Color grading in LumaFusion

LumaFusion vs DaVinci Resolve for Editing Drone Videos

LumaFusion and DaVinci Resolve are both low-cost yet powerful, full-featured video editing applications. I’ve been using LumaFusion exclusively for the last year and a half since I got my 12.9” iPad Pro, but before that I had been using Resolve for a couple of years both for video editing and for creating timelapses. When I started creating drone videos earlier this summer, I continued using LumaFusion but quickly discovered a major limitation that has forced me to switch back to Resolve-the lack of support for speed ramping.

Update (March 2023): With the release of Davinci Resolve for iPad a few months ago, this comparison post has become less relevant (in my opinion). For my uses, Resolve is far superior to LumaFusion. I edited my latest drone video start-to-finish on my 2020 (pre-M1) iPad Pro using the DaVinci Resolve app. Although there are some issues with the current version, including occasional crashes and freezing, stuttering in playback, and limited support for all features, the app is the full-featured clone of the desktop version of the software and is incredibly powerful.

Edited in DaVincI Resolve for iPad

The current version of the Resolve app only provides access to the Cut and Color pages. This was sufficient for my latest project. I will say that LumaFusion’s interface on the iPad is slightly better since it has been developed as a native iPad app, and I definitely experienced fewer issues with LumaFusion. But the powerful tools available in Resolve and seamless transition from desktop to mobile make up for the current shortcomings that should get worked out as more updates are rolled out. At this time, I’m optimistic Resolve for iPad will be my go-to in the future; as it is, I think I prefer it but it might be too frustrating if working on a video with a lot of speed changes and other edits that the app can’t handle.

Speed Ramping in LumaFusion

Until two months ago, I didn’t even know what speed ramping was. I certainly had noticed the effect but hadn’t really given any thought to how it was done. I’m not sure how important speed ramping was for traditional filmmaking, but it has become a common element of modern short-form videography and is absolutely essential for editing drone videos.

For aerial videography, it’s common for a single clip to range from 30 seconds up to a couple of minutes or longer, but it’s not often that the viewer’s attention will stay focused on the video that long. Speed ramping allows us to use longer clips with a quick transition from beginning to end so that the viewer sees the context of the drone movement without having to fully invest their time. It is a nice effect if not overused. Without the ability to speed ramp, the videography has to cut the clips to remove the transition, or else play back the entire clip at an accelerated pace. In a lot of circumstances, neither of these is a good option.

Edited in LumaFusion 3.1 with Manual Speed Ramping

LumaFusion currently (as of version 3.1) includes the ability to change the speed of a clip up to 6x normal speed but does not offer a means to automatically ramp the speed. Although it is possible to manually accelerate the speed of a clip without too much effort, the limitation of 6x for the maximum speed is the real problem. I’ve found that accelerated transitions usually look awkward in the 3x to 10x range and often need to be accelerated by 30x to 50x to achieve the desired quick transition look.

A potential workaround for LumaFusion is to individually speed up a clip, export it as a new clip, then use that in the main timeline. I’ve attempted to do this on a project with mixed results but overall I found it to be limited because it is infeasible to mix the accelerated clip with the original clip for a faster transition. For example, the original clip could be sped up by a factor of 4x, then the 4x clip could be manually ramped in the timeline by a factor of 6x giving an effective 24x increase. However, working with the 4x clip on the timeline means that the footage has to start and end at 4x.

Speed Ramping in DaVinci Resolve
Speed Ramping in DaVinci Resolve

I used this approach in my Cuchara Valley video, and it turned out OK, but I decided to re-create the video in Resolve with much better results. Based on the experience creating this video, I decided to use Resolve for my drone videos going forward, at least until LumaTouch adds support for true speed ramping. Speed ramping is not officially supported on Resolve for iPad, but the current version includes the Edit page that can be enabled from the Preferences menu. Once enabled, the app includes full support for speed ramping just as it does on the desktop although it does slow down playback considerably.

Edited in DaVinci Resolve 18

LumaFusion Workflow

Other than speed ramping, LumaFusion, as of version 3.1, includes everything else that I’ve found to be essential for editing drone videos. I do think the color correction and color grading tools could be improved, but I’ve been able to produce great results editing log footage without much difficulty. I love having the freedom to edit my projects anywhere on my iPad rather than having to be at my desk, and I’ve found the process of editing video handheld on the iPad using the Apple Pencil to be so much more intuitive than editing on a desktop with a mouse.

LumaFusion vs DaVinci Resolve for Editing Drone Videos aerial, DaVinci Resolve, drone, LumaFusion, Videography
Color grading in LumaFusion with Scopes

In addition to being more intuitive, it is absolutely amazing how well the iPad Pro (2020 version with the A12Z Bionic processor, not the M1) and LumaFusion can handle high resolution video files. I am able to edit 4K and 5.4K video at frame rates from 24 to 60 fps with no issues whatsoever. With Resolve on my Windows machine (a Dell Precision 7760 workstation with an Intel Core i7-11850H processor and 64 GB RAM), I can’t even think about editing those files without first letting Resolve generate proxy files.

Other tools/features within LumaFusion that I use on drone videos include motion blur, stabilization, highlight bloom/glow effect, sharpening, vignettes, and LUTs. Of course, all of these are also available within the free version of DaVinci Resolve with more control and options. Color grading is certainly a lot easier with Resolve (once you get the wheels figured out), and working on a large monitor is definitely better for grading too.

Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve
Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve

Future Features

Before writing this post I reached out to LumaFusion to ask about the possibility of adding support for speed ramping and increases beyond 6x. Their response was that while these are among their most requested features to add, speed adjustments beyond 6x are not currently possible because of ”stability issues,” and the same applies to speed ramping. Based on that response, it does not seem that we will see these features added to LumaFusion anytime soon (and will it be supported on all devices when it is added?).

LumaTouch does offer the ability to export projects to XML as a paid enhancement to LumaFusion (for $20). I’m thinking of trying this out because it could offer an effective means to develop a rough edit of a project in LumaFusion, then transitioning to Resolve on the desktop. The drawback seems to be that all of the original media are duplicated, so I have some real questions about this process from a workflow and file management perspective.

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