Color grading has become more and more important in wedding videography as productions have become increasingly sophisticated and filmlike. Red Giant Software's Magic Bullet Looks has been recognized by some of the top wedding videographers as the No. 1 color correction tool for perking up video footage and giving it character. It offers a wide range of looks that you see on popular television shows and films. It's a one-stop shop for tinting, color saturation/desaturation, curve adjustment, film stock filtering, and even spot focus to achieve looks that range from bold to subtle. In other words, Magic Bullet Looks makes your production look less like video and allows you to easily create different moods and give your work distinction and personality.
Enter Quick Looks
However, the common complaints with Magic Bullet Looks are how long these filters take to render, the cost of the program, and the complexity of the application. So when I first heard about Magic Bullet Quick Looks 1.2, which sells for $99 and is designed to address all of these issues, I was excited to try it on my laptop for a same-day edit (SDE).
Magic Bullet Quick Looks (MBQL) gives you the same popular presets as the full-featured Magic Bullet Looks filters. The biggest difference is that you don't have the ability to edit or customize the look other than to control the amount of effect (0%-100%) on your clip. But if you're looking for a variety of preset looks that are easy to apply for a reasonable price, this is a great program.
My Test System
I tested MBQL on several machines, the fastest of which is a Dell Precision T5400 3Ghz Dual Quad Core running Vista in 64-bit mode with 8GB RAM and a 768MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 4600 using Premiere Pro CS4 in 64-bit mode. I also have a Matrox RT.X2 LE card in this system. Yes, it's a thing of beauty.
Working With Quick Looks
In Premiere Pro CS4, MBQL is listed under Video Effects, but it is really like a small application within Premiere Pro. Presets are grouped into categories such as Popular TV, Film Stock, and Horror (yes, some weddings do seem like they could use horror color grading). When you open MBQL, your clip will show up in the preview menu so it's easy to see what affect each look will have on your clip (Figure 1, below). After applying a filter, I got a red render bar, which is to be expected. Playback without rendering is fairly stuttery, but it allows you to see the effect on the entire clip adequately.
Figure 1. When you open MBQL, your clip will show up in the preview menu so it's easy to see what effect each look will have on your clip.
Figure 2 (below) shows the bride in the original footage on the left and the groom on the right with the preset SultyTron filter applied at 63% strength. I noticed a significant increase in the amount of rendering time if a clip had slow motion applied. I had a 3-minute clip and used the Cool Max filter, which took 17 minutes to render if the clip had no speed changes applied and 21 minutes if it had slow motion applied. There was no noticeable difference in render times between a Matrox HDV .avi over a "native" Premiere Pro HDV .avi.
Figure 2. Here's a split-screen view I created; the original footage is on the left, and on the right you see MBQL's SultyTron filter applied.
Quick Enough for SDEs?
Since my SDE workflow already tends to use up as much time as I have available to do the edits, this is really not a product I see myself using much during my SDEs due to the render times. However, it's a great, inexpensive utility that I can use when I return to my studio later on for less time-sensitive work. I like the flexibility and customization of the full-featured Magic Bullet Looks, but MBQL is a great tool for
those who are looking to spend less money on a high-quality color grading application. Magic Bullet Quick Looks works with After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Motion, Avid, and Sony Vegas. And at a retail price of only $99, it's a bargain.
Laura Randall (info at edit1media.com), an award-winning videographer, popular speaker at PVAs nationwide, and two-time EventDV 25 honoree, has run Seattle-area studio Edit 1 Media with her husband, Chris, for more than 10 years.