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A couple years ago I compared Magic Bullet Suite 2.1 and the now discontinued CineLook 2 software plugins for After Effects. With the release of Adobe's CS4 suite, I wanted to revisit the latest offering from Red Giant Software--Magic Bullet Suite 2008. One project at the CBS affiliate I work at called for a variety of different needs that MBS 2008 was able to handle all within this one plugin set: film look, film motion, up-rezzing to HD, color correction, and motion removal.
For those of you not familiar with MBS 2008, it includes Looks 1.1 (one-click presets to colorize your footage,) Frames 1.0 (helps introduce a 24p look to interlaced video,) Colorista 1.0 (color correction,) Instant HD 1.1 (resizes SD to various flavors of HD,) and Steady 1.0 (removal of camera shake/jitter.) The spot I worked on was able to use all of these plugins.
SETTING THE MOOD
By far, the most-used MBS plugin for us here at the station is Looks. Applying this plugin to your footage within After Effects will bring up the Looks Builder window. By mousing over to the far left side of the screen, you will see a motherload of different presets for your clip. What’s cool about it is that it uses the frame you were on in AE to generate the thumbnails.
You can click on any of the presets and hit OK, or you can tweak to your heart’s content by clicking on the icons at the bottom of the screen. Easy for the AE novice, and lots of love for the AE pros.
Below on the left you see the original footage, and on the right see the affected footage with a little bit of compositing on top of a warm one-touch preset.
(On a side note--there’s also a pretty healthy selection of “film damage” plugins included in Looks. Lots of variables. I wish they had included a number of damage presets in the suite for those who don’t have much time to experiment.)
FEELS LIKE FILM
Getting that 24p look with Frames is different than what you would expect. Red Giant’s description of Frames on their website may seem a little misleading. You don’t just apply the plugin to get 24p--you need to take a few steps to make it work. (The results are outstanding, though.)
First, make sure that you are working with the original interlaced clip. (If your clips are a couple of digital generations old, the interlacing may be baked in and give you cause for that big bottle of Advil.) With the original clip, apply the plugin to de-interlace. I would then render out, and bring it back in and apply 3:2 (WWSSW) to get it into your final comp. Kind of a pain, but it’s very clean.
As mentioned above, mixing SD and HD footage in the same spot can give some headaches. If you’re just plain scaling up the footage within AE, there’s a marked difference between the two resolutions. However, using Instant HD lessens the difference quite a bit. (At times there is no visible difference at all.) Just drop your SD footage into the HD comp, apply the plugin, and choose from presets that can either scale up to fit the whole screen (cropping the top and bottom of the 4x3 footage) or scaling up top to bottom (leaving black pillars on the sides of the 16x9 comp.) Pretty cool.
A word to the wise on this plugin--be careful. Because of the pixel creating capabilities here, be cautious on how you use other plugins in connection with Instant HD. Even by precomposing, crashes can come early and often if you’re overloading your system. Trial and error has told me that it’s best to pre-render, and re-import as an individual clip.
THE REST OF THE GANG
One of the handheld shots we had in the spot had a little too much shake in it. Applying Steady to the clip removed the shake with one click. We did need to use a little creative cropping to compensate for the subsequent frame movement, but this is a given. The results were worth it.
There was also a sunset shot of our helicopter at the end of the spot. The white balance was a little off, and again with one click, Colorista was able to readjust the white balance and bring it more in harmony with the other shots. The plugin does a lot more than that, but it was nice to have a quick fix handy without having to dig into curves. While our station doesn’t use these two plugins very often, it’s sure nice to have them in the arsenal.
OVERALL--THE SUITE IS SWEET
Apart from a few hiccups, this set of plugins is awesome. It covers a lot of ground and can be used by all AE artists. Lots of controls for the control freaks, one-click presets for the newbies, and everything in between. I would concur with the review of a couple years ago--MBS 2008 is an outstanding buy and well worth the price tag of a $199 upgrade, $399 cross-grade, or $799 (new).
4.5 Cows (out of 5)
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