are also blur and mist controls that will blur or soften whatever you select.
How many of us have had to edit a bald guy who had a Specular highlight on the top of his head. Using DaVinci, this is not a problem. Simply select the highlight and dim it down to match the rest of his head… Problem solved.
DaVinci can do so many wonderful things that I could write a book about it. Luckily someone else has already done that, and it’s available on Amazon.com
The Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema by Alexis Van Hurkman. The Kindle for Mac is free, and the E-Book is well worth the money.
If you think this is cool, you are really going to like the new update. Blackmagic showed version 8 of the Resolve software at NAB this year. It will have much better conform options, a multilayer timeline, image stabilization, and better grading tools. It will also have the ability to conform 5D/7D footage. Final Cut Pro XML support will be also be included, which will make it easier for Final Cut Pro users. Oh, and the update to version 8 is free. Nice!
DaVinci Resolve for Mac is just awesome. It allows you to fix rough looking footage, and turn good-looking images into great-looking images. Maybe it’s time to take your production to the next level.
MSRP: Da Vinci Resolve Software $995
Blackmagic Decklink HD Extreme 3D card $995
MSRP: Cubix GPU-Xpander 2 $1900
MSRP: NVIDIA Quadro 4000 professional graphics card $1199 each