Here’s an important tip when using “Optimized Media” in DaVinci Resolve to spare yourself the processing overhead of debayering raw media. This same tip also works for avoiding highlight clipping when you use the render cache. For those of you who don’t know, you can right-click a selection of clips in the Media Pool that are in one or more formats that are processor intensive to work with (camera raw clips, H.264, other intensive-to-decode media types), and choose “Generate Optimized Media” to have Resolve automatically create an alternate set of media files that let you work faster.
All Optimized Media you generate is compressed using whatever setting is currently selected in the General Options panel of the Project Settings. The default media format is ProRes 422 HQ.
Once you’ve generated optimized media for a set of clips in a project, the Playback > Use Optimized Media if Available setting determines whether or not you’re using Optimized Media, or the original media files that you had imported into the Media Pool.
When using Optimized Media, you can also reveal an additional column in the Media Pool’s list view, which lets you see which clips have been optimized, and which clips haven’t.
However, there’s a potential problem with using Optimized Media, which can be seen in clips with high dynamic range; the highlights of any image data with levels above 1023 become clipped. In the following screenshots, you can see the winter exterior has plenty of levels above 1023, as evidenced by the waveform below.
However, after optimizing these CinemaDNG raw clips, any attempt to retrieve the highlights above 1023 by lowering the Gain or Offset controls results in flat, clipped highlights, which can also be seen as a flattening in the waveform.
This, of course, defeats the whole purpose of shooting camera raw media in the first place. However, there’s a way you can generate optimized media that actually preserves these highlights, and that’s by changing the format used for optimization in the General Options panel of the Project Settings to “Uncompressed 16-bit float.”
Uncompressed 16-bit float is a proprietary DaVinci image format designed to preserve out-of-gamut floating point image data. The only downside to this is that by using Uncompressed 16-bit float to generate optimized media, you create larger optimized media files. However, you still spare yourself the processor overhead of having to debayer your camera raw media, and you preserve high dynamic range image data for grading. So, you might need to make sure you have fast hard drive storage, but you’ll still work faster.
Incidentally, the exact same issue occurs when using the Smart Cache, which generates cache media for timeline and grading effects that are too processor intensive to play back in real time, except you’ll need to change the “Cache frames in” pop-up in the General Options panel of the Project Settings to Uncompressed 16-bit float, instead.
Optimized Media and the Smart Cache are two of Resolve’s best features for letting you grade higher quality media on systems with lower processing power. If you’re careful about what media format you use, you can preserve the quality of high dynamic range media, and you can even use Optimized Media for finishing and final output.