In the first of a two-part series, RedShark News Contributor Kevin Luiz explores the current incarnation of Red Giant's popular Magic Bullet Looks, the colour-grading centerpiece of the Magic Bullet Suite.
Color is a subjective experience. Color can alter our perceptions of a scene and set the mood for our audiences. Coloring footage has become so important to telling our stories because it has a profound impact on the human psyche. As filmmakers, we are gradually moving away from dedicated positions within our industry. What was once five jobs has now become one; increasingly, a filmmaker must perform the roles of the camera op, the director, the sound technician, the editor and the colorist on the same production. This amalgamation of positions has come about partially from a budgetary standpoint to stay competitive, but also from advances in computer technology.
Filmmakers are now are required to know a little of every role in order to turn around our content in a manageable fashion. Our responsibility to understand color and its application are paramount to successful projects. To some, including myself, color is the last thing on your plate when you start working commercially. I initially had no true knowledge of the impacts of color or how to manipulate it. Until you really start to experiment with color, you can't begin to understand the power it has over your imagery.
Harnessing the power of color is no easy task. Coloring takes a critical eye, a taste for subtlety and, at times, a stylistic flare. I am by no means a professional colorist, but I have been using Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks for a couple of years now. For me, it has become an integral part of my workflow and has really democratized the process of color. To better understand why this software has become so important, let's take an in depth look at what Magic Bullet Looks has to offer.
Handling: A Fluid, Organic Experience
Magic Bullet Looks, or MBL for short, is an application/plug-in of the Magic Bullet Suites package that is designed to streamline your coloring process through your NLE of choice. With MBL you are able to apply the "effect" to your footage or adjustment layer and then open the "effect" to start your coloring process.
Now, to a working professional, time is money. Programs like BMD's Resolve is a powerful agent that is designed for the working colorist. This program offers strong toolsets to draw the look from your footage, but also requires additional steps, since it is a standalone program. This is where MBL truly shines and saves you a significant amount of time in postproduction.
MBL has really a robust graphic interface at launch that feels familiar and intuitive. Nothing is more intimidating than opening a new piece of software and quickly becoming overwhelmed with the complexity of its layout. With MBL, you are welcomed with your scopes to the left, your tools for applying to the right, your footage in the center and a tray below displaying your applied effects. All of your familiar scopes are present such as RGB parade, Slice Graph, Hue/ Sat / Lightness and Memory Colors.
The great thing about MBL is it can either be a hands-on graphic experience, pulling and pushing effects with your mouse, or a very clinical one, altering the variables numerically via sliders and keystrokes.
As you start to utilize this interface, you will find everything works quite fluidly, allowing you to tuck away menus that are no longer in use. Additionally, you are able to zoom in on your footage and scan around as you start to introduce your grade. These features result in an organic experience that empowers the user to work quickly and efficiently.
Features: The Finest Acrylic Paints And Brushes
If Magic Bullet Suite is an art supply chest of goodies, Magic Bullet Looks would certainly be a fine collection of acrylic paints and horse haired brushes. Diving into the tools, one will find a great wealth of features to apply (41 to be exact). These features range from a collection of curves, shadow/highlight effects, 4-way coloring wheels, Colorista, Cosmo skin tuner and contrast adjusters. For a super-quick turn around, MBL offers 198 "Look" presets that will allow you to build a grade quickly. The features don't stop there, however, as MBL has introduced its own 3D LUT application for pre-built LUT's, as well as the integration of your own imported cube files.
Equally powerful, MBL offers film negative strips that can be tweaked to your hearts desire. I have been playing with these lately and they really throw an organic look back into your footage similar to FilmConvert. I have found that less is more with these, so I will grade my footage to a general look, then apply a film negative stock of choice over the grade and bring its strength to sit around 40-50%.
MBL isn't all business, as it features some fun effects to play with as well. A great effect that can be subtly applied to your night time-lapses might be the star filter, giving your illuminated objects a great pop. Everything in moderation, of course, but fun effects like vignette, color streaks, glows and diffusions all add a sense of style to your footage. I really believe this is what separates MBL apart from the competition, allowing you to not only grade a superb image, but also add a stylistic edge from this feature-packed application.
Conclusion: Breakthrough Color Made Easy
Rewinding back a few years, I had very little understanding or respect for color. As time progressed, I started to see the impact of a good grade on my footage and Magic Bullet Looks was at the forefront of that discovery. The software not only showed me the importance of color, but with every update helped my abilities grow.
Image & Color: All footage graded exclusively with Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks
MBL delivers a full and comfortable coloring experience, whether you're an inexperienced videographer or a seasoned colorist looking for an efficient grade. The application encourages experimentation and the scopes will allow you to output images that are color accurate to your broadcasting needs.
In closing, Magic Bullet Looks has really matured over the years to become a full-fledged color platform. MBL 3 has the potential to streamline your process and give you the image you seek. If you have the opportunity to try it on your next projec.
Mac & Windows Compatible
Cross Platform Support: AE, Premiere, FCPX, Motion 5, Sony Vegas, Media Composer 7
Open GL Support
Magic Bullet Looks Price: $399
Magic Bullet Suite Price: $799