First Look at Magic Bullet Looks

As we all know, Red Giant Software makes some great tools. Since they first released Magic Bullet in 2002, it has been a ubiquitous part of the low-budget filmmaker’s effort to make video look more like film. There have been some improvements along the way, but the Magic Bullet Suite is getting a major overhaul, and now includes three individual products: Magic Bullet Colorista, Magic Bullet Frames, and Magic Bullet Looks.

When I first heard about Magic Bullet Look’s workflow, how you can apply different effects to the subject, matte box, lens, camera, and post slots, I was a little skeptical. In my mind I pictured either a gimmicky toy for users too inexperienced for regular color correction tools, or a complex optical simulator that would to be tricky to manipulate and time-consuming to render. Fortunately, it’s somewhere in the middle, combining the best features of each extreme.

After watching Stu Maschwitz‘s video tour on Studio Daily, it’s now clear how it all works. It’s only logical to apply gradient and diffusion filters to the matte box, faux DOF effects and flares to the lens, and film processing effects to the camera. It’s impossible for amateur colorists to apply effects in the wrong order, and the light calculations behave realistically and are adjustable using real-world controls. Furthermore, it renders like lightning, and all the previews, even with half a dozen stacked effects, are snappy.

I also really like the easy management of custom filters and effects, and the management of combined LUTs. The interface is clean and intuitive, and from within the After Effects effect panel you can see at a glance what the settings are. Another nice touch is the interactive library view; rather than showing a generic picture for each of the stored settings in the library, it calculates a thumbnail of what each preset will do to the footage you have selected. Magic Bullet Looks will run as a plugin for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Vegas, and various Avid NLEs, or as a standalone program.