Reviews, Video

Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite 12 review

Colorista III in Final Cut Pro X

With Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 12, you get a myriad ways to create perfect video in terms of colour accuracy, colour creativity and film emulation — in any editing environment, including Final Cut Pro X. You don’t need Adobe After Effects anymore to get perfect skin colour or to work with Colorista. Magic Bullet Suite apps are also faster and the interface fonts finally look perfect.

Until recently, Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite didn’t run from within Final Cut Pro X. It preferred Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro or FCP 7. That’s the first big change — improvement in my book — that makes Magic Bullet Suite 12 a need-to-upgrade. But there’s more, a lot more. The new Suite includes one completely new application, Magic Bullet Film, and new versions of Looks, Colorista, Mojo and Cosmo (which also for the first time runs within Final Cut Pro X).

I tried every one of them and had a lot of fun, not in the least because this is the first truly professional colour grading/looks suite that I don’t have to switch applications for to work with. The Suite also includes Denoiser II and LUT Buddy. Those two apps unfortunately haven’t been updated and still only run in the Adobe apps After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Colorista III in Final Cut Pro X

I tested Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 12 with Final Cut Pro X. I also briefly tried it within Adobe After Effects.

Magic Bullet Film

Let’s start with the new module in all supported hosts. Film is simply brilliant. It’s FilmConvert on steroids. That makes it a bit more complicated to work with, but to be honest: much more rewarding.

Magic Bullet Film gives you a generous choice of negative films to choose from and four “print” films for output. The combination allows for endless variations. The adjustments in terms of hue, tint, grain, etc are slider based and with realtime visual feedback, are as simple as they get. Film also lets you protect skin tones, something other film emulation plug-ins won’t.

Magic Bullet Suite 12 Film tool

There’s one thing that I lacked in Magic Bullet Film: a thorough explanation of when you better use the initial “Flat” setting in the footage type drop down menu. I know you’re not supposed to use Log when shooting in Protune CamRAW with a HERO3+, but should I use Flat or Video? Professional film producers may know it, I am not so sure.

Cosmo 2.0

Cosmo is, to put it simply, a skin enhancer. Just like other apps (or was Cosmo first and did the others follow?) in Red Giant’s portfolio, Cosmo ‘sees’ skin tones using a fairly intelligent algorithm that recognises skin colours. With the Cosmo controls, you can see which areas Cosmo correctly recognised, then fine-tune the results using sliders and apply both tint and smoothing. It’s amazing how quickly you can change a healthy person in a really sick one this way! Or vice versa, of course. The smoothing works well, but it takes a bit of exercise in order not to apply too much ‘correction’.

Cosmo used well and within reason is really brilliant and in Final Cut Pro X it works like a charm and really fast. In Adobe products it’s faster than the previous version. Like all other Magic Bullet modules, it uses your GPU to achieve highest speed.

Mojo 2.0

The styliser that gives your footage a grunge or “Bayou” look has been updated as well. I found Mojo working a lot faster — no more spinning wheels! — but with the same set of controls as in the previous version. In fact, the presets that were in the previous version have all gone. You can get them back by installing the included .fcp file. Unfortunately, .fcp files cannot be read by Final Cut Pro X, so that doesn’t work.

Magic Bullet Looks 3

Personally, I don’t mind not having presets for Mojo in Final Cut Pro X, as Magic Bullet Suite includes Looks 3.0, which has all the presets you can wish for.

Magic Bullet Looks 3.0

Magic Bullet Looks 3.0 has a refreshed interface and better user experience. That’s immediately reflected in the mouse-hover behaviour of the drawers for Looks (presets) and Tools. It’s also very clear from the finally clean and sharp fonts used throughout.

The best way to admire the improvements is to open Preferences and take a good look at the font rendering. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was put off by the ugly jaggies and blotchiness of the previous version’s font rendition. All gone now, clean, sharp, as it should be. It sure looks a lot more professional.

Meanwhile, Magic Bullet Looks 3.0 has more in store than just good looking font rendering. The presets department is downright impressive now. Red Giant claims to have added 198 new customisable presets compared to version 2 and I don’t doubt there word one second. The new presets that I liked the most are the grading setups and headstart looks. These allow you to colour grade your footage without having to start from scratch — very useful!

What is also great about all of the presets is the realtime rendering of the effects — that is faster than the previous version — with a display of the tools used as you hover over them. I don’t recall the previous version having that cool feature.

Presets also include film stock, both the negative and positive films, log looks and much more. There are now more tools to use too. Film emulation is one of them, but the ones I was impressed by the most are Colorista III colour correction tools and the new 4-way colour with ranges tool.

Magic Bullet Looks 3

The wheels in this new tool are arranged in a diamond, with a Master colour wheel in the lower middle position. The interactive Ranges graph allows you to change which colours are affected by the Shadows, Midtones and Highlight colour wheels. I assume I don’t need to explain why this is extremely powerful for colour grading pros.

Mojo is included in Looks 3.0 as well — several Mojo presets even. Together with the film emulation capabilities, Magic Bullet Looks 3.0 therefore has some overlap with the other tools from Magic Bullet Suite 12. In Looks you’re pretty much in total control — including risking total failure — while everything is available to you in one interface. That does take some self-discipline as it’s very tempting to try out different things at once.

In the separate modules you get a more focused approach as well as presets. You’ll also get the ability to stack effects from the same modules with less GPU/CPU power needed than when doing the same with the Looks module.

Colorista III

One example of a potentially stacked approach you’ll get with Colorista III. The new version takes advantage of Adobe CC 2014’s new masking and tracking features (which I couldn’t test because Adobe these days stubbornly refuses to hand out review copies to journalists), but now also — finally! — works in Final Cut Pro X.

I was very curious to experiencing Colorista III in Final Cut Pro X as it’s one of the outstanding, industry-strength colour correction / grading apps on the market. The colour grading is of course fantastic, with subtle effects possible via a very smart interface that succeeds in being user-friendly. However, the real power comes from being able to create colour keys.

Creating such a colour key with Colorista III in Final Cut Pro X requires a specific workflow. First you perform your general colour grading on the footage until you’re satisfied with the overall looks. Then you turn off this Colorista layer and drag a new Colorista effect to the Inspector. Now you’ll select the Keyer and only if the other layer has been deactivated, will your source, result and masking previews become visible in the keyer window.

Magic Bullet Looks 3

Now you can add your colour areas and adjust the colour. This enforced workflow in Final Cut Pro X is either a bug or done to make you return to the original footage colours but either way it’s not very intuitive. I might want to create a key that changes my general colour grading efforts on a distinct area.

With this method, I have difficulties seeing what I should correct. In Adobe Premiere Pro this feature works as I expected it to: the Keyer layer showed me the source clip regardless of whether I had done anything with Colorista III before.

Overall Conclusion

Magic Bullet Suite 12 is a very important upgrade of an important software suite for anyone involved with colour grading video and film. Professionals will have a hard time finding anything that works within their NLEs and that comes close to the workflow efficiency and the possible quality of results.

Unless your needs demand a very high-end colour grading solution that enables you to create effects like the ones you can achieve with DaVince Resolve (and I’m not referring to the free version of that app), Magic Bullet Suite 12 should be at the very top of your shopping list.

Magic Bullet Suite 12 is suitable for beginners (they should keep in mind a not so steep learning curve) as well as professional colorists. It costs approx. €700.00. The upgrade from the previous version costs approx. €175.00.