Comparing the Auto Reframe Functions in DaVinci Resolve and Premiere Pro

A comparison of the Auto and Smart Reframe functions that automatically reframe your clips for different aspect ratios

Date
Author
Filip Milovanovic
Post-production expert,
ELEMENTS
Category
Workflow

Over the past 10–15 years, we have seen a move away from horizontal video and rapid growth in the creation of vertical video, which stems from an increase in social media apps and content generation that leans towards the vertical format. With phones now featuring bigger and better screens, videos now tend to be created with mobile-first consumption in mind, and today video professionals and content creators are expected to produce videos that can be entertaining and impactful in both vertical and horizontal formats. 

Auto Reframe

Due to the significant difference in horizontal resolution, reframing clips that were shot horizontally to a vertical format requires some repositioning to keep the action on the screen. This task becomes more challenging when the subject or the camera isn’t static, in which case the horizontal position of the clip needs to be set with keyframes.

Luckily, two of the leading NLEs, Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve, both offer features called Auto and Smart Reframe, which can analyse a clip and automatically set the position to keep the action in a new, smaller frame. These features inspect the clip for movement to determine the subject and create position keyframes according to it. Both NLEs offer different parameter adjustments and produce different results. In this blog, we will compare these two features with their default settings and explore the possibilities of manual adjustment.

DaVinci Resolve Smart Reframe

To reframe a clip in Resolve, add clips to a timeline with a different aspect ratio (e.g., horizontal clips into a vertical timeline) and open the Inspector in the upper-right corner. The Smart Reframe feature in Resolve can be found in the Transform menu. The user has the option of setting a reference point manually or having Resolve select it automatically. This is the only setting that is offered in the Smart Reframe feature.

After clicking the Reframe button, Resolve will analyse the selected clip and create position keyframes. The position keyframes can be modified in the transform menu or in the timeline.

Premiere Pro Auto Reframe

To reframe clips in Premiere Pro, add clips to a timeline with a different aspect ratio (e.g., horizontal clips into a vertical timeline) and add the Auto Reframe effect to the clips. The Auto Reframe effect can be found in Video Effects > Transform. After a short time, Premiere will analyse the clip(s) and add position keyframes, which can be adjusted as always in the Effect Controls panel.

Premiere Pro offers several settings for the Auto Reframe feature.

  • Motion Tracking: Allows the user to set motion tracking speed by choosing the default, slower, or faster motion.
  • Adjust Position: Users can adjust the automatically created position keyframes.
  • Reframe Offset: Position offset allows users to offset the reframing on the x and y axis.
  • Reframe Scale: Add a scaling factor to the reframed clip.
  • Reframe Rotation: Rotate the reframed clip.

Comparison

Though the feature works similarly in both NLEs, the results of automatic reframing using default settings differ. To demonstrate this, we tested three scenarios. The first is a montage of birds in a park that has four straight edits. After the export, the reframe effect was added to the resulting clip. This scenario demonstrates how the reframing features of both NLEs react to clips with edits. The second scenario is an insert from the movie Nightcrawler showing actor interactions as well as other scenes. This insert was split on the edits, and the reframe effect was applied to each clip individually. The third test scenario is a drone shot of a car driving through a desert landscape. The clip doesn’t have any edits but features both gradual and sudden camera movements.

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Sequence 1 – The first noticeable thing is that Resolve struggled to find the subject of the video, panning between the in-focus and the out-of-focus subjects. The second observation is that Resolve’s automatic reframing function changes the clip’s position more often than Premiere, and the position changes are quicker. This produces a more hectic-looking video. For the 27-second clip, Premiere Pro’s Auto Reframe feature created a total of 67 keyframes, while Resolve’s Smart Reframe feature created 80 keyframes (19.4% more keyframes).

Sequence 2 – The first noticeable glitch in the second sequence happens at 00:30, where Resolve’s algorithm rapidly changes the direction of the clip’s movement within a few frames. The result is an unnecessary and somewhat irritable nudge. Interestingly, Resolve has added position changes even in six static shots in which it was not necessary (00:38–00:41). Altogether, Resolve has created 59 active keyframes. Premiere’s algorithm, on the other hand, made no position changes in seven clips. Even though a similar number of 57 keyframes were created, with 14 of them having no position change in Premiere, Resolve created 31.4% more active keyframes, once again producing a result with more unneeded movement.

Sequence 3 – The third sequence starts with a win for Resolve, as Premiere started the clip off by tracking the wrong object for a full 5 seconds. After the first 5 seconds, the reframing effect of Premiere Pro produced a smoother result than Resolve. This is partly due to its ability to better compensate for the sudden movements of a drone camera. While Resolve has created only 21 keyframes, Premiere has created 79 keyframes, 13 of which were created to track the wrong object at the beginning of the clip. The higher number of keyframes also comes as a result of Premiere’s more effective camera movement compensation.

Speed

Applying the reframing effect takes significantly longer with DaVinci Resolve. On our Intel-based MacBook Pro, Resolve’s Smart Reframe feature ran at 39 fps and required about 19 seconds for a 30-second clip (H264 4Kp25). For the same clip, Premiere Pro required just around 4 seconds.

Results

In each of our tests, Resolve produced more unnatural results. This stemmed from the fact that the Smart Reframe function adds a lot of unnecessary and often fast movement to the clips. Interestingly, when reframing is applied, Resolve seems to always add movement to the clips, even when the shots are static. Premiere Pro handles static shots appropriately without applying unnecessary position changes.

Other Differences

One advantage that Resolve’s Smart Reframe function has is the ability to set a custom reference point. Instead of relying on the algorithm to correctly determine the subject in a scene, the user can mark it themselves. Premiere Pro currently doesn’t offer this function. 

Conclusion

The automatic reframing feature is a useful addition to these leading NLEs. It can significantly speed up the process of adapting content for consumption on devices with different aspect ratio screens. In both NLEs, the feature is used similarly; however, the results and the customisation options differ. While Premiere Pro allows the user to decide on the motion speed with which the position is changed and easily offset the tracking results, Resolve offers the option to set a custom reference point. However, the results of the automatic reframing are different. Resolve has produced more unnatural-looking results due to unnecessary and often fast movement and the fact that it adds movement to static shots. Even though we like both of these features, we find that, for now, Premiere Pro produces stronger results.

Check out our other Premiere and Resolve blogs:

DaVinci Resolve – Performance and Troubleshooting Guide
Adobe Premiere Pro – Performance and Troubleshooting Guide
Exploring the New Scene Cut Detection Features of DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro
DaVinci Resolve Super Scale – Turn HD Footage Into 4K or Even 8K Footage
DaVinci Resolve 18 Reference Manual with Chapter Links
DaVinci Resolve – Using an Alternative Microphone Input in  with a Blackmagic I/O Device

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Using the OpenAI Transcription Engine to Generate Subtitles

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Exploring the New Scene Cut Detection Features of DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro

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Automatic Transcription with DaVinci Resolve’s Speech-To-Text Function and Text-based Video Editing

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