Using Color Trace in DaVinci Resolve – Part 1

Using Color Trace to Copy Color Grades in DaVinci Resolve – Part 1

May 3, 2014

Learn how to copy color corrections from one timeline to another timeline using Color Trace in DaVinci Resolve.


How to Use Color Trace in DaVinci Resolve

Earlier this year Team MixingLight co-produced a music video to use as source material for our upcoming DaVinci Resolve 11 training (more details on that in a few weeks).

Dan Moran agreed to do the color grade for the band’s version.

After doing his initial grade, Dan then passed off the DaVinci Resolve project to me—since I have the Sapphire OpenFX package for Resolve and we wanted to add additional lens flares. After watching down the music video I also thought the blown-out windows (which are prominently featured) could benefit from more VFX’y highlight glows… to make them seem more intentional.

This week, Dan got me his final grade – in the form of a Resolve .drp file – and I realized he had graded off the ProResLT proxies.

From Proxy to Camera Masters

Not a big deal, to relink the Resolve project from the proxies to the camera original masters, correct?

Well… think again.

Dan set up his color grade like every other grade he does… which is to say, he used Resolves deprecated Master Session workflow—and with the Master Session workflow, merely deleting the source footage and re-adding that footage into the Media Pool? Well, that doesn’t work.

Master Session Bug-a-boo

If you’re not familiar with Resolve’s Master Session workflow (or unfamiliar with how to enable that workflow in Resolve 10), then watch this Insight about enabling the Master Session in Resolve 10 and then watch this Insight about why the Master Session workflow is so powerful.

The problem with the Master Session workflow is that our color grades don’t exist in our conformed timelines. Rather the shots in our timelines ‘window’ through to the Master Session. Due to the nature of the Master Session, if you delete the media from the Media Pool you delete the footage from the Master Session and you delete all the grades from the Master Session!

The result: Your grades completely disappear from your timelines.

Change Source Folder: One Workaround

To workaround this Master Session bug-a-boo I could go through and use the ‘Change Source Folder’ command. But this has to be done on a directory-by-directory basis. And with the camera original footage scattered across a dozen different ‘cards’ of folders… this is a tedious process. I prefer doing things in a more automated manner.

And Resolve has a great feature that would automate this process for me very easily: Color Trace

Color Trace to the Rescue!

The concept of Color Trace is simple: It allows us – either manually or in an automated manner – copy color grade, shot-by-shot between timelines… even if those timelines are in different Resolve projects.

My solution was to re-import the XML of the edited music video, pre-populate my Media Pool with the camera original footage (a mix of RED .r3d and ProResHQ from several Blackmagic cameras) and use color trace to copy Dan’s grades into this new, high-resolution timeline.

Color Trace in DaVinci Resolve

Log in to watch this video for an introduction into Resolve’s Color Trace function. I demo how the Master Session workflow prevented me from merely deleting the proxies and adding the camera original footage. And then I show you how to invoke the Color Trace command, the various aspects of the Color Trace window and help Resolve sort out a few shots it was confused with (and why it got confused in the first place).

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Homepage Forums Using Color Trace to Copy Color Grades in DaVinci Resolve – Part 1

  • Couldn’t you have relinked the ProRes LT in the MediaPool to the ProRes HQ without deleting the media?


  • Yep, I just tried it. Without having to Color-trace I can relink to clips with the same filename in a different folder with the ‘Change Source Folder’ command and my grades stay intact. I notice that Resolve does not update the codec metadata field. I think the Color-trace technique has a few advantages, because it is based on timecode and not filename. I think is might be nice to see a tutorial on Color-tracing to ASC CDLs stored in the comments field of an Avid EDL. Including how to pass the CDL values from the SOP and SAT columns into the EDL.


  • OK, I just read your point about the Change Source Folder being tedious because of lots of potential source folders. Agreed.

  • Patrick Inhofer


  • Patrick Inhofer

    Correct. Change Source Folder doesn’t lose the grades… but can be *extremely* tedious if your camera original footage is coming from a dozen different source folders – as happens frequently with today’s digital acquisition. Of course, if you have an assistant then it’s no sweat off your back 🙂

    In this case, Color Trace was the quickest (but not the only) solution.

  • Dylan Hopkin


    I haven´t tried this out in Resolve, since I haven´t got Resolve on this computer, but . . .
    Since Dan graded using “remote versions / grades” in the timeline he did the actual grade.
    Clips indicated with (R)

    What if you select all clips in the Color-timeline, right click and choose “copy remote grades to local” before you delete the media in the media-pool.

    This should “cut” the connection between the remote-versions in the master timeline and the grades in the “grading timeline” which now are local, and therefore independent of the master timeline grades. Should work in theory.
    I´ll try it out as soon as I can.

    Just thinking out loud B.)

    // Dylan
    Twitter: drhopkin

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Hi Dylan!

    That’s actually a great idea. And it should work.

    Of course, if I had thought of that we wouldn’t have a Color Trace Insight… but it goes to show how mature Resolve has become. One problem, several solutions.

  • Dylan Hopkin

    The Color Trace Insight is still useful, it´s a great option when you need it.

    Just thought of a possible way to relink to higher quality media (other than the ProresLT media).
    Make a new bin, import the full quality media in to this new bin.

    Right click the graded timeline in “timelines” and “Reconform from bin(s)”.
    Tell Resolve to use the media from your new bin containing high quality media for the conform.
    If duplicate media is present, media conflicts will arise,
    Resolve should choose the media that was most recently added to the media pool by default.

    I´m still not in front of my Resolve rig, but it should work B.)


    // Dylan
    Twitter: drhopkin

  • Patrick Inhofer

    I’m not a big fan of the reconform command and usually avoid it. For every time it works, other times it gets it wrong. Especially in these digital acquisition workflows where reel numbers don’t exist and there’s the potential for lots of overlapping time codes. In a 100 shot music video I might get away with it, on larger jobs… not for me.

    In theory, it should work. In practice, most times I try it it fails on me.

  • Casey Faris

    Great tips. I use colortrace a lot as I usually am copying grades from duplicate shots across multiple projects. Never understood the automatic feature, that’s really slick!

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