It sounds like a trick, doesn’t it? A completely free version of one of the world-leading video editing suites. The great news is, it’s as good as it sounds, you can get a free download of Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve. So what’s the catch? Well, there’s a paid for version too: DaVinci Resolve Studio, with additional features. Let’s take a look at the differences in this DaVinci Resolve review, and see which will do the best job of letting you edit your films.
What is DaVinci Resolve?
Resolve is an all-in-one suite for editing your videos and audio. As well as being a non-linear editor, you can also do advanced colour grading and correction, audio processing and mixing, and motion graphics and special effects. One of the questions we get asked a lot is 'is DaVinci Resolve good?' and the short answer is, yes, whichever version you land on.
What Does DaVinci Resolve Cost? DaVinci Resolve Pricing
DaVinci Resolve 18 is completely free. It’s worth mentioning that even though DaVinci Resolve Studio has a buy outright, lifetime licence (currently $295/£255), it’s actually available for free if you buy certain Blackmagic products, so that’s something to bear in mind too, if you’re thinking about making a purchase.
2023 Review: DaVinci Resolve 18 Free vs Resolve Studio 18 Paid
A Quick Overview of the Headline Differences
Here’s a quick overview of the main differences of Studio compared to free DaVinci Resolve 18, but read on for a more in-depth review to help you make your choice.
|DaVinci Resolve (free)||DaVinci Resolve Studio|
|Resolution||Up to 4K UHD||32K|
|GPU rendering||Yes, single||Yes, multiple|
These are just the headlines, but let’s get into this a little deeper. As Studio contains everything that free does, plus more, it makes sense to talk about the additional options in Studio and how likely it is that you’ll need those for your current workflow.
DaVinci Resolve 18: Quick-Start Guide
Need to get started with DaVinci Resolve but don't know where to dive in? No stress; everyone has to start somewhere. That's why Tom created the quick start guide for beginners
DaVinci Resolve Free vs Paid: Main Features
Resolution and Frame Rate
Resolution is an easy one. If you’re working in 4K UHD or under, free Resolve will suit all your needs. However, if you’re someone who likes to shoot in a higher resolution so that you’ve got scope to crop in, or, you’re required to deliver in a resolution above 4K, then you’ll need Studio.
If you’re a film-maker, editor, or photographer, then you’ll probably know that each lens you use has a bit of a trade off, unless you pay a fortune for it. For example a wide lens can have an obvious curve on the horizon, some lenses can be prone to chromatic aberration, and so on. Built-in lens corrections take the profile of the lens you’ve used, and automatically ‘fix’ any anomalies caused by that lens.
In film-making, you’re quite often using a variety of cameras and lenses, so having the ability to auto correct and get all your footage looking ‘right’ can be quite important, particularly if you’re using ultra-wide angles like a GoPro for example.
If lens correction is essential for you, the bad news is it’s not a part of DaVinci Resolve free, and you’d likely want to go for Studio in this case.
In the not-so-distance past, the free version of Resolve didn’t support GPU at all, only CPU. Now, Resolve 18 (free) does support GPU rendering, and the difference between this and Studio is that Studio supports multiple GPUs as opposed to just the one like the free version.
What does all of this mean in practical terms though? Well, essentially, you’ll get a better performance out of your computer when using Studio, and you’ll have an easier time of playing back high resolution footage in real time without dropping frames.
DaVinci Resolve Color Grading for Beginners | FREE COURSE
Get stuck into color correction and color grading with DaVinci Resolve right away! This in-depth course explains everything you need to know about the color page in DaVinci Resolve. You'll learn the layout of DaVinci Resolve, how to set up your project using scene cut detection, how to read scopes in DaVinci Resolve, how to use noise reduction to get clean skin tones, and how to use film grain to get cinematic looks. If you've never opened DaVinci Resolve before, we promise you'll be on your way to being a colorist after this video!
DaVinci Resolve vs DaVinci Resolve Studio - Continued
Colour correction and grading is what DaVinci Resolve is best known for, and the great news is that most of the colour grading tools are available on both the free Resolve and on Studio 18. Where you’ll start to see differences, is that Studio has additional features, over 50 of them in fact, including 30 more FX, the DaVinci Neural Engine, and stereoscopic 3D. You’ll also benefit from HDR Scopes which can give you very detailed information on your colour space, particularly relating to ST.2084 – which is a slightly intimidating way of describing how luminance levels are represented in HDR formats – and HLG, the infinitely more comforting sounding ‘Hybrid Log Gamma’, which is an international standard for HDR formats.
It’s probably worth an additional note here to say that Studio also includes colour transformation scripts, which are a bit like LUTs – Look Up Tables – but are GPU accelerated pieces of code that work directly on your footage with some quite complicated maths. In a nutshell, it’s automated colouring, but fast and non-destructive.
If you’ve recovered from that influx of information then you can boil this all down to: if you’re doing regular colour correction and grading, free Resolve is absolutely going to have all the tools you need. You’ll only need Studio for this if you’re making very in-depth grades on incredibly high quality footage.
Audio is a big part of filming editing so you might want to know what your options are in Studio when it comes to additional Fairlight tools. The differences between DaVinci Resolve and Studio when it comes to audio are:
- Immersive 3D audio
- Dolby Atmos Mastering
- Remixing External Productions
- IMF Audio Deliverables
Other than that, you'll find quite Fairlight is probably more than you'll need even in Resolve free, if you're doing run-of-the-mill audio editing.
To be clear, here ‘noise’ refers to visual, digital noise, rather than cleaning up audio. DaVinci Resolve free has some noise reduction options, it would be a huge and probably deal-breaking omission if it didn’t. The issue though, is you need to do this manually or via a plugin, rather than with a built-in tool, which, you guessed it, is part of Studio.
Resolve Studio promises ‘advanced’ noise reduction. You can reduce noise via Temporal Noise Reduction which looks at frames from your footage to identify what is detail and what is noise, and then makes adjustments based on that – usually most heavily in areas that don’t move, like the background. And Spatial Noise Reduction, which smooths out areas of noise based on neighbouring pixels.
If you’re shooting in low light at high ISOs often, you’re going to need some good noise reduction tools, so Studio is your best bet here. If you film at low ISOs all the time and visual noise has never been an issue, you’ll be fine with the free version.
"Once you’ve learned how to use DaVinci Resolve and gain more experience, you can move up to DaVinci Resolve Studio." - Blackmagic Design
For almost all film editors working in 4K or under, DaVinci Resolve free will be absolutely fine. It’s packed full of amazing tools to give you full control over your workflow, including the dedicated audio editor Fairlight, and Fusion for motion graphics and FX. It’s a phenomenal suite made even more incredible by the fact that it’s entirely free.
If you’re a professional editor who’s dealing with a lot of high-end, high-spec jobs for broadcast, you might want to investigate Studio. Even with the price tag of £255, the fact that it’s buy outright and you get all the future updates included makes it a bargain. Then there’s the added bonus of Studio being included if you purchase certain Blackmagic products. If you were considering buying a new camera and you need DaVinci Resolve Studio, then it’s not a great leap to imagine that getting the camera and having the software included as a freebie, would be a good decision.
When it comes to things like encoding, real-time playback, working in high-resolution, advanced colour grading, then you’ll find DaVinci Resolve Studio 18 is the best choice for you. If you’re a beginner to intermediate film editor working in lower resolutions – and remember, that’s still up to 4K! - then you’ll find everything you need in DaVinci Resolve 18 free. If you’re still uncertain, give the free one a try and if you start to find limitations with your workflow, you can always upgrade to the DaVinci Resolve full version.
Looking for DaVinci Resolve Templates or LUTs?
We have a huge selection for you over at Envato Elements, where everything is included in a monthly subscription, so you can download and try as many as you like! Here's a great example of what you can find.
Cyberpunk Film Luts Pack V2
Try this pack of Cyberpunk themed LUTs for DaVinci Resolve to give your colour grading a professional, and speedy, edge! Instantly add deep, rich colour to match the mood of your film.
Learn More About DaVinci Resolve
Check out some of our free tutorials, articles and template recommendations to help you get the best out of your video editing.
- How to Make a Custom LUT from Your Grade in ResolveTom Graham04 Apr 2023
- 15 Top Transition Templates for DaVinci Resolve (3 Free)Marie Gardiner12 Dec 2022
- How to Use the Halation Effect on Background Lighting in ResolveTom Graham05 Apr 2023
- 3 Top Product Promo Templates for DaVinci ResolveMarie Gardiner22 Dec 2022
- 26 Top Free Graphics, Titles, Projects, and Transition Templates for DaVinci ResolveDuncan Clark01 Nov 2022
- How to Export Premiere Pro Projects to DaVinci Resolve for Colour GradingMarie Gardiner13 Sep 2022
About This Page
This page was written by Marie Gardiner. Marie is a writer, author, and photographer. It was edited by Gonzalo Angulo. Gonzalo is an editor, writer and illustrator.