Display HDR in DaVinci Resolve Viewer

This post explains how to use the HDR capabilities of an Apple MacBook or iMac built-in display when using DaVinci Resolve and also applies to external HDR capable displays such as the Apple Pro Display XDR, allowing you to preview HDR content directly via the Resolve viewer. The feature is only available on macOS 10.14.6 and above and DaVinci Resolve 16 and above.

While no one should be using the Resolve viewer for color grading on their Mac, this feature does have a number of advantages: (1) it makes it possible to edit HDR footage with actual color and contrast; (2) you can show the client/friends/model what you’re working on when on location or when there’s no HDR display around and (3) it makes previewing HDR content on a MacBook possible.

The time can’t come soon enough when we’re able to see an actual HDR image in the viewer on Macs with miniLED displays.

Update 12.2021: The new 2021 miniLED MacBook Pro display enables viewing in true HDR.

The original ProRes RAW clip (below) is tone mapped in the viewer of Final Cut Pro, yielding a less contrasty image with far more information in the highlights (much more than can be seen in this screenshot) and clips in the browser and on the timeline are tone mapped as well.

Unlike Final Cut Pro, which applies tone mapping, compressing the dynamic range to fit the display, the viewer in Resolve is displaying ST2084 PQ, which explains why the picture is so contrasty and highlights are clipped. In other words, the Resolve viewer really is HDR. Final Cut Pro’s solution is preferable for day-to-day playback and editing of HDR projects on a Mac.

UPDATE: DaVinci Resolve Studio 17.4 adds Native HDR viewers and 120 Hz playback on supported MacBook Pros.

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