Using Parsec and VirtualHere For Remote, Secure Color Grading Sessions

April 27, 2022

Learn how to control a remote DaVinci Resolve workstation using Parsec with VirtualHere to virtualize locally-attached USB devices.


How to set up Parsec and VirtualHere for remote color grading

Working remotely in post production has come a long way, especially in the past few years due to the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic. With developments like the Blackmagic ATEM series, Streambox, SetStream, Louper.io, developing a reliable, robust remote workflow that doesn’t break the bank is now a lot easier.

And while options like Resolve 18’s remote collaboration database and proxy options allow for real-time remote collaboration – there are jobs and clients that want you, the colorist, to remote into their machines without their media sitting on your machine. So it still makes sense to keep Mixing Light members updated on these types of solutions.

Here’s the good news: Most of these remote workflows can be disassembled and reconfigured based on your specific requirements. For me, when I’m working this way, not only do I want to control the software (DaVinci Resolve) remotely I also want to use the hardware attachments that significantly speed up my work and enhance my productivity and my creativity.

This means: I want use a colorist control surface and Stream Deck at my remote location, controlling my grading software back at the office using the same settings as if I was there, at the office grading suite.

In this Insight: Parsec Virtual Desktop and VirtualHere USB Server

In this particular insight, we’ll be working with the Parsec Remote Desktop app, but this set-up can be similarly replicated with Splashtop and several others products. I’ll admit I have a particular love for Parsec as I’ve relied on it successfully to develop remote workflows for several studios, both small and large, so I finally feel it’s mature enough to share with you, hence this insight.

Then, we’ll install, configure, and pair Parsec with the VirtualHere remote USB server and client – allowing us to use a Blackmagic Mini control surface and Stream Decks as if they were directly attached to the grading computer back at the office.

But first, let’s review the goal of building a remote grading system, using Joey D’Anna’s excellent 2021 Insight as our frame of reference.

Summarizing the Ideal Remote Grading System

Reiterating Joey’s Insight: The idea is to remote into your powerful grading system, at the office, but work off-site using hardware tools such as color critical reference monitors, control surfaces, Elgato Streamdeck(s), and any other USB interface devices that accelerate our workflow.

Here’s a quick summary of the basics we need for a good remote set-up (from Joey’s previous article) when ‘dialing in’ to the office computer:

  • A ‘remote server’ color grading system that we connect to remotely – generally, your office grading machine.
  • A local “client” computer for the GUI. This machine doesn’t need to be very powerful. I’ve used a Mac Mini, Intel & M1 Macbooks, and an HP Z2 with positive results. It’s largely just screen sharing back to the color grading system that’s doing the actual heavy lifting.
  • A reference monitor. This is (color) critical and paired with your local ‘client’ computer. For final color grading, there’s  no way around using a calibrated accurate display at your remote location.
  • A decent internet connection. While we’re not sharing the actual media, we are streaming 1 or 2 streams of HD resolution 4:4:4 HEVC video as we screen share, so ideally you have a minimum of 30 Mbps upload and latency below ~30ms. If you don’t know internet speeds, check using speedtest.net.
  • Any compatible control surface – Unlike the official BMD streaming solution, VirtualHere should work with any DaVinci Resolve compatible control surface (think: Tangent panels).
  • A specific grading “environment” with controlled lighting and neutral walls. A bias lightbulbs, some paint and blackout curtains go a long way.
  • A remote desktop solution, like Parsec, Teredici, Splashtop, HP RGS, etc. We’ll be using Parsec in this insight, but any of the above should work.
  • Optional: An Elgato StreamDeck or other USB Interface Device
  • A video streaming solution that supports SDI video to feed the reference display – Some solutions include:

Signal Flow, Revisited

If you recall the signal flow discussion from Joey’s article, it’s just as important to discuss here as it was in his article. Below is a modified graph showing how our specific workflow breaks down in terms of signal flow.

Signal flow for remote operation of a DaVinci Resolve system
The direction of TCP/IP connections in our remote workflow

As a reminder, all TCP/IP traffic is bi-directional and while it may sound counter-intuitive to run the VirtualHere server on our remote “server” system, it actually makes the workflow more secure by initiating the USB-over-IP connection from the remote system to our local “client” workstation at home.

 Ideally, you’ll only need to deal with port forwarding at your home studio instead of wrestling with the potential security risks of opening ports at the facility, which tends to have much higher infosec requirements.

Let’s get our hands dirty and get these apps set up….

Remote Desktop Set-Up with Parsec

As mentioned, there are quite a few remote desktop solutions available and luckily, we have several that work for our highly specific needs: color accurate; highly responsive; and allows for multi-monitor.

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Comments

Homepage Forums Using Parsec and VirtualHere For Remote, Secure Color Grading Sessions

Viewing 3 reply threads

    • Lars D
      Participant

      Not sure if I missed something in the article but how are you handling the signal to the reference monitor? With the build in feature for windows and linux inside Resolve 18 or are you using Parsecs multiple monitor function (with some cable adaptors)? Thanks 🙂


    • Patrick Inhofer
      Keymaster

      Hi Lars –

      A few Insights for you (I’ll also add these to Jason’s Insight as related content):


    • Jason Bowdach
      Participant

      Hi Lars,

      In the insight, I was using Colorfront Streaming (currently in beta) to stream my reference monitor (SDI) over to my home studio. It comes out using a AJA T-Tap Thunderbolt device, which provides an SDI connection to my FSI reference display.

      As Pat mentioned, there are a bunch of more “economical” methods to do this using a BMD ATEM streaming device or even the official BMD streaming server, but I was using V17 when I recorded this insight.


    • Remco Hekker
      Participant

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for the insight! I’m actually in the proces of setting up two of these type of connections. So your insight couldn’t come at a better time. It looks like Virtualhere is exactly what I needed.

      I’ve been using Windows Remote Desktop in my setups, I’ll give Parsec a try. Is there a vital difference that justifies migrating from a free tool to this subscription based one? Perhaps it’s the internet connection here but I never had problems with the video quality using RDP.

      Also as alternatives for the reference streams I’m also testing these alternatives.

      • Resolve 18’s Remote monitoring looks very promising but requires more testing.
        It stops the scopes from working (using external scopes mitigates that.)
      • Ultragrid is free and looks almost too good to be true.
        Unfortunately, the only tutorial that showed this setup has been taken offline. So, I’ve reserved tomorrow to try and get it to work myself.
        http://www.ultragrid.cz
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