Digging Into The Depth Map – One of Resolve 18’s Best New Features

May 31, 2022

Learn how to use the new ResolveFX 'Depth Map' on the Color and Fusion pages - and get a range of ideas showcasing its fantastic versatility.

A Powerful New ResolveFX Plug-in You Need To Use

The public beta of Resolve 18 was announced just before NAB and is now available for download. Among hundreds of new features – one has stood out to me as a favorite: the Depth Map ResolveFX plug-in. In this Insight, I want to focus on what it is, how it works, and how you can use it in your day-to-day grading.

What Is A ‘Depth Map’?

The Depth Map plug-in generates a grayscale representation of the 3D depth of an image. These depth maps are most commonly seen as a render pass for CG assets, where all the geometry of a scene is known. They are also sometimes called Z-depth passes.

These greyscale maps represent depth via brightness:

  • White represents objects closest to the camera.
  • Black represents objects the furthest away from the camera.

The resulting image can be used as a matte/alpha channel for color grading, or as an input for various other depth-aware tools.

A greyscale depth map (left) and its corresponding image (right). This map is inverted, so black is now representing the foreground and white is representing the background.

No Geometry Needed

The new Depth Map plug-in is unique because it generates maps directly from images using a machine learning-based algorithm. This means no additional information is needed. You don’t need camera metadata, 3D geometry, LIDAR scans, parallax from a second camera, or any other traditional way of determining depth. The plug-in works solely on the source image.

Customizability – The Most Important Part

Automatic machine learning-based tools are great time savers – but we all know that an algorithm cannot replace an artist. Depth Map is powerful because once it does its automatic work, you have many options for customizing its output. Controls in the plug-in allow adjustment and refinement for narrow or broad grayscale mattes. DaVinci Resolve’s node-based architecture makes it possible to use any additional traditional tools to refine and adjust the map image.

In This Insight

In this Insight, I’ll walk you through how to use Depth Map and a few different use-case examples. I’ll go over:

  • What Depth Map is and what it represents
  • Footage concerns for getting a good result
  • Using Depth Map as a tool in a fixed node structure
  • Isolating foreground and background regions for grading
  • Building volumetric effects based on depth
  • Using Fusion to simulate depth of field blur

As you can see – I think Depth Map has enormous potential to speed up my workflow. In future Insights, we will dive deeper into advanced use cases with Fusion, but for now – leave me any comments or questions below.


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Homepage Forums Digging Into The Depth Map – One of Resolve 18’s Best New Features

  • This is an exciting addition to our toolkit! One question — I see when you cranked up the yellow haze and then played the shot back, the hood of the car was strobing in and out of depth and thus resulting colour. Have you had any luck ‘helping’ the depth map plugin in such instances? Or is the plan for now to just keep the colour effects subtle enough to hide any inconsistencies, a bit like a marginal qualifier?

    Still very keen to get onto v18 when the time is right…

    • Yea – part of that was due to it being on “fast” quality not “better”. fast flickers a LOT, but for the screen capture i was trying to not have to wait on a ton of caching. That said – yea there will always be results that aren’t ideal – the cool thing is you can just feed the map into other tools to address it. I’ve had really good results using deflicker OFX to clean up flickering depth maps.

      But like you say – depending on the shot, sometimes staying more subtle is going to work better if its a challenging shot.

  • Excellent walk-through, Joey!

    Really excited to using fog effects and lens blurs. Should be fun to use for putting titles behind objects too.

  • Jim Robinson

    Mind blowing possibilities there. The second one with the garbage power window – I guess you can still feed an inverse trim from the depth mask node, and work the luminance of the background, like you did on the first one. This is something that I will definitely dig into when my new Mac eventually arrives. My trash can MAC Pro just can’t keep up to the new tech.
    Really appreciate you digging in so quickly to these potential time savers. Seeing these demos done properly is so beneficial. So thank you so much, Joey.

  • Sherwin Lau

    Thanks for this insight, Joey! Great info!

  • Brilliant Insight, thank you! Worth noting that I think the ‘Tilt-Shift’ OFX in the Color Page can take the input from another node so that you could in theory actually modulate the blur amount using the Depth Map, without having to go to Fusion. I need to experiment more!

  • Hey Joey,

    Liking your parallel workflow with the Depth Map. however, I can’t get my Windows 10 machine to act like your description. The preview of the Depth Map shows all white. I can’t get this to work unless I insert the Depth Map node in line with the main node path. Somewhere, I read to check the “use alpha output” option, but, that doesn’t seem to work. Is there a trick or setting I’m missing?

    edit: tried your workflow on a Mac and it behaves as you described. There appears to be a bug in the Windows version.

    • oh yea that definitely sounds like a bug – if you haven’t already I would report it to BMD. It’s all part of beta testing!

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