The advantage of using plug-ins for editing software, is that they usually extend the functionality of the host application, whilst also helping to perform repetitive tasks more easily, or more importantly, help you perform them faster.
Across two Masterclasses, we’ll be looking at two of Red Giant Software’s colour correction plug-ins, Magic Bullet Mojo and Magic Bullet Looks, and how they can help to increase workflow efficiency by allowing you to quickly add multiple colour correction adjustments to clips.
In general, colour corrections are single adjustments made to video clips, whilst grades are multiple adjustments that combine to form a look or mood, that affects the atmosphere or story of a shot.
This week we’ll be looking at Mojo, which allows you to make multiple adjustments at a time, through the manipulation of simple sliders, to recreate instant hollywood movie style results. Mojo costs $49 (£35), and is available as a download from www.redgiantsoftware.com.
Step 1: Orange and Teal
A standard grading technique used in many action movies and thrillers is to visually separate actors from their backgrounds by increasing the amount of blue and green in the shadows whilst simultaneously warming the colour of skin-tone. This is often referred to as the ‘Orange and Teal’ effect.
Step 2: Multiple Adjustments
The effect is also used as the signature style for many sci-fi and horror movies and is made up of multiple primary corrections, including increasing the contrast, darkening and cooling the shadows, and adding a warm yellow or orange to the highlights.
Step 3: Adding Mojo
Mojo speeds up the grading process by adding these multiple adjustments and letting you control them with sliders. To add Mojo, select a clip on the timeline, open up the Effects Browser (CMD-5), and then choose Magic Bullet Mojo from the video effects list of categories. Skim over the Magic Bullet Mojo effect to preview it, then double-click to apply.
Step 4: Mojo Presets
Similarly, you can skim over the Mojo presets to preview the effect of each one. These presets arrange the slider settings to reproduce the colour palettes of classic movie looks, emulate the Bleach Bypass film stock treatment, and allow you to check for accurate skin tone. The sliders can then be further adjusted for fine tuning.
Step 5: Slider Controls
Each slider adjusts multiple settings; the Mojo control warms the highlights, cools the shadows and adds overall contrast to the image, while the Tint control sets the amount of blue or green hue in the shadows. Using these two main sliders together is the fastest way to adjust the plug-in. Use higher values to create more dramatic results.
Step 6: Multiple Hosts
Mojo works in a variety of applications, but has the same sliders in each host. If you have been using Mojo in previous versions of Final Cut Pro, you’ll recognise the controls instantly. The advantage is, that if you are familiar with a plug-in interface, it helps you work more quickly in a new host application.
Step 7: Mojo Balance
The Balance slider controls the boundary between the cool shadows and warm highlights, and determines which tones are shadows and which are highlights, which is useful when adjusting dark shadows in a shot. Use low values to create stylised warm looks, similar to sepia style effects, but keeping definition in the shadows.
Step 8: Tweak It
The three ‘it’ sliders, Warm It, Punch It, and Bleach it, are fine tuning controls that increase or reduce warmth, contrast and saturation. They’re useful for tweaking Mojo looks that have been set up with the main sliders, and are a fast way to create multiple custom stylised film looks.
Step 9: Quick Adjustments
The ‘it’ sliders can also be used to manipulate shots without adding the teal Mojo Effect. Set the Mojo slider to zero, and then set the Warm It slider to a value of 25. This is a fast way of improving a shot, in this case warming it up, and slightly increasing the contrast and saturation, all within one tool.
Step 10: Accurate Skin Tones
One of Mojo’s functions is to help you maintain accurate skin tones from shot to shot, and works with multiple skin types and colours. Select Show Skin Overlay to reveal an orange grid that indicates when flesh tones are in a valid range. Maintaining accurate skin tone helps keep your subjects looking natural.
Step 11: Uniform Skin
Even with heavily stylised looks you can keep skin tones within a valid range. Use the Skin Color and Skin Squeeze sliders, to make fine tuning adjustments. Skin Color controls the hue offset of just flesh tones, while Skin Squeeze flattens out blotchy or unevenly lit skin, making it more uniform, and easier to adjust.
Step 12: Standing Out
A common grading technique is to make people stand out against the background. Set Skin Solo to 100, to desaturate all the colours in the image except the ones in the skin tone range. Additionally, double-click on the number settings for Bleach It, and enter a negative value (for example -35) to boost the skin tone saturation.
Step 13: Plan Your Shoot
If you know the sort of look you want to achieve, it saves time in post production by planning your shoot with a reduced colour palette. Limited warm colours in both the background and the actor’s clothing allow Mojo to add an successful filmic treatment, even at the default settings.
Step 14: Use the scopes
It’s important to check the scopes to monitor how the shadows, brightness and colours in the image are being adjusted. Select CMD-7 to show the Video Scopes, and use the blue square enable/disable button in the filter settings to toggle the effect on and off to review the effect and see how it changes the scope waveform.
Step 15: Paste Effects
Once you’ve set up a custom look you can save time by copying it to other clips. Select a clip on the timeline and press CTRL-V to reveal the effects in the Video Animation Editor. Select Magic Bullet Mojo and press CMD-C to copy it. Select one or more further clips and press OPT-CMD-V to paste just that Mojo effect.
Bonus Tip: Red Pledge
Mojo works with Final Cut Pro 6, 7, and X, and with Motion 3, 4, and 5. It’s also cross platform, and is compatible with Premiere Pro and After Effects CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 on both Mac and Windows. Additionally, Red Giant’s Red Pledge, means that you only need to buy one licence for the plug-in to work across all the host applications on your system.
Most of the examples shown in this Masterclass are taken from Seth Worley’s short film Plot Device, (viewable at www.redgiantsoftware.com), and many of the shots from the alien invasion section of the film were treated with Mojo, to get that signature sci-fi look.