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Wednesday, 19 June 2013 17:46

A Colorist Flight School for DaVinci Resolve

Written by  David Hurd
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FlightSchoolLearning to use Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve software can be challenging, so I found it important to take advantage of every training opportunity. I had already finished the training offered by Tao of Color with Patrick Inhofer, so when I heard that he was now offering a three-day “Colorist Flight School” with a hands-on workshop, I signed up. The Flight School will be offered in cities across the country, but the first class was held in Atlanta, Ga. at Biscardi Creative Media, which is owned and operated by Walter Biscardi, Jr. of Creative COW fame. 

Biscardi’s 6,000-square-foot facility is only two years old and is just wonderful. 

It’s well laid out with a 1,200-square-foot studio, five editing suites, a DaVinci suite, voiceover booth and 5.1 sound suite. There’s also a friendly staff and a lounge that has the best coffee in Atlanta, which lend the facility a built-in good-karma vibe to make everyone’s stay very enjoyable. Even the chair that I sat on for eight-to-ten hours each day was comfortable. The workshop I attended was held in a room painted in 18-percent grey and desks and control panels were provided. There were five students, so Inhofer gave us all personal attention and every question was instantly answered, which is great when compared to any other type of learning. Over the three days, we learned not only how to do things right, but also how to avoid the mistakes that can cause huge amounts of grief and force you to start all over again. Inhofer’s computer feed was projected on a screen so the class could follow the action. Most of us brought along our own computers, but the workshop offers a computer rental option.

The experience level of the attendees surprised me. The students were all editing professionals who wanted to add Resolve to their skill sets. I’m in my 50s and my memory isn’t what it used to be, so I personally took 25 pages of notes so that I could look back and remember the huge amount of data that we were exposed to every day. A few days after the workshop, I read my notes and discovered ten things that I had already forgotten. The notes allowed me to re-create the training and reinforce what I had learned. My point is that even if you have a hard time absorbing a huge amount of information in a short amount of time, this training will still work for you.

Day one of the workshop taught us the interface. We learned how to set up projects and deal with nodes, speed changes, audio sync, logging color wheels, and delivery setups. We also learned how to take a locked master, chop it up into scenes, check it against a reference movie, and start the basic grade. If you can’t do this in the real world, you’ll grade a whole film and have it not sync up with the original. Even though Inhofer averages a five-day turnaround, the average grade time for an indie film is nine days — that’s a lot of work to potentially lose. 

We started day two by creating a new project using the film that we were working on. We changed the settings and went about extracting, linking and syncing the audio. This is something that we covered the first day, but now we would try it on our own, so my notes came in handy. Once we were set up, we learned more about mixer nodes and how the nodes work together to create a look. I also learned some node copying techniques that tripled my grading speed.

I found that making local and remote versions of clips was important, and tracking power windows was cool. We also learned how to light a person’s face in a two-shot. The camera move was a dolly shot that moved behind one of the actors. We had to track the face of the second actor as it went from the left side of the frame, became blocked by first actor’s back, and popped out on the right side of the frame. The task was harder than it sounds, but it’s great to have in your bag of tricks. We also covered all of the qualifiers and how to do something several different ways. One way will sometimes work better than another, so it helps to know multiple ways to accomplish a grade.

The last day’s highlights included speed changes, VFX shots, different letterbox masks, and changing out shots in the master timeline. We also learned how to export XMLs and both master files and video clips (with and without handles) for further editing in a roundtrip situation involving Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid or Adobe NLEs. We also got to grade ARRI ALEXA, RED and BMCC footage using 3DLUTs and making our own LUTs. The last thing we learned was how to export and restore our projects onto the Flight School hard drives that were given to us on the first day. These drives contained all of the class materials, including the raw footage for two indie films. When I got home, I transferred the content on the drive onto my RAID, opened Resolve 9, and kept on learning. 

If you’re serious about making a living as a colorist or DIT, this training is essential. To learn more about the workshop, visit Colorist Flight School classes are scheduled for Austin, Texas (June 24–26); Boston, Mass. (July 10–13); Irvine, Calif. (July 15–17); Orlando, Fla. (July 29–31); Washington, D.C. (September 18–20); New York City (October 2–4); and Chicago, Ill. (October 16–18).

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