How to Use DaVinci Resolve 17: Beginner Editing Guide

DaVinci Resolve 15/02/2022 6 min read

In recent years, DaVinci Resolve has been steadily gaining interest from professionals and hobbyists alike. Fueled by a surprisingly capable free version, and the constant addition of new features, the software is now more popular than ever. Not only will you find a complete set of user-friendly video editing tools, but there are also audio mixing and visual effects compositing workspaces! 

Whether you are new to video editing or looking to jump ship from another piece of software, this tutorial will show you how to use DaVinci Resolve to get you up and running fast. We are going to be using DaVinci Resolve 17.4.3 (that’s the free edition, Studio is the paid version), which can be found for download here.

How to Edit & Export in DaVinci Resolve 17

In just a handful of steps, you’ll go from opening DaVinci Resolve the very first time to sharing your finished video project. You can use any footage you’d like for this tutorial. But if you need some clips to experiment with, you can find visually stunning stock footage on Motion Array

Step 1: Create a New Project & Import Media

DaVinci Resolve’s project management is based on a disk database. What that means is, rather than saving individual project files onto your hard drive and keeping tabs on where they live, all of your projects are stored in a central location within your computer. Within a database, you will create projects, where all of your footage is stored, and create timelines where you will be doing the actual editing.

The first time you open DaVinci Resolve, you will land on the Project Manager page. Once you are in a project, you’ll need to first confirm a few settings before importing your media.

  1. Open DaVinci Resolve.
  2. From the Project Manager, select New Project.
  3. Give your project a name.
  4. Open Project Settings, which is the cog icon in the lower right of the interface.
  5. You will need to set your Timeline Frame Rate. This defaults to 24 fps, but ideally, you will change this to match the majority of your footage (such as 23.976 or 25 fps). 
  6. If you change the timeline frame rate, change the Playback Frame Rate and Video Format tabs to match.
  7. If you don’t know exactly what these settings should be, don’t worry. You’ll have another chance to alter the frame rate when you import your footage.
  8. On the Cut tab, go to the menu bar and select File > Import > Import Media
  9. You’ll be greeted by a Finder window. Here, you’ll navigate to where on your computer your footage is stored, to bring into your project.

Step 2: Add Trimmed Clips to the Timeline 

Your imported media will appear in the Master Bin. To begin editing, you will need to mark your footage. This way, you are only moving useful media onto the timeline for editing. You can mark your footage two different ways:

  1. Hover your mouse over each clip’s thumbnail and scrub the footage.
  2. Press “I” on the keyboard to mark an in-point, the place in the footage you would like to start with.
  3. Press “O” on the keyboard to mark an out-point, the point in the footage you would like to end with.
  4. Click-and-drag the thumbnail onto the timeline to make an edit.
  5. Alternatively, double click a shot you would like to load into the viewer to review. The same I and O keyboard shortcuts apply, mark a clip, and click-and-drag the monitor image onto the timeline.

To review your edits, click on the timeline, drag the playhead to the beginning of the timeline, and press the Spacebar for your rough cut to start playing. To build an assemble edit, watch, and log all of the clips you’ve imported into your project. To change the length of a shot (make something longer or shorter), hover your mouse at the beginning or end of a clip in your timeline to trim any of your shots.

Step 3: Add Text & Titles

DaVinci Resolve includes two different text tools: Text and Text+. Text is for quickly generating 2D titles. You can change fonts, add a drop shadow, and even add a colorful background shape to help separate the text from the video. Text+ is a more sophisticated tool based on Blackmagic’s compositing software Fusion

Titles can be either 2D or 3D, can feature dynamic lighting, 3D shapes, and particle effects. Text+ titles certainly have more possibilities but can take a very long time for your computer to render, and isn’t the easiest tool to learn.

  1. Open the Titles panel, found in the top-left of the interface.
  2. Click-and-drag “Text” (fifth option from the top of the list) into the timeline. Be sure to place the title above your video on a new layer.
  3. Select the title you want to edit. 
  4. Open the Tools Belt found just underneath the video window.
  5. Open the Titles sub-menu (farthest to the right), and open up the Inspector
  6. In the Inspector, you can adjust font attributes, drop shadow, and background shading. 

One “gotcha” to note: Be sure to double-check that you’ve selected the right title before editing! You have to manually click on the title in the timeline first. It’s very easy to start typing in the Inspector and realize after the fact you’ve edited a title that is elsewhere in your project.

Step 4: Add Transitions 

While most video production relies on simpler transitions, such as a fade-to-black, or a cross-dissolve, you’ll find quite a number of useful transitions pre-built and ready to use. The push and slide transitions can add some nice momentum to production, and the smooth cut tool morphs together neighboring frames in an attempt to hide jump cuts!

  1. Move into the Edit page by clicking the word “Edit” on the ribbon toolbar.
  2. Open the Effects Library panel, in the top-left of the interface.
  3. Under Video Transitions, click-and-drag the Cross Dissolve transition onto the timeline, place your mouse between two pieces of video.
  4. Click on the transition icon in the timeline.
  5. Open the Inspector panel in the top-right of the interface.
  6. In the Inspector, consider adjusting the length to 8 frames.

In the Inspector, you’ll find all kinds of useful things to edit and adjust to ensure your transitions match the mood of your project. Adjust how long, or short, a fade is. Is the fade gradual, or linear in acceleration? You can even change the transition type after-the-fact in this panel, so start experimenting!

Step 5: Add Effects 

DaVinci Resolve comes bundled with many high-quality plugins for adding effects during video editing. This is where you will notice limitations in Resolve vs. Resolve Studio (the paid edition).

The free version of the software comes with far fewer options than that of the paid. Don’t fret though, there are still a large number of effects to learn and explore here, and perhaps after playing around, you may decide the extra ones are worth the price of admission.

  1. Within the Effects Library, navigate to OpenFX.
  2. Scroll down to Vignette. Click-and-drag the effect from the list and apply it to a piece of video.
  3. Open the Inspector, select the video clip with the effect applied, click the “OpenFX” tab to modify the effect parameters.
  4. Click the little trash-bin icon in the same menu to remove the effect
  5. (Optional) Consider adding an adjustment clip to the whole timeline. Under Effects Library > Effects > Adjustment Clip, drag that effect to a new layer in the timeline. Re-add the Vignette effect, but this time, apply it to the Adjustment Clip. This way, you can apply an effect to an entire timeline at once, rather than one clip at a time.

You can also start to supercharge the software by adding templates and macros.

Step 6: Add Music & Audio

For this section, return to the Cut page. You can add your own music by importing it the same way you added videos in step 1. Resolve doesn’t come with any stock music as some other popular editing applications do, so head on over to Motion Array and grab some free sample royalty-free music to experiment with.

  1. Import music, just like you would import video by following step 1. 
  2. Drag-and-drop your desired music from the bin into the timeline.
  3. To adjust the volume, click on the audio piece, open the Tools Belt, and move into the Audio tab. 

There are certainly more advanced audio features in the form of the Fairlight tab, but most basic audio and music tasks can be accomplished within the Cut and Edit pages.

Step 7: Color Correction

Jump over to the Color tab. While it may look a little intimidating, the basic features are straightforward to use. Most of what you are looking for is in the bottom-left of the interface, the primary color corrector. 

  1. Note that every shot edited in your timeline appears here as a thumbnail along the middle toolbelt. Click on the first shot you want to color.
  2. The crosshair with a black box is the Black-Balance Tool. Use this and select an area in your shot that ought to be black to set the level. 
  3. If your shot crushes too dark, click and drag the Lift slider (underneath the trackball) to bring back detail.
  4. Similar process for the highlights, use the White-Balance Tool, found near the bottom left of the Color page, on an aspect of your image that ought to be white (usually a piece of paper). 
  5. If your shot is too blown out, click and drag the Gain slider to bring back detail.
  6. The Sat value (default at 50) controls how much color saturation is in your image. Click and drag the “50” value with your mouse to add and remove color globally in the image.

If you want to dive further into the world of color grading in DaVinci Resolve, we’ve got just the tutorial for that.

Step 8: Share Project

Head back over to the Cut page once you are happy with your edit, titles, transitions, music, and color! Here, you’ll have the option to publish right to Vimeo, YouTube, or to save a standalone movie file onto your computer.

  1. Move into the Cut page. 
  2. Click Quick Export found in the top right of the interface. 
  3. Select H.264 > Export
  4. Save the file to your preferred folder on your computer. 

While it exports, Resolve will have a status window in the progress of your render. Once that’s done, your movie is ready to share with the world. Learn more about the exporting options available to you in this tutorial.

And there you have it! That’s an overview of how to use DaVinci Resolve and get started creating your first project in it. While the program may seem intimidating, with just a couple of mouse clicks, you can get started with video editing and making your own projects!