Your Guide to Working with Project Files in DaVinci Resolve
Interested in Resolve’s capability as an NLE? These guidelines will help you navigate working with project files in this renowned application.
When you initially open Resolve, you’ll see a project window called the Project Manager. Here, you can load an existing project, or you can create a new project from scratch. However, you may notice that you don’t get to choose where the project file will be stored. Even when saving your project through the “Save Copy As” function, you still don’t get to choose the location — only the name. This is because Resolve operates within an industry-standard database system. Any item that isn’t a media file will be stored in the database. Admittedly, if you haven’t worked with a system like this, it can seem daunting at first. A quick Google search for “DaVinci Resolve save location” will bring up hundreds of frantic search queries from worried users.
In hindsight, I can say it makes a lot of sense. All projects are stored in the same place on your system drive, but if you need to back up, transfer, or import a project, you do so within Resolve and not in explorer or finder as you would with Premiere. In fact, renaming or moving projects outside of Resolve can result in a project becoming corrupted. It’s a big no-no.
Let’s have a look at how you execute these tasks.
Transferring and Restoring
In your Project Manager, right-click on a project and select archive.
This will copy all of the media in your project to the destination folder. Rest assured: the original media will remain untouched in its original location. It’s important to note that if you’re using hundreds of gigabytes of media, not only is the process going to take a while, you’re also going to have to make sure the new drive has enough available space.
How an archived project folder will appear.
With your project fully archived, you need to restore it to use in Resolve. Back in the project window, right-click anywhere, and hit “restore.” Navigate to the archived project folder, and select open. Resolve will then import the project, bins, and media exactly as you left them prior to archiving. If you were previously a Premiere Pro user, you might find yourself in familiar territory with this process.
Import and Export
When you open the contextual menu in the project manager, you’ll also see an option to import and export a project.
At first, this may seem like the same thing as archiving and restoring, but the primary difference is that you are only exporting the project files — the timelines, bins, settings. Everything but the media.
This is for when you need to work from a different computer, and you already have the media on the other machine. If you’re hyper-cautious, you could also use this function to make a backup of your project to store in the cloud or on a flash drive.
A quick note regarding this process: if you export a project, then place it on the desktop of a new computer, you will be unable to open the project directly from the file itself. It doesn’t matter if you associate the file type with Resolve, it still won’t open the software. Even if you have Resolve open, the project will not load. You have to import back through the project window.
However, when you import a project from another computer, you’ll notice that all of the media is offline — even if you have the same media on your computer. Therefore, you will need to relink your media.
Thankfully, this is a very straightforward process. You don’t want to individually relink media clips, as that’s a tedious process — as is relinking individual bins. Instead, right-click on the master bin, and select “Relink Clips for Selected Bins.” From here, navigate to your media folder, click open, and Resolve will relink the missing files.
Backing Up Projects
Above, I said I sometimes use the export option to back up a project file off-drive because I’m incredibly paranoid about losing an edit. However, in Resolve 15, we also have a dedicated backup system. First, let’s distinguish between creating a backup and autosaving. When Resolve automatically saves your project, it overwrites the existing save with a new version that includes all of the changes since the last save — the basics right? A backup, however, will be of an older variation of the project, depending on when you create it.
For example, Resolve creates backups every X minutes, every X hours, and every X days. If you generate backups every 20 minutes, you’ll have three backups until the creation of the hourly backup. The first hourly backup is inherently going to be different from the third hourly backup. This system is ideal if you accidentally delete an important timeline and don’t realize it until it’s too late. With backups, you can revert to an earlier version of the project.
To find the project backup option, hit Ctrl+ to open the preferences panel (also located under DaVinci Resolve in the top menu), and select “Project Save and Load.”
With this setting activated, Resolve will save multiple backup projects comparable to the grandfather-father-son backup rotation. By default, this setting is inactive; therefore, if you’re loading up Resolve for the first time and want to automatically back up your projects, you’re going to need to turn this feature on.
As you can see from the menu, there are a lot of backup options, and after a day of editing, you’re going to have many backups of your project. You don’t have to worry about there being too many, as they only generate when changes are being implemented — and they write over themselves on a first-in-and-out basis. Once you reach your maximum X-minutes backups, the first one will get replaced with the next X-minute backup and so on.
To find your backups, head to the Project Manager, right-click, and hit “Project Backups.” From here, you can load and delete individual backups.
Finally, we have the “Save As” function. I’m sure everyone will know how Save As works, but it’s important to know that when you use Save As, you will immediately switch over and begin editing the new copy, not the original.
Perhaps the most crucial bit of information about the way Resolve handles project files is their deletion, as deleting a project from the Project Manager is permanent.
As you can see in the popup above, you cannot undo the action — you will not find the project file in the recycling bin, and if you go to the database folder on your hard drive, you won’t be able to bring it back by hitting Ctrl+Z.
Lewis McGregor is a certified DaVinci Resolve trainer.
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