Davinci Resolve - A simple hardware set up

Black Magic's Resolve has fast established itself as the 'go to' product for the masses. The cynical amongst you (perhaps including me) might well feel that the free availability of the software may well be devaluing the skill set of the grader. Just because its free doesn't mean it bad, does it?
Peoples experience of DaVinci will more than likely have varied and this in my experience is down to the workstation it is running on and not understanding what is needed to enhance the experience and give that 'professional' feel to the product. Remember as well that there are differences between the Lite (free) version and the Dongled version.  

There are lots of forums and specialist web sites addressing alot of these issues but for me the needs of a Grading suite running DaVinci Resolve software systems can be looked at in a few simplistic terms/needs. So, very basically, without getting into too much detail..

  1. Environment
  2. Monitoring
  3. CPU selection, GPU acceleration and storage
  4. Control Surface

This is the most commonly over looked area of a grade suite. In a nut shell the room should be set up to a known lighting environment, that starts with colour temp which should be D65 or 6500K lighting. Runnning in tandem with this should be the wall covering which should not be reflective and ideally a mid grey to stop reflection and light dispersion. There are specialist paints that can be bought but some graders like to use material on the wall to ensure that light is dispersed rather than reflected.

Davinci needs to have a BlackMagic card added to it to allow a full broadcast quality signal to a broadcast monitor. For most people right now this will be a HD Monitor (even if working with 4K/5K images)
So starting with the I/O card. Most graders using a PC or MacPro Workstation will have a DeckLink 4K card of some description. This should work at either HDSDI or dual link depending upon image needs. The most important and the most expensive option is the Monitor. The SONY BVM Range of monitors is a standard weapon of choice here but will rush you at least £8K-£10K, some people have gone for the cheaper PVM monitors which are good but not actually a true Grade1 12bit monitor. Obviously once you have the monitor you then also need to calibrate it! Don't forget that a scope is also needed and should be external to the grading suite to ensure signals and colour spaces are true.

I haven't had too much experience with MacPro workstations but they in effect have the same needs as a PC (Windows or Linux) Starting with BlackMagic Config Guide you should be looking for a system that compliments your typical needs. So if you were mainly working with HDSDI material and perhaps the occasional 2K material then a simple workstation with a dedicated GUI card and dedicated GPU card will more than likely suffice and not break the bank. In essence the more GPU power you have, the greater the response you should get from the control surface (no lag in the image being updated when using the surface) and also the more nodes, or processes, you can add to an image and still achieve full frame playback.

MSI or rather a Nvidia GPU Card 
BlackMagic supply a list of GPUs they have tested and recommend in the config guide as well as suggested slots within the Z800 and Z820 workstations.
It is also worth understanding the need for playback data rates form your storage. A good SAS array with a sustainable data rate appropriate to your working media will be needed. BlackMagic have a useful storage data rate tool that is installed with the DaVinci software and will test your storage giving an indication of the performance it will give.

It worth noting that Black Magic say that there is very little difference in performance between the PC Windows and Linux boxes on basic setups (2 GPUs) and only when multiple GPUs are needed does Linux start to come into its own.

Control Surface
Rightly or wrongly this is perhaps what people judge a grade suite on. Davinci offer there own panel which comes in at around £14K. This has perhaps the best look as it is very impressive to look at, but at the other end is the likes of the Tangent Waves Panels which is around £1K and is very capable. The new modular Tangent Elements panel also looks great and has a look of the Baselight Slate and at shade over £3K for the ensure set up offers great value while still looking very impressive.

Control surfaces vary in prices, feedback and response. But most noticeably at the poor end of the surfaces is the Artist Colour Panel from Avid which would appear to be particularly disliked by operators.

This is just a personal note on DaVinci and there are much more in-depth blogs and websites dedicated to this subject. But if you need starting place I think the points I have listed above are fair. Workflow however for the Davinci is not the slickest, but as its so cost effective its something you have to learn to live with as an engineer.