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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Keeping your sanity…Working with Producers, Clients, and other “experts” at your job.

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If you’re an editor you work for somebody.

Even if you’re just a one man freelance shop – Johnny’s Productions – if you have work, you are working for somebody. You, or your sales staff, or your producer closed a deal and got you a gig, and that means you work for somebody. That person is your client.

Whether you just landed your first real job and are scrambling to actually learn how to use After Effects by tomorrow morning, or you’re “celebrating” your 20th year in the biz by reminiscing about the good old 1-inch days, the manner in which you interact with your client will determine whether or not they will be your last.

It’s no secret that being polite, listening, and working cooperatively are all necessary when working with clients but to keep the passion alive and the creativity flowing year after year you really need to develop relationships that work in harmony together and truly mutually benefit each other. We may hate to admit it but we do actually need our clients input and direction if we are to create a successful piece for them.

During my career as an editor I have found that there really are 2 primary ideas that need to be balanced when dealing with a client. No matter what your skill and experience level, and, more importantly, no matter their skill and experience level –  keen attention to these ideas can make all the difference between a great working relationship that brings you work for years to come or just another edit from H – E – Double Hockey Sticks.

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The Top-Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Final Cut Pro…Ten Years Ago.

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I’ve been an editor for a while now at several different shops. Through those days and places I have mostly been self taught until I ended up here with SuiteTake. At SuiteTake training and skill development is not just encouraged, it’s part of our daily responsibilities. Therefor, in the recent past my learning curve has increased dramatically.

The Top Ten things I wish I knew:

10. Shift and option dragging

9. Quick Ken Burns effect

8. QuickTime vs Quicktime Conversion.

7. The Black and code button.

6. Option 1,2,3 for transition alignment

5. Esc, tab, spacebar to navigate windows

4. Apply normalization to audio in FCP

3. Disable dropped frames warning.

2. Disable rendering with caps lock.

1. Map your keyboard.

The SuiteTake Take?

If you’re an experienced editor you probably know most of these already, however, if you’re just starting out like me so many years ago you’ll be putting yourself ahead of the game by learning these tricks now and not 10 years from now.

The following video tutorial demonstrates a list of 10 efficiencies and workflows with Final Cut Pro that I wish I had known from the start. If I had these often simple tricks in my pocket from day 1 I would have saved myself countless hours and heaps of frustration.

The Manual Duck

Ahhh the age old struggle between Final Cut Pro and After Effects. For what seems like centuries now us Final Cut Pro editors have been struggling with finding an efficient and, moreover, convenient workflow between FCP and After Effects. Sure, products like Livetype and Motion have come along and made life easier for some tasks but when it comes down to real motion graphics work and serious compositing nothing beats After Effects. Have you ever put Motion’s Primatte RT side by side with a key pulled from After Effects Keylight? To me there’s no comparison.

Coming from an editor’s chair, not a designer’s, it took me a while to really get up to speed with After Effects. In the past I was using AE infrequently for several reasons: 1. I didn’t know the interface and key commands well, 2. I didn’t know the software’s capabilities well, 3. I was intimidated by the rigid workflow between FCP and AE. All these factors equaled inefficent workflow and so I just usually opted not to use AE in favor of a faster and more flexible option like Livetype or Motion.

However, in the past year the work we have been doing has called more and more for serious graphics design and compositing, Livetype and Motion were simply not going to cut it. So I buckled down and really learned the After Effects interface, key commands and it’s capabilities. Through that hard work I quickly became much more efficent with AE and started creating some really cool stuff. But all this new-found efficency with AE itself still did nothing to help with a round-trip workflow to and from FCP. And if we can assume anything about Apple and Adobe there will probably never be an intergrated roundtrip solution between the two.

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Sony EX-1/EX-3 and Final Cut Pro, What’s Your Workflow?

Late last year we added a new camera package to our offerings at Edit Creations. In part because we wanted to diversify the services we had to offer, and also because it played into a spinoff company we’ve been working on. That new company would be a lot more production based then Edit Creations currently is.

We looked at all the options out there in the sub 10K price range, and after weeks of research ended up with a Sony EX-1. That really surprised me because when we started the search I was pretty much set on the Panasonic P2 format and the AG-HVX200A model. Not only do I have experience with that camera, but almost everything else we do is shot in the DVCPro HD format, so we have a nice workflow in place. More then that though, I can’t stand editing in the MPEG-2 format. It’s fine for shooting and can capture great images, but once you get it into the edit system you can be assured you will rendering more then ever before. But in the end, the Sony EX-1 won hands down in image quality, built in features, and price. There was just no denying it.

So, what to do with the workflow?

On the first several projects we tried multiple different ways of attacking the projects. Everything from working in the MPEG-2 format natively to converting everything to ProRes and editing with the converted files instead. We also have extensive experience working with the Sony software, which includes XDCam EX Clip Browser and XDCam Transfer.

In addition to all of this trial and error, I was training a client on how to handle the workflow for his own project (he was renting our camera). But it seemed every time I met with him I was saying “OK, I know I said do it like this, but now there’s a whole new way to do it”. Nothing like learning on the job to keep everybody on edge!

So here we are now, about 6 months later, with what I believe is a solid workflow. So if you’re using EX-1 (or XDCam footage of any kind) you can learn from our mistakes and start off on the right foot.

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