Colour Grading Workflow - Davinci Resolve

5 Tools to Speed Up Your Colour Grading Workflow – DaVinci Resolve

Cindrey Liu

Cindrey Liu

Colourist

Speeding up your colour grading workflow lets you do more in less time. This means more time to perfect your grade.

As a colourist, I’m sure you want the best for every grade. However, very often, time and budget take precedence.

Given an unlimited amount of time, I would finesse every shot until it is pure perfection but in the real world, well, you know how it goes.

How can I maximise my time to produce the best work I am capable of? By streamlining my workflow and cutting out unnecessary button clicks — they all add up. 

Over the past 5 years as a colourist at editlounge, I’ve found some DaVinci Resolve tools to organise my projects better and to help me work more efficiently.

Here are 5 DaVinci Resolve tools you can use to speed up your colour grading workflow:

1.

Append Node to Selected Clips

My all-time favourite tool in Resolve! I use it so much that I’ve even mapped a keyboard shortcut to it (Shift + A). This tool essentially allows you to copy a node from one clip to any other clip(s), without having to manually paste it shot by shot.

Example
Here, I have balanced all the shots in a scene. But now I think it looks a little too warm overall. I add a node to one shot, make it cooler, then I want to copy and paste it to all the other shots in the same scene. To do this:

Step 1
Select the node that needs to be appended (in this example, it’s the node labelled as “Cooler”)

Step 2
<Shift + Click> or <Command + Click> to select the shots to append the node to

Step 3
Select “Colour” > “Append Node to Selected Clips”

Voila! It is that simple. The “Cooler” node has been appended to all the shots that I selected.

By extension, “Ripple Node Changes to Selected Clips” or “Ripple Node Changes to Current Group” work in the same way. Just remember that the node changes will be rippled to another clip’s node of the same number (i.e. clip A’s node 4 changes will ripple to clip B’s node 4), so your clips will need to have similar node structures.

2.

Compound Nodes

For years, I had searched in vain for a way to group or combine nodes together. The node editor can get a little crowded, especially for complex grades, and I felt that Resolve was lacking a way to better organise the node tree.

Blackmagic gave us its solution to this problem in Resolve 12 — Compound nodes. Compound nodes group multiple nodes into one new node (think of it like nesting in Adobe Premiere Pro). This way, your node tree looks neater and you can easily disable or enable a group of nodes with one click.

I like using them to organise nodes that I’ve used to create a look and then to quickly apply the look across a scene.

Example
Once again, I have balanced all the shots in this sequence. Now I want to add a look to it, in this case I’m going for a teal and orange look . I will create the look on one shot first. You can see that I have a node for teal and orange, another node for a vignette and then a node for noise reduction.

Now that I am happy with my grade, I’d like to replicate it to the other shots in the scene. Rather than copying the 3 nodes individually, I’d prefer to use a compound node.

Creating Compound Nodes

Step 1
<Cmd + Click > or Lasso to select the nodes you want to group together

Step 2
Right click and choose “Create Compound Node”

Step 3
Re-label your compound node to stay organised

Navigating Within Compound Nodes

  1. To look at contents of the compound code:
    Right click and choose “Show Compound Node” or  <Cmd + Double click>
  1. To go back to the main node tree:
    Double click on the clip name at the bottom left corner of the node editor
  1. To collapse the compound node so that the constituent nodes re-appear on the main node tree:

    Right click and choose “Decompose Compound Node”

Copying Compound Nodes

  1. Grab a still, display node graph and drag compound node to another clip
  2. Use “Append Node to Selected Clips” to append the compound node to the whole scene (See Point 1)

Note
These methods only work if the compound node has only one input. If the compound node has multiple inputs (which occurs when they contain parallel or layer nodes), the grade within your compound node will not be copied over properly to the rest of the shots. The parallel and/or layer nodes’ grades will not show up.

An easy way to work around this problem is to follow these steps BEFORE creating the compound node:

Step 1
Right click on parallel/layer node > “Add Node” > “Add Serial Before”

Step 2
Delete connection between the node before the blank serial node and the parallel/layer node

Step 3
Add connection from blank serial node to parallel/layer node

Now the compound node that you create will only have one input and can be copied to any other shot(s).

Compound nodes are great but one gripe I have about them is that it’s not possible to map keyboard shortcuts to any of the functions related to compound nodes. Hopefully this will be added in the future as it would speed up our colour grading even more.

3.

Shared Nodes

Introduced in Resolve 15, shared nodes are basically nodes that are shared amongst multiple shots. Any change you make to a shared node will automatically ripple to all the other shots that contain the same shared node. Shared nodes can be very useful for balancing multiple shots at the same time if they have similar exposure and white balance. They can also be used to quickly add and adjust looks for an entire scene.

Example
I have balanced all the shots in this scene and now I want to make the whole scene black and white.

Creating Shared Nodes

Step 1 
Right click > “Add Node” > “Add Serial”

Step 2 
Reduce saturation to 0 to make the shot black and white

Step 3 
Right click > “Save as Shared Node”

Step 4
Rename shared node

Copying Shared Nodes

Now I would like to copy my shared node to the other clips in the scene. There are a few ways to do so:

  1. Right click on a node > “Add Node” > Choose shared node labelled “B&W”
  1. Copy <Cmd + C> and Paste <Cmd + V>
  2. Use “Append Node to Selected Clips” to append the shared node to the whole scene (See Point 1)

Tweaking Shared Nodes

As mentioned earlier, any change you make to a shared node will ripple to all the other shots that contain the same shared node. So maybe I’ve changed my mind. Instead of black and white, I want a high contrast desaturated look instead. To do this:

Step 1 
Right click on shared node > Uncheck “Lock Node”

Step 2 
Change the grade

Step 3 
Rename the node to reflect change

One thing to beware of is that it is not possible to undo any changes that you make to a shared node, so make sure you are confident of the change before making it.

4.

Timeline Filtering

When you pick a timeline filter, only the shots that match the filter’s condition will show up on your timeline, making it much easier to find the shots you need. This tool is especially useful for long form shows like reality shows and documentaries. There are various filters to choose from, but the one I use the most is “Flagged Clips”.

Flagged Clips

In reality shows and documentaries, there are usually multiple interview shots of multiple interviewees which appear repeatedly throughout each episode. What often happens is, during colour grade playback, the client will say something like, “Let’s add a vignette to this interview shot.” or “Can we add a bit more pink to the skin tone?”. The client and I will make the change together on one shot and I’ll be expected to reflect those changes on all the other similar interview shots. Which sounds pretty straightforward. But when there are thousands of shots in an episode, looking for that one particular interview shot can be quite time-consuming.

So, I’ve come up with a strategy: while grading a show, every time I come across an interview shot, I will flag it (keyboard shortcut: G). By the time I’ve gone through the entire episode, I would have flagged all the interview shots. I can then use these flags as filters whenever I need to look for interview shots.

Step 1
Click on the down arrow beside “Clips” above the node editor

Step 2
Select filter (“Flagged Clips” in this case)

This narrows down the type of shots in my timeline significantly, which makes it a lot easier and faster for me to find the specific shots I need. You can even put different coloured flags on the clips, so that your filter can be even more specific.

Of course, you can apply these timeline filters in any other way, depending on your needs. Take full advantage of this simple but powerful tool to speed up your colour grading.

5.

Paste Attributes

The long-awaited “Paste Attributes” function has finally arrived in DaVinci Resolve 16! I’ve been quietly wishing for this for years, and frankly it’s like a dream come true. If you’re familiar with Adobe Premiere Pro, Resolve’s “Paste Attributes” pretty much works the same way. This is useful when you only want to copy some of the attributes of a node to another node.

Flagged Clips

Step 1 
Select the node you want to copy from > “Edit” >  “Copy” (or use keyboard shortcut  <Cmd + C>)

Step 2 
Right click > “Add node” > “Add Serial”

Step 3 
Click on “Edit” > “Paste Attributes” (or use keyboard shortcut <Opt + V>)

Step 4 
Check one or multiple parameter(s) to paste on the node > “Apply”

In this example, Clip 9’s Node 6 contains adjustments in primary colour, midtone detail and curves within a circular window. I want to copy the node to Clip 8 but exclude the curves. So, when pasting attributes, I have checked all the parameters but unchecked “Curves” before clicking “Apply”.

All the node attributes except Curves were copied over to Clip 8. Awesome!

These are the 5 DaVinci Resolve tools that I think will really help you to speed up your colour grading. Do you have any other tools that you like to use? Let me know in the comments below.

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