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Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Entries in Color (105)


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.


Movie Looks HD Free for Two Days

In conjunction with the Original iPhone Film Festival, Movie Looks HD is free for two days. Get it!

More info here.


Magic Bullet Mojo for FCP X

Today Red Giant announced Magic Bullet Mojo for Final Cut Pro X. Hooray!

Mojo was conceived as a super simple effect for creating a sexy look quick, with a minimum of fuss. I designed it to be based entirely on sliders and other controls easily ported from one application to another, so that we could make it a screaming good deal and get it working on as many hosts as possible.

That turned out to be a lucky move, because so far it’s almost the only Magic Bullet plug-in that Final Cut Pro X can support. Both the graphical controls that Colorista II uses and the dense “custom data” blocks that Magic Bullet Looks relies on are victims of bugs or shortcomings in the initial release of FCP X.

The good news is that Red Giant is working directly with Apple on addressing these issues. But rather than simply tell you that and expect you to believe it, we knuckled down and got Mojo working as quickly as we could so that you’d know we’re taking FCP X seriously.

And by “we,” I mean the hard-working Engineering and QA folks at Red Giant, not me. I just got to sit back and watch.

Mojo is a dream in FCP X. It plays back at 1080p in near real time on my iMac without rendering, but the background rendering is so seamless you’ll never even know its happening. Love it or hate it, FCP X really nailed the whole background processing thing, and it’s fun for me to see one of our tools working so seamlessly with the new architecture.

For one week only, Mojo is on sale for $49, which is roughly half price (use coupon code MOJOFCPX). And that’s one license that works in every host Mojo supports — so if you’re in NLE limbo right now, Mojo can be a companion to you as you wander. Mojo for FCP X is a free update for existing customers, as will be all of the Magic Bullet Suite updates for FCP X as they become available — or possible.


Magic Bullet Suite 11

Red Giant today released Magic Bullet Suite 11, which includes a major update to Magic Bullet Looks, and a new effect called Cosmo for doing cosmetic retouches.

When I first designed Magic Bullet Looks, it was with the fundamental idea that a powerful tool can be fun to use. What the many creative users of Looks have taught me over the years is that a fun tool can be incredibly powerful. The new Looks is simpler and more elegant than the original, but also more capable. We’ve added support for popular video output boards, new scopes to help you dial in colors, and new creative tools such as Lens Distortion and Haze/Flare. We’ve also completely revamped the interface.

Cosmo is a simple effect that does only one thing, and does it really well. It makes people look great. If you’ve used the tools in Mojo or Colorista II for tuning skin tones and reducing blemishes, you’ll be right at home with Cosmo. We broke it out into its own effect because sometimes that’s all you need, but there’s also a Cosmo Tool in Looks.

Looks 2,” as we’ve been calling it internally, posed an interesting challenge. We’ve had enough time watching people use Looks (four years!) to learn what they like and don’t like. It basically boils down to power and simplicity. Looks users wield easy, fun control of a powerful set of creative tools. That’s something you don’t want to mess with. We considered a number of enhancements, but ultimately rejected several as adding too much complexity to the Looks experience. However, we did rebuild Looks on a solid foundation that will allow more frequent updates in the future, so please keep those feature requests coming.

In the meantime, here’s what I consider to be the standout features of Looks 2. First is the new UI. Designed by Mark Coleran, it’s the same Magic Bullet Looks full-screen UI, but cleaned up, modernized, and simplified.

The scopes are now in a scrolling column on the left. You can show or hide them all together, or twirl open just the ones you want. You can even reorder them.

The Hue/Saturation scope works like a format-agnostic vectorscope, complete with flesh tone line. But as much as video pros love to use that line to guide their corrections, I couldn’t help but feel that there should be easier ways. So Looks 2 features the skin overlay from Mojo and Colorista II, but in a much better implementation, since you can just leave it on all the time if you like — you’ll never accidentally render it.

But maybe even cooler than the overlay is the new Memory Colors scope. As I wrote a while back, an image will appear well-balanced when the colors of certain objects appear to match our memory of what they should be. Examples include blue skies, green foliage and people. Wherever your image is hitting the memory color targets, the Memory Colors scope will light up.

Looks now features some powerful tools from Colorista II, such as the three-way color corrector and the Ranged HSL Tool, which allows you to adjust individual colors with ease. There’s also a fun new Lens Distortion Tool that allows you to remove or introduce barrel and pincushion distortion, and a Haze/Flare tool that simulates light bouncing around chaotically inside a funky, uncoated lens.

We’ve also improved some of the classic Looks Tools. For example, you can now control the aspect ratio of a vignette. Of course you can continue to use all of your original Looks presets, including any Guru Packs you might have.

Maybe the most subtle improvement of the suite is that it’s now much easier to install. One installer manages all the plug-ins.

Director Seth Worley created a hilarious and awesome short film called Plot Device that shows off the new suite and celebrates a filmmaking spirit that anyone reading this site can appreciate. We showed the film at the simultanious tweet-ups in New York, Portland, and San Francisco last night to a huge response. And I don’t think it was just because of the free drinks.

Magic Bullet Looks is the flagship of the Magic Bullet Suite, and I’m thrilled to give it the update it has long deserved. I hope you have a blast with it.

Me showing Debbie and Ari how a Manhattan can look a little like a Cosmo in the right light, at the SF MB11 tweetup. Photo by Sean Safreed

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