As a video editor for the last three decades, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of plug-ins for color correction and grading. When I saw Magic Bullet looks for the first time in early 2008, I knew it would change the landscape of video image processing, and it did that in spades. The bundling of other complementary tools into the Magic Bullet Suite of plug-ins just added to that must-have product for any serious editor.
Now, we have Magic Bullet Suite 12, which in my eyes is an absolute game changer. Seven tools, some updated and some completely new, that re-set the standard for video image manipulation. In many ways, the “magic” in this suite of plug-ins happens behind the scenes. You don’t have to know how it works, it just does. There’s much more to talk about than I have space for, but let me give you a bit of insight into each one.
Magic Bullet Looks 3
The headliner in this show is the venerable Looks now in version three. One of my biggest beefs with earlier versions of Magic Bullet Looks was the rendering speed. Well now I can use these tools freely, knowing that the software is taking full advantage of the incredible power of the AMD GPUs in our MacPro, or whatever open-GL video card you might have. In most every case, when applying an effect from this suite, the render was nearly instantaneous.
In many ways, the “magic” in this suite of plug-ins happens behind the scenes. You don’t have to know how it works, it just does.
Red Giant Software has expanded Looks to now have 198 Look presets and 44 tools to correct and grade your footage. All the awesome original tools are still there, but newly added to the set are nine tools including Color Space, Colorista, Film Negative/Print, 4-way color, Mojo, DuoTone, Lens Vignette and Shadows/Highlights. We especially love the Shadows/Highlight tool as it works very similarly to Adobe Lightroom’s adjustment tools. This is some of that magic that blows your mind. Seeing how simple and effective they make it without the user needing to know color science is amazing.
Magic Bullet Colorista III
Red Giant has updated this widely-used color correction tool with simpler controls and new capabilities. In my day-to-day editing, this author has used Colorista as the go-to color correction plug-in for years. This new version not only brings GPU acceleration, but new tools like the aforementioned Shadows/Highlight controls, more detailed curves editing and one of our favorite effects, the Vignette slider. We love the fact that we can use Adobe Premiere Pro’s effects masks to apply Colorista III to parts of our image and even automatically track those masks across time.
Magic Bullet Film
New to the Magic Bullet Suite is Magic Bullet Film. Red Giant took the time to shoot and analyze over a hundred different film stocks, processes and developing techniques, and then used that to create Magic Bullet Film. This toolgives you the look of film and includes controls for specific negative and print stocks, color temperature, grain and vignette, as well as a vintage/modern slider. Most of these same controls are also available in Magic Bullet Looks.
Magic Bullet Mojo
Mojo provides another way to add a treatment to your footage. With presets that emulate Hollywood film looks, the software provides a fast way to apply some cool effects. One great feature is the ability to protect skin tones to keep them natural while still providing the user with some great style choices. The main revision to this tool is near real time GPU acceleration.
Magic Bullet Cosmo
Cosmo provides the capability for the user to isolate skin tone for smoothing and balancing. It’s great on interviews and stand ups where talent or clients — sometimes with not so much talent — are always concerned with wrinkles and skin blemishes being accentuated on-camera. In this day of high resolution video, this becomes even more important. I have on-camera talent continually thanking me for making them look younger. I tell them it’s an ancient trade secret, but really it’s as easy as applying Magic Bullet Cosmo.
Although unchanged in this release, new users will be blown away by how this tool can save footage that you thought was unusable. When forced to shoot in situations with less than ideal light or when footage comes back that was shot at high ISO settings, Denoiser II has the ability to remove that noise with special abilities that keep the detail intact. When we’re out shooting, we love the freedom to shoot at higher ISO settings, knowing that we can easily and quickly remove noise from the footage in post.
As editors who deal with a variety of footage types, sometimes we get footage from cameras that shoot in special color modes to preserve detail in the highlights and shadows. Natively this footage looks very flat and requires some color conversion to bring it back to normal color space. These conversion settings come in the form of a LUT (Look Up Table) file. Certain camera manufacturers provide LUTs for their specific cameras. With LUT buddy, you download a LUT file from the internet and apply it to your footage.
For this author, after putting Magic Bullet Suite 12 through the test of a real-world project, it didn’t take long for this tool to be the go-to for any color correction or grading task I had. I have never had a plug-in become an instant must-use for every shot I lay on a timeline. The power, speed and wide variety of image manipulation tools Red Giant has provided in this incredible update give editors all they need to make beautiful and unique visuals.
Operating System: Windows 7 or 8 64-bit, OS X 10.8 or later
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or faster, or AMD equivalent
Required software: Works with many host applications including Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Apple Motion, Sony Vegas Pro and Avid Media Composer.
Graphics / VRAM: Intel HD3000 (Mac), Intel HD5000 (Windows) or better. Discrete GPU with at least 2GB VRAM recommended.
Note: Magic Bullet Suite is made up of several different tools that each have their own compatibility info. Visit http://www.redgiant.com/products/magic-bullet-suite/compatibility/ to learn more about each product’s compatibility.
• Powerful and easy to use toolset for color correction and grading.
• Fix your footage and add film-like color effects.
• All GPU accelerated for fast rendering.
• Pricey for smaller video producer editors.
• Some of the tools exist in multiple places.
• Some tools are redundant with existing features of your NLE.
Steve Taylor is Senior Creative Director at Digital Spatula, a Los Angeles-based production/post boutique specializing in motion graphics.