|Review: Magic Bullet for Editors
- Magic Bullet Editors
By Red Giant Software
MAC OS SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Apple Power Mac G4 or G5 (dual-processor recommended)
Apple Final Cut Pro 4.1 or 4.5 (HD)
Mac OS X 10.2 or later and 512 MB of RAM or more
WINDOWS SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Intel Pentium 4 single or dual-processor system or equivalent
Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5
Sony Vegas 5.0
Windows XP and 512 MB of RAM or more
Review By Brian
Two years ago, a friend told me about this "amazing" piece of software that would take 60i video and convert it to 24p (twenty-four progressive frames per second) making it look "just like film." In addition, I was told that the software came with a "Look Suite" which contained customizable controls and presets that simulated different film stocks and "looks."
The software was called "Magic
Bullet," and while I was no conspiracy theorist, I became
a believer in the "Magic Bullet" theory after spending
just a few minutes on their website Red
Giant Software looking at samples. I soon grew desperate
to get my hands on this miracle of technology, but found my enthusiasm
crushed by the $1,000 price tag.
Two years later, having shot a
dark, edgy, ten-minute short on my Panasonic DVX-100, I no longer
needed the 24p conversion, but was still sold on the "Look
Suite" portion of the software - convinced that "Magic
Bullet" would get me the look I desired.
Fortunately, the makers of "Magic
Bullet" have recently taken the "Look Suite" portion
of their software and re-packaged it separately for those of
us who don't need (or want?) the 24p conversion. They've also
made it available as a plug-in that runs on both PCs and Macs
in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas. In addition,
the new package, called "Magic Bullet Editors," also
contains a set of plug-ins called "MisFire," which
allow you to add dust, scratches, flicker and just about anything
else you can think of to mangle your footage. And all for the
amazing low price of just $299 ($279 if you just want to download
the software directly from their website)!
The CD (if you choose that option)
comes with both the Mac and PC versions and includes both a tutorial
project and some sample footage. My download version of the software
included an installer, a Final Cut Pro project file containing
the "Look Suite" presets, and a 58-page pdf manual
that is well-written and even goes so far as making some well-advised
recommendations about shooting video for use with "Magic
Bullet Editors." (As I downloaded the software and have
only Macs running Final Cut Pro, I can speak only about the Mac/FCP
version of the software.)
Installation was quick and simple
with the "installer" doing all the heavy lifting for
me. Within minutes, I had re-launched Final Cut and was ready
to start tweaking.
The plug-in, called "Look Suite,"
is a single plug-in which loads into the "Effects Bin"
like any other plug-in, along with all the "Misfire"
plug-ins (there are a number of them). Once loaded, you can apply
the "Look Suite" filter to a clip just like any other
plug-in, but the presets are not immediately available. To access
the presets, you must open a Final Cut project called "Look
Suite Favorites," which loads the presets into several categorized
bins. At first, this annoyed me, but I quickly came to appreciate
how the developers had categorized the various preset "looks"
in different bins, allowing for quick navigation. The preset
category "bins" that come with the suite are titled
as follows: Basics, Diffusion, Film Looks, Sepia, Specialty,
Stock Emulation, and Tints. Inside each of these "bins"
are a number of variations on the root theme.
The presets bins
along with my own bin which I created to store my own presets.
To apply one of the presets to
a clip, you can either drag it directly onto a clip in the timeline,
or simply double-click on one of the presets after loading the
desired clip into the viewer. I do not have room here to describe
each of the presets and what they will do to your footage, but
a description of each is available on the Orphanage website.
Suffice it to say that the developers have included a wide variety
of "looks" - from the Matrix-like "Neo" which
gives your footage a high-contrast, greenish-hued look, to "Mexicali,"
which turns everything nicely yellow and old-looking like the
flashback scenes in "The Mexican."
Original footage (untouched)
Original footage (untouched)
These presets range from terrific to
moderately useful, and I was somewhat amazed to find that even
the most subtle among them seems to have a heretofore unknown
mystical power to make your footage look more aesthetically appealing
and "film-like." But the real power of the software
lies in the 22 controls contained in the actual "Look Suite"
filter itself. These controls are divided into four sections:
Subject, Lens Filter (separated into three sub-sections ã
Black Diffusion, White Diffusion, and Gradient), Camera, and
Post. Each of these sections contains a number of customizable
controls you can adjust, and, you can even turn each of the four
sections on or off independently. Of course, once you've tweaked,
you can also save your new creation as a preset which you can
then quickly apply to other clips.
Again, there is too much here to go into
great detail, but the documentation that comes with the suite
takes 8 pages going over these controls and what each of them
do. This is nice, and I tip my hat to the developers, who've
done a fantastic job with the documentation, but it's really
not necessary. The controls are simple, straightforward, and,
for the most part, extremely intuitive. And I say this as one
who can get quickly frustrated by applications or plug-ins that
are poorly designed and needlessly difficult (I'm a Mac-user
for heaven's sake!). Anyone working with images will be familiar
with most of the terms used (Saturations, Contrast, Gamma, Tint,
etc?) and the presets provided go a long way towards giving you
a sense of how the suite works thereby shortening the learning
I recommend taking thirty minutes and
simply applying all the various looks to a couple different-looking
clips (indoor, outdoor, artificially-lit, natural light, etc?).
Then, take another thirty minutes and just play with the controls.
After an hour, you'll have a very good idea of what each control
does, as well as knowing what preset is best to start off with
in order to get the look you're imagining.
The down-side (you knew it was coming)
is the rendering. "Magic Bullet Editors" does a lot,
and gives you tremendous control over your image. But the control
you gain is paid for by the amount of time you must wait for
your clips to render. On my Dual 1.25 Ghz G4, with 1.25 GB of
ram, and nearly half a terabyte of 7200 rpm hard drive, the roughly
7 minutes of DV video on which I applied the "Look Suite"
took nearly two hours to render. This was not one clip, but a
serious of perhaps 70-80 clips, many of which I'd individually
tweaked in order to get a specific look. That may not matter
as even individual clips take quite a while to render, but I
wanted to be clear.
You could probably approximate many of
the "looks" using a combination of the various filters
and color correctors that ship with Final Cut. But no single
filter would get you anywhere near the control you have here.
The "Lens Filter" section of the suite is also uniquely
valuable as it gives you a tremendous amount of control over
both the black and white diffusion levels, and, gives you the
ability to add a gradient filter, as if you'd thrown one into
your matte box before shooting. Of course, you have far more
control here as you can change the color, size, diffusion and
how the gradient affects highlights. In addition, the value of
the presets cannot be understated as they provide both a starting
block and an instruction set, allowing you to gain real functionality
And, if all this weren't enough to recommend
"Magic Bullet Editors," there's also the "Misfire"
plug-ins which give you control over Fading, Funk, Splotches,
Dust, Flicker, Vignette, Displacement, Micro Scratches, Grain,
Deep Scratches, Basic Scratches, Gate Weave, and Post Contrast.
And the "Misfire" plug-in do all of this as well (if
not better) than any other plug-in I've seen!
Again, the documentation is superb, the installation painless,
and the learning curve barely a curve at all. For under $300,
I'm not sure it would be right to ask for anything more.
Brian Dalton has been a freelance graphic designer since
1987 and works for a number of "Fortune 500" companies
including Clear Channel Radio and Disney. In 2001, he wrote,
directed, DP'd, edited, and scored the feature-length "Killing
The Dream", which he shot on a Canon XL-1s. The movie won
the Grand Jury Prize at the Temecula Valley International Film
Festival, and has screened at film festivals from Ojai to Washington
D.C. to Rome, Italy. He is currently negotiating the sale of
distribution rights to "Killing The Dream" and has
just finished a short called "Ennui' which he shot with
his Panasonic DVX-100. He claims to be the first person to edit
a feature-length movie (83 minutes) entirely from bed.
copyright © Brian
For another opinion on
Magic Bullet for Editors, click HERE
This article first appeared on www.kenstone.net and is reprinted here
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