Magic Bullet 12: Color Grading MONSTER, Right Inside Your NLE

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

In this first installment of our newest series entitled “It’s Too Complicated, Big or Expensive So I’m Just Going to Stare at It Without Opening or Touching it Because I’m Afraid,” we shrug off the fear and get to know Magic Bullet Suite 12 – with the help of Nate Sparks, Magic Bullet product manager.

Please tell me I’m not the only one: we read reviews of some piece of awesomeness (gear or software); get a jones for it; maybe even go out and get it or download a trial copy; and then put it in a physical or mental corner where it can’t overwhelm us and then pretend it never happened.

Color grading, anyone?

Magic Bullet not only has a great name, but a great reputation. So when the opportunity presented itself to get a trial copy of this color grading beast — all five component packages in one — I downloaded it instantly.

And then let it sit on my hard drive for months unused.

I just knew it was going to overwhelm me – even if RED GIANT had created video tutorials. Heck, the very volume of those tutorials overwhelmed me.

Enter Nate Sparks, product manager for Magic Bullet since version 2.5, and the miracle of a Skype call with screen sharing.

Nate walked me through the basic components of Magic Bullet Suite and – even more basic – responded with infinite patience when I asked him to help me finally, fully understand color wheels (I had the kind of familiarity with color wheels that most people have, you know, with scopes).

Magic Bullet Suite 12

SO: here are the reasons why you should not wait to check out Magic Bullet, offered from the perspective of a one-man band who is highly resistant to color grading because it takes time, skill and work.

Magic Bullet Suite has five tools (each also available individually), and they actually make sense

You can argue that the core of the suite is built around Magic Bullet Looks (I would) but in any event the thing that’s nice about separating them out is that it actually reduces complexity.

1. Magic Bullet Looks

Imagine that instead of having to play with all kinds of controls, you can simply mouse over and see in real time on your clip a pile of pre-assembled visual styles of varying complexity, up to and including masks and gradients. Once you find one you like, BAM – you can turn it on and off at will.

Yes, I understand and agree in theory that we should all strive to achieve our own unique style, but then we wouldn’t go looking for a ’61 Angeniuex, would we? And the fact is, the current “blockbuster look” for example — more about that in a minute — really does drive colors toward orange and green, and if that’s what you want, it’s pretty darned interesting and time-saving to start with an approximation. But I’m also under no illusion that a good colorist can’t do infinitely better.

The interesting thing is, when you do try on a look, the editing window shows what tools that look is using – and now you can go off and really make it your own. There are more than 100 choices in Looks and somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen basic tools, but remain calm – I’ve never seen an easier way to navigate through so many, and you’ll grow in the process.

I think of this as learning by osmosis.

2. Mojo

If you conceptualize Mojo as a subset of Looks emphasizing the visual punch of blockbusters, you’re pretty well set. So if you want to keep it simple for this kind of thing, this is the better place to start.

3. Cosmo

Cosmo – like the fashion magazine, not astronomy – is a tool designed to improve the look of your acting talents’ skin, from color to things like softening and blemish reduction. It’s another nice quick way to improve the polish and finish of your footage. If only any of those creams advertised in infomercials were a tenth as good…

4. Magic Bullet Film

Like Mojo, you can conceptualize Film as a subset of Looks – but this time, it’s about specific film stock emulators, both for negative and print! This is pretty sophisticated stuff (you have to know that you want to emulate — Kodak 2383 Print Stock for example), but like Looks there are a pile of controls which allow you to make it yours, from tint to skin tone, grain and more. I personally tend to stay away from film emulators, because I'm just not that sophisticated, and ALL my work shows up on the web — where grain emulation can slow things down and muddy them up.

5. Colorista III

Finally – though not in order of operations nor importance – Colorista III is full blown color correction tool sitting inside your existing NLE (all of these components operate inside your “host” NLE – mine is Final Cut Pro X) with 3-way color wheels, HSL, curves and more. It is not as powerful as DaVinci Resolve for things like masking and tracking, nor does it have the kinds of workflow tools that make Resolve stand out from all of the other NLE’s out there (RED GIANT considers Resolve to be an NLE and makes a version of Magic Bullet for it), but it is a clear step up from the current interface of FCP X. To be clear, Colorista relies on the capabilities of the host NLE, so there are certain things that are easier to do in the Adobe Premiere Pro version of Colorista than the FCP X version of Colorista, for example (and I assume vice-versa), but the larger point is that every component of the suite plays nicely inside your NLE of choice.

In the end, Magic Bullet 12 Suite is a complex set of software tools: it is so powerful and function-laden that even Nate isn’t a master of all of it, though he’s quick to point out that Stu Maschwitz, Magic Bullet‘s creative director, is.

But that’s OK: Magic Bullet 12 gives you multiple pathways to a quick start, and then you can go as deep as you’d like with the help of their tutorials and your own ambition.

As for me? I’ll be using it on the book promo project I’m working on right now.

I think it’s going to be great.

Learn more about Magic Bullet Suite 12.

(cover photo credit: snap from Red Giant)

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