Understanding Magic Bullet(s): a personal quest

If you are like me – and here I deliberately use the first person so as to not taint my fellow fxguiders with my issues – if you are like me you love Red Giant’s products especially one or other of the Magic Bullet products. But you may well – also like me – find the product range just a tad confusing. Namely there are so many options to choose from. I would argue that Red Giant is a great company with outstanding products like Trapcode and real gems like Knoll Light Factory (love it) and PluralEyes (which I was incredibly happy to see find a home at Red Giant). But this company is completely run over by brand extension-itis. This is particularly true of the Magic Bullet line.

Poor long suffering Drew Little who spent ages explaining all this

To help I recently spoke to Drew Little, president and co-founder of Red Giant to get a guided tour through their color correction products. I should say that when I challenged him that by my count there are 15 – yes 15 – products called Magic Bullet something … (before you even got to things like Plastic Bullet) – he was incredibly nice in admititng that he had heard of my confusion, and the extensive brand extension was something he wanted to fix (it may be touch and go to see if this article is published before he has a chance to adjust things).

Again just to repeat – I love Magic Bullet and Red Giant – I just get lost in all the versions – and I don’t think I am alone, so below is the killer ‘what you need to know’ about Red Giant Software’s various Bullets.

If you go to the Red Giant site and look this is the list as of 1st Dec 2012:

–  Dont panicscroll down for the cheat sheet – the 7 things you need to know about Magic Bullet products!!

  • Magic Bullet Looks 2.0
  • Magic Bullet Colorista II
  • Magic Bullet Mojo 1.2
  • Magic Bullet Quick Looks 1.4
  • Magic Bullet Grinder 1.5
  • Magic Bullet PhotoLooks 2.0
  • Magic Bullet Instant HD
  • Magic Bullet Frames 1.1
  • Magic Bullet LUT Buddy
  • Magic Bullet Colorista Free
  • Magic Bullet Cosmo 1.0
  • Magic Bullet OSX10
  • Magic Bullet Quick Looks Free 1.4
  • Magic Bullet Denoiser II
  • Magic Bullet Aresenal 1.0


  • Plastic Bullet 2
  • Eric Escobar’s Indie Film for Looks
  • Eric Escobar’s Indie Film II for Looks 2
  • Nick Campbells’ vintage Film for Looks
  • Simon Walker’s Master Artists for Looks 2
  • Simon Walker’s Wedding 7 Events for Looks
  • Stu Maschwitz’s Rebel Epic for Looks

7 things you need to know:

1) The bottom set are ‘pre-set packages’ – more on those later and an iPhone app – we’ll ignore these for now, but if you are doing a wedding or an indie film – they are awesome presets. I just don’t use presets much. But Drew Little would really defend pre-sets, – as a very fast and thus productive way to get something great. Little would say ‘pre-sets’ in general have a dirty word in the professional market, undeservedly. For him a Pre-set in the professional market is a rapid way to get close, but not necessarily the final grade. For busy professionals time is really an issue.

2) Ok some of the rest are for still photos and some are for clips. The setting on the stills can be used on the clips…and that’s cool…but let’s assume we only care about grading clips, so ignore the stills products.

The wonderful Looks 2

3) Looks is what you want. It has the core cool tech and is a great one-off place to start. Does it have everything? No, but for most people reading this – it is THE place to start. And frankly it is almost the only product I use all the time. Others have their uses, but on a desert island with nothing but a laptop, a power outlet and one product to grade my personal version of Cast Away – this is what I am hoping floats up in the FedEx box on the beach. Many of the others are either presets using Looks or cut down UI that uses Looks but makes it easier for some users – but not you. Trust me on this – on some product lines the main product is hugely complicated and you want the quick and simple version with the easy UI. This is not that product line. Looks has a great easy to understand UI. (I want a cut-down Looks as much as I want a functionally cut-down – reduced UI iPhone.. i.e. not at all). I respectfully suggest neither do you, not that Red Giant is wrong, but as a reader of fxguide – this just is unlikely to apply to you. $399.

4) If you want a complete set: then Magic Bullet Suite 11 is a great set. It is the cool mothership package that includes most of what you want (some utilities) and a couple of additional, ahh, ok items, I rarely use, if ever. It is nine products (yeah I know). $799

5) But what about Colorista I hear you ask? I agree – this is a product that I thought I needed – and in fact I used Colorista before Looks. I think it was the name – it just sounded more professional. But in reality, while it is great, it is really aimed at people coming from a Final Cut 3 wheel grading background and Looks does all of what Colorista does – but differently.

6) So what are the other 8 products in the Magic Bullet Suite 11, other than Looks 2?
There are a set of preset style things and a set of sort of helpful utilities, and a few things I doubt you will need but ok … so:

  • Magic Bullet Looks 2.0  *** Hero – Gold – Wonderful – Helpful – Easy to use
  • Magic Bullet Colorista II – great but really again Looks can do it
  • Magic Bullet Cosmo 1.0 – clean up tools for Skin (but again its tech from Looks)
  • Magic Bullet Mojo 1.2  – Preset looks … of the Hollywood style
  • Magic Bullet PhotoLooks 2.0 – for stills – ok … thanks
  • Magic Bullet Grinder 1.5  – converts DSLR to edit friendly formats
  • Magic Bullet Instant HD   – converts to HD handling fields/frames
  • Magic Bullet Frames 1.1   – converts clips shot on old video cameras handling fields/frames
  • Magic Bullet Denoiser II  –  as the name says it removes noise

7) Special mention: LUT Buddy. Red Giant – just ’cause they are nice people give away for free LUT Buddy – don’t be fooled this. It is great tech and I love this little app – really a cracker – just no need to call it Magic Bullet LUT Buddy but hey maybe that’s just me!

Finally, I could almost have written this article about another product line brand extension (I am looking at you Trapcode) but I want to repeat, there is nothing wrong with giving people choice, except yes there is … I really believe and there is research on this – too much choice in our busy lives leads to people giving up a little and not committing. I firmly believe more than one and less than 20 versions are needed. And the worse thing would be if you never got around to trying and using Looks. It is a great product with a great UI. It is not a super grading desk for feature films – it is not intended to be – it is however robust, fun and very useful.

Red Giant is a key company in our industry, it works with film makers to provide killer tools, – tools that frankly  cover grading, design, editing and production. It produces tools that are really creative and provide amazing flexibility creatively, don’t be put off by their creative flexibility in product packaging.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Magic Bullet(s): a personal quest”

  1. Mike,

    Agreed the Looks has all the tech. But Colorista (in After Effects) operates right in the UI and can therefore output to a broadcast monitor realtime. The Looks UI leaves you working realtime on your computer monitor until you close the custom UI.

  2. I also find, that animating parameters, and especially power windows, is much easier in Colorista. And not to forget the keyer ; )

  3. “And the worse thing would be if you never got around to trying and using Looks. It is a great product with a great UI. It is not a super grading desk for feature films – it is not intended to be –”

    Mike, I’m curious about what type of projects you would personally use Looks or Colorista on. For example, would they be DSLR based projects such as FXTV for web delivery or other projects for say TVC’s, cinema ads etc. (but not from feature films)? What broadcast mediu\format etc. do these tools hold up best in?


  4. I think the tools are great for grading footage you shot on say DLSR. We use DaVinci for production here – as it is set up with a console, broadcast (OLED) monitor and fast storage. I also like being able to do a grade on a still and then apply it to a clip. I always take stills of video clips I shoot… so this works for me on my laptop.

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