If you tried to set up a shared workflow when Resolve 14 Beta came out last May, or even when the stable release arrived last September, only to find using the terminal for command line control was a bit much, it might be time to take another look. While the biggest Resolve news lately has been the features coming with Fusion Integration (we'll be taking a deep dive into that this summer), and native DCP authoring (which does everything except the extFS formatting), there is another update that we want to call your attention to. In December, Blackmagic released a Resolve Studio update that made setting up a shared database easier than before, and the advantages it gives in the workflow make it well worth investigating. In this post, you'll find an intro to the shared database and five tips for using it in the most streamlined manner.
One of the first Resolve features any new user should get familiar with is database system Resolve uses for projects. Unlike every other piece of software we commonly use in post (FCP7, Premiere, Excel), which create project files, Resolve keeps all of its projects in a database. This is of course designed for facilities where multiple people are working on the same project at the same time and that database can be shared between multiple stations. The drawback is you have to get used to exporting a .drp file to back up to an external or share with a collaborator, which is just ever so slightly less intuitive than just sending a premiere project.
The benefit is that, when set up properly, you can have everyone working together at the same time. In the past, this typically involved having an engineer to set up and maintain the system. With the release of 14 last year, Blackmagic has put a lot of focus in making it easier than ever before to set up and use those shared user environments at smaller houses and even single operator shops, and the stealthy release of a dedicated app makes that even easier. While it can take a second to set up properly, once you do you quickly discover that it speeds up your day to day operations when can be great when you are under deadline or you simply want to get home earlier.
1. Using the new app makes everything easier
The key that has truly changed everything here is that simple Resolve project server. It is just so much easier to not have to launch terminal or have to copy and paste code with the worry of missing characters. Now, you simply fire up an app and walk through the process of setting up a shared server. It's not quite as easy as simply installing a one-off program, as you still need to understand a bit about your network, but the ease is something to consider. If you tried shared database work before December and thought "I'd like to have that feature but it's too complicated to set up," it is seriously time to look again. One key is to remember when installing is to "customize" your installation and click on "postgreSQL server" (pictured below).
2. Keep your media on a network
Because every user on the network is working in the same exact project file, the media needs to be stored on the network. You can't have the media on a local drive, since your machine will look for it on the local, and all the other machines will look for it on their local machines, and the system will get confused. You have to have network attached storage to make this work. This usually means something like Gigabit copper ethernet, but with the new iMac pro, and systems like the LumaForge Jellyfish working with Sonnet Thunderbolt 3 10GbE adapters, 10GbE copper might actually be an option that is affordable for the smaller post house soon. Grading over Gigabit isn't impossible, but it's not ideal (it works best with 1080p ProRes files, and 4K UHD ProRes Quattro files are just not going to happen), whereas 10GbE really does seem to be able to handle 4K footage for multiple users at once.
3. Work with an assistant in real-time
Once you are set up, you are good to start implementing some of the powerful tools for collaborative work. The initial methods we tested were mostly built around color grading only. For instance, the ability to be working on a shot, rough in the matte and then ask an assistant colorist to refine the matte and track it in another room. This is a great way for a properly trained assistant to learn and a tremendous time saver for the lead colorist who gets to spend more time interacting with the client and refining the grade.
It was only as we kept playing with the platform that we realized how powerful it is as edit and color schedules merge. It's not just that you can have an assistant colorist in another room cleaning up tracking, it's also that another assistant editor can be working in another room conforming a different timeline. For instance, if a new "revised" cut arrives, perhaps named "Final Edit Approved 7 We Mean It This Time Final Final Done." The AE preps it, then midway through your day, you can just switch to a new timeline without skipping a beat.
For facilities with edit and color in once house, you could realistically keep working on an edit in one room and the color in another, and our testing of this worked well. As much as we love Resolve, Fairlight isn't quite a ProTools replacement (yet, but we're super hopeful that it will be soon), but in our dream scenario, we are all working at once, with a director manically running room to room hearing tweaks and giving comments. Or, a "master" room set up for color and sound with freelancers moving in and out all day whlie the client (director, producer, agency) sits comfortably and reviews materials.
4. Use your chat window
It's awkward to open other chat apps with a client in the room. Even if Gmail is how you email the post supervisor with scheduling questions and you talk to the editor, it still feels "unprofessional" to switch to another application, and honestly, it's potentially embarrassing. What if the client sees over your shoulder that you subscribe to the Fruit of the Month Club email list? That's private information that you didn't want to share.
Building in chat along with the sharing tools helps tremendously for a team in different rooms to keep up to date with each other about what changes they have made and what needs to be made.
5. Faster internet required for bigger groups
One of the areas where we have done the most testing of this platform is in a classroom environment. When teaching a Resolve workshop, with 14 users on the network, a shared database is a great system for reviewing student work. You can easily open any of the students' projects on the teaching station to review it and make comments or suggestions, even demonstrating precisely how you go about implementing the change. They then have those changes already locally available to them without having to hand the project file back over.
However, to be clear, 10 to 14 users over gigabit ethernet does slow the system down no matter how fast your server. Perhaps with 10gig that will be a workable solution, but for where most copper networking is now, that's just not realistic. Right now, the limitations are really just in the network bandwidth for the vast majority of us who can't afford fiber. The coming wave of 10Gig copper, as users upgrade their machines to Thunderbolt 3 and hubs get upgraded, will rocket this function to a high level of usability.
Blackmagic is rolling out an intense release schedule at the moment, and it's nice to see that the sharing features first announced a year ago have continued to get attention. There are some features we would love to see (a shared to-do list where you could check off items would be amazing), but what we've already got here a major step forward not just for big facilities, but also smaller shops and the classroom.
Check out Resolve 14 Studio, $299 now at Adorama (which will almost definitely include an upgrade to Resolve 15 when that leaves beta), for more.