Friday, 9 October 2015

Sony 4K, Davinci Resolve 12, Avid MC 8, DIY build

I have been a fan of Davinci Resolve for a while now due to how it gave me a powerful yet accessible tool that did color grading really well. When my director acquired a Sony FS7 and declared he would be shooting IVs in 4K, Resolve 12 had just come out with reputedly much improved editing capabilities, so I got pretty excited about the idea of cutting and grading all in resolve.

This excited me because I am all too accustomed to the perils of the Avid/Resolve round trip and negating this process would have been ideal. There are also features in R12 such as colour management and non destructive scaling that would be useful since the main motivation for shooting in 4K was to be able to punch in and out of a frame without losing any resoltion. And finally I just liked the idea of trying something new.

So I jumped on board and the boat seemed steady at first. I imported all the 4k footage which was a breeze and more seamless that AMA linking. R12's new "smart bins" is a great little feature, for example, the IVs were recorded on three cameras each using a number of cards but once my junior had ID'd the talent in the description metadata it was easy to filter various talent across cameras and cards into a single smart bin.

Unfortunately when it came time to edit the 4K footage my excitement turned to frustration. Now would be a good time to review my set up at the time:

Intel i7 4770k / 32GB Ram / GTX 760 2GB / 16TB Thunderbolt raid

A single track of 4K XAVCI played back fine but pushed my cpu up to 70% plus. But a multicam clip (3 angles) did not play back at all well (was I expecting too much?) stuttering beyond distraction. It did playback smoothly if I hid the 3-up multicam viewer but by doing so defeated the purpose of multicam editing all together.

Luckily R12 has a "Generate Optimized Media" function that allows you to create proxy media that can be turned on and off as you please. Great, but the link to these files was fragile as I discovered after Resolve crashed and found my optimized media had disappeared. I wouldn't have time to regenerate this media every time Resolve crashed, I was also experiencing crashes/instability in the edit page much more than I was used to in the colour page. Smart caching suffered from the same problem and seemed impermanent and unreliable.

Not to be deterred I decided to throw some money at it and throw money I did. I purchased a new video card, GTX 980ti, with the hope that it would solve my little 4K dilemma. Well it momentarily puffed up my ego and out of guilt prompted me to buy my very first game (my friend recommended Witcher 3) but it didn't help when it came to smoother 4K playback as the bottleneck was actually my CPU! Doh!!

4K XAVC is highly encoded which falls upon the CPU rather than the GPU. So even with my expensive new video card installed my system would crash when pushed to do processor intensive tasks. I later read that Black Magic recommends a dual chip system for working with 4K in Resolve. Ahah! no i didn't have that sort of money to through at it but I did upgrade my CPU heat sync to try and restore some stability back my system.

So with my tail between my legs I resolved to not edit in resolve but to go back to a round-trip work-flow. Surprisingly by comparison Avid played back the 4K footage via AMA link smoothly and with far less demand on the CPU or GPU. And the latest release of Avid does support 4K natively.

So while I am excited by the huge progress made to it's editing page, it's instability and highly demanding architecture make resolve unsuitable for me and my modest DIY build at this time. Which reminds me of a similar experience I had with Premiere a few years back. I guess you can't beat Avid for stability and reliability. Still I hope Resolve will continue to iron out the wrinkles and we will eventually bask in it's glory.

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