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Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

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    by Stu Maschwitz

What Adobe Should Do With IRIDAS SpeedGrade

SpeedGrade 2009

Earlier this month Adobe announced the purchase of “certain assets” from a German company called IRIDAS, including their SpeedGrade software color correction system.

In many ways, this is a lot like Apple’s purchase of a small company called Silicon Color, announced in October of 2007. Like Silicon Color’s Final Touch, which became Apple Color, SpeedGrade is a powerful, but oddly clunky, standalone application that does nothing but GPU-accelerated color correction. As was the case with Final Touch, SpeedGrade is not among the most popular systems for professional film DI, but its featureset is comparable to those that are, such as Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Lustre.

Apple never sold Color (once a $25,000 purchase) on its own, instead choosing to bundle it with Final Cut Studio. Similarly, Adobe seems to view IRIDAS’s color correction technology as a value-add to its existing suite of video products. From the blog of Adobe’s Todd Kopriva:

Not only have we listened to your requests for better, faster, and more powerful color grading and finishing tools—but we’ve also looked ahead to the future needs of professional video, including HDR (high dynamic range) and raw video workflows.

Adobe, being a publicly-traded company, doesn’t talk openly about its product plans, but one could imagine possible futures for SpeedGrade under Adobe’s wing by looking at other technologies Adobe has acquired over the years. Audition, for example, was added to the video suites right away, but took many years to be truly integrated. Others, such as Curious gFx Pro, seemed to disappear entirely.

SpeedGrade’s fate at Adobe is interesting to me both as a user and a designer of color correction tools. While Magic Bullet Looks is popular because it’s powerful, unique, and fun, Colorista—especially Colorista II—has become popular for a very different reason—it fills a void. It provides professional color correction in your favorite NLE and in After Effects, apps that mysteriously lack solid, user-friendly, telecine-style color control.

When third-party software fills a notable gap in a product line, it is naturally at risk of being rendered obsolete. What happens to Colorista when the makers of its host applications finally start taking color seriously? I’ll answer that in a bit. But first, let’s get back to the two hats that I wear: “user” and “developer.”

That was sort of a trick set-up. The truth is, I only wear one hat. I’m a user. I want what’s best and easiest. The difference between me and most users is simply that when I can’t find what’s best and easiest, I become obsessed with designing it—and I have a direct line to a wonderful team of people who can help me make it. But I’m always happy to have my creations rendered obsolete by advances in technology. Magic Bullet was originally a tool for converting interlaced video to 24p. But when a team of Panasonic engineers showed me a prototype of what would become the DVX100 and asked me what features I considered “must-haves,” I said 24p before they even finished talking.

As a user, I’d be delighted to have Adobe build in class-leading utility color correction to After Effects and Premiere. As a developer, I’ll be thrilled at the challenge of continuing to build great things that you want to use, even as the shortcomings we once shored up seem to disappear. Colorista has always “competed with free,” and I enjoy that spirit of healthy competition. It’s fun for me and great for us users.

So with that complex depiction of my two-hats-that-are-really-one out of the way, here is my advice for Adobe on how to handle their new acquisition.

  • Exporting a Premiere Pro timeline into SpeedGrade is a good and natural start. My guess is that Adobe agrees, based on their recent “partnering” with Automatic Duck.

  • The biggest effort here will be some kind of translation from IRIDAS’s “unique” user experience into a human-usable interface. Seriously. You can’t know how weird this software is until you try it. It makes Color 1.0 look like Delicious Library—although it had been getting better.

  • But moving a project to a dedicated color app is simply not the way of the future for most users. Apple has the right idea by killing Color and making color correction a native property of every clip in a FCP X timeline—even if those new color controls are—how should I say this—a Colorista opportunity.

    This is important, so I’ll say it another way: Apple screwed up by making the FCP X “Color Board” less industry-standard (I mean sure, dream up a better way—but it has to actually be better), but their decision to make color controls part of the settings inherent to any clip in the timeline is spot-on.

  • It’s often desirable to move from a dedicated editing environment to a dedicated finishing app, but (again, for most projects) not to a dedicated color-with-no-other-finishing-capabilities app. So:

  • Encapsulate the SpeedGrade color correction controls into clip properties that make sense in Premiere. This should not be an “effect” any more that we should have to apply an effect to change an audio clip’s volume or stereo panning. In other words, do what Apple did in FCP X.

  • Build a workflow that allows users to begin color work in Premiere with these controls, and then fine-tune it in SpeedGrade. Very much like what Magic Bullet users are doing now with Premiere Pro and After Effects.

  • Make all of the color controls that we like in SpeedGrade work in After Effects as well. Here it’s OK to do this via effects. Give AE an NLE-style timeline and a more realtime disposition where possible. Enable AE to import both Premiere Pro projects with color settings and also SpeedGrade sessions with more advanced color adjustments.

  • Premiere becomes a place where color is ubiquitous and useful.

  • SpeedGrade becomes the place where color alone is done quickly and well.

  • After Effects becomes the place where color is only a part of the complete finishing power.

In short, it’s a three-step process:

  1. Ship it.
  2. Integrate it.
  3. Render it obsolete.

If you do that Adobe, you’ll have created the true home movie making studio for which I’ve always said you already have the ingredients.

In the meantime, I’ll be there to fill the gaps and the non-gaps alike, with filmmaking tools designed out of the day to day needs of a filmmaking nerd.

Speaking of which, Red Giant posted an update to Magic Bullet Suite today (v11.1) that includes bug fixes, Sony Vegas Pro compatibility (!), and Red Giant Link, an updater designed to make sure you don’t miss important updates hidden at the bottom of long-winded blog posts.

Reader Comments (22)

Being a publicly-traded company is no impediment to talking about product plans.

September 27, 2011 | Registered Commenterkimhill

I have always loved working with Colorista. As an editor I expect changes. Doing color grading in the NLE is my preference since it allows for quick and efficient revisions to be made to the timeline. Exporting to another program honestly is a pain in the butt. I hope they implement Speed Grade in the same manner Baselight was making First Light a plugin for the now defunct FCP . Though I must admit, at first glance the interface is quite off putting. One a side note, how about making Colorista a CUDA accelerated effect so no rendering in Premiere Pro is necessary?

September 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterTom Daigon

kimhiill said: "Being a publicly-traded company is no impediment to talking about product plans."

Sorry, not true. There are very clear rules/guidelines on this that came out of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act regarding how public companies can discuss future new functionality as it constitutes a "promise to deliver" which then means commitment, which can affect future value of stock price, etc.

September 27, 2011 | Registered Commentercls

Hi Stu,

Great read. You have the right mindset about being willing to have your products rendered obsolete in favour of progress.

Speaking of which, what I really would love to have with the MBL Suite applications, is the ability to use the "automation lanes" (a term I picked up from using Adobe Audition for years) where you can decide the level to which effects affect the clip (a strength controller if you like). Now you can do a grade on a clip-by-clip basis, but sometimes I like to help a color change within a single clip, say, for example pushing in additional reds around a sunset. Premiere Pro already features a lane for Looks in the context menu (right-click view "Show clip keyframes") but you cannot keyframe the strength of the effect. If you keyframe from the effects panel and start scrubbing through, all sorts of funky keyframes start to appear out of nowhere.

Clearly this feature is never correctly implemented (not intentional). Having these abilities would increase the use and value of the MBL products, however.

Is this a matter that can be fixed by RGS, Adobe or both?

September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterRichard


Do you still recommend doing the final onlining in AE? I've always tried to do this, but three things occur to me: a) This advice dates back from when PPro couldn't work in 32bpc? b) if I dynamic link an AE project into PPro I can't import that project into AE, which is a pain, c) I seem to often have problems with PPro effects losing their settings in AE.

I remember you call from years ago for Adobe to merge PPro and AE.


September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterSam Stickland

@sam I just had the case recently where premiere wouldn´t render all footage at highest quality after transformations. Fonts from a filmed ipadscreen were blurry. Opening the Project in After Effects and clicking all the little "sun" icons in the layers magically fixed the problem. After this I don´t really trust premiere anymore, so I will always finish in AE. Relinking DynamicLink Comps is pain, but necessary. Maybe someone has a script for that???

September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterMatthias Lein / pixelrock

I still very much enjoy mastering in After Effects, but I don't do it for every project.

September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu


As a lot of people I switched to "FCP 8", I mean Premiere... Even if I like the data base foundation of rushes management of FCP X and its time line management reality geared to creative editing, I put it in a corner of my desktop until it will be mature, if any..(so unbelievable how Apple dared to release this software so unfinished, )

I agreed with your analysis, and each day I give thanks to Colorista and Looks because of juggling between FCP 7 / Motion and now Premiere on my projects.

I see another interest in the "integration" of IRIDAS into Adobe Suite. Abode has some software of field production like "On Location" (With awful scopes design) , and IRIDAS "Speegrade On set" has the same "logic" .(This one was pushed further with the integration of their "Speegrade Look" into the Movie camera SI-2K of Silicon Imaging (never used just doc reading)).
So maybe a new product will be release a sort of "Storm" (The foundry) or Silvers Stack (Pomfort) i.e a field rushes management and colorgrading assessment system.

Next year I might be a "Data Wrangler / DIT" on a low budget feature using a F3. I plan to use Premiere + Colorista + Look to make a king of pre_colorgrading intended to the Director and memorize this colorist intention with LUT Buddy for the final colorgrading not made by me

So maybe in one year, this kind of software will be released by Adobe and/or Red Giant Software !, because digital modifiesso much the boundaries of pre/on/post production even (or more ) for low budget movie making.

Best regards


September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterDidier Feldmann

Stu, you say

Build a workflow that allows users to begin color work in Premiere with these controls, and then fine-tune it in SpeedGrade. Very much like what Magic Bullet users are doing now with Premiere Pro and After Effects.

I have unfortunately been experiencing a bug for the last 12 month with Colorista settings not travelling correctly to AE from PP. Whatever setting I make in a 3-way adjustments do not survive the trip. Though it would be amazing if they did as it seems easier to dial in the look in PP timeline first. So I cannot say that I am one of the Magic Bullet Suite users who are very much doing so now. Bugs have been reported 12 month ago and there has been no solution still. Hope you may have some influence in the matter.
Thank you.

September 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterDmitry Kitsov

One thing I'd REALLY like to see added to colour correction software is the ability to grade based on a Macbeth colour chart rather than just an eyedropper white balance.

I'm thinking of a little function where you could click-drag to frame the chart on the shot, and the software will go away and do a colour correction based on getting those 24 points as close as it can rather than just the single point of a grey card.

That would make getting a neutral starting point a whole lot easier, which is always the first thing I do when grading- get everything to a moderately neutral match clip to clip, then go crazy with looks and tweaks from there.

It doesn't sound to me like it ought to be too hard, would it? I'd have thought it should be easy enough to figure out what pixels belong to what bits of chart and grade accordingly, possibly with an over-ride to bias it in favour of making sure one colour is absolutely spot on if you can't get the chart perfect (specifically a "make sure my skin tones are right before you do anything else" setting).

Build it into Colorista II and sell everyone a Macbeth chart to go with the software...? Bulk buy the charts and sell them at a premium, or maybe one built in to the lower half of a slate so everyone has it at the start of each shot automatically?

Pretty please? :-)

September 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterHywel Phillips

As I was enjoying reading this post I got to the end and - what, Magic Bullet Looks for Vegas in 64-bit glory. Wow, I'm stunned but happy. My last grades in Vegas has been without Looks trying various other tools (yuck,crash).

Wonderful news. Order placed now. That's what I call listening to customers. I will spread the word to customers.

September 30, 2011 | Registered Commentertest

Thanks Stephen. I presume you followed the little (!) link in that paragraph?

September 30, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

You bet I did Stu :). Again, thanks. I see it's being discussed on the Sony Vegas forums, so hopefully sales will pick up. Vegas is getting better and better. 10 really fixed a bunch of issues especially with HDSLR native editing and 11 is looking strong. And now, the dozens of projects I have with Looks, including a feature film are all happy again.

September 30, 2011 | Registered Commentertest

I need colorista/looks power, without the performance hit of MB. Performance is huge on this integration, it needs to be good enough.

Unless they come up with a way that the timeline is translated losslessly (comes across EXACTLY as is, no lost effects or time maps or blending etc) -- an external app limits the power of the NLE and further evolution of the NLE.

Personally, I'd love to see a robust CC mode in PPro. Same timeline; advanced color correction tools like we have to use 3rd party apps for.

I'm not sure that color work should have had to ever come down to using After Effects to begin with -- I feel like dynamic link would be sufficient if CC was proper within Premiere. Also would like to see the bpc management from AE translated over to PPro.

I'll be bit disappointed if it's "here's the basics" inside the NLE, then advanced work limited to a dedicated app, that again, won't translate edits perfectly.

I don't know, just one user's opinion!

October 2, 2011 | Registered Commenterweston woodbury

Recently I worked on a project where I had to stop using Colorista and switch to the accelerated 3 Way color correcter in PrP. This is why
1. Colorista on each clip in a 4 minute sequence needed to be rendered for full speed playback. (I have A 8 core / 24 gb ram / Nvidia 4000 / Maxx Digital array). Export took another 10 minutes.
2. 3 Way color corrector on each clip played back in real and. export took only 3 minutes..
The time savings was dramatic and necessary to meet deadlines.

October 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterTom Daigon

Interesting post.... but again Adobe purchased "technology" not "products" ... It seems difficult to me to integrate Speedgrade in a way or another into Adobe Premiere... but the technology (RAW data handling, debayering, color science..) that seems more appropriate.

Adobe executives said that they want to make the Photoshop of movie making with this acquisition... which is quite far from what a color grading system is. Being a freelance colorist, I can strongly state that it's two different worlds. Of course, in the end it's all RGB manipulation. But color grading is another thing.. it's about workflow, speed, etc.

A few weeks I discovered this new product: ... and it seems quite promising. I'll keep an eye on it

October 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterJon Declerk

Weston and Tom, thanks for the feedback on Colorista and Looks. We have some limitations as plug-ins, but we can always strive for better performance.

October 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Dmitry, thanks for the feedback. You're right, we've allowed that functionality to fall down as both we and Adobe have released new versions of our software. We'll get it working again.

October 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

I'm so sorry Stu,
I respected you till today.

How can you say "In other words, do what Apple did in FCP X"?
Do you want to finish with professionals colorists?
Right know Apple is for my sister of 18 years old edit her vacations movies.

I grade feature films with speedgrade nx2011, and I agree that the software have some issues, but I truly believe that adobe will fix that small things.

Speedgrade must be a stand alone application for professional colorists do a professional job.

For those people (like me too, in my small projects) that want just a QUICK and EASY way to color correct, you already have that small plugins from magic bullet.

Speedgrade only needs small things:
1) Stability
2) Some re-design to mach the Adobe amazing studio
3) Multi-layer, and some finishing options
4) AND PLEASE, access to Red RAW codec inside the software.

I still use XMLs and EDLs...
But adobe knows that. because Adobe is working for professionals.

October 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarco Amaral

Speedgrade must be a stand alone application for professional colorists do a professional job.

Agreed, but I think Adobe is reaching for a broader market than professional colorists.

If you carefully read my post, you'll see that at no point to I suggest that Adobe discontinue this standalone SpeedGrade that I'm suggesting they adopt, clean up, and ship. "Do what Apple did with FCP X" specifically refers to the direct integration of color correction as a fundamental parameter for every clip in Premiere.

October 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

And keeping with your observation on their market, I sincerely hope they will follow Filmlight's (Baselight for FCP) design by making a plugin for the majority of users and a stand alone version for those that prefer it. Sending EDsL is a pain in the butt and not conducive to changes in the timeline.

October 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterTom Daigon

Why don't they improve AE, PS extended, instead of buying more incomplete stuff.... Stupid
if you ask me....

October 16, 2011 | Registered Commenteradrian newing
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