I’ll be honest right off the bat in this article. I’m not a big color grader. I’m more a visual effects and compositing editor. That’s why, for the most part, the bulk of my editing and effects workflows have been in Media Composer and After Effects. You might be thinking, “well, why not Premiere?”. To be honest, I’m just not a big fan of the Premiere/After Effects workflow, as I find it clunky, and you’re still dealing with two completely separate applications, as opposed to one seamless workflow, so whether I’m using Media Composer and AE or Premiere and AE, it’s still a two horse show! Well, here comes the newest version of Resolve to change all of that. In public Beta right now, the newest version of Resolve includes an integrated version of Fusion, which for the purposes of this article I’ll refer to as Fusion 15, and it’s something that every editor who does any type of effects work needs to check out……..as soon as possible, so in this article, I’m going to give you a bit of a sampler as to the awesomeness that is DaVinci Resolve 15 and it’s new Fusion 15 graphics workflow.
We’re going to start out version basic in this course, so you get a very clear understanding of exactly how this workflow is going to work. First, let’s look at how you’re accustomed to doing effects work in the past. Now, keep in mind that we’re talking effects, and not color correction or color grading. The past workflow has been to open the Effects Library, choose one of the included effects that comes standard in Resolve, apply it, and make any adjustments inside of the inspector.
That workflow, for the most part, needs to be purged from your memory, as the effects workflow of the past, and the effects workflow of the future really don’t mesh that well together. Fusion 15 should be your only workflow now inside of Resolve. To be honest, in the past, it was not the greatest of workflows, but in DaVinci Resolve 15, it’s one of the smoothest workflows you’ll find, and sets the new standard for motion graphics/visual effects integrations in non-linear editing applications. What’s very interesting is that effects in your timeline and effects inside of the Fusion 15 module of DaVinci Resolve 15 seem to be on two different continents that can’t see each other
YOU MUST UNLEARN WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED
Never have the words of Jedi Master Yoda been more important than they are now. Fusion 15 will change not only the way you work, but the way you think about motion graphics and visual effects as well. You can work with effects the way you did in the past, but with many Open FX filters, you’ll be missing out on some extra bells and whistles that you don’t have access to in the edit module, but we’ll get to those a little later on. Let’s take a look at the Fusion 15 workflow, and how it differs from the standard workflow, and I am going to use a workflow example of working with Mattes, as it’s one that has drastically changed since the inclusion of Fusion 15 inside of Resolve.
In the past, if you want to do a simple matte key, it was a bit of a convoluted process. First, you had to import your element as a “Matte”. Then, inside the “Color” module, you would add the matte to your clip as part of the node. The process was fine, but it was also based on the fact that your Matte was exactly the same length as your clip, and wouldn’t need any adjustments after the fact. In the grand scheme of things, it left a lot to be desired from a workflow perspective. Now, I know you’re probably thinking “Well, you should have just done this in Fusion 15”, and yes, that was possible, but again, a workflow that needed more than a few steps to get it from Resolve to Fusion 15 and back again. Not any more. Here’s how the process works now.
First, select the clip you want to add your Matte to. I’m going to pick the middle clip in this three edit sequence.
Then, people might think that you’ll right click and select “New Fusion Clip…”, but that is the way of the past. You’ll now notice a new module shortcut at the bottom of the screen with the shortcut of a magic wand.
This is now how you get your selected clip from Resolve into Fusion 15. That’s it. That simple. Simply hit the shortcut, and now Fusion 15 will open right from within Resolve, and load the selected clip for you, to start compositing. Keep in mind that Fusion 15’s workflow hasn’t changed. It’s still a single clip compositor, meaning that you’re compositing one master clip at a time. Not like in After Effects, where you’re loading up “sequences” of clips to work on. If you want to bring in more than just one clip into Fusion 15, you’ll have to create a Compound clip, and bring it in that way. Now that we have our clip inside of Fusion 15, let’s talk about adding a Matte to it, as well as a background color clip.
If you’re unfamiliar with Fusion 15’s (or any other compositing application like it – i.e. – Nuke, etc), the way that it works is that when a clip is imported into it, much like what we have done here, minus the actual import of the clip, you will see your clip as a node, and an output node, with a connection between the two of them.
As I mentioned before, you needed to do a little prep work when working with Mattes inside of Resolve. The process is definitely not the same here. Once inside the Fusion 15 module, you can access the Media Pool by simply clicking on the “Media Pool” button in the upper left corner of the interface.
Now, just drag the elements you want from the Media Pool, into your “Nodes” window, and you’ll notice each element appear as a separate node for you to work with. My biggest beef with the Fusion 15 integration inside of Resolve is that when clips are brought into the Nodes window, they aren’t given a name to reflect the clip name, which is super annoying, and hopefully something that is resolved before it’s final release. It’s not that big a deal if you’re working with a single clip of video, but once you start bringing in multiple clips/elements you’ll want to be renaming your clips, and that can be done easily using the keyboard shortcut of F2. I know you might be thinking that it’s not that big a deal to be hitting F2 to change your clip names, but this is something, in my opinion, that should be done by default when dragging new clips in. To be honest, though, this drag and drop workflow to get clips into Fusion 15 is super quick, super simple, and probably one of the smoothest workflows I’ve come across in a compositing application. Keep in mind, these clips will not appear in your timeline. Only in your Fusion 15 Module. Okay, we’re now ready to start adding Nodes to create our Matte Key effect in Fusion 15, so what node(s) do we need, and how do we get access to them. Well, let’s find out now!
There are a couple of ways to get access to the Effects (Effect Nodes) inside of Fusion 15. One way is to head up to the Effects Library in the upper left corner of the screen.
This is a good workflow if you don’t know what effect node you’re looking for, or just want to scroll through the included or 3rd Party Open FX effects that you have on your system. To be honest, though, once you get rolling, you’ll want quick access to these effect nodes, and the quickest and easiest way to get access to them is to, with the Nodes window active, use the keyboard shortcut of SHFT+Space Bar.
Once the Select Tool window appears, you’ll notice that you can now scroll through hundreds (or more, depending on how many effects you have on your system) of different Effect Nodes to find the one you want. Let’s be honest, though, this is the same workflow as using the Effects Library, and what you really want to do with this window is simply punch in the effect node you want, and you’re all set to go. To take that concept one step further, if you have the node selected that you want to apply the new effect node to, once you select it from the Select Tools window, it will automatically be applied to the selected node! The effect we want for the Matte Key effect is called “Channel Booleans”. Don’t confuse this effect with “Channel Boolean” singular, as they are two very different effect nodes. Once you have the Channel Booleans (CB) node in the Nodes window, you can attach connectors from both your main image and your matte to the CB node, and your matte is almost all set to go. However, there is one big issue that I haven’t mentioned up until this point. We’ve been working on this whole workflow, based on the assumption that the main clip in our timeline starts at its first frame and, to be honest, when does that ever happen? In our case, our clip starts at the frame 200 mark, and we know that because everything that is show to use in the viewer is a representation of what is happening with the clip in our timeline. You can even see the in/out points on the clip itself.
So what that means for us, is that any clip (or clips) that we want to attach to the main timeline clip have to be offset by however much handles we have on the incoming head of our shot, which in this case is 200 frames. This is actually very easy to compensate for. Simply select the clip you want to add a 200 frame start hold onto, in our case the Matte clip, and once selected, you’ll notice that in the inspector, there’s a parameter for “Hold First Frame”. Simply add 200 frames, and now your Matte will line up correctly with the shot in your timeline. Now let’s select the CB node, and set it up for our Matte. With it selected, simply change the “Operation” to “Multiply” and the “To Alpha” parameter to be either “Red/Blue/Green FG”. Any one will work. That’s it. You’ll now notice your matte appear properly in the viewer with a checkerboard background wherever the matte is supposed to be transparent.
One thing is also important to point out is that at any point in any composite that you’re doing, if you want to see the results of the work you’ve completed so far, if you select any node in your composite, you’ll notice a little drop down at the bottom of the node with two “buttons” a left on and a right one. They represent the left and right display, so you can always see your work in progress at any point in the node tree, by simply selecting what monitor you want to see your work on.
Now, let’s add our background. The Select Tool shortcut for a background is simply “Background”. Once you’ve added it, you can select it’s color in the Inspector (I’ll choose Red, just for the sake of seeing it easier), and now we’re ready to merge our Background and our Foreground. Not surprisingly enough, the node to merge clips together is simply called “Merge” again from the Select Tool shortcut. Once added, you can simply drag your “Background” node and your CB Node to the “Merge Node”, and Fusion 15 will automatically know which is which, and the absolute last step in the process is to attach the Merge node to your Media Out Node, and you’re done!
It might seem like a bit of a confusing process, but once you follow it through, you’ll have little to no problems. What’s also very cool is that if you want to adjust the size of the video, inside one of the matte elements on the screen, you can simply add a DVE node after your video clip (before the CB node), make whatever adjustments you want, and you’ll see the update immediately.
In the end, my biggest complaint about working in Fusion 15 is that the renders, which is required by everything you do in Fusion 15, as nothing is real-time, is brutally slow, and hopefully this is something the engineering team can work on, ‘cause this is a workflow I’m loving, as the power of Fusion 15 is Resolve is second to none! Thanks to Rampant Design Tools for the use of the Matte Element from Rampant Studio Mattes V2. You can download the free public beta, and the full version when it’s released at this link!
I have received no financial compensation from Rampant Design Tools or BlackMagic Design for the production of this article/tutorial. Opinions in this article, whether you agree with them or not, are my own!