DAVINCI RESOLVE TUTORIAL: HOW TO EDIT COMPLICATED FORMATS. OPTIMISING MEDIA.

I publish here a series or free articles and tutorials, as an introduction and educational resource for my up-coming Editing and Color Grading Workshops and Seminars.

All my courses are for the moment online, using Zoom. Classes are in English, with a maximum of 10 students per workshop. From October to December 2020, al courses have a reduced price of 135 Euros, instead of the regular 195 Euros fee, to help a bit during the Corona Virus pandemic. This is a 60 Euros saving.

My Workshops include: DaVinci Resolve EditingDaVinci Resolve Color Grading, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X, and Thinking the Edit (my Film Editing Theory and Analysis Seminar).

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If you are interested, click here to find out about the next available dates. You can read reviews about my teaching here. I’m a highly experienced editing instructor, with more than 15 years of workshops behind!.

Now, to the free content of today!

In this written tutorial you’re going to learn about this:

  • Editing complex video formats.
  • Optimising media. What is it?
  • Optimised media configuration. Resolution, optimized media format, and location.
  • How to optimised media.
  • How to play from optimised media.
  • How to know which clips are optimised and which not.
  • If I export, is DaVinci Resolve doing to use the optimised media?
  • How to delete optimized media.
  • Is it “optmized” or “optimised”?

EDITING COMPLEX VIDEO FORMATS

Some digital video formats are simply difficult to work with, specially in not so powerful computers.

Anything 4K and higher resolutions, some very demanding RAW formats… With files like that, playback won’t very smooth in many systems.

Of course, how good playback can be depends also on the characteristics of our computers: graphics card, hard-drive speed, RAM memory, processor… All this elements influence real time playback.

But I can tell you: even extremely powerful computers (Mac or PC) might lag quite a bit with certain formats. Probably not from the start, and probably not in very small projects, but here’s the thing: as we continue editing, as the project grows and the length of our timelines grows, as we start adding effects and complexity, the capacity of real time playback will suffer.

Now, this is not just a DaVinci Resolve thing. It happens also in Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and Final Cut Pro X, the other major editing programs. Some might behave better than others under some circumstances, but in general, working natively (this is, with the original camera files) is not ideal.

The companies who develop all this editing platforms want to convince us we can work right away with any format, without any kind of conversion or processing, and this is true to a point, but, specially when editing, proper smooth playback is easily the most important need for any serious editor, who spends eight or more hours a day scrubbing and playing video.

This is never going to end.

No matter how new or shiny our editing workstation is, there will always be a newer format that exceeds its capacity. Heard of thins new Black Magic Design camera that shoots 12K? That is going to be fun!

Another idea: converting to a format that is easier to edit with is not something that just us, “normal people”, do. Any mayor big budget production, from Marvel to HBO, does this. So, if hollywood does it? Why wouldn’t we?

So, if working with original camera files is not ideal because of real time and smooth playback, what’s the solution?

Optimising media. What is it?

Optimising media is a process DaVinci Resolve can use to generate intermediate and temporal versions of the footage, generally of lower quality and resolution, what will work much much much better.

It is safe to say that, when editing any kind of long form project with DaVinci Resolve, optimising media is the way to go.

It’s similar to what we call transcoding or creating proxies in other programs, like the Avid, or Premiere Pro. In Final Cut Pro X, we also call it optimise.

Optimised media works better mainly because of two reasons:

  • Because it uses a post-production codec, generally DNxHR or Apple ProRes, that is design precisely to be efficient when doing post. These codecs always work better than camera native codecs. Also, we can choose different codec qualities, from very low quality to decent enough or high quality, like I will explain below. No matter what, DNxHR and Apple ProRes will always play better.
  • Because it allows to generate lower resolution files. For example, if the footage is 8K, we can optimise to half the resolution (4K), with no visual change of the aspect of the frames. This is: the sizing and composition we see is the same, but we are looking to lower resolution frames that are up-scaled in playback to display the same size.

It is important to understand that this optimised media in DaVinci Resolve “doesn’t make sense” and is not usable outside DaVinci Resolve. It all happens internally, and these are not files you take to and use in, say, Premiere Pro, or any other program.

If we need to do that, converting camera native files to something easier to edit with, to take and use in another program, we use a different workflow: exporting proxies/transcode files. It’s a different thing.

Optimising media is only to be used in DaVinci Resolve. The media is “internal”. It will be saved in a location we can choose, but it won’t be accessible from anything other than DaVinci. Also, Optmized Media is not designed really to move from computer to computer. Not a good idea to try to copy or move Optimized Media to use in another workstation. If you need that, mobility and flexibility, you should do a different workflow: instead of optimising media, you should be exporting proxies from the Delivery page. Note: there is a way to copy all media to a different location, using a Project Archive, and that can include Optimized Media, but that is not what you want.

The other big thing to understand is that optimised media is temporal, so we can edit fluently and smoothly in Resolve, but this won’t affect the final quality of the export, where we won’t use the optimised clips, but the original camera files.

And it’s all kind of automatic.

Cool, right?

OK. Let’s see how we do all this.

OPTIMISED MEDIA CONFIGURATION

First thing we need to do, before actually optimising, is to set up the codec, resolution and location we want to use for this process.

We do this in Project Settings. To go there, we click here, bottom-right corner of Resolve, or from the top File Menu, and then Project Settings. If you are the keyboard command, person, the Shift+9:

bandicam 2020-07-29 11-19-25-540

Once in Project Settings, we select Master Settings from the left column, and then we scroll down until we find Optimized Media and Render Cache:

Screenshot (37)

We are going to set up three aspects of the Optimized Media: resolution, codec, and location.

RESOLUTION

In Optimized Media Resolution we can choose different options:

Screenshot (33)

As you can see, we may choose Original, and optimized to the same resolution: if the original clips are 8K, the optimized ones will also be 8K.

We may also choose Half the resolution, a Quarter, etc..

This is something we will need to test in our system the first time, with a specific media format, experimenting with the different resolutions, until we find the right one for us.

The option Choose Automatically will adapt the resolution cleverly, based on the resolution of the original files and the resolution of our Project. This option should do the trick in most cases.

Remember that optimising to a lower resolution is not going to make the clips appear smaller or down-scaled when editing. The scale of the picture will be visually the same.

OPTIMIZED MEDIA FORMAT

Here we select the codec we want to use to Optimize.

The language here, to be fair, is a bit confusing, because DaVinci describes this menu as “Optmized Media Format”, where it should probably simply say “Optimized Media Codec”.

The codec is just an aspect/element of the video format (resolution being another one, for example).

In any case, here we select the codec!

Screenshot (26)

We will use DNxHR (available on Mac and PC) or Apple ProRes (available only on the Mac).

I recommend you the following two different strategies:

  • To work in proxie/low quality, select DNxHR LB (low band), or ProRes Proxie on the Mac. Proxie quality is designed to be very light, and it takes very little hard-drive space. It is ideal in long form projects with hours and hours of footage. It is also ideal to edit in laptops, or maybe older computers. Picture quality is, let’s say, not great, but it’s absolutely good enough for editing. Remember that optimising media doesn’t affect the final quality of the export.
  • To work in high quality, use DNxHR HQX (high quality), or ProRes HQ on the Mac. These are very high quality codecs. They are actually what we call mastering codecs, meaning picture quality is close to identical to the human eye. They will work fantastically well in good editing systems, and we don’t sacrifice image quality, which is good for, for example, screenings for the director or producers. The downside is, files will be big, so lots of storage will be needed.

There are also some in between options, like DNxHR SQ (standard quality) and ProRes LT. May productions use these, because they offer a good balance between size and quality.

OPTIMIZED MEDIA LOCATION

To define the location where we want DaVinci to save the optimized clips, we go a bit down, to Working Folders:

Screenshot (35)

Then, Cache Files Location, then Browse, then we select the desired location on our system.

Best is to use a very fast disk, internal or external, but the fastest in your workstation. To give you an idea, studios use a separate and dedicated disk just for this, specially because DaVinci will use this same location to save render files.

I recommend you to simply select the disk you want to use, and not a folder inside that disk. You don’t need to create different folders for different projects. Some people do this, but it only leads to confusion. Just select the disk.

Resolve will take care of organising, and will create a folder called CacheClip, where all optimized media will be store in a folder structure you don’t really need to worry about.

So…

Everything is set up now.

Let’s move now to the actual optimising.

HOW TO OPTIMISE MEDIA

This is now easy.

In the Media or the Edit pages, we select the clips we want to optimise, then right-click on them, the select Generate Optimized Media:

Screenshot (41)

We can select multiple clips at the same time, and do this in all of them at the same time.

Then, DaVinci Resolve starts optimising those clips:

Screenshot (43)

For the moment, this process doesn’t happen in the background. We will need to wait until it finishes to continue working with Resolve.

This is an area where DaVinci Resolve needs to improve. The other editing programs (Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X) can all generate proxies in the background, while we continue organising, editing, etc..

HOW TO PLAY FROM OPTIMISED MEDIA

After optimising media, we will have, on one side, the original camera files, and on the other one, the optimised clips.

So, how do choose which to use?

Easy!

We go to the top menu Playback, and make sure the option “Use Optimized Media if Available” is checked. It is on by default, but it’s always important to check:Screenshot (28)

When that option is active, then we are playing from the optimised clips, and we will notice how playing and scrubbing through media is much more responsive.

This what we do when editing.

Now, if at some point we need to switch to original camera files, all we need to do is deactivate the option “Use Optimized Media if Available”. We could need to do this to, for example, judge picture quality.

It is really this easy to switch between original camera files, and optimised media.

HOW TO KNOW WHICH CLIPS ARE OPTIMISED AND WHICH NOT?

To know if clips are optimised or not, we go to the Media Pool

There is a metadata column, called, obviously Optimized Media, that displays this information, but this column is not there by default. We need to add it.

To add this or any other column to the existing ones, we simply right-click on the top of any existing column, and from there we can select the ones we want to display.

We select Optmized Media, and then we will see the column.

If a clip is not optimised, it will say “None”.

If clips are optimised, it will display the resolution they are optimised too.

Screenshot (31)

IF I EXPORT, IS DAVINCI RESOLVE USING THE OPTIMIZED MEDIA?

No. Not by default.

DaVinci Resolve is clever about this.

Even if we are playing from the Optimized Media, this is: even if the option “Use Optimized Media if Available” is active under our Playback top menu, Resolve won’t export using that by default. It will simply use our original camera files, regardless of the playback option.

Now, this is all about an option found in Advanced Render Settings. Again, an option that is not on by default, but of course it’s important to review it to make sure we’re doing what we want.

We go to the Delivery Page. Then, the Render Settings Panel on the left side. And then we scroll down an open Advanced Settings:

bandicam 2020-07-29 11-26-07-925
Option to export using Optmized Media.

As you can see, there is an option there, Use Optimized Media, to force DaVinci Resolve to export doing that. If we activate it, the Optmized clips will be used, and not the original camera files.

You’re wondering: why would we want to do that?

Imagine, for example, you need to export quickly a version of your movie, for reviewing or sharing with a team member. You simply don’t need the quality there, and exporting from the Optimized clips is a lot faster. It makes a big difference.

HOW TO DELETE OPTIMIZED MEDIA

Once the project is finished, optimized media can be deleted.

Remember again these are temporal files. They can be deleted, and you can always optimise again in the future, if you need to.

To delete optimized media, we go to the top menu Playback, and click on “Delete Optimized Media”:Screenshot (28)

This will delete all optimised clips from the present project (and not from other projects).

Please, don’t go to the folder CacheClip at the system level, to try to delete files there. Always do it inside DaVinci Resolve.

And now the important idea in this tutorial:

IS IT “OPTIMIZED” OR “OPTIMISED”?

Maybe you noticed I used both forms in this article. So which is the right spelling?

Well… both are actually accepted. “Optmized” is the American spelling, and that’s the one you find in DaVinci Resolve. “Optimised” is the English spelling.

And there you go!

Optimising media: a way to have better real time playback when editing complex video formats, also useful to edit in less powerful computers.

If you have questions, don’t hesitase to leave a comment below. I’m happy to help!

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