How Do Zones Work in Resolve 17’s New HDR Palette?

December 3, 2020

The HDR Palette represents a major advance in Resolve 17's color grading toolset. Learn about it's core concept, Zones, and how they work.


HDR Palette 101, Part 1: How, precisely, do ‘Zones’ work and how are they different?

Resolve 17 is proving to be the most consequential release, for colorists, in a very long time. Personally, I’d argue this is the most important release since Resolve 8, which ported DaVinci Resolve to the Mac. At the heart of this release is Resolve Color Management 2.0 (RCM2).

To fully teach RCM2, and its impact on Resolve’s toolsets requires a rather out-sized discussion. Luckily, you don’t need to know *anything* about RCM2 to see its impact and benefit from its ‘new math’ day-to-day. In my mind, the purest expression of RCM2 on the color grading tools is the brand new High Dynamic Range Palette and its Zone controls.

Understand Zones, understand the High Dynamic Range Palette

The HDR Palette is quite intimidating at first, because by default it ships with 6 color wheels – each representing a ‘Zone’. If you sit down and just start playing with it you may struggle to understand what the tool is actually doing. The key to understanding is breaking down the busy default zone settings into a single zone control – and then experimenting.

In this Insight, I sit down with a grayscale gradient and start pushing/pulling to answer some key questions:

  • How is the Light Zone different from the Dark Zone (other than its name)?
  • What’s up with the new controls surrounding each of the color wheels?
  • Is the HDR Palette’s Global control the same as the Offset control? (hint: Definitely NOT)
  • How is this new HDR Palette different from the Primaries Palette and why might you use it?

By the end of this Insight you should have a good idea of what a ‘Zone’ is, the basic controls for manipulating Zones, and how (using the default settings) you can use the HDR Palette for standard dynamic range projects.

In Part 2, we will get our first taste of how RCM2 lets you change the behavior of the HDR Palette and prepare your projects for the hybrid SDR/HDR world we’ll be living in for the foreseeable future.

Viewing Tip: If you want to jump directly into my experimentation with Zones, that discussion starts at 5:00. I begin by first pushing-pulling the grayscale in the 3-Way and Log Primary controls, setting us up to understanding how Zones work differently.

Comments and Questions, Please!

Please do leave any questions or comments you have, in the discussion below. If you found something confusing (or enlightening) – let me know! Comments help me shape my future Insights and its how our members communicate with us – and each other.



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