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How to Read Scopes in Resolve: Waveform, Parade, Histogram, & Vectorscope

Learn to colour correct with our free course DaVinci Resolve Colour Grading for Beginners. You'll learn how to use each important tool in Resolve, including how to set up your project using scene cut detection, how to get clean skin tones with noise reduction and how to create cinematic looks.

This lesson will teach you how to understand what you’re seeing in your scopes and how that relates to colouring in your video.

How to Read Scopes in Resolve: Waveform, Parade, Histogram, & Vectorscope

Scopes can be a little bit intimidating when you first start looking, but chances are you've come across scopes in one way or another if you're capturing video as a cinematographer or videographer. If you’ve done any post production colouring in Lumetri or Resolve, or if you've done photography, you’ll probably be familiar with a histogram; so you’ll have seen scopes before.

Let’s take a look at them so you can understand what each one does and how to read them. You might not be working on the best monitors in the world, they might not be good calibrated correctly; the really high-end colour grading monitors are upwards of $30,000 so most people are probably not using those! So, knowing how to use scopes is really important when it comes to colour grading because it’s actually showing you what’s in your image from a technical standpoint rather than just what you can see by eye. It’s also not just important for you, but for anyone else who might be viewing the footage on a different monitor; even if yours is high-end, theirs might not be, so it’s important to go by the data rather than by eye.

Scopes in Resolve

Here we've got Parade, Waveform, Vectorscope and Histogram. These are the main scopes that you’ll use throughout most of your colour grading process. Mostly, you’ll probably look at waveform and Parade and use those in conjunction with each other.

Parade, Waveform, Vectorscope and Histogram.Parade, Waveform, Vectorscope and Histogram.Parade, Waveform, Vectorscope and Histogram.
Parade, Waveform, Vectorscope and Histogram.

When it comes to skin tone, you’ll look at Vectorscope, and Histogram is useful to have up there, but it basically does the same thing as Parade and Waveform.

Qualifier

In the Scopes window, with the menu in the top right of the bar, you can do a one-up view of any of the scopes that you would like, same with a two-up view or a four-up view. You can turn a low pass filter on, which cleans up a little bit of the noise in the image, you can also turn on you can also turn on display qualifier focus, which is really handy for newcomers, especially if you're not too sure about scopes because it’s a good way to learn what you’re seeing in the scopes versus what’s in your image.

qualifier turned onqualifier turned onqualifier turned on
qualifier turned on

This is with the qualifier turned on, and if you run your mouse over the footage you can see that little circles appear on the scopes and that relates to what you’re hovering over in your image.

Here the qualifier is over the white shirt and you can see in Waveform there’s a circle over that big white section in the middle. If you’re just starting out it’s a really useful tool to have switched on until you get to grips with what you’re seeing.

the qualifier is over the white shirt and you can see in Waveform there’s a circle over the white section in the middlethe qualifier is over the white shirt and you can see in Waveform there’s a circle over the white section in the middlethe qualifier is over the white shirt and you can see in Waveform there’s a circle over the white section in the middle
the qualifier is over the white shirt and you can see in Waveform there’s a circle over the white section in the middle

Colourise

For each scope section there’s a little drop down for you to switch around what you’re seeing in which section and they each have individual settings as well, like Colorise to turn the waveform colours (RGB) off if you wanted to.

Waveform with Colourise switched offWaveform with Colourise switched offWaveform with Colourise switched off
Waveform with Colourise switched off

Here in Waveform (above) you can see it with Colourise switched off so it’s just showing the luminance relative to the RGB channels.

Here it’s showing purely the luminance channel, so effectively that’s the brightness of the image. Zero is absolute black, 1023 is absolute white. In the example footage, there’s nothing that's actually hitting black because it’s piece of log footage, so everything is pushed into the middle and it’s quite flat, which gives the most flexibility for editing.

showing the luminance channel rather than RGBshowing the luminance channel rather than RGBshowing the luminance channel rather than RGB
showing the luminance channel rather than RGB

Waveform and Parade

The Waveform is a graph that plots the luminance of each pixel against a horizontal position, in a nutshell! That means that the highest you can go in this section is basically the brightest pixel.

That's the luminance in the waveform and then the Parade is exactly the same thing, it's three of the exact same graphs next to each other but instead of measuring the overall luminance, it's measuring the luminance of the red, green and blue channels.

the luminance of blue is up because there’s a lot of blue in the highlights and you’re pushing highlights to bluethe luminance of blue is up because there’s a lot of blue in the highlights and you’re pushing highlights to bluethe luminance of blue is up because there’s a lot of blue in the highlights and you’re pushing highlights to blue
the luminance of blue is up because there’s a lot of blue in the highlights and you’re pushing highlights to blue

For the sake of it, let’s say you wanted to push the Gain to blue. You can see the luminance of blue is up, and that’s because there’s a lot of blue in the highlights and you’re pushing highlights to blue, and so the blue part of Parade goes towards the top of the graph.

Parade and Waveform are very handy to use in conjunction with each other.

Histogram

Histogram is basically the exact same thing as Parade and Waveform except it's turned on its side.Histogram is basically the exact same thing as Parade and Waveform except it's turned on its side.Histogram is basically the exact same thing as Parade and Waveform except it's turned on its side.
Histogram is basically the exact same thing as Parade and Waveform except it's turned on its side.

Histogram is basically the exact same thing as Parade and Waveform except it's turned on its side. On the left is absolute black, and on the right is absolute white. Then you have the levels for RGB too, so if you pushed up the reds, you’d see the red channel pushing towards white, increasing the luminance, and same thing with the other colours.

Vectorscope

VectorscopeVectorscopeVectorscope
Vectorscope

The Vectorscope is very different to Parade, Waveform, and Histogram, which are all relatively similar and plotting similar data. All of the pixels are plotted right in the middle of the graph, the little white splurge that you can see above. Anything exactly in the middle of the cross is absolute white.

The colour wheel is represented, and the letters in each segment stand for the colour: magenta, blue, cyan and so on. The further out towards the edge of the circle you go, the more saturation you’ll have.

Colour Space Limits

With a push towards magenta in the gain, you can see the blob in the middle of the Vectorscope is now coming out towards the magenta segment With a push towards magenta in the gain, you can see the blob in the middle of the Vectorscope is now coming out towards the magenta segment With a push towards magenta in the gain, you can see the blob in the middle of the Vectorscope is now coming out towards the magenta segment
With a push towards magenta in the gain, you can see the blob in the middle of the Vectorscope is now coming out towards the magenta segment

With a push towards magenta in the gain, you can see the blob in the middle of the Vectorscope is now coming out towards the magenta segment and you can see the colour in that blob now too.

with a push towards cyan and blue you can see it’s drawn a line out from the usual blob shape, and that’s because it’s pushing beyond the limit of the colour space availablewith a push towards cyan and blue you can see it’s drawn a line out from the usual blob shape, and that’s because it’s pushing beyond the limit of the colour space availablewith a push towards cyan and blue you can see it’s drawn a line out from the usual blob shape, and that’s because it’s pushing beyond the limit of the colour space available
with a push towards cyan and blue you can see it’s drawn a line out from the usual blob shape, and that’s because it’s pushing beyond the limit of the colour space available

Here, with a push towards cyan and blue you can see it’s drawn a line out from the usual blob shape, and that’s because it’s pushing beyond the limit of the colour space available.

If you change the Vectorscope display to CIE Chromaticity you can see the colour space you’re working in and what’s available to you. This is the Rec 709 colour space and you can see above that’s it pushed towards red, and if you pulled around to the different colours, you’d hit one of the lines in the triangle eventually and that’s the ‘invisible’ line you saw in the previous screenshot, demonstrating the limit of the colour space.

Skin Tones

The diagonal line that you can see in Vectorscope can be toggled off or on, and it’s a skin tone indicator line. For skin tone you’d ideally want to sit on or to the right of that line. If you have to push it one way or another, stick to the right because the left will add a greenish, not so nice tone to your skin.

Time to Colour Grade

That was an overview of scopes and how to read them. It’s really important to understand these before you start to colour grade, so click around in them and push the colours to see what each does and how that is displayed.

Once you’re familiar with them and you feel confident that you know what they’re showing you, you can start to move on to colour grading, which we’ll look at in an upcoming tutorial.

More Colour Grading Tutorials for DaVinci Resolve

About the Authors

Tom Graham created the video course that includes this lesson. Tom is a multi-skilled content creator with a background in commercial filmmaking.  

Marie Gardiner wrote the text version of this lesson and it was edited and published by Jackson Couse.

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