DaVinci Resolve – An In-Depth Comparison Between the Free and Studio Version

DaVinci Resolve – An In-Depth Comparison Between the Free and Studio Version

Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve is a powerful editing, video effects, and sound production suite used by big Hollywood productions to YouTube content creators. But who is the free version for? And what are the differences between the free and the paid Studio variant? We are here to guide you through all of the differences!

Why is there a free version of DaVinci Resolve?

First of all, why is there even a free version of the program? This is pretty clever marketing on behalf of Blackmagic Design. Resolve is used as an attractive gateway into the Blackmagic Design ecosystem. The thinking of CEO Grant Petty is that once you really get to know Resolve you will also be interested in the hardware they offer, such as the speed editor, color grading panels, or the ATEM mini-series.

The better and more professional you get the more you will invest in Blackmagic products. And this strategy seems to work well (judging by my current desk setup, it sure worked on me), so there are no signs that the company will change this any time soon.

“We want people to be able to create great content for free, but also have the opportunity to unlock further professional features once their skill level has reached a certain point.”

Simon Hall, Senior Technical Sales Specialist at Blackmagic Design

Why would I pay?

Which brings us to the next question: why should I pay around $300 for the full Studio version? First of all, one of the biggest differences to some competitors it’s only a one-time fee, there are no recurring charges and Blackmagic does not charge for updates. So if you bought version 15 years ago, all updates to version 18 have been free of charge. You can find our article on what to look out for when upgrading versions here.

We will guide you through the differences according to the workflow in Resolve, starting at the Media page and ending at export. In the end, you will know whether the free version is sufficient for your needs or if you will make the jump to the paid variant of the program.

You will see this watermark in your viewer if you try to use a Studio-only tool in the free version. Source: Alex Hohenthaner / CineD
You will see this watermark in your viewer if you try to use a Studio-only tool in the free version. Source: Alex Hohenthaner / CineD

Media page

You will already start noticing differences once you upgraded your camera gear and professionalized your workflow. While the free version can handle many formats and codecs, only the Studio version will play back formats such as AVCHD, HEIF, J2K HT, and Sony XAVC or 10-bit formats such as the H.264 10-bit 433 out of the Panasonic GH series. Here is a link to a list of all supported Codecs directly on the Blackmagic site.

A very useful feature you can only find in the paid version is “Scene cut detection” which can analyze clips for cuts and then split them into single clips to further work on in your timeline.

Another feature missing in the free version is face detection for creating smart bins for different actors. This is a great feature for organizing your material for a long-form project with many different people.

Cut and Edit page, collaboration and performance

The differences come mostly from the performance of the program itself. While both versions use the GPU for processing, only the Studio version can make use of multiple GPUs. This will significantly speed up your workflow, especially in larger projects.

The timeline resolution of the free version is limited to Ultra HD 3,840 x 2,160. However, you can create timelines in different aspect ratios even in the unpaid variant of the program.

Two Edit page inspector features that can only be found in Studio are Smart Reframe (which automatically puts the most important part of the video at the center when zoomed in or using aspect ratios different from the one the video was shot in) and Lens Correction (for getting rid of optical distortions).

Both free and paid include multi-user collaboration on projects (featuring a chat function), but only the paid version supports markers and comments synchronization using Dropbox, as well as remote grading, remote rendering, and remote monitoring of 444, RGB 10-bit video and audio streams.

Further features only found in the Studio version include:

  • Support for HDR10, HDR10+, Vivid, and Dolby Vision workflows and H.265 Dolby Vision encodes
  • Support for HDR metadata over HDMI/SDI

Color page and color correction tools

This is the area which DaVinci Resolve is most known for and the free version offers a lot of tools needed to correct and grade your material to achieve a professional look.

Some features only found in the paid version include the Magic Mask, a tool for easy masking which can save you a lot of time by avoiding rotoscoping, or the face refinement tool for beauty touch-ups, since both these tools use AI features of the Neural Engine working in Resolve.

Also, only available in the paid version are HDR scopes, which enable you to create videos complying with standards such as Dolby Vision or HDR10+, and advanced spatial and temporal noise reduction options.

Other tools and effects on the color page that can only be found in Studio version

  • Depth Map
  • Grading of stereoscopic 3D projects
  • Film Halation (for adding a glow around high contrast edges, which can be found on footage recorded on analog film)
  • Speed warp (for creating smooth slow motion)
  • Superscale for upscaling HD to 4K
  • Film grain
  • Camera blur
  • Motion blur
  • Motion trails
  • Lens flare
  • Lens blur
  • Lens reflections
  • Pencil sketch
  • Analog Damage (for vintage looks)
  • Aperture Diffraction
  • Automatic Dirt Removal
  • Beauty
  • Stylize and Pencil Sketch
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Chromatic adaptation
  • Auto color matching
  • Color Stabilizer
  • Contrast Pop
  • DCTL
  • Deflicker
  • Dehaze
  • Detail recovery
  • Dustbuster
  • False color
  • Frame replace
  • Object tracking
  • Object mask
  • Object removal
  • Patch replacer
  • Sharpen
  • Sharpen Edges
  • Smear
  • Soften and Sharpen Skin
  • Surface Tracker 18
  • Texture Pop
  • Tilt Shift Blur
  • Warper

Creating effects in Fusion

Interestingly enough, the effects suite within DaVinci Resolve or the Fusion page has only minor differences between the free and Studio versions.

Features only available in Studio include

  • Fusion Camera Tracker
  • Fusion VR Toolset
  • Control Scripts from local or remote machines

So you can do nearly everything that Fusion offers for free, although this page has quite a steep learning curve. Once you wrap your head around concepts like nodes though you will be able to create great effects here.

Working on audio in Fairlight

For audio mixing in Resolve, we use the Fairlight page. The free version also offers a lot of features already, such as the royalty-free audio library (which can be downloaded from the Blackmagic Design website).

Only in Studio can you find the following functions:

  • Voice Isolation (to get rid of unwanted ambient sounds)
  • Dolby Atmos audio
  • MPEGH import and rendering
  • SMPTE ST.2098 support
  • B-chain audio monitoring
  • Auro-3D audio
  • 3D panner
  • 3D Spaceview
  • Support for object and channel-based immersive formats (ADM, 22.2, SMPTE, MPEG-H and others)

Deliver page and export options

Here you will find some major differences between the versions. The free one is limiting exports to 4K Ultra HD and 60 fps. Studio enables you to export up to 32K and 120 fps with advanced HDR delivery. If you need to create DCI 4K 4,096 x 2,160 or even higher resolutions then you have to go for the paid version.

Studio also supports hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding of codecs such as H.264 and H.265, which will not only speed up working with this type of material but also significantly shorten the rendering process when exporting. integration is only supported in this version as well.


As you can see, the free version of Resolve already offers you a lot of functionalities for creating great content. Since you can download it directly from Blackmagic Design’s website, it is easy to give it a try and see if you can get comfortable with it. You can find our article about great resources for beginners here.

Price and availability

You can get the free version of DaVinci Resolve directly from Blackmagic Design. You can find the Studio version at retailers such as B&H and CVP.

Are you using DaVinci Resolve and if yes, are you paying for the Studio version? When did you make the switch to Studio and what features made you go for it? Let us know in the comments!


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