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.
SPEED AND TIMELINE MATTERS
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:
DA VINCI RESOLVE
+ Fast, no render, real-time playback and exporting
+ Awesome tracking
+ linking feature
+ has file converter and EDL processor
– limited windows per node
– slightly cruder coloring
+/- Mac or Linux based
NUCODA FILM MASTER
+ 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