Five DaVinci Resolve 19 Features I’ll Definitely Be Using

Whether for advancements in camera technology, immersive audio experiences, or AI-driven content creation tools, NAB 2024 lived up to its reputation as the ultimate gathering for media and entertainment professionals. Being a colorist, though, I’m always most interested in what might be happening on the Blackmagic Design stand, and this year, it was the public beta version of Resolve 19.

I don’t usually like to subscribe to the beta version, but this year is an exception. Resolve 19 brings some powerful Neural Engine AI tools and over 100 feature upgrades. And these improvements aren’t limited to color, either. We saw Music Remixer FX, which lets you isolate music elements like voice, drums, or bass and remix even if you don’t have stems. Also, the Dialogue Separator, which can isolate dialogue, background, or ambiance, was incredible. But I’m not an audio expert, so I’ll focus on what I know—the new Color features of Resolve 19 that I’ll use in my everyday workflows.

Film Look Creator

In the effects tab in the Color page, you can add a node encompassing many of Resolve’s tools into one succinct FX. The Film Look Creator allows you to easily adjust an image’s color and physical properties to imitate a motion picture film stock. While this unique Resolve technique doesn’t give particular brands or film stocks as options, the Film Look Creator does alter exposure, contrast, highlights, fade, white balance, tint, skin bias, subtractive saturation, richness, and the ability to introduce bleach bypass to an image on a photometric scale.

Side note: Photometric scales are like a photographer’s toolkit but for digital images. They provide a standardized way to measure and adjust a photo’s brightness, color, and other visual aspects. By using these scales, photographers and digital artists can fine-tune the colors and lighting in their images, ensuring that they look their best. It’s like having a set of precise controls that allow you to make subtle or dramatic changes to your pictures, giving you the power to create exactly the look you want. As technology advances, these photometric scales continue to evolve, with new versions like version 19 providing even more precision and flexibility for perfecting your images.

Film Look Creator also includes tools for the film emulation look, including vignetting, halation, bloom, grain, flicker gate weave, and film gate. It defaults to timeline colorspace, which can be overridden depending on the camera and color space. There is an option for 3D LUT Compatibility, which will automatically remove the effects option because, as we all know, effects cannot be used in a LUT.

What I love most about Film Look Creator is its ability to quickly create different looks from the start of the creative process. It may look familiar to you if you’ve previously worked with some popular DCTL FX. (And I can see those who have just started in color grading thinking they have hit the jackpot.)

Although you can use this tool at any level, the truth is that, like a LUT, you won’t be able to use this in the timeline mode to affect the entire timeline.  (Unless, of course, your program is one camera and one take.) I’d still do the hard yards first; match cameras, fix issues, adjust for scene consistency shot-by-shot beforehand, and add the FX in clip mode to be able to make adjustments there also.

I love the grain feature, and it’s an excellent alternative to some of the third-party plugins and mattes out there. However, I’d like more options regarding stock, emulsion, speeds, and isolating the grain in highlights and shadows. Even without these, I can see myself adding Film Look Creator to my tool belt.

New Face Refinement features

Resolve’s Face Refinement tool isn’t new, but I’m very excited about some additions to the Resolve 19 version. I often use this tool for quick facial adjustments, like eye bag removal and shine removal. But it doesn’t always perform smoothly—for example, when your subject’s face goes from a full frontal position to a side profile, and the tracker loses its head. For this reason, I’ve always wanted a manual option to adjust the mask within the Face Refinement tool. In the past, my workaround would be to track a window on top of the Face Refinement mask and make the necessary adjustments. This has the potential to get messy very quickly.

Fortunately, the Resolve 19 version of Face Refinement now has better tracking and the ability to adjust points of the mask by frame, as well as profile handling, smooth skin options, and many new adjustments. 

Using Resolve 19’s Face Refinement

To use the Face Refinement toolset, you first need to identify the face you wish to work on and then analyze and track that face through the clip (make sure to track with handles on if you need them).

Now, you can adjust tracking points and face shape in the analyzing phase. You can do this by going to the last known good point of the track and then checking the Interpolate (Keyframed) box. This will add keyframes automatically for the frame, and the outlines will turn blue to let you know you are in manual mode. Then, you can go to the problematic frames and click and drag to manually adjust the entire face or select and adjust each feature as needed. Once you get to a point where the automatic tracking works again, you then uncheck the interpolate (keyframed) box.

Side Lighting, Teeth, and Makeup

Another addition I’m thrilled about is Side Lighting, which lets you control or add lighting on the side of the face. This tool is essential if you lose definition or detail due to dramatic side lighting on set, if the actor moves so that definition is lost on one side of the face, or if there is simply the need to lift the shadow side of the face or even the key side.

Also new is the Teeth adjustment option, which allows the adjustment of blue gain, gamma, and mask softness. Before, this would have been a manual exercise involving tracking odd shapes. This common client request can be automated—though I’d say this is most useful when used in small measure. The same advice applies to the new makeup features, which let you tweak eyeshadow and make many more lip adjustments.

Defocus Background

Defocus Background is a fun tool to add to your arsenal, and I can think of many uses. The first that comes to mind is the end product shot of a commercial. Even though the DOP may have shot it with the aperture relatively open, there’s often still room to defocus the background if it’s super distracting without it looking too affected.

Also, you may need to separate your subjects from the background because they are all on the same plane of focus, and your eye needs to know where to go. This handy little effect can come into play. 

Using Resolve 19’s Defocus Background effect

As the name states, the Defocus Background effect lets you blur only the background of an image and imitates shooting with a shallow depth of field. However, the Defocus Background effect does not qualify or isolate the foreground subject.

To use the Defocus Background, you must first isolate the foreground subject utilizing a matte, another tool like Magic Mask, or a Power Window within the Defocus Background node or connect the key output from a previous node. (I Prefer to use Magic Mask) The blur is automatically applied once you separate your subject from the background.

You can go into Magic Mask, a power window, or matte and make the necessary adjustments to clean up the edges of your mask. To clarify the mask even more, in the Defocus Background menu, you can continue to adjust your mask with the first menu item: Adjust Mask. Next is the option for Blur and Saturation in the background. There’s also an option to colorize the background—if you want it to appear warmer for sunset or cooler for a snow scene, for instance. Next, you can choose between two types of blurs: Gaussian or Lens. Finally, you can blend it globally, which helps to make it as seamless as possible.

AI-Based UltraNR for Spatial Denoising

Who hasn’t dealt with footage exhibiting excessive noise? UltraNR is designed for these all-too-common issues, even if you’re dealing with multiple formats in one timeline. For instance, trying to match the texture of an iPhone to an ARRI camera to an under-exposed RED camera might need a little noise reduction to create more continuity between them.

UltraNR for spatial denoising is an AI-based noise reduction option that uses machine learning of the video noise patterns instead of a mathematical formula. It’s meant to give the best results for excessively noisy footage and is designed to balance the desired noise reduction and unwanted picture blurring or softening.

How to use Resolve 19’s UltraNR tool

In the Motion Effects tab on the lower left of the Color Page, you have controls for Temporal NR, Temporal Threshold, Spatial NR, Spatial Threshold, and Motion Blur. The new feature can be found in the drop-down menu of the Spatial NR. As it stands, that’s the only option for UltraNR, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see a temporal option in the future.

As with most noise reduction tools, I add just a touch of sharpness at the end to balance any softening that may have occurred during the noise reduction process. So Resolve 19’s UltraNR might have made it into my toolkit, but I’ll be keeping my third-party noise reducer handy for now.

Resolve 19 UltraNR before example Resolve 19 UltraNR after example

Marker Overlays and Annotations

The Color page’s Viewer now supports marker overlays and annotations for timeline and clip markers, which can be output to a connected SDI monitor. Given the importance of annotation when you need to identify a visual issue quickly, I feel like this completely flew under the radar.

While it would need the addition of a third-party desktop share to make this useful for remote working—for that, you might want to consider, especially if your client has the iPad app—but being able to send annotations to an external display could make conversations in the grading suite a more efficient event.

How to use Resolve 19’s Annotation feature

On the top right of the Viewer, click the ellipsis button (…) and check that you have the Marker Annotation Overlay selected in the Video Output options.

Then, you can use the Marker interface to leave written notes and visual feedback. 

Select a marker color and thickness and draw directly in the Viewer. Use the arrow tool to point to areas of interest, make a straight line, a square, or hand-draw words. To remove the SDI output annotations going to your grading monitor, you can uncheck the Video Output Options option or double-click the marker in your timeline.

So, those are the five features from DaVinci Resolve 19 that I’ll be implementing into my workflow. There are many possibilities here for the final release, from the integration of UltraNR to the Temporal NR, to the refined toolset of lip adjustments in Face Refinement and Annotations evolving to provide smoother toggling and enhanced usability. But I’m sure you all have some great ideas of your own.

Heather Hay

With 20 years of experience, Heather Hay began her career at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA. She transitioned to film coloring at Avenue-Edit in Santa Monica, CA, then moved to the Chicago office before making a mark at Vandal (formally FSM) in Sydney, AU. After six years there, she joined Cinema 305 in Mexico City, and for the past seven years, she's been freelancing remotely from CDMX, showcasing her versatility and expertise in the field. You can see more of her work here.