Resolve vs. Film Master

Da Vinci Resolve vs. Digital Vision Nucoda Film Master

Since Blackmagic Design came out with their Da Vinci Resolve, a grading machine WAY cheaper than Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master, there have been a lot of discussions about which is a better machine. I’ve worked with both. Granted, it was an old (and I mean, OLD) version of the Film Master that I used. I find the two machines to be extremely different from each other, but neither is better than the other. I believe each has its own particular forte, and depending on what kind of work I’m going to do, that I’d prefer one machine over the other.

What I’ve listed here aren’t the only features of the machines. That’d be too long a list to write about. These are just most of the features I often use for my projects.


The Resolve, is great for those properly planned projects. It’s a fast machine that even if you’ve got loads of material to grade, you’ll finish in no time. Even if you’ve got 4k material, with the right machine configuration, your project should still play real-time.

Though, seriously, everything has to be in order, for one to enjoy the fast features. I find Resolve’s conform page a bit… old fashioned. Its timeline only has one video layer, so, editing isn’t that easy. Well, sure, it’s not an editing machine. But, sometimes it’s a hassle to conform your clips when they’re not in the order you want. You can’t just drag and move clips around. If you want to, you have to take the clips out of the timeline, then insert them back where you want. Plus, you can only split clips in the Master Session and not in your other timelines. Oh, and, you know how, in the timeline, you can zoom in and out with the scrolling button in the middle of your mouse? I don’t get why it doesn’t zoom in or out where your curser is, but rather moves back to the beginning of your timeline when you do. I just find it annoying, especially when you’ve got a long timeline.

The Film Master, on the other hand, isn’t as fast, but can do multiple video layers in its timelines, making editing easier. Also, I find that feature particularly useful during online grades. The layers let me line up the new versions/renders of the scenes, so I can easily see what they changed and if my keys and windows are exactly the same.

Speaking of versions, both machines support having versions for clips, but Resolve has this neat exporting feature that gives you the option of exporting all versions, not just the active one. So, that’s another fast-and-easy feature for Resolve.


But, then again, even if Resolve is fast, I find the Nucoda can produce more polished and finer grades. Don’t get me wrong, the Resolve, being node-based offers flexibility that the layer-based Nucoda doesn’t. But, take, for example, windows. Resolve only offers 4 windows for each node, one per kind. So, you can’t have 2 circular windows in one node. Although you can put in a Key Mixer and combine the keys of 2 nodes into one. Also, its polygon window is so crude. That’s also why I grade differently with those machines. With the Resolve, I tend to use more circular windows, while in Nucoda, I use more polygons.

Resolve’s tracking feature is AWESOME. Occasionally, though, it just goes funky when there’s too much movement in your clip or if something passes in front of what you’re tracking. But, it generally does a better job than the Film Master.

Although Resolve does offer an automatic picker for certain hues, it acts the same way as a qualifier, so why bother having that feature when you have a qualifier, which you can access quicker with the panel, anyway? The Nucoda has the same hue-picking feature, “H-curves”, which takes the frequency range of each hue, and is as easily accessible in the panel.


Another thing that makes grading fast for resolve is its linking feature. It finds clips that have the same timecode or are from the same source and automatically applies the grading you’ve already made. This even goes across different timelines. So, if you’ve got multiple edit versions but they all have the same clips, You don’t have to reapply your grading. You can, of course, unlink your clips. Just righ-click: batch unlink OR batch copy. You should choose “batch copy” (I usually do), if you wanna keep the existing grades and just make adjustments without affect the other linked clips. Later versions of the Film Master do have clip grouping options but I’m not quite sure if it has ripple options like the Resolve, which can be very useful if you know how to use them properly but are very troublesome if you don’t.

I think, nodes are our future, plus points for Resolve for being node-based. As mentioned, it offers more flexibility, and also, better organization. However, it’s irritating sometimes, that the nodes can’t be labeled and are sometimes troublesome to link together.

Another little annoyance with the resolve, it doesn’t have an “append” feature. Either you apply everything in a saved grade or apply the nodes one at a time, if you wanna keep your particular nodes.

While the Resolve has its built in file converter (because it can’t work with certain file types) and EDL processor, it doesn’t come with a noise reduction feature. I believe because they packaged that with their Revival which you can link with the Resolve, but will have to buy separately. Sneaky marketing, no? Nucoda offers their noise reduction bundled with the Film Master.


Another feature that Nucoda offers, which gives you more than average looks, is Blend modes. Now, blend modes, you can’t get with just a simple mix of contrast, desat and such, because it requires some computations with the image data values that the computer does. And, if you’re looking for that “sleek-posh” or bleach bypass look, Nucoda’s overlay blend is a god-send. You can produce a similar look, I suppose, with the Resolve but, it’s just easier with the Film Master.

As compared to the Resolve, Nucoda has more coloring tools. Resolve has your basic wheels and balls, and also has curves, which I rarely use. Nucoda on the other hand, offers 3 modes (balance, color, brightness regions) per layer where you can use your wheels in slightly different settings, each having a “finer brush” than the previous. Not to mention it has knobs that actually shows you the frequency of your colors while you manipulate them. But, the Resolve does have these knobs that adjust your luminance levels WITHOUT affecting your saturation, which I find very useful at times.

What I find odd, and at times annoying, with Resolve is that its values go from zero to 100. ONLY. So, if, for example, I wanted to saturate, I can only go up to a certain saturation per node. If I wanted to saturate more than that, I’d have to put in another node. While with Nucoda, most of its tools aren’t limited to a certain value.


Let’s talk about their packaged panels. I think Nucoda’s panel is better engineered, although Resolve’s is by no question sexier. But I think when you color with the Nucoda panel, you look more impressive because it doesn’t have labels, and just sort of shows how much skill and very specialized coloring is, while the Resolve panel practically has a button for almost everything and is very much properly labeled, which makes it user-friendly for the newbie. But then, I think some of the buttons aren’t in the most convenient locations and could be arranged better for more comfort and speed for the colorist. This is more of a personal preference, of course.


Resolve is fast but has those little annoyances (that sums up to a big annoyance, sometimes). While Film Master offers a wide range of coloring tools but requires rendering and is hella expensive.
As a quick reference, and to sum everything up, here’s my list of pros and cons for each machine:

+ Fast, no render, real-time playback and exporting
+ Awesome tracking
+ Node-based
+ linking feature
+ cheaper
+ has file converter and EDL processor
– limited windows per node
– slightly cruder coloring
+/- Mac or Linux based

+ Finer, more coloring tools
+ Blend Modes
+ Multi-layer timeline
+ Multiple windowing, finer polygon
+ can read and work off on more file types
+ has noise reduction
– Rendering needed
+/- Windows based

*NOTE: Just a reminder, I worked with an OLD Film Master, back in 2009 – early 2010, and some of the negatives might have already been addressed in the later versions.

**NOTE: This was Resolve 7.0


11 responses to “Resolve vs. Film Master

  1. Good article although it would be interesting to know what version of Film Master you’re using? I’m on 2010_r401 and I have no issues with rendering. When I finish grading it’s rendered. My guess is that you either have background rendering and cache turned off or you’re on a much older version.

    On the latest version you have a 3D more similar to Resolve although it’s not yet quite as good. One interesting new tool is the I-Keyer, which is very similar to the D-Keyer in Baselight, and is fantastic.

    All in all a decent comparison.

    N.B. The new touchscreen panel blows Resolves away.

    • Thanks 🙂

      The Film Master I used before is ANCIENT. It’s embarrassing to tell you what version it was. In a forum we inquired in when we had a little trouble, I think he described it as a “Legacy”. haha! But, I miss grading with the Film Master, and I think if I liked the great-grand-daddy version, I bet I’d love the latest one. I’m quite intrigued with the I-Keyer that you’re talking about.

      • It would be well worth playing with a 2010_r4 or soon 2011_r1 as it has changed significantly.

        If you’re into a budget Nucoda then you should look at the Nucoda Fuse system. Does everything the full Film Master system does just within a more Resolve like price bracket and with a slightly different order of layering.

        Personally I’d love to see a Tangent Wave model out there. Great to assist on as well as prep projects, although they do have Nucoda Compose for that.

      • Oh wow. Thanks. I’ll look into that!

  2. Michelle Carlos

    Hey, Toni!

    This is a good article you wrote about the two systems. I can perfectly relate to what you were saying as I had a chance to use both Resolve and Film Master. And I could also easily point out the differences between the two–plus and minus points.

    Though I must inform you that the new version of FM 2010 is lightyears away from FM 3.2 and even Resolve 7 for that matter. Not sure about the latest version Resolve 8 because I heard great changes and new features in it. So looking forward to seeing that too.

    Nevertheless, I can assure you that some of the minus points you listed down against FM were already addressed like the group grade, versions, faster render (This is I think is a hardware upgrade issue. Besides, the Mac version will constantly need upgrading its GPU as well especially when hi-res projects are already building up, no?), I-keyer is really cool, and the new noise reduction DVO Clarity which does a superior job than Grain and a lot more. Plus the new and sexier Precision panel that will replace Valhall. FM 2011 is coming soon.

    If price is the issue (as always is), there’s an entry level Nucoda product which is the Fuse which I believe would level almost to a full system Resolve (Mac version with panel). Working with Resolve on a Wave panel is really frustrating (especially when you’re grading online)!!!

    Yep, I’m obviously biased but like I said, I used both systems and if you’re coming from a much more flexible and creative system like FM and then jump to Resolve which of course can deliver a good quality product, no doubt, as a colourist there will always be some features and even buttons that you will miss in other systems which then limits your creativity, if not, just gives you more work just to achieve one look.

    Cheers, Toni! Say “hello” to Aurie from me.

    • Hey Michelle!

      I know, the FM 3.2 is ANCIENT! Thank you for the added info on the FM 2010. I hope I get to try it out sometime.
      Yes, there will be a lot of changes in the Resolve 8. And, a lot of the negs I mentioned will prolly be addressed already. We’ll just have to wait and see!
      Come visit sometime! We’ll lunch or something! 🙂


  3. Michelle Carlos

    Oh, by the way, tracking in FM is just “Shift + Play” (or “Shift + Reverse”) on the panel, et voilà! Unlimited shapes running along the yard!


  4. wavecut

    Great article, thanks.
    I have two question with Film Master:
    1. how to make FILM MASTER shows the RGB Parade?
    2. how to turn on the HIGHLIGHT area show in the Key effect?

    • Hi wavecut!

      It’s been about a year since I touched Film Master, and all my muscle memory for the panel has been buried somewhere in my brain already 😛
      I’m trying to recall where they are.
      As far as I remember, the RGB parade viewing options should be on the right side of the UI. Note though, that I worked with a way older version, so I’m not sure if it’s still in the same place in the new versions. With the HIGHLIGHT button, I don’t know if I can help you there, I don’t know where to find it in the new panel, since I haven’t worked with it.

      Sorry if I wasn’t much help. Maybe you can contact Michelle Carlos. She works with the Film Master 🙂

  5. gabris

    those are very interesting informations I found in this article. Would like to ask a question Toni, the point you mention the ”Nucoda’s overlay blend is a god-send. You can produce a similar look, I suppose, with the Resolve” Can you plese suggest me some short tutorial how to produce this Nucoda overlay blend in Resolve? Im learning Resolve a month, taking a lot of Fxphd, Thx, Poynton knowhows, did one documentary in Apple Color 🙂 and grading day night to get into.
    Thanks and Cheers!

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