DaVinci Resolve is a free video editing software beloved by many and considered a viable alternative for Adobe Premiere Pro.
In this FilterGrade video, we’re going to teach you the basics of using Resolve for editing. One of its biggest selling points is that it’s completely free. This free version includes all of the editing features you need, and their $299 pro version includes additional advanced effects and features that are more specialized.
In this video, we’ll be going through the basics of how to use DaVinci Resolve for editing, color work, and more! Since it’s free, you can download the program and follow along with this tutorial. Download DaVinci Resolve here. Cover photo by: Donald Tong
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Getting Started with Davinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve has two editing interfaces, the cut page and the edit page. The cut page is slimmed down for quick edits that don’t require much advanced production, whereas the edit page offers a wider variety of features.
When you open Resolve, click on New Project. It should auto-open to the Cut page, but you can switch to the Edit page at any time. In the upper left corner, you’ll see the Media Pool. This is where you can drag in media, or click the Import button to import from file explorer. To view a clip larger, double click on it and you can watch it back. To add something to the timeline, drag it into the timeline on the bottom of the screen. One thing that sets Resolve apart is the timeline. In Cut mode, the upper timeline shows the duration of the entire project, and the lower timeline shows a zoomed-in portion of the timeline.
But we’re going to do our editing in Edit mode. To customize your timeline, you can click on the Timeline View Options button and change the way certain aspects of the timeline are viewed. This includes the way that clip thumbnails are displayed, how audio waveforms are displayed, whether those are displayed at all, and how tall audio and video tracks are. You can really customize your workspace to your ideal working environment.
We will first need to put the footage into our timeline. The most basic way is just to drag a clip into the timeline, and make our edits there. You can also mouse over a clip in your library, and press I to set an in point and O to set an out point. Now when you drag that clip into your timeline, it will only import the footage between those two points. Either method is valid and will make more sense to do in different situations.
To adjust things like zoom, rotation, and position of any clip, select it and click on the Inspector tool. These are basic clip adjustments that you will likely use pretty often.
Cutting and Arranging Clips
The first thing you’ll want to learn how to do with your footage is to cut it. Cutting works the same in Resolve as it does in many other programs. Move your playhead to the desired cut point by dragging it, or playing your timeline with the play button or spacebar. If you want to delete everything in a clip before that cut point, move your cursor to one end of the clip until the cursor symbol changes, then just drag it to the point you want to cut from.
Otherwise, use the blade tool by pressing B on your keyboard or clicking the button on the toolbar. Once you have a clip cut out, you can click on it and delete it. To return to the selection tool, press A or click it on the toolbar. Press the backspace key to delete it and leave the space, or press the delete key to perform a ripple delete, where the rest of the timeline will be moved to fill in the new empty space.
If you want to add multiple layers of audio or video, just drag the new layers onto the timeline, and put them on a new layer. Do this to add b-roll, music, or any other additional assets. You can drag footage onto any track of the timeline at any time. Just make sure to not drag a clip over another clip, because when you place it there it will replace that footage entirely.
Now that you have your main footage and audio dealt with, it’s time to spice it up.
Titles and Effects
The first thing we can do is add text titles. To access the title tool, click on the Effects Library button found on the top toolbar. There are a number of options here, but we’ll focus on titles right now. To create basic text, simple select Text and drag it onto your timeline. Double-click on it to open the editor, where you can adjust the text contents and well as font type, size, color, and more. To start from a template, choose a title from the Fusion Titles list. These will feature custom elements and animations that can give you a head-start on an edit. Either way, you can double-click on the title to open the text editor. It behaves like any other clip, meaning you can adjust the length or move the clip around by dragging it.
Now let’s play around with transitions. These are also found in the Effects Library. Simply drag a transition onto the clip you want to apply it to. These can be placed on either end of a clip, or they can be placed on the cut of two clips.
Audio Editing in Resolve
When it comes to audio, you can do basic audio adjustments in the edit tab. For more advanced audio editing, you might want to use the Fairlight tab. To have better control over audio volumes, add the Mixer window to your workspace. You can use the sliders here to adjust the volume of entire audio tracks. In general, try to keep voices out of the red range, or you might experience clipping audio. However, you can also adjust the audio by clip.
When you hover over an audio clip, you’ll see a symbol of an up and down arrow. You can click and drag up and down to adjust the volume of that clip, and you’ll see the audio waveform moving. If you need to adjust the volume or a specific portion of a clip, you don’t need to cut it down further. You can actually create audio keyframes inside the audio layer. Select the audio layer and alt-click on the point where you’d like to create a keyframe. Make sure you’re on the audio line, and that the arrows symbol appears. Create a second keyframe, and drag one of them around. You will see the volume line adjusting between them, showing audio fading out or in accordingly. This allows you to create volume adjustments that are either hard cuts, or softer fades, and it’s all very visual. You can also click and drag these keyframes around to adjust the exact position. The audio track will have a symbol on the bottom-right after you add keyframes, and clicking this will open up a new keyframe window that lets you see the keyframes a bit easier.
In terms of additional audio editing, there are plenty of preset effects to work with in the Effects panel.
Related: Popular Sound Effects Packs
Color correction is something Resolve is known for. To access this feature, click on the Color panel on the bottom of the program. You’ll see several color wheels, first. The Lift wheel deals with the lows, and Gain deals with the highs. Gamma is your Mids.
To change the brightness and darkness, you can drag the bar under the corresponding color wheel left or right. To change the color of the lows, mids, and highs, drag the circle inside the color wheel toward a color. Below these wheels, you can adjust settings like contrast and saturation. When you’re done color grading, you might want to apply it to another clip in your timeline. To do this, you can right-click on the graded video and select Grab Still. This will add a still, which is essentially like a template. Select a different clip in your timeline, then right-click the still and select Apply Grade. Another way to do this is to copy the nodes on the right side of the clip and paste them onto another clip.
A great way to apply a single color grade to a cut-up piece of footage is to use an adjustment layer and apply your color grades to that instead of to individual clips. To create an adjustment layer, go to the Edit tab, click on Effects Library, then Effects, then drag an Adjustment Clip over your current clips. Then all you need to do is adjust the color correction on the adjustment layer and it will apply to any footage below it in the timeline.
Once you’ve finalized your edit, you’re ready to export. Click on the Deliver tab, and you’ll be able to select the exact settings you want. This includes the file name, the save location, the format, and more. There are a ton of options to choose from. You may find that the YouTube preset works best if you’re editing for YouTube.
Here are a few additional tips for using DaVinci Resolve.
If you move any project files on your computer, you’ll end up with unlinked files. To fix this, right-click one of the clips that’s giving you a warning, and select Relink Selected Clips. No need to re-import them and lose any editing you’ve done. Re-linking the clip in your media library will re-link it to your timeline as well.
Throughout your editing, you may want to select only the audio or only the video for a clip. To do this, hold the ALT key while clicking either the audio or video.
If you want to use markers, you can simply press the marker button on the toolbar. Double-click it to open the dialog box. You can also press the shortcut key M, and then press M again to open the dialog box. Another form of markers is annotations. This lets you draw on clips so you can reference your notes later. Click on the timeline viewer dropdown and select Annotations. You can now free-draw, create arrows, and make rectangles.
Now you should have all you need to get started with a basic project in DaVinci Resolve. It’s a fairly straightforward program that should be easy to pick up if you’ve used other popular editing software. And even if you haven’t edited before, Resolve shouldn’t be difficult to pick up and make something amazing!