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Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Workflow – Disney+ Safety

  • January 27, 2021
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Workflow – Disney+ Safety

DaVinci Resolve revolutionized our post-production workflow for the Disney+ film Safety. Owned and developed by Blackmagic Design, DaVinci Resolve is a non-linear editing application that also specializes in color correction. But, its features and abilities go far beyond that. 

It puts everyone on the same track. One of DaVinci’s more impressive features is its ability to integrate all of your departments into one clean interface, organized by pages. So, this means that color correction, editing, motion graphics, post audio, and visual effects aren’t only available in one place, but team members also receive live notifications for work completed by other members of their project. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to get all of your department heads on the same page with the click of a button. 

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BTS by Kevin Ruinard, Safety, Disney+

Disney films like Safety (directed by Reginald Hudlin) are usually known for their bright and saturated color palettes. But Safety even takes things a step further. Inspired by the true events of Clemson safety Ray McElrathbey, the story of Safety was about much more than what transpired on the field. We designed 2 unique looks and color palettes for the film. A gritty filmic Atlanta and a bright and dreamy Clemson University. Learn more about how we discovered and created these looks with our free lesson: Tiffen: Innovations for the Disney+ film Safety

Keep reading to see how DaVinci Resolve improved our post-production workflow. And — if you haven’t seen Safety yet, make sure to give it a watch over on Disney+!

Why Blackmagic DaVinci for Post-Production?

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DaVinci Resolve 17

As filmmakers, it’s important to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and pay close attention to the newest innovations in the industry. I appreciate the challenge of new software and technologies because they can end up making your life as a DoP a whole lot easier. That way, you can improve your mastery of the artistry and science with the latest devices that you can add to your toolbox. 

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BTS, Safety, Disney+

In this whole new era of digital capture, technology moves fast. With constant updates and new equipment replacing obsolete equipment, it can prove taxing. Which is actually a great reason to join our Hurlbut Academy community. (It’s the best way to stay on top of the latest tech trends and techniques in the industry.) I find that there are amazing developments that simplify your tasks while saving precious production money in the process. 

Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software is one such innovation that has shifted the paradigm. When Doug Jones first approached me with this concept, it seemed similar to what I had seen before with MOBA labs. But I quickly realized that DaVinci was taking things to a whole new level, synchronizing all of pre-production, production, and post-production into one simple system. This kind of efficiency has never existed to such a degree in the past. 

Unite All Departments Under One Vision with DaVinci 

Think about it — when you edit on Avid or Premiere Pro, you’re constantly transcoding media to adapt and work with your other files and devices. You have to input your sound and work on color correction, among other things, so it takes time and energy to work on all of these conversions. So, when Doug said that this overall plan would incorporate everything into one system, I couldn’t wait to apply it on a larger scale. 

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The interface is easy to use and lets you personalize your workflow to fit your needs.

Blackmagic Davinci Resolve Hurlbut Academy

You can start editing while your media files are still being recorded. DaVinci supports QuickTime PNG, uncompressed RGB 8-bit, and YUV 10-bit AVI, as well as for Panasonic 8K SHV clips. This also includes GoPro Cineform, mp3 on Linux, and HTJ2K. 

Blackmagic’s approach is reminiscent of Panavision and why they have been so powerful as a company and camera system. Everything that was part of Panavision’s camera ecosystem functioned with one another. All the gear and lenses fit correctly. The inner workings of the camera all connected perfectly as one complete system — with no third-party parts.

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Likewise, DaVinci is the central system that operates from an editing bay to a visual effects device and sound editing device. There are also useful communication tools that empower you by allowing the passage of information and updates to your team members. So, while working on Safety in post, we knew when VFX was updating the project so that we could prepare for color correction. Communication is the ultimate power. 

DaVinci Resolve Features 

As I mentioned above, DaVinci combines audio, color correction, editing, motion graphics, and visual effects into one hub. So, it’s convenient and all in one place! I really love DaVinci Resolve’s interface. It’s sleek, easy to navigate, and an all-around game-changer. 

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DaVinci Editing Suite

Here’s what the tabs look like for each department:

Davinci Resolve menubar

The images that you work with within DaVinci software are the original quality that you captured them at. The imaging technology is truly brilliant. We’re talking 32-bit float processing and patented YRGB color science. So, what does this mean for you? This gives you a much wider color gamut providing you with an impressive selection that’s ideal for the latest HDR workflows.


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Here’s DaVinci’s Wide Gamut Color Space
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We concocted color wheels for our own unique colors.

DaVinci doesn’t skip a beat with audio either. In fact, it delivers top-notch quality with Fairlight audio core processing and carries up to 2,000 tracks. 

Blackmagic DaVinci Gives Your Whole Team a Voice

One of the most challenging and gratifying parts of being a DoP is collaborating with a director to help convey their vision. This is actually true for all departments. Every department head breaks down the script for their own team, but DaVinci lets you unite all visions into one. This helps you avoid having 10, 12, or 30 different concepts for the movie rolling around. DaVinci created one communication channel where everyone could see it all live. 

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DaVinci supports Blackmagic RAW, ARRI, RED, and Sony camera files. This also includes Sony MXF, IMF MCA audio and non-HDR DCP export and HDR tags in DCP workflows. 

It’s important that everyone has a voice in the process. At this point, we have the ability to keep our metadata and track it, so how can we help the studio feel more informed and communicative? We’ve already doled out the look books that Reggie and I created with our Assistant Director (AD) J.D. Taylor

This was our master plan that we needed to communicate, but we also needed to ensure a line of communication to boost our creative collaboration. That way, everyone is aware of our look book by the time the dailies come in.

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In Atlanta on the set of Safety, Disney+

For example, while we were filming in Atlanta, we were able to process all of the dailies at lunch and again at wrap. So, our Disney executives were seeing our dailies by 4 o’clock on the West Coast. This means that the execs, producers, and department heads have time to watch what we’ve shot. Then, they could talk to Reggie and other producers to get everyone dialed in on one unified vision. 

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How does DaVinci Make On Set Workflow Better? 

To put it simply, we saved time and money. Due to our enhanced ability to communicate, we were able to rectify issues immediately. Now, because of our direct line of communication and the immediacy of this communication, we didn’t need to go back and shoot a single pickup shot. Yes, you read that right. 

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Chris Moseley preparing for the next take with the RED Gemini.

We had everything so organized, so thought out, and Blackmagic’s DaVinci was the genesis of this idea. And once I saw the power of it, I was just like alright let’s throw gasoline on this and start to get everyone in the channel of communication and begin bringing in editors, sound, and VFX that are proficient on Davinci.

Blackmagic DaVinci in Action 

When it came to the on-set application of the DaVinci Resolve software, it elevated our game. We were able to track all metadata coming out of the RED Gemini, then put it into our Raid system and up to Media Silo (or wherever your destination).

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Digital Asset Manager Michael Smollin

Our digital asset manager (DAM) Michael Smollin is also an amazing colorist. He became the epicenter of all pre-production and post. Michael had an HDR monitor so he double-checked my work and served as my second set of eyes in case I missed something. 

I, on the other hand, was on my Flanders DM250s in SD mode. So, Michael might suggest, ‘I would over-expose it a little more in this area or do something so we can blow that window out over there.’ And then I could make an adjustment accordingly. It’s the simple things that help later in the post-process, saving you money in VFX.

Our Post-Production Setup 

The editing suite bustled with our assistant editors all working in tandem. Our editor Terel Gibson was upstairs, we had our sound in one place, a couple of other assistant editors doing ADR, and then, Mike Smollin downstairs in the color bay. Every device was connected and we were working on the same project simultaneously. 

Terel Gibson editing on Davinci Resolve for Safety Disney+
Editor Terel Gibson

I can’t stress how valuable my collaboration was with Reggie. We continued our collaboration in post as he brought me in to do pre-color and comments. I worked through the whole color process (which was accelerated because we had to get it all set for Disney). This allowed the executives to look at the movie and see what direction they wanted to go. They tasked Reggie with providing the director’s cut, so he wanted to present it to them as close as possible to the final product.

That was one of the benefits of the DaVinci workflow. Time was of the utmost importance. We needed to be on the same channels and transcoding to save time. In the end, we whipped the pre-color together and delivered it to Disney, and they saw what was essentially a finished movie. That’s how good this workflow was. And we’re talking 3 months after the movie was finished. So, this was huge.

DaVinci Resolve is Perfect for Creativity

As I sat downstairs in the color bay and went through my process, I set a look at each scene and then started from the beginning and watched the whole reel. So, I watched reel 1, set the look, and then watched it again. And it’s on the rewatch when I begin taking notes. 

Here’s a look before the color

While I was working downstairs, Reggie was upstairs with our editor Terel cutting the movie and finessing it for the Disney cut (for the execs). Then, suddenly, Reggie began to see these icons appear on his edit timeline. And Terel said, ‘Shane just colored the sequence.’ And, so, they clicked it, and all of a sudden the timeline was color corrected.

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The second this happened, Reggie looked at the now-color-corrected scene. He was able to see it in a new light — both physically and figuratively. The tonality of the color helped germinate an idea for the montage where we rescued another scene left on the chopping block to be repurposed. 

Well, this sort of thing didn’t happen just once, it happened about 40 times! So, you start to imagine pre-color being infused into a timeline where everyone from VFX to sound and editorial is seeing this color firsthand. These serendipitous moments, these thoughts of creativity, of looking at the footage for months on end are otherwise lost. And the reason you’re losing out on this creativity is because you’re not reacting to the tones and color palette until it’s too late.

The Bottomline 

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My experience using Blackmagic’s DaVinci on Safety was a perfect case study for positive collaboration. I truly believe that being able to get feedback on our performance, like if we accomplish a really great shot, is a good way to get kudos and learn. You want to tell people they’re doing an amazing job. We want to be able to put our best foot forward with our channels of communication. Whether it’s good or bad, we want the feedback.

Are you curious about new technologies and methodologies to work without large groups? In a world of social distancing, there’s no better way to scout locations while saving money than with the Insta360. Hop on over to see my thoughts with Insta360: Virtual Scouting for the COVID-19 Era

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