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Imagine me doing a big stretch, hands intertwined together and typing on the keyboard, having a bead of sweat down me as I throw a very small – metaphorical – grenade into the room. The Premiere Pro vs DaVinci Resolve argument isn’t much an argument, but more of a slow realization that you might be trapped with the software, not that the software is trapped with you.
It’s okay though, both have their merits and I’ll be frank, I ditched Premiere Pro in 2018 to move over to DaVinci Resolve, in a vague attempt at protesting Adobe’s ever-rising subscription fees. However, it didn’t last long as I realized Photoshop is a thing and After Effects has its merits.
So to put it out there right now for those not particularly interested in seeing my reasoning, I think both pieces of software are perfectly fine, I just find the business practices behind one to be a little more sinister than the other.
Blackmagic Design is mostly known for their studio and production hardware, but have been producing DaVinci Resolve as an all-in-one editor and composite software, including a fully-fledged digital audio suite.
Premiere Pro is Adobe’s flagship video editing software, used by most industry professionals at this point, it’s known for its easy-to-understand user interface, healthy community, and tight integration with the rest of the Adobe Suite.
The major difference between Resolve and Adobe is their affection for the past. Resolve is steeped in trying to replicate an older feeling, combining it with modern looks, and doing its best to keep each page strictly to what they’re intended for.
This can be seen directly in how Resolve deals with time, which starts at “1:00:00”, instead of the more up-to-date digital “0”, to continue the replication of editing via tape.
Adobe meanwhile seems to be attempting to replicate the focus of Resolve, but with a lot more freedom for the user to create their own workspace area in the software.
Colour wheels, timelines, icons, and basic features are all similar in some ways, with major divergence in what other software they decide to pull from for other sections. Resolve follows a traditional node-based interface in its color and Fusion FX tabs, while Adobe keeps with the layers that exist within its ecosystem since Photoshop.
Looking at Resolve can be really intimidating. Only high-end software like Unreal or Nuke uses a Node-based system these days and that’s mostly out of necessity for the amount of information that needs organizing on screen at any one time. It’s not a known thing and getting to grips with the vast amount of control at your fingertips is wild.
However, it can be too much, and learning takes time, it takes patience, and even after two years of using it, I personally, still scratch my head at what I could have possibly done to break the end result.
Meanwhile, Premiere Pro, if you want to cut a video together, put titles on and a few effects or transitions, the program is designed to cart you from one end to the other, with tonnes of tutorials even embedded straight into the program. It’s clear, concise and most of all, it’s astoundingly well designed.
Sure, Blackmagic makes it atrociously easy to import a file structure or quickly edit with its default chunky style, but it is a leap in logic for some and I get it. However, once you’ve spent time with it, it all comes together.
Premiere’s learning curve mostly comes with learning what it can do, how to do it, and then practice. There are no new concepts because layers are pretty much a universal concept in almost all creative applications. While it can get messy swapping between each section – Resolve handles this a little better – being able to create a whole new workspace from scratch is a boon.
There’s also the fact that Premiere can run on much lesser hardware, while Resolve can begin to eat everything up and then wanting more as you apply more and more to the project.
This is the first sticking point for a lot of people and why you’ll find Adobe software the top of a lot of ‘most pirated’ lists. The subscription fee and constant rising costs of Adobe’s stuff is out of control. Per month, for a full suite of Adobe, it is currently fifty pounds a month. Five whole notes. A whole Alan Turing.
Meanwhile, Blackmagic Design has a perpetual license, costing £250. You pay once, you own the software for all future and prior versions, no questions asked. However, you do need to wait for the physical delivery, as the download-only – Mac App Store version – is so poorly supported, you literally have to wait for the card or dongle to arrive.
The issue isn’t the cost of the Adobe Suite, it’s the constant having to pay for it. There’s literally no option to just buy your copy of Premiere Pro anymore.
Adobe’s insistence on the subscription fee has lead to what could be described as a harmful relationship. Ever rising costs (in 2019 it was raised from $39.99 to $48.99) and a sweeping amount of bugs with each release, Adobe’s price point of either $50 to ensure that you have all the necessary tools to put complete projects together or $20 for just Premiere where you wish you had the $50-a-month collection.
Both programs take their looks from what AVID and other early video editing software laid the foundation for. Timelines, iconography, and the lingo, with Resolve’s editing side actually becoming more and more homogenous with Premiere’s offerings. Obviously, the main difference is the inclusion of Resolve’s Cut page, which takes on the form of scrubbing through old-school tape for quick edits and social media-focused videos. Meanwhile, Premiere Rush is – much like most of Adobe’s offerings – an entirely different product designed to incentivize subscription fees.
I like that Resolve hides a lot of its settings behind menus that can be completely hidden, giving you a full-screen experience when editing, but I actively have to fight with it when cutting and pasting clips about the timeline, ensuring that they already existed in the right area or risk having them overwriting what’s currently sat there, instead of just immediately overlaying ontop.
Version 17 brought a lot of handy features, especially for social media editing. Being able to tell Resolve to just determine where the action is and apply that to a vertical video being converted from the landscape, is increasingly useful as TikTok and YouTube Shorts become the hot commodity online.
Subtitles are integrated straight into the timeline, editable on the fly, and can follow a specific format that is immediately added to each subsequent one. You can even import SRT files if you already have the transcription.
Premiere Pro is just simple. While it works very similarly to Resolve – Blackmagic literally put up an option to change shortcuts to Premiere for those moving over – and with the countless tutorials in the ‘Learn’ section embedded in the program only means that getting to grips with its eccentricities.
The thin design and lightweight user interface make it great to edit on the go with a laptop or smaller monitors, while Resolve requires quite a large screen real estate without getting too unusable. Everything is split into two halves, whereas Resolve sort of dots itself around the screen, expecting a decent-sized monitor to cope with its design choices. Premiere Pro is also just naturally better at dealing with your heavier video files, with the options to playback at lower resolutions baked into the software’s viewers, sometimes eliminating the need for Proxy files.
Speaking of Proxy files, it was only until recently that Resolve began to use traditional proxy videos – files that you can edit with at lower resolutions and then export at full quality to speed up the workflow – and relied on ‘Optimised Media’, which is great if you have an extraordinarily large hard drive to match it. The negative thing here is that Optimised Media can’t be used elsewhere, whereas Proxy Media that Premiere Pro makes (and now Resolve) can be interchanged if you’re working with someone else.
Overall though, both kind of do the same thing at this point and it simply comes down to which one are you willing to learn.
This will be short and sweet: DaVinci Resolve is the best at colour grading for consumer-facing video editing products. Blackmagic’s entire thing is based around accurate colours, with multiple pieces of external or internal hardware available to ensure the most information and accuracy can be applied when dealing with the colour space.
Colour grading is quite literally altering the colours to achieve the effect and emotion you want out of your video.
Adobe’s is far more simple, but ultimately, never hits the highs of Resolve – even in the free version – which it becomes worth just exporting your unfinished project into Resolve (Resolve and Premiere have methods of exporting the full timeline into each other via raw data sets in XML format) to grade it and then put it back into Premiere to finish.
While colour grading is a whole different kettle of fish, with monitors, hardware and more being major factors in the process, the fact of the matter is that DaVinci Resolve started as a colour grading software and still remains number one for it to this day.
Unless of course, you’re talking to colour scientists, but come on, those people are weird.
This is a slightly strange one. While Resolve does feature Fusion, a fully integrated VFX and compositing software, as we said above, it can be intimidating to use. Nodes just aren’t exactly intuitive to new users and it can get awfully messy once you begin getting deep into anything more than basic effects. The keyframe option is less than ideal and its complete disregard for users who haven’t dedicated time to it is, frankly, part of the reason a lot of people still swing back into Adobe’s After Effects to do various effects.
However, if you have the time to learn it, Fusion is possibly one of the best-kept secrets for just how powerful it is. Not only does it deal with 3D VFX, full compositions, and green screen, the modular node design is astoundingly easy to fix if you have it snapping to the grid.
Meanwhile with Adobe, Premiere Pro does have some built-in effects you can use, but it ultimately relies on having access to After Effects for anything remotely more complex, like custom animations. This is fine – as we’ll get to in the next section – but it does mean Premiere is fairly limited outside of the effects that it has set unless you begin exploring alternate effects suites from companies like Boris FX, which import themselves into video editors and run within them.
This said After Effects is still the king for creating custom effects for numerous different situations. Its deep integration with Premiere Pro and robust external support from third parties just makes it infinitely better than Resolve’s Fusion as of right now.
I am still miffed about motion blur being locked behind the two though, I just want the text to come in without applying the ‘whip’ transition to fake it without loading up After Effects or watching Resolve struggle under the weight of Fusion. Which is a knock against both pieces of software, that Fusion and After Effects – in turn, so is Premiere Pro – crash-prone when doing anything exciting.
Right. Yes, the obvious answer here is ‘Premiere is best with other software’. As discussed above, it has direct connections with After Effects and can import in projects without needing to render them out, allowing you to make on-the-fly changes in Photoshop or After Effects and see it pop out on Premiere Pro upon saving.
Both feature support from third parties like Boris FX, allowing for more advanced users to get what they need, but of course, with the popularity of Premiere Pro and Adobe’s widespread usage across the board, it has more options than Resolve does.
Resolve meanwhile is great if you intend to only work within the Blackmagic ecosystem. Importing Photoshop files is doable, but if you make any changes to them, you’d need to reimport it all over again to get the updated files. The deeper integration is mostly hardware-based and having the best software to support Blackmagic’s own RAW file format for fast editing is obviously great, but, you need very specific hardware to get hold of these features in their best light.
Colour grading, for instance, is best on Blackmagic hardware, but the price to admission is in the hundreds and for those who are dedicated to the craft. The Speed Editor only works in the software and nowhere else, meanwhile, their lack of support for some file formats due to licenses on different platforms can become a bit of an issue.
However, you’re looking at cost jumps for each. While Blackmagic is a high price of admission, you’ll only have to pay it once, whereas with Adobe, you’re looking at £50 a month, forever and that includes potential price hikes as you go.
I’ve said this in another article, but to pit the two together is simply down to taste and what ecosystem are you willing to dedicate yourself to. If you’re an avid user of Adobe and have the means to pay the extortion fee, then yes, what you get for the full package and different offerings from the many pieces of software you need to install, can provide an overall better creative output. Photoshop is unmatched by what it does, while After Effects has so much third-party support, it’d make you weep knowing how much that’s going to cost you.
Meanwhile, from a production point of view, Resolve’s color grading and a complete rip-off of stereotypical video editing timelines, as well as offering a free version, makes it my overall recommendation for those that intend to just get into editing. While it’s intended for the professionals, learning what it has to offer can be applied almost anywhere, even moving between Premiere Pro and say, Final Cut X. For those a little more advanced or shooting on Blackmagic cameras that support BMD RAW, a file format that provides high quality with fast speeds through what I can only assume is magic, or using Blackmagic products on the regular, will find that the abundance of integration within the Resolve ecosystem is just worth dedicating time to the alternative NLE.