DaVinci Resolve by Blackmagicdesign is probably the piece of software I enjoy most as it enables my current journey blogging about color grading. It is a great piece of software and its freeware release changed the market for color grading in a significant, lasting way by enabling free-of-charge color grading.
However, while it is a great tool that does a lot of things really well, I don’t think it is a robust piece of software. The flaws, to me, lie not in the way DaVinci does things, but in the way it fails at doing them.
In software development, one prime method of operation is debugging. You develop something, then run it, see what doesn’t work and plug the holes, then try again. Debugging is an annoying, frustrating thing but you come out stronger. To effectively fix things, first, however, you need to know what went wrong. Receiving detailed error reports is a first step to being able to come up with a fix for any given problem – hence, programmers since the dawn of man have built in exceptions: little pieces of code tell them what went wrong and, possibly, why. DaVinci Resolve, frequently, just fails at doing something, then shuts down. What the hell? Even Windows 95 knew when the shit hit the fan and consequently created a piece of pop culture.
Why is this behavior of DaVinci Resolve annoying me? One thing that has been going wrong consistently on many different computers, operating systems and with every Resolve release since version 10 is hard drive access. Invariably, when I’m navigating around in the Media tab and want to access a random hard drive, after clicking a certain drive, DaVinci shuts down hook, line, and sinker. Please, if any of you have a solution or suffer the same damning fate, please comment. This makes me furious – yes, it’s bitchy to complain about a free product, but heck, even when I’m using a paid DaVinci license, this stuff happens and don’t tell me I need to mount devices a certain way or stuff because we are in 2016 and I’m not going to change stuff to my drives that work perfectly fine in any other program because DaVinci can’t do some file handling in a robust manner. This is simply unacceptable.
Besides the file browsing mess (did I mention it’s slow even when it works?), DaVinci is notorious for being a bitch for computing resources. That’s okay, it used to be a really expensive tool run on 10.000€ machines. While that is still a prime application for DaVinci Resolve, its free-of-charge release has created an entirely different set of use cases. Here’s a few:
- grading of dailies on set
- quick’n’dirty indie work
- teaching color grading at university
These use cases usually mean DaVinci will be run on smaller, affordable machines and even notebooks. Until DaVinci Resolve 12, the handling of video output on low-spec computers was problematic at best: if the necessary graphics computation could not be performed in time, the system just output something random. Literally, random stuff would appear in the viewer. Eventually, this would, oh wow, lead to a crash (no error reports, naturally). Today, when the system specs aren’t sufficient, DaVinci has the grace to tell you your system is shit and tries to give you a decent output. This is a huge change in the right direction, obviously. I’m glad I can open DaVinci on my computer without risking a reboot because DaVinci hogged the GPU completely.
Both the file-access error as well as the video output handling are two symptoms of what I feel is outdated error handling. Today, it is not enough to have your program fail at random points and ignore the problem. The web has come up with a so many cute error reports many a neat way to say that something went wrong and the service provider are sorry. And that is the way we as users want to be treated. We put trust, time and effort into using Blackmagicdesign’s amazing tool DaVinci, but every errorless reboot or shutdown of the program is an unnecessary slap in the face. I am not a software engineer, I’ve only coded for fun and a little cash so I don’t know how to effectively fix these issues, but for a simple comparison, many Adobe Creative Cloud products fail graciously, even restoring your dropped work afterward. Surely, Blackmagicdesign have the resources to make DaVinci robust and user-friendly, as they have shown with the user interfaces on their cameras. Well, my favorite is the Arri ALEXA’s interface which you can play with in a simulator here.
In a way, I hate ranting about a piece of software I love to use but maybe that is exactly why I get so engaged: I care about what happens with DaVinci Resolve, I download every beta, I am curious about what improvements come along and how I can make use of them in my next project. I’d just really love to see some more robust behavior here and there, maybe a report on the next startup and a little more sensibilities to user behavior and needs. Pretty please?
Let me know if you have suffered from similar errors or if you have a killer (non-troll reformat your HDDs) workaround. I’m curious to hear from you.
Also published on Medium.