Review: Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 12 – A Worthy Upgrade

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Intro

For over 20 years I’ve been making my living off of the profession of editing video. When you edit 40–50 hours a week on a regular basis you really hone your craft and over time find a balance between getting the job done on time and making it look as great as possible.

There was a period of time in my career that I wanted to create everything myself. I looked down on using templates or prebuilt backgrounds because in my opinion I was good enough to make all of that from scratch and didn’t want to feel like I was leaning on the creativity of others. 

The same could be said for plug-ins. It’s easy to get lost in all of the “cool things” that you can do with plug-ins and sometimes lose sight of the story you’re trying to tell. It’s easy to over do it. I’ve see editors try to find a reason to use a cool effect they like even though it doesn’t really fit the mood of their story or project. I never wanted to fall into that. 

But what I have learned is that even if I can make something myself, what’s the point if I can do something more efficiently and in the end have a better product for the client? Is it more important to turn out a good product, or have my ego hold me back from creating better work just because I wanted to do it all myself?

What I have found over the years is it’s not a either/or situation. I’ve also come to think that it often makes great sense to use these tools to your advantage – because in the end what I really want is the best product possible. It can also free up time to focus on other parts of the project that really could benefit from your talents. 

So in that light, what follows is my review of Red Giants Magic Looks Suite 12. It’s a collect of plug-ins designed to make it fast and easy to bring the best out of your footage. I’ve been using it extensively for years, but recently upgraded to the version 12 suite and have been testing it on both FCPx and Premiere Pro CC/After Effects and wanted to share my impressions of it. The comments that follow apply to any host application that you choose to use them in, not just FCPx or Premiere. 

The suite is very rich in what it offers and I can’t cover every detail of every plug-in in the package, but I will share my experiences on some of my favorite parts of the suite. 

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Turn Project Archives Into Real Money – BRU Producer Edition

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In my continuing effort to find a solid, reliable and affordable solution for long term archival of our editing projects, I have spent the last 12 months testing and creating a workflow for yet another product solution. Unlike when I reviewed the Cache~a a few years back (the positive review since removed from the site), I decided to spend a lot more time really running it through the paces. I learned my lesson the hard way with the Prime Cache and made changes to my review process.

The product that I’m reviewing this time is the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” software and hardware package from the Tolis Group. It has turned out to be quite the winner, and I’m excited to share our experience with it. While they do offer several different solutions of hardware/software or software only solutions (you provide the hardware), I’m going to focus on this one all in one package. It’s my feeling that this is the best fit for the small to medium sized post house with 1-5 workstations. To see some of their offerings, check out their website.

http://www.tolisgroup.com

What’s Included – Installation

What I liked about the “Edit Bay Production Desktop” package right from the onset was that it was a complete solution for your Mac. You provide a G5 tower, Xserve or MacPro computer with a open PCIe slot (must be a 8x slot), and they provide you with everything else.

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In your open PCIe slot you will install a SAS host bus adaptor. The card they provide is the ATTO ExpressSAS H680, and it was as easy to install as a video card. It’s as simple as removing the side panel of your tower and adding the card to your open slot.

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(Above is the Expansion Slot Utility that is on most, but not all Power Macs. Because the system we have the card installed on (a quad G5) does not support this utility, I took this snap from a different computer in the office just to show the utility. So don’t be surprised that in this shot the ATTO card is not listed. This utility allows you to configure the speed of your slots by dividing up the bandwidth in whichever way best suits your setup)

Once booted up, you install a driver for the ATTO card from the included CD, reboot again and the card is ready for use.

After that, turn the machine off and attach the LTO drive. Depending on the package that you choose, you will receive either a LTO-4 or LTO-5 drive. Both are HP drives in a external case. We have the LTO-5 drive.

With the LTO drive attached and the machine booted up, install the BRU Producer Edition software (from here on referred to as BRU PE) . This is really the heart of the product and is written for OSX specifically. Installation is as easy as mounting the included CD ROM or downloaded .dmg disk image and running the installer. Now you’re ready to start.

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Final Cut Pro Mobile: Touch Your Edit

It is with great excitement that I am finally able to make an announcement that has been eating at me for nearly a year now. In June of 2009 when the iPhone 3GS was released I had a flash of what the future could hold for editing, and it’s that moment of inspiration that gave birth to the product I’m announcing today.

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Our new groundbreaking product, Final Cut Pro Mobile, is now available on the iPhone 3GS. It will also be available on the iPad later this year. You heard me right – the full suite of FCPS apps have been ported to the iPhone 3GS, and in some cases, we’ve been able to add additional features not found in the current offerings from Apple.

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Much of our inspiration at SuiteTake.com to create this mobile suite was inspired by the growing interest in editing projects outside of the office. While the edit suite has been the traditional place to get your project done, technology no longer limits us to just a single location. And it was with that vision in mind that we marched forward with the project. Here is a quick overview of what the new suite includes.

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Don’t Sell That Old G5 Just Yet!

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With so many software programs and hardware only supported by the Intel based Mac computers, you might find that having that old Dual/Quad G5 around is becoming more and more problematic. And that may be true, especially as a production machine. More and more of the Apple and Adobe apps only support the newer processor, so upgrading starts to become difficult. Even Snow Leopard is only supported by Intel machines, so your G5 kind of gets stuck in time.

But I’m going to give you a few options to still make use of that older machine, and it will end up having more value to you than the few bucks you can fetch by selling it on eBay. Currently a Quad G5 (the last and fastest G5 made) is going for about $600, and that’s if you throw in a bunch of extra software/upgrades. And who wants to deal with shipping the beast anyway. My vote would be to keep the machine around and put it to work.

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One of the best things you can do is add more storage to the machine and have it as a file server. For example, in our office we have 3 main edit rooms, but there are many files that we use on jobs that are shared. We have a music library, stock footage, stock effects, some Editor Toolkit graphics, SFX, Custom Compressor Settings and many template items that we’ve created in house. We used to have all of these items installed on every computer in the office. Not a big deal, except when you make an update you have to make sure that every machine is updated with the same items or you quickly get out of sync. Having just one place to store it all is much more manageable.

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Backup Server

Another option would be to add extra storage and make it a backup server that monitors the computers in your office and backups new files on a daily or weekly basis. You can do this using the new Retrospect 8 for the mac, or ChronoSync and Chrono Agent. Both packages work the same way, having a small client app running on your workstation, and the server software running on the backup machine. You select what you want to backup, when you want to back it up and where to. The nice part is that once it’s setup properly, you don’t have to keep remembering to back things up before you leave every night.

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WIKI Server

Finally, you can install OSX Server (10.5) software and use it for workgroup management, contact files, file server and even a WIKI. We have a WIKI that we use for ECU (Edit Creations University) where we have all training materials, tips and tricks, job specific information, client FedEx numbers and even the employee manual. It’s all accessible to all employees whenever they need to reference anything, and any employee that has permission can add their own posts or revise posts that are there with new information. It becomes a very centralized location to store information, files, and video tutorials.

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Creative Samples Database

Over the past 10 years I have slowly collected still images, QuickTime movies, DVD’s,  tv commercials, show opens, movie trailers and so on, of things that I found inspirational or creative. The main reason was that I wanted to have something to spark my creative juices when I was just dead in the water looking for a new idea. I don’t like to steal an idea directly, but there’s plenty you can take from any given example and than make it your own. Often just seeing something will spark an idea of your own.

I have so many samples now that I created a database called Creative Spark. Everything is processed into a friendly format and imported into the database. Once in there, it’s tagged for any number of attributes, from the type of video it is to what types of things is shows examples of (camera work, effects, text, graphics, etc.). This is the kind of thing that works great in a shared environment and it’s now accessible to any of the editors or producers in the office.

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It also comes in handy when you’re trying to describe an effect or look to a client. It’s much more effective if you actually have the example right there to play for them.

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TimeMachine Volume

Most people hook up an external drive for use with Apple’s TimeMachine. But by adding up to 6TB of internal space, you can do the same thing and take up no extra counter space. We have a TimeMachine volume on each edit computer that runs twice daily* to backup the active projects (and only the active projects). We’ve found this to be a very solid part of our overall backup strategy.

* If you use TimeMachine you know that you really don’t have a lot of choice when it runs and how often. However, you can use a free program called TimeMachineEditor to give you more control over this. I personally don’t need it to backup every second that I’m working, but even once a day is enough in most cases. It takes less of a toll on your system resources that way too.

Whatever you decide to do with that G5, more storage is probably going to help. Today’s post will walk you through how to install more storage than you ever imagined in your aging G5 so that it’s up to snuff for you’re data needs.  Of the ideas I outlined above, all could be implemented on a single machine and play nicely, and in that case you would absolutely want to add more storage.

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Have FCP, Will Travel… Please Let Me Travel!

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This week I have the good fortune of getting out of the cold Chicago weather and editing in sunny California. I’m was brought out to do some on-site editing for Fender at the NAMM convention in Anaheim.

Like every travel job that I do, there are unique needs that needed to be addressed. No two jobs are exactly the same.  The needs of this job resulted in me having the most sophicated travel setup I’ve had to date. Here are the details of the job.

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NAMM is a convention that showcases manufactures of musical instruments and gear. It’s kind of the NAB of the music industry. Fender has one whole floor of the convention center, and my job is specific to what they’re doing here. There are 3 main areas of their venue. The Stage, where there will be live performances, both planned and as people walk up and just want to jam. There is the exhibit area where booths are setup for all of the separate companies that are under the Fender umbrella. And then there’s the “floor”, where people are just socializing and moving from one place to the other. All of these are being covered by video, and as quickly as possible edited down and posted to the web on the Fender website as well as many social media sites.

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Review – Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera Color Correction Screens

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What’this? Production gear reviews on a post-production blog? Yup, that’s right. We’re not all just codecs and compression here at SuiteTake; we do actually put on our shoes and socks and get to shoot too. In fact, there’s nothing better to appreciate parking your rear in a comfy edit chair all day long that luggin’ production gear around on an old fashioned shoot now and then.
So yes, we do shoot here too and have come across a few nifty little production gadgets that have proved very helpful in the field: The Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera’s Color Correction Screens for their softboxes.

What’s this? Production gear reviews on a post-production blog? Yup, that’s right. We’re not all just codecs and compression here at SuiteTake; we do actually put on our shoes and socks and get to shoot too. In fact, there’s nothing better to appreciate parking your rear in a comfy edit chair all day long then luggin’ production gear around on an old fashioned shoot now and then.

So yes, we do shoot here too and have come across a few nifty little production gadgets that have proved very helpful in the field: The Lite Panels Micro Pro and Chimera’s Color Correction Screens for their softboxes.

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