Provides: Video color correction, digital effects
Developer: Red Giant Software
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.8, Intel Processor, 2GB RAM, 30 MB hard drive space, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects, or Premiere Pro on Mac (other systems supported on Windows)
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $399.99, $199 (Academic), available as part of Magic Bullet Suite ($799)
Availability: Out now
When I reviewed the original Magic Bullet Looks, I was impressed by its ability to improve digital video by a combination of color correction and digital effects, making it look like camcorder footage was shot with a much more expensive camera and professionally lit to alter the mood. Now, with Magic Bullet Looks 2, Red Giant Software has kept the simple-yet-powerful software, redesigned the interface, and added some improvements on the backend to make your shoestring budget feature look professional.
To give you a sense of the software’s abilities, I made a short video showing off just a few of the preset “Looks” included:
It works like this; after importing your footage into Final Cut (or After Effects or Premiere Pro), you apply Magic Bullet Looks as a video effect. You then open the Looks editor (a separate app). The editor displays a single frame (the position of the playhead in FCP). You can now manipulate by adding a preset, or individual elements.
The Looks are based around the idea of faking the effects of a much more expensive camera and post process. Individual effects are in the Tools menu; you can apply tools to the Subject (like adding a fill light, adding a “Cosmo” effect to fix skin tones), the camera Matte (color filters and diffusion), the Lens (adding softness or distortion), the Camera body (shutter streaks and film stock effects), and Post processing. Some of the effects can be applied to several parts of the process (like exposure and saturation/hue), and some are unique to certain parts. However, each part of your virtual camera can accomodate several effects, and each effect can be further tweaked in the Controls menu.
While some of the Looks presets go overboard with sparkle effects, or make the subject look like they’re in the middle of beaming up to the Enterprise, they do a good job of showing off the capabilities of the software, and most of them are far more subtle and effective at making DV look like film stock. Once you learn the basics of how the different parts of the “camera” interact, it becomes easy to get the final look you’re after.
One drawback to Looks is that it’s still limited by a single key frame. You can’t scrub through a clip while in the Looks editor; you have to click “Finished,” then scrub through in Final Cut. Another issue is that once you’re in Final Cut et al., none of the values of Magic Bullet Looks 2 are keyframable except for the “mask,” which applies the complete set of effects as a whole. If you need to alter an effect, you have to spit the clip.
That being said, Magic Bullet Looks 2 is an astonishing tool for enhancing video. You’ll need to start with adequate production values (making sure the video is properly lit, etc.), but once you have that, the software gives you a virtual film studio that lets you alter the camera and post processes to give it more production value.
See the other components in our full Magic Bullet Suite review.