How to Choose Between Video Levels or Data Levels (in DaVinci Resolve)

Data Levels or Video Levels — How To Choose Wisely

January 27, 2016

DaVinci Resolve allows you to choose between 'video levels' and 'data levels'. Learn how to choose wisely and if you should be making a choice at all?


Series

Understanding DaVinci Resolve’s ‘Data Level’ and ‘Video Level’ Radio Buttons (and why you usually shouldn’t choose at all)

You often hear Robbie, Dan and I urge you to send in your questions and confusion—because that’s what we’re here for. This Insight was inspired by one of the members of our Insights Library. This question came in about two weeks ago and I still can’t believe we haven’t addressed it in one of the previous 400+ Insights. It’s the question of Data Levels or Video Levels in DaVinci Resolve:

I would love to see an episode in the insight library covering the ins and outs of video vs data levels (in Davinci), how it works, how your signal chain should be set up, for instance Mac > Blackmagic Mini monitor interface > monitor setup (for instance Eizo CX/CG that are sometimes used but were perhaps not initially made for grading work. Which leads me to settings such as extended range and super-white (monitor settings). Perhaps also cover what to use for different deliverables and how the chain and settings should be to ensure proper calibration.

— Michael

Data Levels or Video Levels: The Never-Ending Question

This particular question of choosing Data Levels or Video Levels comes up in regular cycles. Every 18 months or so, I suddenly see a rash of questions on message boards, in personal conversations and now here at Mixing Light. And it’s understandable. There are three prominent places where DaVinci Resolve allows you to choose between Data Levels or Video Levels:

  • Deliver Page > Format
  • Project Settings > General > Video Monitoring
  • Media Pool > Clip Attributes > Video

In years past, this choice was more confusing because Resolve labeled them as ‘Legally Scaled Video’ and ‘Full Range Data’. Eventually, as a Resolve user, you’d stumble across these choices and feel compelled to pro-actively make a choice. And if you had to make a choice, which would you choose; ‘Scaled’ or ‘Full Range’ levels? Of course, Full Range Data levels!

The Levels Options in DaVinci Resolve's Clip Attributes dialog box
Using the ‘Clip Attributes’ right-click command, you can override the default ‘Auto’ interpretation of a clips ‘Level’ range.

In 98% of your workflows, Data Levels is the precise wrong choice to make

Why?

Because the Data Level or Video Level choice is almost always dictated either by the codec of your source footage or the codec you’re rendering to. And 98% of the codecs we’re using are designed for Video Levels. Depending on your mix of codecs in the Media Pool, you may have a mix of Data Level or Video Level codecs… and that’s okay. DaVinci Resolve should handle this decision for you 98% of the time.

Almost always you should leave the choice set to ‘Auto’

There are a few exceptions to this rule. And then there’s the question of how to set up your video monitoring since there is no ‘Auto’ choice in that particular Project Setting.

This video Insight will answer, “Why is there a choice at all between Video and Data Levels? Shouldn’t we always be working at Data Levels?” You’ll also learn the most common codecs where Video and Data levels can be confusing, since those codecs accept both sets of ranges—and different software makes different assumptions about which range they read those codecs by default.

This can be a confusing topic, so be sure to leave comments and questions!

— pat

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43 thoughts on “Data Levels or Video Levels — How To Choose Wisely”

  1. Have you experimenting with Cineform exports and datavideo settings? For some reason, Ive noticed the cineform is quirky in this area. Every other codec works great w auto, but have you had any quirks w cineform and datavideo? You mentioned it was very codec specific AND variant based (RGB vs ycrcb).

    This question is specifically for creating a HQ master file, which I can create other deliverable assets off of, such as H264 for web, Bluray, etc. Usually includes a conversion from an RGB to YCrCb. Is a solution to always provide YCrCB based masters (ex ProRes422HQ or CineformYUV) to avoid potential issues? Many thanks!

    EDIT: Clarified and simplified

    1. Jason – RGB doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always expecting Full Range data. I probably used the term ‘RGB’ too often to describe codecs that expect Full Range.

      I haven’t worked much with Cineform. I’ve done research and can’t find the specific answer to what their RGB codec expects. We’ll reach out and try to get a definitive answer from them. The quirks will be if one of those codecs can accept both Full Range and Legal Range, then apps will differ as to which they expect to be the default interpretation. I don’t know if this is true for Cineform.

      1. Many thanks, Pat! helpful to know as I provide clients with a master knowing they may transcoding it to other codecs/formats for different deliveries platforms. If I can avoid potential misinterpretation issues by providing a ‘video level’ only codec like PR422 , I’d certainly be interested in doing so

        1. Jason, personally – I focus on rendering out at the highest quality the client can accept. I don’t let ‘video’ or ‘data’ enter my thoughts unless I’m delivering intermediate renders—such as to VFX—where they may be working in very explicit Data Level workflows. THEN I’ll make sure I use a codec I know handles Data Levels and force Resolve to render at Data Levels.

          Otherwise, it doesn’t enter my mind and I just keep Resolve on ‘Auto’ and forget.

  2. I’d love your insight on Jason’s question also. I never used to transcode, relying on the ability of PrPro to handle any codec, but I’m finding Cineform simply works slicker through the machine during editing. Ok, quick fix … Prelude to batch rename/transcode on upload … but I’m not sure PrPro and Resolve are seeing the same thing. I don’t know if that’s because I’m a noob in Resolve and don’t have the settings right or … just half blind.

  3. Thanks Patrick, I didn’t realize codec came into play with this.
    So I have an original dream color monitor that expects 444 RGB so I found I have to monitor with data levels.
    It gets tricky with color space emulation like if I emulate rec709 I didn’t know if the dream color was mapping the black to data levels.
    I don’t think it is.

    There is also gamma that comes into play for levels. What is the difference in RCM between rec709 and rec709 2.4 and 2.2. My dream color emulates rec709 2.4 gamma so I set my default RCM output to that. I also calibrated all my monitors to 2.4 gamma. It just appears so much brighter then the original req709 color space. I’m just confused on why there are 3 separate req709 color space options.

    Thanks
    Greg

    1. RE: Dreamcolor – Right, that display works full time RGB. Traditionally you’d place some sort of device before the Dreamcolor that would take whatever your input is and deliver full-time RGB. It doesn’t change how you grade, you just need to deliver the display what it expects at the Data or Legal range that it expects. There’s no emulation going on here, just a distinction about how the bit codes should be delivered to the display (although there’s always a chance for a problem with the equipment used to convert the input range into the range that the Dreamcolor wants).

      RE: Rec 709 gamma – Rec.709 does NOT explicitly set Gamma levels. For web deliverables, you’d monitor at 2.2 since that’s what computer displays assume. For broadcast you’d set either 2.4 or just plain Rec709. Again, there is no standard, so it tends to be a regional thing. Some cities tend to work at 2.4, others at 2.35. But if you want my suggestion, set it for 2.4 for broadcast work. And if you’re delivering to both broadcast and web, set it for 2.4 – making broadcast the main deliverable.

      Did this help?

      1. I have a decklink 4k pro that can upscale to 444 also I run it though a hdlink as well. I’ve confirmed via a gradient that it wants full levels.

        Why in RCM is there such a huge difference between plain old rec709 and 2.4? I recently did a little project with RCM rec.709 2.4 exported it as pro res 422 and h.264 at video levels and the gammas where really different on vimeo after their mandatory 2nd compression. My computer and dream color are calibrated with disccalgui to req 709 2.4 4K+ patterns. After seeing how contrasty vimeo was I started to second guess using RCM rec.709 2.4 since it does appear so much more lifted then plain old req.709. Whats you take on this?

        1. Honestly, I’ve not started using RCM. It’s v001 of that workflow and I’m not willing to trust it yet. Maybe someone else who has tested and is using this workflow can chime in on it.

          RE: 2.4 exported at Video Levels on PR422HQ and h.264 – Well, I’m curious if you’d find the same problems if you exported at Auto, allowing Resolve to make the decision which bit codes to place black and white?

          Technically, gamma shouldn’t re-adjust the black and white levels, just how the image slopes into black and white… which is why I suggest you re-test using the ‘auto’ setting in the Deliver Page. It may be this is a bug you need to report.

  4. Also what if I’m working for cinema (DCP) and we decided to do it by ourselves? Or even if someone else will do it (the DCP), shouldn’t we keep the project @Data and grade then export it @Data into 444 (or equivalent) format for DCP?

    1. Assuming out-of-house DCP creation: You should set Data or Legal depending on the codec you’re exporting to. Some codecs will require Legal and if you set to Data the codec will ignore those ‘out of range’ code values and you’ll literally clip highlight and shadow detail.

      If you want to deliver Full Range for DCP then pick a codec you *know* can handle full range data. ProRes444, DPX, etc. And whatever you do, make sure you tell them you’re delivering full range. If they don’t know what you’re saying, you’ll want to find a different vendor.

      Make sense?

      Now: monitoring depends on your grading setup because if you’re monitoring on a display that can handle full range, feel free to set it up that way. Otherwise, don’t. But again, how you set this when rendering (and the choice you have) is always dictated by the codec you choose.

      Remember: Choosing Legal doesn’t mean you’re not looking at the full contrast range of your display! It merely tells your display where to find zero black and 100% white, which it’ll then remap to its full contrast range.

  5. OK! I follow Patrick’s “orders”; I touch nothing. I acknowledge everything that he says and I go away happy. BUT! Then I look at my scopes and they range from 1-1023.
    And I have a neat setting that allows me to “Show Reference Levels”. So I set that to [64] and [940] and neat lines are added to whatever scope I set that display on in.
    So do I grade my blacks to sit at [0] or do I grade them to sit at [64]? And if I grade them to sit at [0], I assume Resolve will do all the necessary range adjustments as required.
    And then, of what value is being able to see lines on a scope at [64] and at [940]?

    1. “And I have a neat setting that allows me to “Show Reference Levels”. So I set that to [64] and [940] and neat lines are added to whatever scope I set that display on in.”

      No!

      Don’t do that!

      I think you missed the end of the video where I say specifically, Resolve always works at 0-1023. That’s why the scopes are set that way. Do NOT set those reference markers and use them as your new black and white reference levels.

      0 on Resolve scopes is where you set your black. 1023 is pure white. Always. ALWAYS. 🙂

      Resolve will then remap those to the proper code values depending on the codec your choose.

      Is this clearer?

        1. I assume to assist in Shot Matching. Maybe you’ve got a target for where you want your shadows to live, slightly above black? Or maybe you’ve got a product shot and need it to consistently sit at a particular brightness level? Those reference levels are user adjustable and can be used for any purpose.

          In earlier versions of Resolve there was a toggle to show the 64/940 reference levels. Blackmagic probably found it problematic since some codecs set Video range to 64/960 and some people got confused and pulled them up to grade their 0 blacks / 1023 whites to the bit values of 64 / 940… which is incorrect.

          Hence, in v12.5 the default for the Reference Level is 0 / 1023.

          Just a guess – but that’s my thinking on the matter.

  6. I actually ran into an issue where i had to change clip attributes to Data levels. Creating LUTS for Premiere Pro Cc 2015. Producers are asking me to create primary look luts so that before a show goes to finish the client can look at decent color shots as the approval process gets underway. They are shooting with the XAVC – MPEG 4 codec which is a log format. when exporting a LUT for on screen interviews, then bringing those LUTS in to premiere using the Lumetri color panel that codec was reading the video levels improperly. Once I set those clips to data levels then exported the LUT everything matched in Premiere. Of course prores was still set to video levels and looked fine.

    1. Jordan,

      Super interesting. So you set a look in Resolve, export a LUT from the Color Page using the right-click menu on the Timeline Thumbnail? And the LUT changes when you change the Video / Data Level in the Clip Attributes panel?

      1. Yes. It actually makes sense when you think about it. Normally you would be making your correction then rendering out to a codec where Resolve would “auto” interpret the levels. But since no rendering is taking place when you make your LUT then place it in an NLE like premiere and place it back on its original camera source it might want to interpret as DATA levels.

      1. Mindmaps worked very well. Will you cover what codecs in what cases should be used? I ask all those things as i have talked to people and those are the points for most confusion. I.e. why my youtube is darker than Prores for example.

  7. As you mentioned Patrick, this has been a major confusion for me as well.
    Especially digging into settings and finding out there are 3(!) places to set those parameters omg, I was going nuts.
    And yes the scopes didn’t make it easier either by showing full range 😄
    Thanks for a great insight, I’ve learned it the hard way though.
    Had a project a year ago where client kept asking if it wa graded at all or not and I’ve been going crazy trying different renders and different codecs. And I was very green back then, know a little more now thanks to your site, LGG site and FB forum.
    Best
    Nurali

  8. Hi, great video. One situation where I find the Auto option failing upon export is doing a DNxHD roundtrip from Resolve back into Premiere. After a lot of head-scratching and web research I finally found that you need to set the levels to Data and then the clip will look perfect when reimported back into Premiere. With either Video or Auto selected the levels come out wrong. Not sure why this is happening… with all other codecs I’ve tried, the re-import works fine with Auto levels.

  9. Awesome as always Pat!

    I have often been confused by lifted gamma which is made even worse when using Nvidia cards. For example, I just did a project which was exported as h.264 (set to best) and then imported back into Premiere for some minor graphics and bits (had to use H.264 as it was over 2 hours and the project needs to be sent back via FTP so quality kind of came in second here). Anyway, everything looked great but after exporting from Premiere and playing back in VLC, everything looks fine levels wise apart from everything graded Resolve which was lifted (despite being fine in Premiere). I realised that I had to change the Nvidea video settings to full range and it all then looked fine but it’s weird that everything else bar the Resolve graded footage was fine! I’ve also had issues in the past when using some codecs and when they have come into Premiere they are lifted there. I believe there is maybe a difference between Uncompressed QT YUV and RGB or something like that which meant I had to force it to video levels but I should probably commit some time to experiment and try them all out. Thanks though Pat – this did help 🙂

  10. @kraig and @Thomas was the DNxHD in a .mov or mxf container? DNxHD .mov has for ever an always been a problem. I use DNxHD daily and sticking to MXF container and auto never fails me.

  11. Towards the end of this video Pat refers to video or legal levels to be 64-960. I have always thought that video levels were mapped 64-940.

    this from the Resolve manual…
    Video Levels: Typically used by Y’CBCR video data. All image data from 0 to 100 percent must fit into the numeric range of 64–940. Specifically, the Y’ component’s range is 64–940, while the numeric range of the CB and CR components is 64–960.

    Why 960? Anyhow isn’t 100 IRE always 940?

    1. I probably misspoken the precise numbers… but it’s the concept of remapping that I’m trying to get across here – the actual number isn’t important, since it’s possible there are odd codecs out there that remap differently because there’s nothing particularly magical about 940, other than the math is probably easier. But thanks for the clarifying that point.

      1. Resolve refers to legal as 64-960 within the app (like the Clip Attributes page). This caused me to be confused about this myself and thats why I even mention it. I guess they are talking about the max level of the color difference channels but I think that is misleading. The importing thing for me is that 940 is the top legal code value on an external scope.

        1. “The importing thing for me is that 940 is the top legal code value on an external scope.”

          Steve – no… On an external scope, your top legal code value is still 1023! This has come up several times on this comment thread. As you said, I mentioned this as an aside at the end of this Insight. It clearly needs it’s own explanation. I’m literally about to record and release a follow-up Insight on this today.

  12. Hi Patrick, I have been seeing a lot of people, myself included, having issues exporting their films. Specifically with that washed out issue. I only have this issue on my laptop ant not when working on a grading suite. I assume that’s it’s due to the internal viewer of Resolve in the GUI. Since when I work on my Laptop only I’m doing personal stuff for internet purposes, I’d like to know how I should set up, not the data/video settings, but, the colorspace settings. My thoughts are that using Resolve’s color management I should chose mu timeline and output settings for sRGB while choosing the appropriate source colorspace depending on my footage.

    Is that correct?

    Also, for my laptop setup (no external monitor), my screen is calibrated with X-rite’s I1Profiler Pro, hence I should leave the mac color profile for viewers on, right?

    1. You may want to use dispcal gui with resolve as the pattern generator to calibrate your screen/viewer.
      Also consider setting your brightness to like say 100-120 CD/Nits. You can set this in dispcal’s initial calibration step. https://hub.displaycal.net/wiki/3d-lut-creation-workflow-for-resolve/

      You want to create a viewer lut for resolve for your laptop in addition to the initial laptop screen calibration. I believe Resolve bypasses your monitors ICC for the viewer.

      You can then maybe so an output lut that simply closes the gap between what resolve looks like on your laptop and say vimeo.

      1. Well my screen is already calibrated with X-rite’s software (to 120nit) and on the mac there’s exaclty that option for resolve to “use” your icc profile for the viewer. Which I have on. So regarding your answer, I’m doing it right, right?

  13. hello everyone
    I sent email about proress delivery saturation issue and Patrick respond and inform me to watch this insight and for another one https://mixinglight.com/portfolio/davinci-resolve-how-to-use-external-scopes-with-video-vs-data-levels/.
    and ask me to put my question here.
    it’s very interesting insights but it was not too clear to me why the saturation is change when delivery. so I run another test with color bar and I turned off the broadcast safe in the project setting and i got the result right the saturation issue is now ok. but in the resolve manual is not mention that broad cast safe is effecting the saturation unless you render out your footage.
    my question now are you using the broadcast safe during color session and in the delivery or you make it off all the time? so please correct me if I’m missing something.
    I would like to thanks Mixinglight to the quick respond.

    this was my email:
    Hello Mixing light
    I just get my new FSI CM250 and it’s calibrated to rec709 gamma 2.4 as video, so i made test which is make me confuse, I created new timeline and in the setting i set it to rec709 gamma 2.4 and I added to it color bar form the resolve generate and i made it as compound clip then i set in delivery page the setting to prores 422 hq and i rendered it out as 3 data level (auto,video and full) so i got 2 different result.
    I added the 3 result clips to media pool and i compare it in FSI to the compound clip which i made it previously,
    the result:
    1st clip was auto level no gamma change but the color is less saturated
    2nd clip was video level no gamma change but the color is less saturated
    3rd clip was full level gamma change as expected but the color is ok
    so my question why the color in video level is less sat ?
    Did I miss something in the setting?
    thank you

  14. Thanks for the info and video. Rendered to DNxHR 12 bit 444 QuickTime.
    Had a shift in levels as described in the video. Blacks lifted,
    highlights dropped, a washed out look. Read the comments and saw Robbie’s suggestion for DNx .mxf. Switched to DNxHR 10 bit mxf and checked “Auto ”
    on levels. Then, imported rendered clip into Premiere for final edit and the waveform and look
    matched what I had in Resolve.

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