Last updated on 5 July 2022
As a video editor, working on a powerful machine at my workplace didn’t give me the need to make my software run faster — but this was before 4k and 8k video resolutions were a thing.
As the 4k and 8k started to get popular I was starting to feel the need for an upgrade for my machine because everything was starting to move slow. High-end computer parts were always expensive and no boss ever wants to invest.
Therefore, I was left with little choice but to find solutions to make DaVinci Resolve run faster. Honestly, I should’ve done that from the start because even if you have the most powerful computer, optimizing your editing software will always help you work faster regardless of what machine you have.
When it comes to editing in DaVinci Resolve, you need a lot of computing power to get a smooth workflow and playbacks. Not everybody has the luxury of high-end computers as most people have machines built before 2016 – 2018, and the requirements for video editing go up each year.
The developers of DaVinci Resolve have this clearly in mind and they gave us solutions to help us make DaVinci Resolve run faster.
Evaluate Your Playback Performance
Prior to enhancing your playback performance of DaVinci Resolve, check how you`re already doing. In DaVinci Resolve you have in the top left corner of the main viewer a Performance Indicator Light and a Frames Per Second (FPS) counter.
The Performance indicator tells you if your system can obtain real-time playback or not, and the FPS counter tells you how many frames per second your system can display.
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t have smooth playbacks and need to make DaVinci Resolve run faster there are some settings and options that will enhance your performance:
Settings & Options that will make DaVinci Resolve run faster
Before we jump inside those technical settings I would like to mention two of the most important things people usually overlook that can speed up your workflow:
1. Keyboard Customization
Most people make the transition from another editing program to DaVinci Resolve and lose a lot of time because they start to learn the new keyboard shortcuts for tools and such. You can avoid this by spending little time at first and set your own frequently used keyboard shortcuts as you are accustomed to.
You can find this option under the DaVinci Resolve tab, just open it and select Keyboard Customization.
2. Live Save
Mainly known as Auto-Save, Live Save can save you a lot of time. Imagine you didn`t set this up and after one hour of work the program crashes and you forgot to save the project, at this point, you have no way to recover your work and you have to start from scratch, it happens to all of us, but this feature can save you the trouble.
You can find this setting in the Preference menu under the DaVinci Resolve tab, click on the User tab, then on the left side you will have Project Save and Load.
3. Timeline and Video Monitoring Format Optimization
You can make DaVinci Resolve run faster by simply changing the video format of your Video Monitoring to a lower value, for example, your video output is at 4k but in the live playback window you will not see the difference between 4k, 1080p, or 720p because you will never have the chance to see this window in full view unless you have some black magic hardware to support it. This setting will not modify your final video format when you will be exporting the project.
These settings can be found in Project Settings under the File table.
If you plan to use Timeline Rendering, which I will explain in the following sections, modifying the timeline resolution will not work, you will have to choose between them.
4. GPU Usage
Make sure your high-end graphics card is used for computing your editing. This will automatically be selected for you in case you have a system with only one graphics card. In case you have another low-end card for different outputs, make sure that one is unchecked in the menu. This will only slow you down.
5. Cache and Optimized Media Location
Make sure your scratch and Cache files location is set to an SSD drive, this will make DaVinci Resolve run faster given the reading and writing speed of the drive.
You can find this setting in the Projects Settings menu, under the Master Settings.
6. Compound Clips
Try to keep your timeline clean using compound clips, this option is basically a timeline inside another timeline. You can select different clips, text layers, and effects and group them inside a compound clip and anything inside will render separately from your main timeline and will speed things up. To do this, select everything you want to group together, right-click, and then select New Compound Clip.
7. Timeline Rendering or Optimized Media and Render Cache
To do this, go to your Project Settings panel. Under the Master Settings tab, look for the section labeled Optimized Media and Render Cache. If you use Windows, change both to DNxHR SQ. If you use a Mac, you’ll need to use ProRes 422 LT. Of course, you can set them to a higher compression codec if needed, but it will make it run slower. Make sure you have the same codec selected for both fields.
After you did that, look below the Render Cache Format column and tick the checkbox Enable background caching after x second. Afterwards, change the time interval to 1 second. Click Save.
The next step you have to make, under the Playback menu, enable Use optimized media if available. In the same menu, change Render Cache from None to User.
This doesn’t make DaVinci Resolve begin optimizing your clips. You have to do this manually by right-clicking on a layer from your timeline or your bins and selecting Generate Optimized Media.
Regardless of this, after you add effects and color nodes over your footage you will notice things slowing down again, this happens regarding what kind of machine you have. To make it work again, right-click on your clip and select Render Cache Color Output.
After this step, a red bar will appear on top of your video that will change to blue. Once it is blue, you will be able to add as many effects and image adjustments as you like without affecting playback speed.
This method doesn’t go hand in hand with the changing of the Timeline resolution method, because the rendering of the Cache will be made at the current settings of the project. For example, you wanna make a 4k edit, but you start your editing at 1080p Timeline resolution.
After you’re done editing all your cache will have 1080p resolution and the final export will not be able to use that information because you will want to change it back to 4k before pressing that export button.
It is important to know that regardless of how old your machine is, you can always find ways to make DaVinci Resolve run faster and you don’t have to go to your boss and stress to him about more investments he has to make, instead, come up with solutions and impress him.