DaVinci Resolve: free version limitations

upcoming davinci resolve zoom workshops, autumn 2021.

I publish this series of free article and tutorials as a complement to my upcoming Online DaVinci Resolve Workshops, hosted in Zoom.

SPECIAL LIMITED OFFER: if you register in any of my workshops before September 10th, you pay only 95 Euros. This is a 100 Euros discount! After that date, prices will go back to the regular 195 Euros. So, don’t skip this opportunity!

Next DaVinci Resolve Zoom workshops are:

Time Zone: Central European Time (Berlin).

Now, to the free content of today!


As many of you know, DaVinci Resolve 15, the standard color grading software, can be downloaded for free here: Blackmagicdesign.

It’s really incredible we can access for free one of the most innovative and sophisticated editing and post-production softwares out there, and many independent filmmakers and artists benefit from this.

I myself have edited and post-produced several projects with the free version of Resolve.

Some of my students are very surprised by this fact.

How can that be?

Well… DaVinci Resolve, the free version, has some limitations. The good news is: those limitations are not going to affect you and your projects in most cases! The majority of my students use it, and they get everything they need.

Still, if you plan to start editing and grading with Resolve, you need to be aware and understand what you don’t get in the free version.

The good news continue: if there is a moment where the limitations are affecting your needs or workflow, you can always pay for the whole version, DaVinci Resolve Studio 15, which costs only 299 Euros. One payment, and you have it forever, including future updates.

So! Here are the most relevant limitations of the free DaVinci Resolve.

Note: Resolve updates often, so, some of this could change in the future!

1. Maximum resolution: Ultra HD (4K).

Resolve allows as maximum resolution in your projects Ultra HD (4K), so exporting is also limited to that size.

Ultra HD is 3840 pixels horizontal by 2160 pixels vertical. In other words: it’s more than enough in most cases.

We can export HD, DCI 2K (very common mastering format in film projects), and Ultra HD (4K), which is, so you understand, the usual domestic and broadcast 4K format (not technically 4K, actually, but slightly smaller).

You only need the paid version of Resolve if you need to master and export DCI 4K, or higher resolutions. This, even today, is not that common, and only high end productions and big budget movies do it.

But! Important: the limitations only affects project resolution and export, but you can still import, edit, and grade media in higher resolutions (4K, 6K, 8K). Those higher resolutions will be scaled down to the target project resolution (lower), which is anyway what we normally do…

This limitation won’t affect you much, in most cases!


2. No collaboration tools.

Collaboration tools are not included in the free version of Resolve.

They’re only available in the Studio version, which allows multiple editors, colorists, and audio editors to access the same project, share media, and collaborate.

As you can imagine, not a lot of projects need this, specially if we work the indy way…

Only big film and TV productions need and use this, and in any case, if you have an editing studio with multiples machines, workers, and media servers, paying for the Studio version shouldn’t be an issue for you!

Again, most filmmakers have enough with the free version.


3. No noise reduction.

We don’t get it in the free version.

This will be important depending on various factors.

If you like to push the ISO on your cameras to the max, and shoot a lot in the dark, you might need noise reduction.

Some color grading processes might increase the presence of noise in your image. For example: if you shoot with Log profiles, like C-Log, V-Log, or S-Log, noise can be an issue if you are not careful.

That said, there are other solutions: control the presence of noise on the camera, expose properly when shooting Log to avoid problems, use another software to reduce noise (like After Effects), etc..

I have to say noise reduction in DaVinci Resolve is the best I’ve seen. It really works wonders. If your footage is noisy, this is the way to go!


4. No Face Refinement FX.

Available only in DaVinci Resolve Studio.

This tool, part the OFX FX library, analyses and registers the movement of the different elements that form a human face: eyes, lips, chin, eyebrows, etc.. All that, automatically, and without the need of masks or color-range grades.

Once the clip is analysed, the effects allows you to make corrections in any of this separate areas, individually, and with very accurate parameters to achieve a realistic and convincing result.

This is a tool that basically saves you time.

If you use the free version, the solution for you is to grade your faces with the usual secondary correction tools, combining masks (called Windows in Resolve), tracking, color-range grades, etc.. You can get the same results, and once you know the tools, it doesn’t take that long.


5. Some FX, not available.

The free version of DaVinci Resolve doesn’t include the whole library of video effects (OFX FX).

The most sophisticated ones are reserved for paying customers: Camera Blur, Lens Flare, Film Grain, and a couple others.

You can also do all those effects with, for example, After Effects.

This limitation will affect you depending on your needs.

Are you the kind of filmmaker who likes to add lens flares to all your shots?


6. No Lens Correction.

A very simple tool we find in the Inspector, in the EDIT tab: Lens Correction.

It’s designed to correct distortions produced by extra-wide cameras and lenses, like GoPros, etc..

The tool analyses the shot, and a simple slider allows correct/increase the distortion on the borders of the image.

Se hace un análisis del plano, y un sencillo deslizador nos permite corregir/aumentar la distorsión de los bordes del plano

7. No 3D stereoscopic tools.

Self explanatory.

The free version can’t do 3D conforming, post-production, and grading of content created in stereoscopic 3D, using 2 cameras.

You only need this if you are the new James Cameron, or the new Werner Herzog (the guy directed a 3D documentary).

NOTE: I reader pointed out that there are now the 3D stereoscopic capabilities inside Fusion (now part of Resolve). I still wonder if we get access to the stereoscopic tools in the Color tab.

8. Panasonic GH5, 10 Bits.

This is a big one, specially If you use the Panasonic GH5, like I do!

DaVinci Resolve works beautifully with media coming from the GH5, and if you use V-Log, the LUT’s to convert to Rec.709 work very well, and images are really easy to grade. It’s a pleasure to use.

Now comes the “but”: the free version doesn’t support clips from the GH5 recorded in 10 Bits. 8 Bits clips from the GH5 will import and play nice. 10 Bits clips will not import.

So, if you record 10 Bits with the GH5 internally, you will need the Studio version, where clips will import. You will also need a powerful computer (Mac or PC), so, then again, an extra 299 Euros wouldn’t be that much to add!

The alternative if you use the free version is: use another software, like Adobe Media Encoder, to transcode the 10 Bits clips from the GH5 to another codec: DNxHR, Apple ProRes, Cineform.  It’s an extra step, and takes time, but you’ll be able to import your material into Resolve, and the transcoded clips will work perfect.

If you have a question or doubt about the limitations of the free version of DaVinci Resolve, write a comment below!

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35 thoughts on “DaVinci Resolve: free version limitations

  1. Dear Dave: of course your are right Ultra HD is slightly smaller than 4K. But, as I’m sure you know, this is just a naming convention, and Ultra HD (4K) is the term most used to refer, for example, to displays and TV’s. It’s just the way it is, commercially. In the article, I say you can export Ultra HD (4K) with the free version, and I also say you need the Studio version if you need to export DCI 4K. I think the term Ultra HD (4K) is now used because now we also have Ultra HD (8K), which, again, is slightly smaller than proper 8K, and we need a way to identify both “close to” 4K and 8K resolutions. So, yes you are right, can be confusing. But it’s not my fault. I’m using the terminology in used by the industry. In my classes, I always explain explain this to my students: Ultra HD, frequently refereed as 4K, is not technically 4K, etc..


  2. Are the codec in paid version different? I have to create proxies (optimized medias) from my 100Mbit/s 4k files to be able to scrubb through them fluently on timeline or in media viewer. I heard that the Studio version has more efficient licenced codes which would allow me to scrubb fluently without creating the optimized files on my hardware (i7 4790k@4.5HGz, 32GB Ram, GTX 1070, 1TB SSD). Is that true?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. some Fusion tools, like Camera Tracker which are mandatory for most VFX isn’t part of the free version.
    Delta Keyer seems to be part of the free version.

    please note that after effects, the alternative you named, also costs quite a bunch(even as subscription). if you take alternatives for NR; like Neat Video you pay 300$ as well, for the Camera Tracker, Mocha may has more features or works better, but costs 700$ as an OFX plugin.


    1. Hey, thanks for commenting! I didn’t actually included in the article any of the Fusion limitations, because I thought back then they were not a thing for entry users.

      Now that version 15 is fully released, we´ll see what we really need, depending of course on our workflows and needs.

      I do agree with you that the cost of the Studio version is hard to beat, and cheaper than some of the alternatives.


  4. I want to point out a mistake in this article:
    Nuber 1 is not true anymore. DaVinci Resolve 15 Studio supports real 4k and 8k (7600×4320) for the timeline, the monitoring and the export. You can even select a custom resolution which allows entries up to 9999×9999.
    Since this misleading information of this article is the first on google if someone looks for the maximum resolution I would ask you to change that.


    1. David! Thanks for commenting! Not sure I understand your point. The article is about the limitations of DaVinci Resolve Free. In the free version, maximum project resolution is limited to Ultra HD 4K. What you describe is true in Studio, not Free. So, the article is not wrongm. Is there anything I’m missing here? Let me know!


  5. If it is free, why do I get a message saying I have timed out and a blurb to buy Resolve Studio on the last clip…seems like a trial or does anyone know how to continue with “free?”


  6. Note about 6th.
    Actually you can do lens correction for free. Not with a toggle in Inspector, but with Fusion using Tools->Warp->Lens Distort. It’s even more powerful stuff but also much slower.


  7. I am not sure but it appears that Davinci Resolve free is interlacing already de-interlaced video when it renders. Go to use the de-interlace option and you get a watermark.


  8. I have the DaVinci Resolve 15 free version but when trying to use Fusion effects for titles the app freezes up. I’m using an HD Omen 15″ laptop with the i7, 8750 processor, 8 GB RAM. Do I need the studio version to use the fusion titles or a faster computer?


  9. I’m using the DaVinci Resolve 15 free version but the Fusion Titles freeze up my laptop, an HP Omen 15″ with i7, 8750 Processor, 8GB ram. Do I need the studio version or a faster computer for the Fusion Titles to work?


    1. I strongly suspect your problem is RAM. Formal system requirements are a minimum of 16GB RAM. You might also have limitations with your video card. I think the minimum is a standalone video card (i.e. not Intel graphics) with at least 4GB VRAM. I think that’s a pretty stiff specification for a laptop.


  10. First of thank you so much for laying all this out!

    Is there a difference between the free version and the studio version when it comes to being able to utilize multiple GPUs?

    A user mentioned on a YouTube video that the free version of Resolve does not allow you to use multiple GPUs, like on the new iMac Pro 8 quad (the computer I’m editing on currently) which keeps getting the spindle of death on anytime I load the project, edit or even just click on a tab inside Resolve. This computer is editing of a NAS server, so I thought maybe it had something to do with the NAS, but we also have 4 other older iMacs working of the NAs and they work fine with Resolve.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much Flavio!


    1. I had to setup a NAS for 4K editing and what matters is the network connexion first: you need a 10 Gb NIC on both computer and NAS, this is now nearly inexpensive on PCs but Thunderbolt adapters are pricey on Mac.
      The other point is the RAID setup. You need RAID10 (or RAID0 if safety is not important), no RAID 1 or 5 which are too slow. A RAID10 with 4 SSD is terrific, you get 900 Mo/s on an entry level Synology rackstation.


  11. Hi there, Can DaVinci Resolve Free version edit 360 (not 3D) video? I’m looking for basic stuff: keyframes, overlay audio.

    I’m a Realtor looking to create 360 virtual tour video. Looking to try out the free version before purchasing.

    Many thanks in advance!


  12. Hello,
    I was wondering if you might know the answer…
    Will DaVinci Resolve 16 FREE VERSION will run Nikon Z6 N-log
    Thank you for your time,


  13. I love learning new tools and creating videos, but I don’t make any money.
    I just finished rotoscoping and stabilizing a video, and found out that the free version won’t let me render it or show the resulting video with elements masked away.

    is it possible to test free versions without restrictions on VFX tools?
    I would happily provide feedback and praise your software. I would even buy it for commercial use and do video editing for the company i do software engineering in with davinci if that possibility ever opens up.

    thank you!


  14. Great information, thanks for sharing. I had a question, I recently purchased Mavic 2S and started shooting in DLog H265 format only to find that the Resolve 17 free version does not recognize this as file format.
    (It shows the file as Media Offline) Is that another limitation of the free version?


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