Red Giant Magic Bullet Editors test and review

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Red Giant Magic Bullet Editors

We've already seen Magic Bullet as a fully-featured high-end plug-in for After Effects, and as a simplified add-on for Premiere, and been impressed on both counts. Neither, however, has accurately targeted the serious DV editor. Does Red Giant's Magic Bullet Editors finally hit the mark?

Colour grading is possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of DV video production at the mainstream enthusiast level. Part of the problem might be that the process isn't really understood. Or it may be that it's too complicated or requires too much rendering - when many users look to DV for quick and simple results. Almost all commercial movies and TV shows are graded, however - a task that helps maintain a sense of colour continuity between shots, and also greatly enhances mood and atmosphere.
With most DV editing programs, colour-correction tools are comprehensive and powerful, but totally quantitative and difficult to interpret for complex aesthetic tasks. The steps involved in emulating a Super 8 colour reversal effect or a classic Technicolor look would be daunting for the majority of users.
Red Giant's Magic Bullet software breaks colour grading down into terms more familiar to movie makers and enthusiasts. The company's Magic Bullet Suite for Adobe After Effects offers immense hands-on control for pre-processing, filter addition and post-processing, while the much more affordable Movie Looks for Premiere Pro and Sony's Vegas provides only ready-made, uneditable templates, designed to emulate many of the most popular grading settings for movies, commercials and music videos. Both do their jobs well, but there remains a big gap - serious DV editors for whom the Looks suite lacks hands-on control, but who have no need or desire to work within After Effects. Red Giant's solution is Magic Bullet Editors, available as plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas 5 and Apple Final Cut Pro 4.1.

Conclusion

Magic Bullet Editors impressed us greatly - not least because it's one of the few effects packages out there that delivers subtle, stunning, and ideally invisible results rather than whizz-bang effects. Rendering times will be potentially off-putting for many - especially with the realisation that, even on a powerful system, colour grading of a 60-minute video could take as long as 30 hours to render - but for professional and commercial products, the wait can be well worth it. We also feel that for many shorter projects, such as corporate presentations, adverts and music videos, Magic Bullet's finishing touches are an absolute must.
The Editors plug-in is a much more versatile selection of tools than the basic Movie Looks offering, but the price is still a little high for home users or amateur enthusiasts. And, while we'd have no hesitation in recommending it to small production companies and freelance professionals, we can't help but feel that some features from the more expensive After Effects plug-in should be present here, too. In particular, the Magic Bullet transition effects would make a great addition to editors such as Premiere, Vegas and Final Cut Pro. The HD Suite's ability to correct (or mask) DV artefacts would be useful at this level, too, particularly for anyone planning to make use of their editor's chromakey filters.
Regardless of the excessive rendering times and our minor grumbles in comparing software versions, we're very impressed with Magic Bullet Editors. If there's an effects plug-in that should be in everyone's DV toolbox, this is it.

Peter Wells


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