RED 8K Reborn for Davinci Resolve
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
I've been shooting with RED 8K for almost four years now, including several feature films, numerous shorts, music videos and more so I'm very comfortable shooting with it. I don't store the larger productions myself, that's some poor Producer's problem but after numerous upgrades to my personal workflow I have gotten to a point where I'm comfortable working with 8K in post on smaller projects when I want to.
REDcode has made 8K very viable for productions around the world but post production was still best handled through a proxy edit to online finishing workflow, and the finishing often required quite a powerful workstation to cope with that final export.
However, that has been improved again thanks to the engineering team at RED, their latest SDKs have a new decoder in them. At first it was NVIDIA CUDA only but now it's available for Apple's Metal API which Blackmagic Design have included it in their latest version of Davinci Resolve 16. So that those of us with a more fruity based ProRes workflow can enjoy this new found speed.
This new SDK gives RED Rocket performance from just ordinary graphics cards over night, as a former computer scientist myself I'm blown away by the results of what is basically just a software patch. Not to mention the enormous cost savings to individuals and post-houses.
In case you are trying this new SDK out for yourself, you should be aware that to activate the new R3D Decoding engine in Davinci Resolve you need to switch it on in Preferences > Decode Options > Use GPU for R3D and switch it to Decompression and Debayer.
My machine is a quad-core i7 with a Radeon VII GPU attached running MacOS Mojave, so comparable to a low-end Mac Pro and as the new SDK contains a new Chroma Noise Reduction algorithm, I am switching to that and away from Resolve's Chroma NR as well. It helps with performance and I highly recommend it over Resolve's Chroma NR for any projects working with R3D footage from this point onward. These are the results I got from my testing today:
The most recent project here is called Life After Death and it did not need too much colour work applied but it was shot at 8:1 (Netflix minimum) so it put the most strain on the decoder. However, the export time dropped by over an hour, that will save a lot of time on future projects.
Winter Trees has a lot of grading nodes applied but it still showed a very solid drop in export time, in fact both Winter Trees and Life After Death saw their export frame rates quadruple.
Gabby had hardly any significant grading applied, it was kept as natural as possible with just basic correction and was shot in a much lower compression so it only saw its export frame rate just under double but that is still a significant improvement for free.
Obviously this wasn't rigorously scientific but I wanted to see how it affected real world finished projects which have all the grading tweaks, edits and so on applied, rather than some bespoke projects built only for testing. What's really interesting is the speed increases seem better for projects that have more grading done to them.
This really has changed the prospect for working with RED 8K, I'm aware of how much effort Blackmagic puts in to keeping up to date and getting these integrations right. Also a massive shout out and congratulations to the RED engineers, in particular Graeme Nattress as always. I look forward to seeing how this new SDK enhances workflows in other NLEs and suites.