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Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel

Michael Maher

We took the new DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel for a spin. Here are our thoughts.

All images via PremiumBeat.

We got our hands on a DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel and wanted to see if it was too good to be true. Was this really a panel that cost less than a $1,000 that both amateur and professional colorists could love?

The DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel Body

Right out of the box, the DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel is impressive. This thing is solid. Its designers obviously had travel in mind, as it is durable and solid without being too heavy. In total, the die-cast and machined aluminum body comes in at just under eight pounds.

The Micro Panel is the smallest color grading board Blackmagic Design has released, and it fits perfectly on a DIT cart, in a color grading suite, or even on a video editor’s desk.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Micro Panel

When you open the box, three tracker balls and color rings immediately grab your attention. These controls are very similar to those on the original Advanced Control Surface, and they control the RGB balance for lift, gamma, and gain. The trackballs just feel good, and they give you precise control with your fingertips. The color wheels are equally robust and precise.

Above each tracker ball are three buttons for RGB, ALL, and LEVEL. The top of the panel has twelve dedicated control knobs. It’s a little difficult to describe, but these knobs have the perfect degree of resistance. They are easy to turn in any direction for both wide or precise changes. You can also press them down to reset.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Controls

The first three knobs control Y Lift, Y Gamma, and Y Gain. They allow you to control the contrast in the Y luminance channel.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Knobs

The next three knobs control contrast, pivot, and mid detail — which adjust overall contrast, center of tonality, and contrast of high edge detail respectively.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Additional Knobs

Next are the color boost, shadows, and highlights control knobs. Color boost controls the vibrance by raising the saturation only in areas with low saturation. Shadows lightens or darkens shadow detail without changing the mid-tones. Highlights does the same but by lightening or darkening highlight detail.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Control Knobs

At the right end of the panel are the saturation, hue, and luminance mix knobs. Saturation changes the overall saturation and color intensity. Hue rotates all hues of the footage. Luminance mix balances between YRGB changes and the Y-only control knobs’ adjustments.

On the right side of the panel below the control knobs are 18 illuminated control buttons dedicated to regular tasks like playback; still capture; bypass; and switching between nodes, frames, and clips. There are also three more control buttons in the middle of the panel for LOG, offset, and viewer. LOG changes the trackballs from RGB to LOG mode. Offset makes the third trackball the offset controller and changes the other trackballs to color temperature and tint. Viewer toggles DaVinci Resolve in and out of fullscreen mode. All thirty buttons are nicely backlit.

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — USB-C Outlet

On the back of the Micro Panel is the real genius of the entire machine — a single USB-C output that allows for instant plug-and-play control. There is no need for any additional power.

In comparison, the Mini Panel has the same form factor base and track balls with the addition of two LCD screens, 8 more knobs, and a series of direct access buttons. The Mini Panel does however require A/C power, so it’s not as easy to immediately start using. It uses the same USB-C connector to link to your machine, and it can also connect via Ethernet.

Getting Started and Setting Up

Hands-on Review: DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel — Getting Started

Setting up the Micro Panel is pretty painless. Perhaps the best thing to come from the new color panels is that you will never need to update the hardware itself. All updates come through the DaVinci Resolve software, so you’ll only ever need to download the latest updates to your computer. You’ll never have to update the panel by itself.

To use the DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel, you will need to at least have updated to DaVinci Resolve 12.5 (if you haven’t already updated to DaVinci Resolve 14). You can go to the Blackmagic Design support page for updates.

  1. Open the latest version of DaVinci Resolve (at least 12.5) and click on the Preferences cog wheel in the bottom right corner.
  2. Go to the Control Panel tab, select the proper panel type (in this case the Micro Panel), hit OK.

Thoughts on the Control Panel

I think my biggest takeaway is how great this panel really is. At $995, I felt like I was using a high-end control panel that cost several thousand dollars. Blackmagic aggressively targeted the low price point, and alongside the price drop to $299 for the Studio version of DaVinci Resolve 14, they are attempting to price out the competition and take control of the professional and amateur colorist market.

The only real weakness of the panel — if you can even really call it a weakness — is that these panels are only compatible with DaVinci Resolve. So for colorists using any other programs, there is no cross platform use with the Blackmagic panels.

Overall, with the incredibly precise controls and stellar build quality, it’s easy to recommend this panel for amateurs and professional colorists alike. Professionals will probably prefer the additional controls of the Mini Panel, which at $2995 is still a fraction of the $29,995 Advanced Panel.

What Others Have Said

I’m certainly not the only person impressed by the DaVinci Resolve color panels. Here are a few thoughts from others.

Lewis McGregor got his hands on the Micro Panel and shared his immediate unboxing thoughts in this video on the UglyMcGregor channel.

You can make the smallest of adjustments because the trackballs have such smooth movement.

Over at Pro Video Coalition, colorist Eric Escobar shares some great insight as well.

If the bulk of your color work is grinding out basic grades, fixing white balance and making sure skin tones are legit, then this is all you need. If you need to carry something from shop to set because you’re the editor-colorist-DIT, this is all you need…

The DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel is a worthy investment even if color grading is something you do a few times a week. Your grading will improve because you’ll be working in DaVinci Resolve the way it was intended. — Eric Escobar

For a quick look at the slightly larger and more robust Mini Panel, here is a glimpse at the control surface from Matt Workman over at the Cinematography Database.


Do you have any thoughts on the Micro Panel? Let us know in the comments.

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