Wouldn't it be great if there were some sort of "magic bullet" that solved all your style conundrums with just one simple click? Wouldn't it be great if they made this magic bullet nice and easy to find by actually naming it, say, "Magic Bullet"?
Well, guess what? They did. Thanks to Red Giant Software of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, the Magic Bullet technology developed by ex-Industrial Light & Magic wizard Stu Maschwitz to apply film effects to digital video is no longer just for the big boys in Hollywood. The software's first claim to fame was that it mimicked the look of film in a software tool. But Magic Bullet actually does much more, providing a broad palette of filters and effects used in high-budget films to enrich the digital-to-celluloid illusion.
In the form of Magic Bullet Editors, Red Giant has taken Magic Bullet and made it work within popular desktop applications such as Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 and After Effects, Sony Vegas 5, Apple Final Cut Pro 4.1, and—soon—Avid Xpress Pro. The Magic Bullet Suite, which carries an MSRP of $1094, includes all these plug-ins. Application-specific versions (just FCP, just Premiere, etc.) list for $299.
Being an FCP kinda guy myself, I took a look at the Final Cut plug-in. But I'm sure that what works for one will work similarly for the others as well.
First Things First
We all know, or should know by now, that when we talk about "software-only" rendering and other real-time processes that go on in the edit bay that what we really mean is "without any additional hardware"—that is, the Mac or PC you use for editing will be shouldering all the processor-intensive tasks that happen in post. We all have different expectations for how long those tasks should take. As befits an effects tool, Magic Bullet is nothing if not processor-intensive.
You'll note that the minimum system requirements for Magic Bullet Editors (MBE)—600MHz processor, 256MB RAM—look a little on the low side. I'll say this much: When they say "minimum," they mean it. It'll run, but it won't be anywhere near what I like to call "optimal"—an observation confirmed by Red Giant. According to Red Giant's Andrew Little, a Dual 2.0 processor G5 Mac or Dual P4 Intel or equivalent) is what any professional user should be considering for MBE.
Through the Look-Suite Glass
There are two parts to MBE. The first, and probably the most sought after, is the Look Suite. This suite offers the film-look presets that offer a variety of film stock styles and emulsions, as well as some diffusions and the like. The second is Misfire, a plug-in that emulates film damage—grain, fading, splotches, scratches—as well as projection variations like gate weave and flicker.
First, let's take a look-see at the Look Suite. This suite is a collection of pre-packaged Favorites of the Look Suite plug-in. From here you can instantly select the look and feel of different films and television shows. Want the washed-out colors of Saving Private Ryan for a rainy-day wedding? Choose Curahee. Looking for something a bit more urban, like CSI: NY or Daredevil? Try Bleach Bypass. If you want that spring or summer-day look of Amelie, it's easily conveyed using Bistro. What about the hottest day of the year? Mexicali really sets the tone.
That's straight out of the box, and only a small sampling of the 50 presets provided, each one customizable. Tweak a preset a little here and there to get exactly the look you want, or start from scratch and create your own unique look.