Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 09/24/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Why You Need Magic Bullet Looks

By Kevin McAuliffe

If you've been checking out the DMN website over the last couple of weeks, you would probably know that Mike Jones did a great series of articles on do-it-yourself color grading. If you haven't read them, you can check out the first article here, and the second one here. Keeping on that idea, for me, there is only one plug-in (program) I use when I want to do any of my color grading work, and that's Magic Bullet's Looks. Looks is a powerful, fast and more importantly, simple plug-in to use. For this article, I'm going to give you four great reasons why you need to add this plug-in to your arsenal.

You Choose How You Want to Color Grade
When purchasing Magic Bullet's Looks, you obviously get the plug-in for the application of your choice (After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Motion, Media Composer & Vegas), but what you also get may be easily overlooked. In many cases you, as an editor, might not have a lot of time on your hands to create looks, but you might have a Graphic Artist or Colorist that specializes in color grading who can do this for you in the off hours when you aren't editing. One problem. They don't know Final Cut (or Avid, etc), and you don't want them messing around with your project, as things tend to go missing that way. No problem. When installed, Looks adds another application to your applications folder called "LooksBuilder", and it's just that.

It's the Magic Bullet Looks interface with the ability to import only still images. Why would you need this? Well, now you can have someone who doesn't need to know anything about your edit system, sit down in the off hours and create the looks for your show. All you have to do is export still images for them to work with, and they can save the different looks as presets, for you to add in the online.

Ease of Use
In most cases, I would have put "PRESETS" next, as they are always quick and easy to use, but believe it or not, this color grader is just about the easiest program you can use to jump in and start working with. They have designed the interface so simple and straight forward that anyone, even a beginner, can get up to speed quickly. Here's how it works. First, if you look at the bottom of the interface, you will notice five "buttons" that represent your workflow.

Subject, as it is first, is normally highlighted when the plug-in launches. To access all the possible parameters you can adjust for the "Subject", simply move your mouse to the far right side of the screen where you can see a very small "Tools" bar. As soon as the mouse is over it, it will slide open to reveal your choices.

I'm going to use "Saturation" as an example, and to apply it to my shot, I can either drag it down to the "Subject" at the bottom of the screen, or, if I drag to the middle of the screen, I am presented with a choice of where I want to drop it. Since "Saturation" can be applied to the "Subject", "Lens" or "Post", those can be highlighted and have "Saturation" added to them.

Clicking on the actual effect at the bottom of the screen will bring up the effect palette where you can adjust the effect to the desired result.

At this point, you can click through the different buttons, and add the "looks" you want your shot to have. In less than thirty seconds, I have created this look.

Now, if this is the look I want for this shot, or even the whole show, I can simply save it to my desktop, then have the online editor (or myself, if that's how I'm working) import the look, and it's ready to go! I thought I would mention this at the end of this segment, and that is that the renders are lightning fast, even in HD, which is a huge bonus.

The hardest thing about many color correction and color grading plug-ins is the learning curve. Most producers want results, and they want them right now. Needless to say, right after installation of Looks, you can give your producer nothing but choice. To call up your presets, simply launch either the plug-in or the LooksBuilder, and with the buttons at the bottom of the screen empty, simply drag your mouse over to the left of the screen, and it will slide out to reveal the presets.

If I can't decide which preset I like, I can even have LooksBuilder give me a slide show of a particular category of looks, or just scroll through all the looks that are there. The great thing is that while it's presenting its slideshow, it's also updating the buttons at the bottom with what parameters have been applied. This way, if you see something you like, or something you like but want to adjust, you can simply apply the look, then jump in and tweak parameters to your liking. Red Giant has added in some classic Hollywood looks in here as well. Trust me. There is a preset for everyone here.

In my opinion, at a price of $399 US, this plug-in is one of the best deals you will find. I have been using Looks for a couple of months, and I can easily say that I would use it on every project I work on. Your work NEEDS a color correction pass once the edit is done, and for me, Looks will give your producer what they want every time. If you are even thinking about picking up Magic Bullet Looks, you should seriously consider just picking up the Magic Bullet Suite which gives you Magic Bullet Looks (including Misfire), Magic Bullet Frames, Magic Bullet Colorista, Magic Bullet Steady, and Instant HD for high-quality SD to HD up-conversion for $799 US. Your clients will thank you over and over again!

A color correction pass (or color grade) is a must when doing an online, and for me, I won't go into one anymore, without Magic Bullet Looks. For more information on Magic Bullet Looks, Magic Bullet Suite, or to download a free demo, head on over to .

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at

Related Keywords:color grading, plugin color plugin, visual effects,

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