In the previous Masterclass, we looked at how Red Giant’s Mojo plug-in can be used to make multiple colour correction adjustments, just using sliders. For these next two classes, we’ll be looking at Red Giant Software’s flagship colour correction plug-in Magic Bullet Looks, which has its own user interface, and comes with over 100 presets, arranged into categories that apply technical colour corrections, as well as applying filmic treatments.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the interface, how to make technical adjustments to improve the look of images, as well as how to apply and adjust the presets. In the next article we’ll be expanding on those techniques, and looking at how colour adjustments can change the mood of a shot, and how to set up various styled genre treatments.
Magic Bullet Looks costs $399, works with multiple hosts, including FCP 7, FCP X, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Sony Vegas, and Avid Media Composer, and is cross platform. It’s available as a download from www.redgiantsoftware.com
Step 1: Applying Looks
Looks works as a filter in FCP X. Select a clip, then open the Effect Browser (CMD-5), scroll down to Magic Bullet Looks, and double-click the Magic Bullet Looks icon to apply. To launch the Looks interface, click the edit button that shows as an overlay on the clip. The current frame under the playhead is used as the preview image.
Step 2: Adding Tools
Looks has range of colour correction tools, set out in sections that reflect real world production workflows. Move your mouse to the right of the screen to activate the Tools Drawer, and drag tools onto your footage in the preview window. Select a tool, then edit its properties at the right of the screen.
Step 3: Processing Order
The tools are processed from left to right in the tool chain, which reflects the order of the sections. Adjust contrast, shadow and luma settings, using tools like Fill Light and Contrast, and then make color adjustments to the shadows, midtones and highlights using tools like Colorista 3-Way.
Step 4: Focus Attention
Adding a vignette allows you to draw attention to an area of a shot, without obviously showing that an effect has been applied. Drag the Vignette tool onto the preview image and click and drag on the yellow Radius controls to change the size and aspect ratio. Adjust the strength slider to under 50% for a more subtle effect.
Step 5: Simulating Depth
Shooting with a shallow depth of field separates subjects from the background. The Edge Softness tool allows you to simulate this technique. Drag to re-size the yellow on-screen controls to adjust the size and spread of the blur, as well as the position. For more natural results, reduce the amount of blur to a setting between 1 and 2.
Step 6: Filmic Effects
Looks has tools that help you suggest the look of film by adjusting the contrast. Using the Curves tool, located in the Subject, Camera and Post sections, drag right on the Contrast control to apply a filmic S curve effect. This boosts the highlights and darkens the shadows. There are also individual controls for shadows, midtones and highlights.
Step 7: Fine Tuning
You can also target the red, green or blue channels individually with the curves tool. Lowering the red in the shadows reveals blue and green shades, which balance the warmer complementary colors in the midtones and highlights, and helps separate your subject from the background. You can also click and drag points on the curve itself for more fine tuning control.
Step 8: Filmic Light
Adding diffused light treatments in post production can soften the harsh edges in digital video, and simulate how light appears in different environments. From the Matte section, apply the Diffusion Tool, and increase the Grade and Glow settings to exaggerate the effect. Moving the color wheel pin towards yellow gives the appearance of warm sunlight.
Step 9: Virtual Makeup
It’s often useful to apply skin smoothing to subjects, when shooting in harsh lighting or without makeup. The Cosmo tool, in the Subject and Post sections, works by targetting and softening skin tones, while leaving the rest of the image untouched. Lower Skin Soften settings give more natural results, and use the Skin Finder and Skin Tolerance controls to adjust which skin tones are selected.
Step 10: Sharpening
The Pop tool, in the Subject and Post settings, adds a sharpening effect, which exagerates small details, makes images appear more dynamic, and can help soft shots appear more in focus. Drag the Pop control to a positive value to sharpen, or alternatively drag it to a negative value to soften the whole image.
Step 11: Presets
To access the presets, move your mouse to the left side of the screen to reveal the presets draw. Each preset loads pre-configured tools into the tool chain, which combine to form a look. The presets are organised into categories that make technical colour corrections, apply filmic and stylised treatments, as well as emulating film processes.
Step 12: Custom Presets
You can customise the presets to suit your footage. Click on a tool to select it, and then adjust the settings at the right of the screen. You can also add additional tools to the tool chain. Save a custom preset by entering a title in the Look Name field and pressing return. The preset will appear in the Custom category.
Step 13: Paste Effects
Click Finished at the bottom right of the screen to apply a look to your clip. As Looks is a filter, you can copy it to other clips. Select your original clip and press CMD-C to copy it. Then select one or more further clips and press OPT-CMD-V (the Paste Effects command) to paste Looks to those clips.
Step 14: Masks in FCPX
Apply Looks to a limited region of the image, using the in-built masks. Press CMD-4 to show the Inspector, and choose Rectangle or Ellipse from the Mask drop down button. Click Draw Outline to show the mask position, and choose Invert Mask to apply vignette style effects to the edges of a shot.
Step 15: Adjust the strength
If you feel a certain look is too strong, use the Mix slider to blend the effect with the original clip. You can keyframe many of the parameters, including the Mix control, as well as the mask position, shape, size and feather settings to allow for subjects moving within the shot.
Bonus Tip: Sharing Community
Red Giant People is a community website (http://people.redgiantsoftware.com/) where you can download free presets for a wide range of Red Giant plug-ins, to help you work more quickly. Type ‘Magic Bullet Looks’ in the search box at the top right of the page to find Looks presets.
As well as helping to save time on a production, you can tweak these presets by adjusting the tools in the tool chain, to customise them to suit your own footage, and they are a useful way of investigating how certain styles of looks are built up. Red Giant People also lets you upload and share your own presets.