da Vinci Systems

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
da Vinci Systems
IndustryDigital cinema
PredecessorVTA Technologies
Founded1984; 37 years ago (1984)
DefunctSeptember 2009; 12 years ago (2009-09)
FateLiquidation; assets acquired by Blackmagic Design
United States
Area served

da Vinci Systems was an American digital cinema company founded in 1984, based in Coral Springs, Florida and wholly owned by JDSU. It was known for hardware-based color correction products, such as 888, 2K and 2K Plus; GPU-based color grading and digital mastering systems, such as TLC and Resolve (now known as DaVinci Resolve); and film restoration and remastering systems, such as Revival.

The company's innovations include the color control panel, based on trackballs, and other discrete controls that enable colorists to control the software that manipulates motion picture images. As one of the earliest pioneers in post production products, da Vinci Systems introduced several innovative products and was considered a significant player in the post production industry during its 25 years of operation. da Vinci Systems equipment was initially developed by Video Tape Associates (VTA) in 1982 for use by the Hollywood, Florida, USA-based production/post production facility to alter and enhance colors from scanned film and video tape. The Wiz system, as it was later known, was marketed to other post production facilities, laying the foundation for the creation of the colorist and the post production color suite.

In September 2009, after the liquidation of the company, the assets of da Vinci Systems were acquired by Blackmagic Design, an Australian digital cinema company and manufacturer known for its products based in digital cinema and cameras.


  • 1982 - Video Tape Associates (VTA) a Hollywood, Florida, USA based production/post production facility begins development of the Wiz for internal use.
  • 1983 - Public introduction to The Wiz. The system controlled early telecines (RCA FR-35, Bosch FDL60) and offered basic primary and secondary color correction. The Editel group of post production facilities in the US evaluated the technology and asked that VTA build multiple systems for them. About 15 units were made and subsequently purchased by other post facilities across the US. The Wiz was essentially the prototype for what would become the da Vinci color corrector.
  • 1984 - The da Vinci Classic analog grading system was released and became the most popular color corrector for the Fernseh FDL 60 and Rank Cintel telecines (Mark 3 and URSA). It had a customized external control panel with internal primary and secondary processing and also an internal NTSC encoder. The Classic operated on a Motorola 68000 Multi Bus 1 system computer. The program and color correction list were stored on a 20MB MMF hard disk, with backup to a 5.25" floppy disk.
  • 1984 - VTA Technologies, the R&D division of VTA Post, became da Vinci Systems, Inc. Development of the da Vinci color corrector continued. Other products added to the line included an editor, machine control system, and routing system. The da Vinci was the only film-to-tape or tape-to-tape color correction system on the market that offered the capability to create a basic rectangular window shape isolating a secondary color correction. As the da Vinci product line evolved, the original da Vinci became known as the da Vinci Classic.
  • 1986 - Dynatech Video Group (Utah Scientific, ColorGraphics Systems, Quanta, among others) acquires da Vinci and it is managed within their Utah Scientific business.
  • 1988 - da Vinci Systems LLC is spun off from Utah Scientific and becomes its own entity as one of roughly eight video manufacturing companies in the portfolio of the Dynatech Video Group. Later, in 2000, through corporate restructuring and merger with WWG and TTC, Dynatech became Acterna.
  • 1989 - da Vinci Renaissance was the analog system that followed the da Vinci Classic analog system. It was similar to the Classic but ran on a Motorola 68020 Multi Bus 1 system with a 3.5" floppy. Options like Kilovectors were later available for the analog Renaissance. Kilovectors secondary color processing, more advanced than what was offered on the Classic, would become an industry standard function of secondary color isolation.
  • 1990 - Under direction from the parent company, da Vinci introduces a low cost color corrector for broadcasters and small post facilities. To reduce cost the stripped down telecine-only programmer, called Leonardo, used a flat plate (vision mixer style) control panel and provided only scene-by-scene control of a telecine (similar to Cintel's Amigo). Leonardo did not offer da Vinci color processing and was not successful in the market, with only one unit sold.
  • 1991 - The da Vinci Renaissance 888 was introduced to the color grading marketing. Operating at first with the original control panel interface and no GUI, the 888 was the first product in the world to offer digital 8:8:8 signal processing throughout. New groundbreaking features like Power Windows, Custom Curves and YSFX were to become part of its successful feature set.
  • 1992 - Power Windows were introduced to the Renaissance 888 permitting masking of grades.
  • 1992 - In a significant development in addition to vector grading, Custom Curves were introduced to the Renaissance 888. 1994 - da Vinci Systems wholly acquired the TLC product line from Time Logic. The TLC is still viewed today as the de facto standard edit control interface between telecines, color correctors, VTRs and DDRs. TLC (Time Logic Controller) is an edit controller for telecines, vision mixers (switchers), and VTRs. It provides accurate 2:3 editing when transferring 24fps film in a 30fps video environment. TLC 1 was originally made in Moorpark, CA (started in Redondo Beach, then Simi Valley). The TLC 2 was released later that year under the da Vinci brand.
  • 1995 - The 8:8:8 DUI (da Vinci User Interface) was introduced to the market. The DUI offered the same color processing as the Renaissance 8:8:8 but featured a new Windows style user interface, an SGI hosted operating system, a migration of the external TLC controller into the DUI, and EDWIN, an extension of the industry renowned Power Windows. The telecine interface card controlled the telecine's internal color corrector. The 888 DUI came in two configurations: the first was the DUI with an SGI Indy workstation; the second 888 DUI system used an SGI O2 workstation (affectionately called the Toaster). These systems also supported da Vinci's new control panels which became the industry standard. The panel layout and configuration are still in use today. During 1995 da Vinci also made the da Vinci Light. This was not marketed, so not many were sold. The da Vinci Light was a da Vinci DUI 888 without the digital 888 cards. The da Vinci DUI 888 had the electrical equivalent of the TLC2 designed on the IMC (along with Telecine Interface) boards. Software options to the DUI included the ability to edit, control VTRs, switchers, and use an EDL.
  • 1996 - Dynatech sold most of the Dynatech Video Group but maintained the market leading da Vinci Systems.
  • 1998 - Offering a significant technological breakthrough, da Vinci 2K, the company's first high definition and data color grading system for film and video, was released. It offered a huge boost in color processing quality and performance and included new features like PowerTiers, Defocus and Colorist Toolbox. These features, unmatched by any competitive product, become the standard that other companies attempted to emulate. Feature filmmakers began to use da Vinci 2K in the color grading finishing process, a process that would later become known as digital intermediate or DI. The 2K was designed to work for SD, HD, and Data and to have room for future upgrades. The base system has In/Out Primaries, Secondaries, New Power Windows and a new interface. Originally controlled by an SGI 02, it was later upgraded to Linux which provided easier support. The 2K was to have a newly designed machine control system also called TLC. Since this functionality was a bit late to completion, the ability to use the external TLC2 connected to the 2K provided some necessary breathing room. It was this configuration that required the A/B RS-422 switch box in the Tape to Tape configuration, allowing the TLC2 to synchronize the decks, while the 2K provided the necessary frame accurate color corrections.
  • 1998 - da Vinci Academy was formed to provide training to the growing number of aspiring colorists.
  • 1999 - The 2K add a new PowerTiers option permitting up to 8 channels, each with Power Windows, full Primary and Master Secondary control.
  • 1999 - da Vinci acquired Sierra Design Labs, Incline Village, NV, at that time a worldwide leader in HDTV storage and workstation interface solutions. Using disk arrays before and after the 2K to provide nonlinear grading became a key goal in product development and the basis for many innovations in the years to come.
  • 2000 - A Defocus option was added to the 2K, offering inside or outside defocus or sharpness effects (in and out with Defocus Plus) plus Power Windows, In/Out color, and matte defocus. The defocus was adjustable and included realtime Gaussian blur in HD making it the top quality realtime broadcast video defocus engine of its time.
  • 2000 - da Vinci acquires Nirvana Digital of Singapore and add Revival film restoration system into its line up.
  • 2001 - PowerGrades are added to the 2K feature list.
  • 2001 - The Gallery, an integrated reference store, was offered as another 2K feature with an optional Central Server and Palette paint program interface. The Windows interface converted stills between resolutions and exported them as jpg, tiff or bmp files. This later became standard on all 2K Plus systems.
  • 2002 - 2K Plus was launched to support HDTV and SDTV, using an IBM PC computer running Red Hat Linux software. The 2K Plus was used on high-end DataCines and telecines, like Thomson-Grass Valley's Spirit DataCine and Cintel's C-Reality & ITK Millennium. The 2K Plus operated with a 4:2:2, 4:4:4 or 8:4:4 input in NTSC or PAL. In HDTV it operated with either a 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 input. Redesigned Primaries, Secondaries and Keys made this more than just a 2K upgrade.
  • 2002 - The TLC Assistant was offered to the market providing an external Linux terminal with keyboard and mouse for those facilities that needed permanent access to the editor. It was offered in single and dual user modes.
  • 2002 - Colorist Toolbox option was released for the 2K Plus. A hardware upgrade for those who had outgrown the Defocus option, Colorist Toolbox added 4 PowerVectors, each with its own matte Defocus, Power Windows, In/Out Master Secondaries, Filter Effects and Textures. The Filters included the equivalent of a Defocus Plus board.
  • 2003 - da Vinci Systems' parent company, Acterna, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while reorganizing its business and emerged after just 5 months. da Vinci business was not affected and during this year while developing the concept of nonlinear grading from its Sierra Labs and 2K experience, the Resolve software color corrector has its first public showing.
  • 2003 - Nucleas is launched, providing a server-to-server software interface to existing 2K Plus systems to work from data disks and storage networks. Both HiPPI and HSDL interfaces are offered and the system included data waveforms, CMS and data playback. While the Nucleas business did not reach expectations, computer systems continued to become faster, permitting a refocus of engineering into a completely new software grading system.
  • 2004 - Resolve (now known as DaVinci Resolve), a software-based, resolution-independent color grading system is launched. Resolve was developed specifically for the Digital Intermediate market and in its early years operated on conventional PC hardware with optimized performance via DaVinci's own custom designed PC based PowerPlant acceleration and Transformer image translation hardware. Resolve offers color enhancement at the core but also features a highly advanced toolset including conforming, network file browsing, image resizing and formatting. In 2004, da Vinci also created Nucleas Conform, which built a data timeline from an EDL, rendered dissolves and allowed switching between Source and Record order. The system was shown at NAB configured as server-to-server and server-to-video.
  • 2005 - JDS Uniphase acquires the assets of Acterna including da Vinci Systems. 2005 - 2K Plus development continued and the Toolbox 2 option included improved user interface and filter presets. During the year 2K Plus configurations Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby were announced with elite logos for systems with Defocus, Toolbox and 4 PowerTiers (Emerald), 3 PowerTiers (Sapphire) or 2 PowerTiers (Ruby)
  • 2006 - With ever-changing edit decisions in digital intermediate workflows, the ColorTrace option was offered for 2K Plus and Resolve to track color grades when the EDL is revised. 2006 - Splice is presented to the market as a server-to-server system enabling 2K systems to work from data disks and storage networks. Delays in delivery ultimately see the product dropped.
  • 2008 - Impresario, a new control panel for Resolve, is launched at NAB 2008 and demonstrated at NAB 2009.
  • 2009 - The assets of da Vinci Systems were purchased by Blackmagic Design and DaVinci Resolve (upper case D and no space) and Revival offered in September at IBC under the BMD brand with a commitment to significantly expand the R&D resources and further develop Resolve.

Product Details[edit]

The Wiz[edit]

The Wiz was the predecessor to the da Vinci Classic color corrector and was built in 1982 by VTA Technologies in Ft. Lauderdale. It was built on an Apple computer, the program was stored in EPROM and the list could be backed up to mini cassettes. The Wiz was the first color correction system to have a customized external control panel and was also the first color corrector with internal primary and secondary processing. Prior to that, the primaries in the telecine were used. The Wiz had 10 vector patented secondary color correction. The first two systems were bought by Editel, Chicago, which at the time used the color corrector on Bosch Fernseh's FDL60 telecine.

da Vinci Classic[edit]

da Vinci Classic analog system was manufactured from 1985 to 1990 and had customized external control panel with internal primary, secondary processing and an internal NTSC encoder. It ran on a Motorola 68000 Multi Bus 1 system computer. The program and color correction list were stored on a 20MB MFM hard disk, with backup to a 5.25" floppy disk.

Its features include:

  • Analog RGB(Y) path
  • Primary and 16 vector secondaries
  • Onboard 68000 CPU
  • Small MFM hard drive
  • Two control panels (power supplied from mainframe by resistive cable)
  • Heavy linear PSU
  • Flat pack chassis with PCB access from above

Options include:

  • Hard edged simple XY window
  • Onboard NTSC decoder
  • NR control, prestore processing for MK3 Digi 4 (and some 3) telecines
  • RGB(Y) and NTSC/PAL outputs. 525 or 625 or both
  • B & W menu monitor

Used with FDL60/90 and MK3 telecines (Not URSA) and tape-to-tape. Early models had knob only color correction controls; trackball control was introduced later.

da Vinci Renaissance[edit]

da Vinci Renaissance was the analog system that followed the Classic and was manufactured from 1990 to 1993. It was similar to the Classic but ran on Motorola 68020 Multi Bus 1 system with a 3.5" floppy.

Its features included:

  • Improved channel and secondaries (later versions)
  • Onboard 68000 CPU (early) or 68020 CPU (later)
  • MFM Hard Drive

The early/budget 68000 models had two control panels and 16 vector secondaries, the same as the Classic. The later 68020 versions usually feature Kilovectors, advanced secondary correction and had three control panels.

Options included:

  • Hard edged simple XY Window
  • NR control
  • Prestore processing for MK3 Digi 4 (and some 3) telecines
  • RGB(Y) and NTSC/PAL outputs
  • Heavy linear PSU

12v panels were used on early versions with 5v panels with separate PSU on later versions (not interchangeable with 12v panels). Both 525 and 625 standards were offered and a B&W menu monitor was used. Often connected to a FDL60, FDL90, MK3 or URSA telecine, it was also used with videotape machines for tape-to-tape grading. Some versions used an extra interface module (the EMC unit) to function with the URSA serial control busses. Normally used with a separate TLC editor (1 or 2), an additional interface is required for this on URSA installations.

da Vinci Renaissance 888[edit]

da Vinci Renaissance 888 was similar to the above system, but had 888 digital video processing in place of the analog video processing. This system was manufactured from 1992–1998.

Its features included:

  • 4:2:2, 4:4:4 or 8:4:4 input in NTSC or Pal
  • 16 bit 8:8:8 (internally) 27 MHz sampling SD signal path
  • Onboard 68020 CPU
  • B&W menu monitor - 525 or 625 or both. Character based display. No mouse.
  • MFM HD, but IDE upgrade option sometimes fitted

Additional options for the digital 888 included:

  • Power Windows (one only), a very powerful feature which enables area isolation with soft edges and various shapes.
  • YSFX independently adjustable luminance and chrominance ratios which can be wound from full pos thru zero to neg.
  • Custom Curves and a Key Input channel
  • Used with FDL60, FDL90
  • Quadra (reqs 4:4:4 option)
  • MK3 types
  • URSA telecines.

Early versions had a double backplane chassis (4:2:2 only) and used an extra interface module, the EMC, to function with URSA control busses. 888s were normally used with a separate TLC1 or 2 editors and an additional interface was required for this on URSA installations.

da Vinci also made the da Vinci Light. This was not marketed, so not many were sold. It is a da Vinci DUI 888 without the digital 888 cards. The telecine interface card controlled the telecine's internal color corrector. This came in two configurations: the first was the DUI with an SGI Indy workstation; the second DUI system used an SGI O2 workstation. These systems supported da Vinci's new control panels.

da Vinci 2K and 2K Plus[edit]

The da Vinci 2K Color Corrector, manufactured starting in 1998, was a completely revised color correction system that supported HDTV, SDTV, and 2K formats. The later system, the 2K Plus with improved color corrector tools was used on high-end DataCines and telecines like Thomson-Grass Valley's Spirit Datacine and Cintel's C-Reality & ITK Millennium. The 2K operated with a 4:2:2, 4:4:4 or 8:4:4 input in NTSC or Pal. In HDTV it operated with either 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 inputs. Many were interfaced to the Spirit DataCine.

Its features included:

  • A software control system operating on the Red Hat Linux OS.
  • Color grades of all combinations of SDTV 525/625, HDTV 1920x1080, 24P, 24SF, 720P in 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 and data. The optional data I/O accommodated, through HiPPi & HSDL I/Os, various formats and speeds from lower resolutions through 2048x1556, depending on the I/O. When using the Data mode, an analog RGBHV monitoring output allowed viewing of the otherwise invisible Data signals.
  • Operational features similar to DUI 888s, plus additional options including multiple Power Windows (up to nine), one or two areas of selective Defocus or Enhancement, and extended VSR capability with outboard Gallery reference storage computer which will store and retrieve irrespective of standard in use.
  • Built in HD to SD downconverter in some systems. Later 2Ks have Plus processing which includes significant improvements to the signal processing circuitry. Older Non-Plus models were upgradable. The Control Panels are physically the same as late model DUIs with curved tops, but have numerous different keycaps.
  • The control computer was either an SGI O2 with a custom SGI flat screen menu monitor (which requires special SGI Video Driver & Card) or, in later model 2Ks, an IBM Linux Computer which uses an XVGA flat screen monitor.
  • The O2 has a SD video input for VSRs but if a Linux OS computer was used a DaVinci Gallery was required to generate the VSR thumbnails.

2K and 2K Plus systems were intended for use with the then latest generation of telecines including Spirit, URSA or similar, C-Reality, Rascal, Sony and ITK telecines. MK3 / FDL / Quadra types were not supported. Many USA delivered 2Ks were supplied with an onboard TLC2 which supported 24/30 dual sync functionality for 24P operation. A TLC Assistant station comprising another IBM PC was available for dual operator installations. Alternatively, a standalone TLC2 of the traditional type could be interfaced if it was required.

In addition to telecine control, 2Ks were often used for tape-to-tape, virtual telecine and DDR applications.


The TLC was an edit controller for telecines and VTRs. It provided accurate 2/3 editing. TLC 1 was originally made in Moorpark, California, later TLC was acquired by da Vinci and the TLC 2 was released. The da Vinci DUI 888 had an option to have a built-in TLC built. If the TLC is not built in, an external A/B switch box is needed to switch control between the TLC and other Color Controllers. Some versions had a separate CPU and Telecine interface rack.


Promoted for use with non-linear storage/SAN sources and a 2K or 2K Plus, the da Vinci Splice was to provide data management to/from DPX files (up to 2048x1556) to SD/HD/HSDL with a built-in DVE for XYZ sizing, rotation etc., with subsequent color correction in the conventional fashion through the 2K. Built with Resolve’s Transformer II, Splice had Resolve’s basic conform and I/O features, but was promoted to extend the life and capabilities of a 2K. Very few were delivered.

da Vinci Resolve[edit]

Resolve, when launched in 2004, was a next-generation color grading system and the first system to use multiple parallel processing engines within normal PC computer infrastructure for real time 2K resolution color grading. It was the first scalable color grading system offering multiple levels of acceleration, features and capabilities, providing colorists with exacting and intuitive color control over static or moving objects. Resolve scaled lower-resolution SD and DV formats to HD, 2K and 4K without compromising quality by using proprietary da Vinci engineered Transformer technology.

Following their acquisition of da Vinci Systems, Blackmagic Design continue to develop and distribute this application, which is now known as DaVinci Resolve.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]