RedShark review: Deep insight. SGO - makers of the high end finishing editorial solution Mistika has recently released a free edition of their system: Mistika Insight, which can now be downloaded from their website. Arthur Ditner takes a closer look at what the package has to offer.
Mistika is a unique platform with many differentiating tools that separate it from the pack. This adaptable software allows an artist to Conform, Colour, Composite, Online and Master simultaneously.
No Tracks. Infinite Tracks.
Stepping into a blank project new users will be a little put off… there are no track indicators! Everything operates within an infinitely scalable grid. To add more tracks, simply add more pieces of video or stack on effects layers. Tracks are governed by a range indicator - whatever is selected within these bounds is currently active. This unique layout allows the Editor to build several different versions of a project simultaneously.
The infinitely scaleable grid system within Mistika Insight
If you are a Wacom tablet user you'll be happy to know that there is deep integration found in the software by means of gestures. Those already familiar with tablet mouse functions are aware that tablet surfaces are mapped 1:1 with the corresponding computer monitor. By having the same positions mapped between screen and tablet, eventually the user develops muscle memory and is able to perform common tasks faster than with a traditional mouse.
Gestures in Mistika take this even further - by utilizing unique flicks of the tablet, the Editor gains deep control of all common timeline functions. Master just a few of these and you'll be flying!
The extensive range of gestures available within Mistika Insight
There is an absolutely excellent optical flow and frame blend retiming tool called Timewarp. The initial results for slow motion are very good, but with a little bit of tweaking the various parameters you can get some really professional results. Most software suites offer a one-size-fits-all approach to optical flow, but Mistika affords you precise control of the process. And since Mistika is a compositing suite, you can easily apply both frame blend and optical flow conversions at the same time and simply matte out your favourite interpretations from either version should you get some artifacting!
The Mistika Insight TimeWarp interface
While pieces of video, external mattes, and effects operations get stacked on as layers - at any point a node view is available, making Mistika adaptable to user preference. The software comes with traditional compositing tools like Comp3D, Paint, Film Grain, and Noise Reduction, it is also compatible with a wide range of OpenFX plug-ins allowing additional manipulations. This toolset allows for more visual effects to be completed within the Online session and could potentially save work from being sent out to another artist (see also Mission Creep grading).
On the subject of compositing, SGO offers up a sister program: Mamba. Priced extremely competitively Mamba is essentially Mistika without a timeline - it is solely a node-based compositor. It is available in a freemium model whereby users unlock base features through a series of upgrades, but the base package is free. It is available for Mac, Windows and Linux platforms.
I’ve never used this software as a Colourist, but I did really enjoy using it’s colour corrector. I found a fourth trackball in the standard 3-way corrector page: Soft Clip. While highlight reduction and softening is hardly exclusive to Mistika, I was impressed with how intuitively the tool responded to real world problems. I felt like I was able to recover highlights and not muddy up the higher end of the spectrum with a grey mush.
In the past Mistika has only been available as a turn-key Linux solution that could only be purchased through a value-add reseller. However Insight is a free download for Mac and Windows, with a Linux version on the way. Very little has been omitted in this release from the full version of the software. Mainly, outputs are limited to 1920x1080 in MPEG4 format. The user agreement states that the software can only be used for not-for-profit work. The license is valid for one year after installation.
This educational release is a welcome addition to the SGO family. In the past I worked at a Post Boutique that ran Mistika in the Online department. However since the machines were working all day, there was very little time to get into the suites and actually learn the tools. Now with Insight available everyone can at least get exposure to this platform. Opening the software for the first time it isn't immediately apparent how exactly you get to work. SGO has recently made more efforts on the training front by posting excellent tutorial videos on their Vimeo page.
Any readers using Mistika on a daily basis? Any unique features I missed and should check out? Let me know in the comments below!