How (and When) To Use Parallel Nodes in DaVinci Resolve, Part 1

Understanding DaVinci Resolve’s Parallel Mixer Node (and when to use it)

March 29, 2018

Understanding DaVinci Resolve's Parallel Mixer node is essential to eventual mastery of the software. In this Insight, learn how the Parallel node works and the difference between it and the Layer node.


Series

Part 1: The 101 on the Parallel Mixer Node

About a year ago I decided to start using the Parallel Mixer node more often. I liked the way it organized my node tree. But I didn’t consider embracing it until listening to an interview with Marc Weilage and then seeing the Keynote presentation by Walter Volpatto at the Blackmagic Design Conference this past February (which is going on the road later this year, according to the website). Both men are accomplished colorists, both are DaVinci Resolve savvy, and both like using Parallel nodes.

Especially after seeing Walter’s presentation, I decided it was time to completely rethink my ‘base’ node tree – the layout I use on every job. This decision is based on two conclusions:

  1. My node trees aren’t flexible enough:¬†My base node tree tends to require lots of custom build-outs that negate some of the more obscure, but powerful, features of DaVinci Resolve… especially in the end game; that part of the color grading session when you’re executing client notes.
  2. I definitely need to take better advantage of the Parallel Mixer node: It offers some very nuanced layering behaviors that I consider to be very advantageous. And it makes it much easier to visualize the operations in my node trees, rather than a long string of serial nodes that look identical (punctuating by the occasional  Layer Mixer).

This Insight teaches you the fundamentals of the Parallel Mixer Node

If you’ve ever taken one of my DaVinci Resolve training courses, you’ll have seen much of what you’ll learn in this Insight. But I add some additional nuance to how the Parallel Mixer works that I hadn’t really considered before. So even if you’re used to using the Parallel Mixer, you might want to watch this as a refresher.

If you’ve never really dissected the Parallel Mixer then you definitely need to watch this Insight. This node is definitely an intermediate-level concept and it’s non-obvious how to best use it.

We’re laying the foundation for a later Insight on designing Node Trees

I’m digging into the Parallel Mixer right now, to allow me to share thoughts I have on designing our node trees in a later Insight. And since the Parallel Node is a key feature of these thoughts, laying out the usage of the Parallel node will serve us in a few weeks when I’m ready to record that Insight.

Coming Next: The Parallel Mixer in action

In Part 2 of this short series, we move from the theoretical to the practical. I’ll be applying the parallel node from a shot in the Mixing Light Practice Project, In The Shadow of Giants. And we’ll look at the two main use scenarios for using Parallel Mixer nodes.

Don’t Miss the Additional Download

I’ve included the .drp I’m using in this Insight as an additional download for Premium Members of the Insights Library. The Grayscale timeline I use, along with all the versions I set up, are included in this .drp. Be sure to grab it, pull it up and experiment for yourself!

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Comments

7 thoughts on “Understanding DaVinci Resolve’s Parallel Mixer Node (and when to use it)”

  1. Nice insight, Patrick; and, excellent clarification of the differences between serial, layer and parallel node arrangements. It would be interesting in one of the follow-up Insights on this topic to talk about the utilization of, and indication for, attaching a serial node (or string of nodes) to a select node level in a parallel mixer set-up. For example, making an adjustment on one node, say the second node in a parallel arrangement, adding another serial correction at that level, and returning the output of that level to the parallel mixer. I’ve seen this set-up before (it might be one of Walter’s node trees if I am not mistaken), but curious about the indication for such an arrangement. I have never done this before. Playing around with an RGB parallel venn diagram on a gray scale background and adding serial node color washes at different RGB levels produce some interesting cancellations. Curious if you have any thoughts about this and under what conditions you might implement the addition of serial nodes at any given parallel node level.

    1. Hi Scott – Great question. And a great idea for a follow-up Insight. Personally, I’ve shied away from multiple serials feeding into a single input on the Parallel node. It tends to give me unexpected results, and not usually in a direction I like – so I’ve avoided it. IFIRC, the later serials negate the initial effect of the earlier serials. But I will dig into this further.

      In fact, while I’m at NAB next week I’ll wrangle one of the developers and see if they can shed additional light on this specific scenario.

      But thanks for pointing me in this direction! And if anyone else has thoughts on this type of setup, I’d love to hear them.

      1. Yes! I found that some of the cancellations and results were a little mind-boggling and kind of disorienting. I’ll be at the Mixer and NAB and looking forward to some interesting discussions and seeing friends. See you there. I might catch up with Walter and ask him about this.

  2. Thanks Patrick! Slightly off topic. But where those keynotes / interviews recorded from
    the BMD Conference? Say for those on the otherside of the globe?

  3. Enjoyed the two episodes on the parallel / layer mixer. Very good refresh on how to use them.

    As I was playing with it on Shadow of Giants and your tri-color test node, I also got reminded that when in the layer mixer (but not parallel mixer) a composite mode selection appears. The Layer mixer can apply different modes, similar to what Photoshop has for layer modes that affect the way the layers are combined. The normal (default) mode is a basic hard overlay, whereas there are many other options.

    If I recall, that is a key element to the frequency separation node trees, but I’m sure it has many other advanced uses as well.

    1. And in Resolve 15, the composite modes now do a Live Preview as you scroll over them. HUGE timesaver, since even if you understand the math you can’t be completely sure what the final result of many of those modes will be without actually seeing them applied to the specific images you’re working with.

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