A Deep Dive Into Rendering H.264 & H.265 from DaVinci Resolve

October 25, 2023

Mixing Light contributor and freelance colorist Luke Ross takes a deep dive into H.264 & H.265 render options on a Mac and PC in Resolve.

Everything You Need To Know About Rendering H.264 and H.265 in DaVinci Resolve

In this Insight, we dive deep into the principles and practical realities of rendering H.264 and H.265 files from DaVinci Resolve on both a Mac and a PC. Along the way, we’ll fill in some knowledge gaps in the official Blackmagic Design documentation, and I’ll share some best-practice bitrates for various project deliverables.

And don’t miss my questions for the rest of the Mixing Light community at the conclusion of this Insight!

A Simple Guide to Rendering H.264/H.265 in Resolve

Why default render presets can be a blessing and a curse

H264 render presets in resolve
The handy-dandy render presets on DaVinci Resolve’s Deliver page.

On the one hand, render presets can be a fantastic part of a post-production workflow. Accessing optimized, preconfigured settings saves time and eliminates user error.

On the other hand, these same settings can sweep vital information under the rug and hide important technical details from the user. This inhibits a deep understanding of encoding/decoding principles, which can cause costly mistakes, frustrating missteps, and make troubleshooting difficult.

The problem when researching optimal render settings for compressed codecs

If you want to know how to optimize an H.264/H.265 file render, I’m going to be honest: it’s often intimidating when you start to dig down into the research, like this excerpt from the MPEG-4 Part 10 white paper:

H264 technical details
If you try to understand the basics of a codec by digging into the source material, you often end up with many pages that look like this – from the MPEG-4 Part 10 white paper.

Unfortunately, the ITU and ISO standards bodies don’t make a “For Dummies” edition of their white papers, which is more my pace. But that didn’t stop me from writing this Insight, which is my attempt to write that Dummies edition for all of us! 🙂

Moving beyond, “If you don’t know, don’t touch.”

The DaVinci Resolve manual contains much useful information, but there are still plenty of gaps.

I spoke with a local Blackmagic support staff member earlier today, discussing the specific H.264/H.265 render options available in Resolve’s render panel if you have an NVIDIA graphics card on a Windows PC.

The general outcome of our discussion can be boiled down to this recommendation:

If you don’t know what it does, don’t touch it.

It may be good advice, but in this Insight, I will explain the H.264/H.265 export options so you can feel empowered to experiment with the different render settings.

In this Insight:

Here’s everything we’ll cover in this detailed Insight:

  • A brief explanation of H.264 and H.265 codecs.
  • Rendering on a Mac versus a Windows PC
  • Export options in DaVinci Resolve’s Render Tab
  • Common bit-rate reference standards
  • Final thoughts

H.264 / AVC / MPEG-4 Part 10 – Explained

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