This complicated relationship is a good thing, as it opens up a plethora of technical and creative benefits to filmmakers. You just need to understand how to make them play nice together.
Between the two, Premiere Pro is arguably the more powerful (and established) editing system. While Resolve has carried the weight of digital color grading supremacy since back in the mid-2000s.
What about Lumetri?
Of course, Premiere Pro has its own color tools, but grading in Resolve allows for more control and thus a higher quality product. The same goes for Resolve’s editing tools, which are quite capable, but don’t have the same pedigree that Premiere has built for itself over the past two decades.
As a filmmaker, your primary goal should be to provide the highest quality product with the tools and time available. That usually means you should pick the fastest and most flexible software for any given task. This often means the software you cut in is not the software you use to grade.
Using the unique strengths of Premiere and Resolve, you can work faster, deliver better results, and focus on creativity.
In today’s article, we’ll look at the process for round-tripping from Premiere Pro to DaVinci Resolve. We”ll highlight some of the top benefits, biggest hurdles, and key tips for this common workflow.
Round-tripping for everyone
It should go without saying that not every project is the same. Sometimes you won’t need Resolve’s precise color tools, and Lumetri Color (or just a LUT) will do the trick. Other times you might be working on a super high-end project in ACES that requires a different process than what we’re about to outline.
But for many of us, this type of round-tripping between our editing bay and color suite is common. Visit practically any post house these days and you’re bound to see something similar at play.
That said, there are lots of minor tweaks or extra steps different teams will use for this process. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to outline the most simple/standard process for this sort of workflow.
The first step in this process is to prep your Premiere timeline for a high-quality export to transfer to Resolve. Coloring is usually one of the last steps in the editing process. So make sure that everything is locked in the edit, and no further changes need to be made.
Sadly, a firm sequence lock isn’t always an option. As a minimum you want to make sure that the timeline is as close to finished as possible.
For grading, your timeline doesn’t need every layer of video, audio, VFX, and graphics available to the colorist. Loading all of these unnecessary assets into Resolve will just slow things down. Thankfully, we don’t need every bit of it.
The timeline above has 10 layers of video, but the colorist only needs the main video layer (V1). Sometimes, if we have multiple layers of b-roll (V2, V3, etc.), we can move those layers down into the V1 layer and overwrite those unseen ranges of the V1 footage.
Note: it’s a good idea to create a duplicate timeline before making any changes/flattening your timeline. Always make sure your full project is preserved intact. This ensures that any changes that need to be made to the editorial can be made prior to final export.
A step further
You can further optimize the timeline by excluding text graphics, adjustment layers. Even audio, if it’s not critical to the colorist’s work.
After the unnecessary assets are excluded, you can safely flatten the timeline into a single layer of video, and you’re ready to export everything over to Resolve.
This example project has been simplified down to one layer of video and is ready for export. You should export the sequence in whichever codec you’re most comfortable with/your system can handle. Just make sure it’s as high quality as possible. In this case, I exported into Apple ProRes 422 HQ but with no audio.
Clever readers will immediately wonder how we’re going to grade individual shots in our timeline when we just exported a full sequence. It’s a good question. We’ll need a way for Resolve to read the exported file as separated clips. The best way to do this by exporting an EDL from Premiere.
On the settings menu for the EDL, we won’t include transitions or audio for this grade, but if you do have transitions, then the EDL will add them as a black clip. There are remedies for this, but you might need to do a few Google searches.
Once our EDL is exported, it’s time to open our project up in Resolve. If you’re new to Resolve, you’ll notice it’s basically another non-linear editing system, but with a bit of a different setup from Premiere.
In the Media tab at the bottom of the panel, your exported video file by using the ⌘-I control. In this example, I’m importing a file called “Kikkoman_for DaVinci.mov,” but your project’s file naming convention will vary.
Import the EDL
The next step is to import the pre-conformed EDL that we created in Premiere. With this file, we can see all the Premiere’s cuts without muddling up the timeline with Resolve’s editing tools (which will be important for when we import everything back into Premiere).
As you can see in the image above, the imported EDL instantly recognized the video file and creates a new timeline in Resolve to be colored.
We can even check to make sure all the cuts are in the right spots by switching over to the edit panel.
It doesn’t hurt to click through the timeline just to make sure, but each cut should line up exactly with what you cut in Premiere.
To reiterate, if there was a transition like a fade or dissolve, an additional clip will show up in the EDL. All it does is tail the transition onto the end of the relevant clip.
Start your grade
Once you’ve made sure everything looks good, it’s time to start your grade.
This particular video didn’t need a lot of work. It was shot with a particular color profile, but the RGB levels of each clip needed to be balanced. RGB scopes take a lot of the guesswork out of this process, so take some time to learn them.
There and back again
Once you have your grade exactly as desired, it’s time to export
There are many ways to do this. We can export one large file of the whole graded timeline, or we can export each clip individually with the grade applied. Having multiple files allows for easier manipulation/adjustment down the line if necessary.
From Resolve’s Delivery panel, we can select how we want the export to be handled.
Notice in the image about we have the option to export single or individual clips in the Render settings at the top of the panel.
Once you have the settings you want, simply click the Add to Render Queue button (which will make it appear in the panel on the right side of the screen) and then click the Start Render button. Once that is complete, we’re finished in Resolve and can close it out (but remember to save your project in case you need to make changes to the grade).
Now we’re ready to get back into Premiere and finish our project!
Back to Premiere
Once imported into the timeline, the files we just exported should appear in order. All you have to do is place the files over the original video clips in the Premiere timeline, and everything should fit perfectly. If they do not, review the above instructions and try the export and import again.
It can be useful to visually distinguish these clips in your timeline, especially if multiple people are working on the project and need to know at a glance if a clip is graded or not.
In the above example, I’ve color-coded the graded clips in tan, which distinguishes them from all the other assets of the timeline. Sometimes, like if there is a blank space in your timeline (and thus no clip for Resolve to color grade), a black video clip will be inserted in its place. This can be deleted, but make sure the newly graded clips start at the exact right frame of video, or your video could get off in its timing, which can cause lots of headaches.
Once you’ve made it here, it’s now time to export your video. You’ve successfully made the round trip from Premiere to Resolve and back again! If you’re up for more DaVinci Resolve, why not check out this Beginner’s Guide to Conforming With DaVinci Resolve.