I recently caught up with HP in New York to look at some hot new product announcements for creative artists and animators users as well as upgrades and enhancements to existing mobile workstation products.
One of the most impressive new products was the HP 4K Dreamcolor Z31x Studio display. At the meeting, I was fortunate enough to interview HP’s chief DreamColor architect Greg Staten. Below is a video interview where Staten goes into an exceptionally detailed description of the Z31x Studio display and what makes it so remarkable. He begins, however, by talking about another new HP DreamColor display, the Z24x, also a compelling new product you’ll want to hear about.
A Disruptive Display
HP’s DreamColor line of displays were designed specifically for those who require the highest quality of fidelity and color accuracy, such as those who work in post production, visual effects, animation, matte painters, photo-retouchers, high-end colorists, illustrators and video editors.
In fact, according to HP, since 2011, 80 percent of Academy Award Nominees for Visual Effects have used HP DreamColor displays. In addition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the HP DreamColor Display and its developers a Scientific and Engineering Award in 2015. That should give you an indication as to the key role that DreamColor displays play in our industry.
In the Z31x Studio, HP has taken an a big leap ahead by designing a DreamColor display with innovative new features which compete with professional monitors costing much more. (Expect the Z31x to sell for under $4,000 available this fall). Now Let’s take a look at what makes the HP DreamColor Z31x Studio a gamechanger for studios and digital artists.
Each new feature of the Z31x is a result of direct feedback from professional customers. For one, its images are delivered on a true 10-bit Real IPS panel with more than 1 billion colors. In fact, HP improved on this IPS technology, inventing new processes that result in deep, rich and consistent black levels no matter what angle of view. Also, the screen resolution on the Z31x is true Cinema 4k at 4096 X 2160 resolution (17:9 theatrical) not UHD 4K of 3840 pixels × 2160 (16:9).
One of the coolest new features of the Z31x Studio is a built-in pop-up colorimeter which swings down from the top of the display and can automatically calibrate the display on demand or on a regular calibration schedule (it can even be scheduled to run off hours so your workflow isn’t interrupted). It’s a great idea to include a built-in colorimeter on a DreamColor display since colorimeters cost a pretty penny to buy separately — prices range from about $225 for the X-Rite i1 Display Pro to almost $7,000 for the Klein K10-A (which costs more than the Z31x).
It gets even better when you hear that, according to HP’s Greg Staten, the results from the built-in calibrator on the Z31x are on par with the Klein K10-A, helping to maintains perfect color accuracy. The display itself delivers true 10-bit color at HP’s widest color gamut ever, 99% of DCI-P3, 100% of Adobe RGB and 100% of sRGB and has native support for 60 Hz, 50 Hz and 48 HZ.
Another great feature of the HP Z31x Studio is that it has a built in KVM switch, which allows you to easily switch the input from two different computers with a quick keyboard shortcut allowing the user to share the display (as well as the mouse and keyboard) between two computers. This is important because many artists often rely on two computers to do their work. For example, they may have a Linux machine running their favorite compositing app as well as a Windows box for the Adobe Creative Suite or 3D program. The KVM switch eliminates clutter on their desk and allows you to switch between the different sources.
There’s a lot more to like about the HP Z31x DreamColor Display such as true 2K viewing, markers, masks and more. Again, in the video above, HP’s Greg Staten gets deeper into the display, so be sure to watch it.
The Most Affordable DreamColor
Along with the Z31x, HP has just announced the HP Z24x G2 DreamColor Display (also featured in the above video) which delivers the professional color accuracy and consistency that you would expect from DreamColor but at a budget-conscious price almost every artist can afford whether you work for a large studio or you are an independent.
The Z24x has a 24-inch diagonal DreamCOlor panel with a resolution of 1920 X 1200 producing up to a billion colors from a huge color gamut that covers 99 percent of Adobe RGB.
It’s capable of user calibration with push-button color space selection and has calibration software for both WIndows and macOS that supports both the X-Rite i1 Display Pro and the Klein Instruments K10-A colorimeters.
If you do color critical work, HP’s new DreamColor Displays, the remarkable Z31x and Z24x, offer compelling choices, no matter what your budget is.
It’s been some time now since Blackmagic Design released version 11 of DaVinci Resolve. Long recognized as one of the world’s leading color correction applications, it’s been used to grade a long list of Hollywood blockbuster films, television commercials, music videos and documentaries including such recent features as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Captain Philips, Sacrifice and many more.
Blackmagic acquired Resolve from Davinci Systems in 2009. Before that, getting up and running with Davinci Resolve was an expensive proposition that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily for us, however, Blackmagic Design made some bold moves. Not only did they keep improving the product after they took it over, but they made it less expensive. Sounds like a good plan to me. How much less expensive you ask? A lot.
First there is Resolve Lite which is as cheap as it gets: Free. Although you might be inclined to think that the Lite version is brain dead, it isn’t. While there are differences between it and the full version of the software, Resolve Lite is remarkably robust.
The full version of Davinci Resolve software adds things like stereoscopic grading, collaborative tools, and noise reduction (among other things). It costs around a thousand dollars. It also comes free with the purchase of most Blackmagic cameras.
For high-end users looking to build a professional color suite, Blackmagic makes a sexy control surface with weighted trackballs, illuminated keys, soft knobs, LCD displays and buttons galore. DaVinci Resolve with the Blackmagic control surface costs $29,995, However, there are cheaper control surfaces that work with Resolve from companies such as Tangent, Avid and JL Cooper. While a control surface will give you a tactile feel to the grading process and increases your productivity, Resolve also works with a good old mouse and keyboard (with lots of keyboard shortcuts as well).
Advanced Editing Comes to Resolve
In traditional workflows, color grading is usually the final step in a production, after the editor and the director have sat for many hours in an edit suite “locking picture”. When they were done, the editor would export the movie’s timeline and send it over to the colorist who would then go about altering the color of the footage— either due to problems (too dark, too orange) or to create an artistic look. When the colorist’s work was done, the picture is rendered with the final color in place.
Naturally, there are some limitations to this way of working. For example, it’s not so easy to alter the editing timeline since it would mean going back and forth between the edit suite and the color suite. Things could get messy like that.
Now, here’s a better idea: What if world-class color grading and editing were combined into one application that did both? With it, you could freely go back and forth between editing and color grading instantaneously without waiting until the edit was done. Color grading and editing could be one organic process, with no penalty for moving between the two worlds — edit a little, grade a little. Repeat.
This is the major innovation and importance of Resolve 11 which adds advanced editing capabilities to one of the industry’s preeminent color correction applications. The result is a single package that allows you to edit, mix audio, color grade, finish and deliver a production. That’s exciting.
In fact, editing was introduced in Resolve 10, but lacked the sophistication found in mature NLEs. That has changed in release 11. The editing functions have been much improved and include over 70 new editing features based on input from professional editors. Things like multiple video and audio tracks, extensive trimming functions, titling tools, Bezier key frames and transitions.
In addition, there are important new collaborative workflow tools that I haven’t seen in other editing platforms. These new collaboration features allow an editor and multiple colorists to work at different desks while sharing the same timeline. Thus, a team of people can all work together at the same time, on the same production, to get the job done. What’s really nice about Resolve’s collaborative tools is that each colorist working on the project can see the timeline updated immediately as the editor edits.
In addition to the editing functions, Resolve 11 also contains improvements to its color correction toolset such as new RAW image and color grading controls that are designed to make new users, especially photographers who are moving into cinematography, feel at home. The new camera RAW palette features controls for highlight and shadow recovery, mid tone detail, color boost, saturation, lift, gain and contrast adjustment.
Also new in Version 11 is the new Color Match feature, an automatic chart color balancing tool which works by doing a primary base grade by analyzing shots containing standard color chip charts. These shots may have been lit differently or with various exposures and color temperatures. It’s a great way to quickly get all of your clips to a common start-off point before you start fine tuning your grades.
Resolve is also used on set to quickly add looks to shots, manage media or prepare dailies. Version 11 also has new features that allow you to securely back up and save digital camera files. This includes a new Clone tool which copies media drives, memory cards and camera packs to multiple places at the same time. That’s useful for on set work.
I was eager to try out the new editing features in Resolve 11, so I imported some footage from a recent project and got to work.
While Resolve contains a lot of the editing features that you would expect in a pro-level editor, I won’t go into tremendous detail about each and every one of them (you can download Resolve Lite for free and see for yourself). However, I will touch on some of the more important ones. Note that the editing functionality in Resolve Lite is no different from the full version.
The first thing I noticed is the slick editing interface. I’ve always liked Resolve’s color grading UI, and the same goes for the NLE. I find it to be thoughtfully and aesthetically pleasing. This has an effect on the way you think about your work.
As in most professional NLEs there is a source viewer where you can set in and out points for your clips and a program viewer. Video and audio clips can easily be dragged into the timeline into any existing track or into a blank area above to create a new track. Tracks can also be targeted by clicking a button on the left of a track.
Each audio and video clip can be faded up and down over any number of frames from either end. On audio tracks, a horizontal line can be raised, lowered and key-framed vary the audio level over time. Resolve 11 also contains a multi-channel stereo mixer.
Dragging a clip into the program window instead of directly into the timeline will cause a menu overlay to conveniently pop up where you can choose the kind of edit you want to perform: Insert, Overwrite, Replace, Fit-to-Fill or Place on Top. That’s a nice touch. As in other pro NLEs, three-point editing is supported. It’s also easy to remove gaps between clips on the timeline. Simply click on gaps to select them and press delete.
Adding transitions between clips is done by dragging a transition from the Effects Library on top of the edit point. Transition parameters such as duration, border, edge color and feather can be modified in an inspector window which is brought up by double clicking on the transition. The parameters can also be key framed. For added finesse, key frames can be given Bezier handles in the timeline. That’s very cool.
There is a collection of standard transitions that come with Resolve such as cross dissolves, dip to color as well as various wipes. More transitions and effects which adhere to the OpenFX standard can be purchased, installed and used in Resolve 11 (such as Gen Arts’ Sapphire plug-ins).
Also contained in the Toolbox are Titling tools which create text, scrolls and lower thirds with parameters such as font, size color, rotation, drop shadow, stroke, background color, and transfer modes. The Toolbox also contains Generators to create grey scale ramps, color bars and solids.
Trimming is well thought out and implemented in Resolve 11. You can create ripple edits, rolls, slips or slides based upon where you click. For example, clicking and dragging on an edit point allows you to create a slide edit. Clicking and dragging to the right or left of the edit allows for ripple edits (tracks can be excluded if desired). When slipping or sliding, a four-up display appears.
Multiple edit points can also be selected and be edited at the same time. There is a razor tool to cut up a clip and clip snapping can be turned on or off in the timeline. Trimming can also be done with the keyboard which is important to some editors who don’t like to take their fingers off of the keyboard. Clips can be nudged with the comma and period key (the shift key can be added for ten frame increments) and the nearest edit point can be selected by pressing the V key. In addition, the industry standard JKL keys can be used to move forwards, backwards and stop playback.
Allover clip speed can be changed simply by right clicking on a clip and choosing Change Clip Speed. For more advanced time changes such as variable speed effects or freeze frames, clip on a clip and choose Retime Clip from the Edit menu.
Resolve 11’s editing environment provides practically all the tools you need to edit complex productions and has the features you would expect in a professional NLE. However, Resolve is much more than that. It is a complete system for managing media, editing, grading, finishing and delivery.
The nice part about it is that you can download the Lite version right now and try it for yourself (as well as the manual, which is very well designed). Incidentally, for those who wish to learn DaVinci Resolve 11, be sure to take a look at Patrick Inhofer’s Colorist Flight School at http://training.taoofcolor.com/. It’s an extremely comprehensive online course which covers every facet of Resolve from editing to color with an impressive attention to detail.
To be able to edit and color grade clips in one state of the art environment is game changing. Blackmagic Design has delivered a system that does just this with characteristic elegance and sophistication. With their recent acquisition of Eyeon Fusion, a highly capable compositing and visual effects program, Blackmagic looks poised to become a one stop shop for visual effects, editing and color grading not to speak of acquisition (cameras) as well as a plethora of hardware for all things video including switchers, capture and playback, film scanning, converters and encoding. This should give companies such as The Foundry and Adobe a run for their money. It will be interesting what happens. For more information, go to https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve.