Reviewing Beta Software

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With the explosive rise of DaVinci Resolve since Blackmagic Design’s purchase in 2009 knowing how to use the software in at least some fashion has become almost a necessity for those in post production. BMD has proudly plastered new versions of Resolve all over NAB the last few years. And so, naturally, new versions bring about a lot of excitement and press. I am right there with all the people eagerly awaiting the release of Resolve 12.

The thing that most people seem to miss is that Resolve 12 has not been released.

You wouldn’t know it from the headlines all over our favorite post sites and blogs. Everyone has an initial hands on, first thoughts, full length reviews, and even training material! I think this is a problem for two reasons.

 
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1. Beta software can and will cause issues

The first stage a piece of software can exist in that anyone except its developers will see is called an alpha. Alpha software will almost always have show stopping bugs and missing or incomplete features as the point is to demonstrate the very core ideas and functionality. It’s rare to see an alpha release leave the development group or company.

After the core feature set is working and stable the next step in development is called a beta. At this stage the software by definition has known bugs and incomplete features. The software is usually full of extra test and debug code that slows it down. It is common to start distributing beta software to outside testers to give developers valuable testing feedback. Good beta testers are extremely valuable to developers as they understand how to test on backup systems and record issues. Beta testers will always have backups of their data as it is assumed problems will arise.

The way the post community is treating the Resolve 12 Beta is as if the software is ready for production. It isn’t, and jumping in and installing the beta also happens to remove your current, stable install of Resolve 11. I would argue that 50% or more of those encouraged to “just try” the beta after reading about it are not prepared to handle potentially corrupted databases or projects, managing driver versions, or moving between the new beta versions that appear and back to stable version 11.

 Just a glance at the Resolve 12 beta forums may calm your desire to jump in head first

Just a glance at the Resolve 12 beta forums may calm your desire to jump in head first

2. Beta software will change

By its very definition beta software will change before the official release. In fact, in the two week period between beta 3 and beta 4 Blackmagic reports improved performance enhancements, a gray UI option, improved metering, and other changes. You may not be surprised to learn that each of the new beta versions has also claimed significant performance improvements.

If you read reviews and thoughts on Resolve 12 most writers spend very little time on the fact that the software will change. We’re lucky to even get a token mention that the software is a beta release. It’s possible the good writers and publications out there will update their pieces as new versions come out, but are you going to back and re-read that 3,000 word review to see how the reviewer’s opinion of the software changed?

How it should be done

I personally am not interested in anyone’s review of DaVinci Resolve 12 until that reviewer has gotten to use the finalized version for at least a week. Maybe the reviewer notes that the Edit page is a little sluggish with certain kinds of media. That’s expected! It’s a beta! I don’t need to know that, and it’s a waste of time to read your multi-page opinion.

If you like kicking the tires on software in development, that’s great. I do too! What is the most helpful to everyone who wants to see this software excel is that you test it carefully on a separate machine or at least with all your data backed up. Test it hard, run it through a complex project, and find the problem areas. Then, report them to Blackmagic on the beta forums. That’s why the beta is released to the public.

Blackmagic Design has certainly put a lot of marketing effort into Resolve 12, and rightly so. It’s a major release that should scare the pants off of the Premiere and Final Cut teams[1]. So of course it is news when the Resolve 12 Beta starts, and each time a new version is released. While I have tried the software I don’t have time to do extensive testing of it so I love reading quick pieces about what is changing or what’s new. That stuff is exactly what news sites and blogs should have.

What we don’t need are full in depth reviews and long opinion pieces about how Resolve 12 is fast or slow or good or bad. It is currently all of those things, because it is still being worked on.

Save your review for when it’s released. Thanks!


  1. I’m assuming the Avid team just doesn’t wear pants anymore due to how often they are being scared off them, but that’s another post.  ↩