Commercial Workflow Part 2: Leveraging The Master Session

Commercial Workflow Part 2: Leveraging The Master Session

March 3, 2014

Learn how ripple your color corrections through multiple timelines in DaVinci Resolve using the power of the Master Session.


Working with 10-bit DPX

As I showed you in Part 1 of this Insight, one of the keys to an efficient workflow in a high-volume commercial Post-Production facility is to standardize on one codec. For me and my team, that codec is 10-bit DPX files.

While this means we’re making extremely large files – often for codecs (such as h.264) for which this would be considered a huge overkill, it allows us to move between disparate software platforms and craftspeople very easily.

If you wanted, you could choose to standardize on ProRes4444 or DNxHD – depending on your client base and the file formats you’re most likely to work with.

Whatever is appropriate for your business and your clients, the file format you choose to standardize would represent your ‘in-house file format’.

The concept I showed you in Part 1 still applies even for non-DPX workflows; you’d conform the timeline as delivered to you from your client and then render out to the in-‘house file format’ before moving forward.

The Essential Truth about Short-Form Commercial Facilities

The post-production facility that I work at, Smoke and Mirrors, is primarily a short-form facility.

And while feature-length projects frequently pass through our doors, in terms of sheer volume it’s the short-form work that is our bread and butter; music videos and television commercials.

This means our entire pipeline is optimized for quickly turning these jobs around (at exceptional levels of quality) and the way I run DaVinci Resolve is also optimized for the needs of short-form clients.

And here’s the truth about commercials and music videos:

There is (almost) never only one version that needs color grading!

For commercials, there might be the :90 second spot that goes up on YouTube as well as :60 / :30 / :15  / :10 second versions that ALL need to be color graded. Then there’s the Director’s version, the Agency version and maybe an international version (or five) that also need to be completed.

Each of these versions will usually share the exact same core of shots that get used in each version and it would be a huge waste of time re-grading each shot from scratch. It can also be time-consuming (and confusing) to copy grades between different timelines.

DaVinci Resolve solves the challenge of this workflow with what it calls: The Master Session

Understanding the Master Session

In all versions of DaVinci Resolve through Resolve 9, DaVinci Resolve automatically created the Master Session for us. In Resolve 10, the Master Session has been tucked away and hidden only to be revealed with a few choice preferences.

While I understand why it’s now no longer the default method of starting a Resolve 10 project – because it confused so many Resolve users and that its an unintuitive feature of Resolve that only a small subset of its users need access to.

For a busy commercial postproduction facility like Smoke and Mirrors, in DaVinci Resolve the Master Session is essential.

The Master Session allows me to color correct a shot in one timeline, and if any other timelines use that same shot – the color grade is automatically inherited in those other timelines.

And if, for instance, a product shot is slightly tweaked by the Product Manager while I’m working in the :15 second version of the campaign… that tweak ripples through the entire campaign!

Do you see how efficient this can be? The workflow is made even better when you factor in tracking and other tasks that involve handles.

The Master Session in Action

In this Insight, I’m going to demonstrate how I use the Master Session workflow in my day-to-day color grading sessions.

I literally never start color grading without enabling and using the Master Session, it’s that powerful to me. In fact, I’ve permanently set my preferences to enable the master session.

I’ll be moving through this pretty quick, so if you get lost on setting up the Master Session workflow – check out Mixing Light Insight 0073 Where’s My Master Session for a step-by-step on how to recreate what I’m doing.

Got Questions? Get Answers…

Have you worked with the Master Session workflow? Are you still using it in Resolve 10? Let me know your thoughts about color grading with the Master Session.


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Homepage Forums Commercial Workflow Part 2: Leveraging The Master Session

  • Remco Hekker

    O wow. What an amazing insight!

    I really love using the master timeline and thought I wouldn’t get much news from this insight. Nothing could be further from the truth. I always postpone tracking untill I am happy with the grade. Then copy it to a local grade and then start tracking. Which is a pain especially when you want to come back and make changes.

    Tracking on the Master Timeline will change my live!
    Thanks Dan.

  • Hi Dan, just watched both DPX workflow tutorials. Great videos! Just have a few questions. So I have a client that’s building a workflow for short form shot mostly on Red.

    1. Do we need a Red Rocket card to first debayer before DPX out? Does the card just make the debayor faster, and allow a higher quality for playback, or is there a “premium” quality that comes with Red Rocket card you can’t get from from CPU debayor? From Resolve 10 manual:

    “DaVinci Resolve decodes R3D files using multi-core CPU processing, but can also decode 4K at Premium quality if you’ve installed a RED ROCKET card. 5K R3D media requires two RED ROCKET cards or a single RED ROCKET-X
    for the same performance. 6K R3D media requires a RED ROCKET-X card.”

    Or do I get the same quality by simply checking “Force debayer res to highest quality” checkbox in deliver page. Sorry I don’t have a red card to just test this.

    2. I noticed in the second video, that only the red clip went offline, and then had to be slid after force conform. You mention this happens sometimes with red footage. How often, like 30% or more of the time? It’s not a realistic workflow if one has to manual conform clips.

  • RobbieCarman

    Hey Ernest.

    I’ll chime in and then Dan can follow up.

    1. At no time do you “HAVE TO HAVE” a Red Rocket in any form – multiple or Rocket X. RED Debayer is hard and there is added difficulty because of the high resolution. A Rocket simply takes the debayering tasks and put them on the card. Yes, a Rocket speeds up transcoding, as well as takes the load off your CPU (default debayering device) and puts it on the card freeing up the CPU to do other things.

    2. The real issue is real time performance. Many colorist sans Rockets or multiple Rockets need to make a compromise with real time performance – this is often done by dropping debayering performance – quarter, half etc. In my opinion Full Quality Debayer for actual grading work (not rendering) can be overkill. I have a Rocket and I usually still grade at half rez, render at full rez premium.

    3. As RED has upped the resolution and data thru put of their footage the processing has become more complex – hence Dan’s recommendation. A single rocket is usually good for 4k, 2 for 5k and the Rocket x for 6 k. Its important to note that in Resolve GPU debayer is now possible – essentially your GPU can help in the debayering process.

    4. Relinking RED footage can be hard in an offline/online workflow. Timecode can be an issue – edge code or absolute code. As well as often in the offline process (or initial transcode) timecode, file name values can change. If you’re in control of R3D > Offline > To Conform workflow I never find relinking an issue. But it can be. Also with tools like Premiere and FCP X now offering native R3D editing and the performance of computers strong enough to do so – the issues with conforming are less and less.

  • Hi Robbie,

    Thanks for this service, and your incredibly fast response times. So 1 recap, 1 question:

    1. Recap: No need for red rocket cards for quality of debayering for DPX render out.

    2. Question: The offline issues with red was more about Dan’s workflow of converting a timeline with red footage to DPX, and then bringing it back in. So in the first Resolve timeline, the red footage was online, but then in the second Resolve DPX timeline, what was the red clip (now DPX) was offline, and then after the force conform, that DPX clip was out of sync. So the offline to Resolve process through an XML was fine. The clip was offline. It was made offline by the Resolve export to DPX, when brought back to Resolve. In Resolve manual, it says sometimes the header info in DPX files looses timecode. This is a big issue, since this client will be working exclusively with red footage, including 6K. Just need to make sure this offline red clip was fluke, and isn’t something that happens a lot with Red in the DPX export/import process. Thanks guys.

  • RobbieCarman

    1. Correct although again your render times might be slower because debayer is happening on CPU – but if you have beefy GPUs you can now use those for a speedier debayer. During actual grading keep in mind you can scale back on your debayer and force best quality on render.

    2. I’ll let dan chime in on what went on with that clip as i seldom go the DPX route. But I understand that would be concerning in your workflow.

  • Dan Moran

    Hey Ernest!

    I’m going to revise this insight as I think I may not have been the clearest on the relinking issues. Things have slightly changed for us now that we can support ProRes files on Linux this workflow has become a lot more efficient and easier. If you are working with r3d files exclusively I would investigate the Red Trimming workflow that Robbie covers in this excellent insight.

    By using the Trim feature you will have zero issues as Resolve still thinks its looking at the original r3d files but you don’t need to fill up your storage with lots and lots of 6k material!

    Hope this helps!

  • Hi Dan, nice to meet you. Can’t wait to see revision. However my client doesn’t want to buy a red card for 6K. So I want to convert to DPX. So my main question is if your DPX workflow has problems with Red? The only clip to go offline, and had to be slid, was a red clip. Does this happen a lot with Red?

  • RobbieCarman

    earnest – what GPUs are you using? Again a rocket is not a requirement for working with RED – its nice to have but not 100% necessity. Its possible using GPU debayer you’ll get good performance to grade in real time – You can always render at full quality no problem.

  • Dan Moran

    Hey Ernest!

    Converting r3d to DPX using Red Log Film color space is a rock solid option. Do you know what their storage is like? 6k DPX files are incredibly demanding on storage so I would investigate that early on to avoid playback issues. I think my main issue was that I was building EDLs myself and due to being a terrible editor they weren’t as real world as possible. To be honest when I’m working at my day job I don’t think I ever see Red clips go offline like that. The new r3d GPU debayer option is actually amazingly good and you can work off the red files in realtime at great quality now. I’d test that workflow if possible first and see if it would work for you.

  • Hi Dan and Robbie, so I don’t know their storage, but they are running 3 GTX 285s for GPU and a GT 120 for GUI.

    At my studio I’m running to GTX 690s for GPU and a 640 for GUI. My storage is an internal 9TB raid clocking at 300 mbs read and write. I can play back 2K arri raw files in real time, unless I add something like noise reduction. Now that I know your DPX workflow doesn’t have an inherent r3d sync and offline issues I’ll try it. I’ll also try GPU debayering and see how fast it plays.

  • Christopher Kechichian

    Very interesting workflow, I grade commercials mainly and as you said we have multiple versions of the same commercial (45s, then 30s then 15s etc.) so this master timeline method is really useful and extremely fast. I used to grade the longest version first then copy the grades to each one at a time and redo the tracking (which is exhausting). Does it work normally with Epic r3d files? or do I have to transcode to DPX files? The system we are using has a Red Rocket card and we have no problem playing back r3d footage. Thanks a lot Dan !

  • Hey Patrick. So I’m on a reality show, and they just don’t believe in locked cuts. So I set up a master timeline, and worked in remote the entire time. They consolidated a new cut and made a new AAF. I was hoping working in remote would some how make my corrections carry across when the new cut came in. However, now color corrections came across. Except for new shots (maybe 10% of timeline) all clips names are the same. Only difference, new AAF, and instead of living in AvidMedia MXF folder 1, they live in folder 2. When I point old AAF to new Media folder, Resolve does not recognize clips. So is this all because of a new AVID consolidation? Is there a way to make Resolve look only at clip name, tape name, and timecode?

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Hi Ernest – Take a look at my response here:

    Remote grading assumes you’re using the same media in multiple timelines, not newly imported media in new timelines. Check out the Color Trace function to do what you want to do.

  • Great tutorial Patrick! I’m curious about your pre-wrangling workflow. Any insights you could share? Thanks!

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