I got a bit of a surprise when I downloaded Blackmagic’s recent DaVinci Lite update. The free version of the color-grading tool had been limited to only two nodes for color correction. In the 8.1.1 update that limit has been removed. DaVinci Lite now includes unlimited color-correction nodes. You heard that right: unlimited nodes in the free version of DaVinci Resolve. And apparently Avid DNxHD codecs are also now included free.

With that little update the barrier of entry into higher-end post production has pretty much dropped to zero. While a two-node limit meant you could do some basic grading in Resolve Lite, any real heavy lifting required more than two nodes. According to BMD, “Adding more than two color-correction nodes was the top requested feature by DaVinci Resolve Lite colorists.”

So why does someone need to spend $1,000 on full Resolve software when Resolve Lite can do unlimited nodes? The Lite version is still limited to a single GPU, so while you can apply unlimited nodes, you can’t get unlimited real-time playback. Some report you can probably get around 10 nodes of real-time with Lite and a good GPU. You’ll still need the full version for multiple GPUs (where the insane power comes from), multiple RED Rocket cards, noise reduction, 2K or 4K and stereoscopic 3D grading. But you can still get a lot done with this Lite version. Hardcore colorists very often move beyond 10 nodes and need a real control surface to get their work done but my bet is the Tangent Wave and Avid Artist Color will see some new customers as a result of this Lite update.

Including the Avid DNxHD codec as part of the package and not an additional $495 option is a really great deal, too. And perhaps people will also start thinking more in DNxHD and less in ProRes as editors move away from Final Cut Pro and toward other options.

In posts across the Web, everyone had something to say about whether this is a good thing for the overall industry or not. On the one hand a free, amazing tool is now even more amazing and usable. On the other hand there are a lot of people who invested $1,000 in the full version that would be just fine with the free version. And then there’s the argument that when you drop a very powerful, creative tool into the hands of anyone you get a small amount of really amazing work that wouldn’t have been made otherwise—as well as a flood of crap. It’s a debate as old as cheap technology itself. Blackmagic has always been about making affordable, disruptive technology for our industry. But are they disrupting themselves in the process? For some, there’s no longer a reason to buy a full $1,000 Resolve. Of course, any proper colorist needs to see the image on a monitor to grade well, and you’ll need a Blackmagic video card to do that. Grab your own copy of Resolve Lite here and see where you get.