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With the release of DaVinci Resolve 12, a few things got changed and what I’m about to show you might be very interesting especially for some Canon shooters who use their cameras for time-lapse photography.

The new feature introduced in version 12 is a native support of CR2 file format which is Canon RAW format. What it means is that we can directly import a sequence of CR2 files into DaVinci Resolve and use it as a regular media file in our timeline! Now, why is it so interesting? Because it’s FAST!

Old school After Effects workflow

The most common workflow for processing time-lapse image sequences uses After Effects which can import CR2 files directly, but anyone who tried that knows that it takes AGES to process it. The playback takes a few seconds to render each frame and we have to spend a lot of time just to be able to preview some of our media.

In DaVinci Resolve, on the other hand, I was able to get 12 FPS playback! When I enabled caching it took maybe a few minutes to render the whole thing out, and I could grade the footage with the real-time playback!

Conversion to DNG

Unfortunately, DaVinci Resolve doesn’t support any other RAW format other than Canon’s CR2 and Adobe’s DNG, so if you shoot something else than Canon you have to go through some intermediate process. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to convert any RAW format to Adobe DNG. The speed benefit is lost, but after the footage is converted to DNG we still have the flexibility of the RAW format and we can still adjust the camera RAW settings like white balance, etc. It’s certainly different than converting CR2 files in After Effects into, say, ProRes 422 HQ clip because then we lose the RAW flexibility.

The conversion to DNG format can be done from Lightroom or from a FREE program called Adobe DNG Converter. It can be downloaded here:

Comparison

For the test, I used two timelapse sequences shot on Nikon D800 (converted to DNG) and the other one shot on Canon 5D Mark III (CR2).

I loaded both image sequences into After Effects, created comps for each and checked the playback speed:

The CR2 sequence shot with Canon reached 0.25 FPS, which means After Effects needs around 4 seconds to render each frame. One minute sequence will render for 96 minutes… (assuming 24p). The other sequence played back much worse:

Not sure why – maybe the scaling + 36 Megapixels pictures from D800. With this frame rate, it would take ages to render it. Let’s have a look at the CPU & GPU activity while After Effects is rendering them:

We can clearly see that the processing is done exclusively on CPU. GPU is idle all the time.

DaVinci Resolve

After loading the same sequences into DaVinci Resolve here’s what we get:

And this is with the default Camera RAW settings. When we start adjusting the settings, adding more corrections and even OFX plugins we still get this:

The incredible difference compared to what we had in AE. Let’s check the activity of the GPU:

DaVinci Resolve can make use of the GPU 100%. The usage of the GPU is 100% all the time, together with a very high usage of CPU it delivers stunning performance compared to AE.

Caching

Enabling the Smart Caching in Resolve allowed me to get smooth real-time playback after a few minutes of waiting. After that, I could grade the footage without any disruptions like any other video format. NICE!

Sony A7R II

Out of curiosity and due to the popularity of Sony A7R II I wanted to see if the above workflow will work with this camera too. Sadly, I don’t own the camera, but for the test I downloaded a still frame in RAW format from photographyblog.com, converted it to DNG and copy&pasted it 250 times to get a 10 seconds sequence. The interesting part was also the fact that the new Sony camera features over 42 MP sensor so each frame holds much more data than the ones from Nikon and Canon in the earlier tests.

After loading the sequence into Resolve and trying to play it back, the results were more or less the same as before. After grading the footage, I was still getting around 4 frames per second.

Summary

While the After Effects workflow can still be superior in many cases, the Resolve workflow makes much better use of the hardware and when our computer is equipped in a good graphics card then we can get enormous performance improvement in the time-lapse frames processing/rendering.

The key benefits are:

  1. Speed (GPU acceleration)
  2. Resolve 12 is FREE
  • Jannik

    Great article, this’ll make my timelapse workflow a lot easier than before with the Adobe software. Thanks a lot! If you want to check out my timelapse work, I’ve a video here, maybe you’ll want to give your opinion ;): http://youtube.com/jannikfilms

    • Thanks for the comment, I’m glad this post was useful for you. I had a look at your timelapses, and I really liked the mountains of Austria! 🙂

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