About five years ago Stu Maschwitz, one of the staff at visual effects company The Orphanage (and a former ILM guru), created a set of tools that allowed The Orphanage to give their clients a very realistic film look, without the expense of shooting on film. They could shoot on video, apply these tools, and fool 99% of people into thinking they’d spent big bucks shooting on film. Word got out and video professionals around the world clamored for The Orphanage’s secret. Eventually, Red Giant Software was founded, and released the full set of tools as Magic Bullet Suite.
Originally, Magic Bullet Suite only worked in After Effects, and contained two main parts: Magic Bullet, which changed 60i footage to 24p, and LookSuite, which gave the video footage the look of various types of film stock. Over the years the Look Suite part was spun off into Magic Bullet Editors, which allowed users of Premiere, Final Cut, and other editing programs to apply these film Looks to their footage from within their editing software.
The newly released Magic Bullet Looks takes this one step further by combining LookSuite and Magic Bullet Editors into a single package that can be used in After Effects as well as in Premiere Pro, Avid, and Final Cut Pro (with Sony Vegas support coming in 2008). It can also be used as a stand-alone program, totally independent of any host software. Additionally, it includes MisFire, which simulates the various idiosyncratic “errors” that occur when shooting, processing and projecting film.
However, Magic Bullet Looks is nothing like either of its predecessors. It is a completely redesigned program that not only gives users the ability to apply a ton of popular film Looks to their video footage, but also allows them to set moods in scenes with a variety of additional tools that were not available in previous incarnations of the software.
I’ve been using Magic Bullet since 2003 and have been consistently amazed by the power of the software and the incredible results it produces. I’ve tested countless other film look packages that have tried to be contenders to Red Giant’s throne, but I always come back to Magic Bullet. It’s sort of my gold standard against which I judge all other film look software. Upon hearing they’d completely redesigned LookSuite, I was nervous that they’d messed up their “magic” formula in the name of progress. And while they have taken some amazing steps forward with this package, I’m very sad to say that their new layout makes it unusable for most professional purposes.
Ease of Use
Installation was a breeze for both After Effects and Premiere Pro. It automatically detected my After Effects plug-in folder and once the plug-in was launched in AE, I was asked to authorize it with a serial number.
Documentation is spectacular. Within the module there is a roll-over help function that can be toggled on or off. This will give you details on anything you see in the module. For more in-depth explanations, an html manual is included that features plenty of photos and has great descriptions of each of the tools included in the package.