How to Manage RAW Footage Using Nodes in DaVinci Resolve

Recently, I’ve changed to doing all of my color management in nodes as opposed to setting things up in Resolve’s Project Settings. One of the big questions that has accompanied this change is, “How do I deal with multiple RAW formats within a single project?” In this article, I’m going to show you how I handle multiple RAW formats inside of a single project. Let’s dive in and take a look. 

Answer the easy questions first

Right now, I have three clips in my timeline from three different cameras and they are all in a RAW format. I have a Blackmagic RAW clip, an ARRIRAW clip, and a RED RAW clip. 

Let’s start setting up the color management by filling in the easy answers first. What is the easiest thing to solve in terms of setting up this color management? Well, we know that we are going to be outputting to Rec. 709 Gamma 2.2, so let’s start there. 

To do this, first go over to the Timeline level of the node graph and drop in a preset. When I do this, I use a preset that I keep saved in an album. This preset is a Color Space Transform that takes the footage from DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate out to Rec. 709 Gamma 2.2. It has the stock settings that I always use for Luminance Mapping, Max Input, Max Output, and Gamut Mapping already set up. It also always has Forward OOTF turned on.

Working backward

Next, we need to work backward to make sure that we are getting the footage from each of these different cameras mapped into the DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate working color space, as that is what our final output transform is expecting.

When we’re color managing RAW footage with nodes, there’s a bit more work involved. You might know that when you are color managing RAW formats using Project Settings, Resolve will take over and automatically map those RAW image formats into whatever working space you’ve selected. But that also means you are more restricted when color managing RAW using Project Settings. So, while we might have to do a bit more manual work, we’ll have more control if we color manage with nodes rather than Project Settings.

In our case, we need to go to the File menu, open Projects Settings, and then go to Camera Raw. I think this menu is the source of a lot of the confusion when it comes to RAW formats.

When color managing using nodes, there is an understandable misconception about what happens when you select a RAW profile. A lot of people think selecting a RAW Profile determines how all of the RAW images in your project are going to be treated. That is not the case at all. This menu does not tell Resolve how to treat all RAW images. What it does is say, “How do you want to unpack or debayer this particular RAW format into an RGB space?”

ARRIRAW

In our example, we have ARRI, Blackmagic, and RED RAW images in our timeline. There is nothing we need to do in terms of debayering the ARRI footage. ARRI footage is always going to debayer into LogC3 for an older ARRI camera or LogC4 for an Alexa 35. There is an option to decode LogC3 as LogC4, but that’s a bit beyond the scope of our article today. So, we don’t need to do anything with our ARRIRAW profile. It’s good to go. 

Blackmagic RAW

Here’s how to handle Blackmagic RAW: set Decode using to Project, Color space to DaVinci Wide Gamut, and Gamma to DaVinci Intermediate. With this, there is no color space transform necessary. These settings are going to ensure that the Blackmagic RAW image unpacks right into the working space of DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate. That’s all we need to do. We can leave White balance set to As shot, and all our other settings can be left where they are as well.

Highlight recovery is also beyond the scope of today’s article, but it’s something you can turn on if you have hot, pinging highlights that feel like they are clipping out. Remember, you can always go back and turn it on later. For now, I’m going to leave it off because I don’t think it applies to our one Blackmagic RAW shot.

A note about the RAW profile setting

Before you switch over to RED, I want you to toggle between Blackmagic RAW and RED in the RAW profile. As you can see, all of the custom selections that we made a moment ago are still there.

Choosing a different option from the RAW profile dropdown menu does not mean that Resolve will apply that change to all RAW footage in the timeline. It simply means that we have switched from specifying what we want Resolve to do with Blackmagic RAW material to specifying what we want Resolve to do with RED RAW material. The RAW profile setting is not an option for choosing which RAW profile you want to use. It tells Resolve how you want it to debayer each different type of RAW profile. 

RED RAW

Most of the time, RED RAW settings are already set up. The only change you need to make is to set the bit depth to 16. Also, check to make sure that “Decode using” is set to Project. Resolve sometimes sets “Decode using” to the camera metadata by default.

RED recommends setting your RAW Project Settings to IPP2 for Color Science, REDWideGamutRGB for Color space, and Log3G10 for Gamma curve. Blend bias can be left at zero. You can also safely leave Apply metadata curves turned off unless there’s an explicit creative intent baked in by the production team or you’re working with. All the other boxes can remain unchecked as well.

The only other two important boxes to tick are ISO and Color temp because we want to pass that information along to us from the set. We want to know what ISO the camera operator or cinematographer was shooting at, right? Likewise, we want to know what color temperature they were using. If the camera was at 5600, we don’t want to land at 3200 by default.

Now we are all set up, and we haven’t just specified one RGB profile. We have properly set up how Resolve will unpack all three of the RAW profiles in our timeline. Finally, remember to hit Save.

Input mapping

Let’s move on to input mapping. In the case of our Blackmagic RAW footage, we’ve already told it to unpack directly into DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate. Since our work there is done, we can move along to our ARRI material. 

The way that I like to handle input mapping for any source, whether it’s RAW or otherwise, is to use Resolve’s Group function. Specifically, I use the Group Pre-Clip function to cook in or apply the input transform. To do this with the ARRI material, right-click on the clip and choose Add into a New Group. We’re going to name this group ARRI. 

Then, go to the leftmost of the four dots at the top of the node graph to enter the Group Pre-Clip section. Group Pre-Clip simply means that whatever we do there is going to happen before anything happens on the Clip level. That’s perfect because we want our input transform to be the first thing that happens to the image before any grading is applied to it.

Create a Color Space Transform by searching for it and then drag the function onto the Group Pre-Clip node. Next, set up the transform to go from ARRI Wide Gamut 3, ARRI LogC3 to DaVinci Wide Gamut, DaVinci Intermediate. No tone mapping is necessary and white point adaptation isn’t necessary either.

You can give this a descriptive label if you like. I’m going to call it ->DWG for “to DaVinci Wide Gamut”. Sometimes, I’ll simply call it “IN”. Now, we are all set up with our ARRIRAW material. It’s good to go. Of course, we still have to drop in a look and do our grading, but we now have a sound color management pipeline in place for this shot.

RED RAW Pre-Clip

That leaves our RED material, which will undergo a similar process to our ARRI material. First, right-click the shot, choose Add into a New Group, and label it. 

Then, drop a Color Space Transform into that shot’s Group-PreClip node. The Input Color Space is going to be the same as what we specified for our RED Camera Raw settings, which is RedWideGamutRGB, RED Log3G10. Then, we’re going set the transform to go out to DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate. Everything else can stay off. That’s all there is to it. 

From there, you can do whatever you like. You can grade in a normal fashion. You can apply a look, maybe something from my Voyager LUT pack. We’re now ready to begin grading the clips on our timeline as we would any other material, RAW or otherwise. 

Wrapping up

One of my passion points when it comes to setting up color management, RAW or otherwise, is to get away from a camera-centric color grading approach. I want to work from an image-centric approach so that by the time I’m grading, I’m in the same color space regardless of where the color was originally set. No matter when or how the material was captured, it should all be on a level playing field. That way, I can focus on the the image itself instead of what camera the image was captured on. 

The RAW profile setting inside Resolve’s Camera Raw menu is the source of so much confusion, and understandably so. But I want everyone reading to understand this: the RAW Profile simply allows you to select how you want to unpack each of your RAW profiles respectively. The selections that you make persist even when you click over to another profile and save out of your Project Settings completely.

Cullen Kelly

Cullen Kelly is a Los Angeles-based senior colorist with credits spanning film, television, and commercials, for clients and outlets including Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Microsoft, McDonald’s, and Sephora. With a background in image science as well as the arts, he’s passionate about the intersection of the creative and technical, and its role in great visual storytelling. In addition to his grading work, Cullen is an educator and proven thought leader, with platforms including his podcast The Color Code as well as his YouTube channel.

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