Magic Bullet Suite
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 3 (March 2004)

Magic Bullet Suite

I was a longtime subscriber to the belief that film is film, video is video, and you can't make video look like film. That changed the day I met Magic Bullet Suite. The program provides a creative environment in which to customize footage for output to DVD, TV, or film. To accomplish this, Magic Bullet Suite offers a series of tools through an accessible and intuitive front end that, in turn, is accessed via Adobe After Effects Version 5.5 or above.
Magic Bullet Suite provides video professionals several tools, each with its own intuitive interface.

Magic Bullet Suite includes five tools: Magic Bullet, Looks Suite, Opticals, Letter-box, and Broadcast Spec. Together, these tools enable you to take original high-quality DV footage and de-interlace (remove the "jaggies" in interlaced footage) and de-artifact (smooth out imperfections in digital video), convert to 24 frames per second, apply creative looks, prep for a film-recording facility, and ensure compliance with industry standards for broadcast TV.

Magic Bullet is designed to convert interlaced footage to 24p, as well as to de-interlace and de-artifact—all of which it does extremely well. While in After Effects, you open a New Project and import footage. Then open the Interpret Footage window, deselect Separate Fields, and make sure your aspect ratio is set correctly. Next, drag your project to Create Comp, open the Settings window, and change the frame rate to 23.976. Then, in the Effect tab, select Magic Bullet.

At this point, you'll be presented a pop-up window with an Auto Set-up button. When selected, the button will check and verify your comp settings and confirm that you are configured to convert the footage. Next, you're presented with the options to de-interlace, where you'll have control over Field Order (upper or lower first), Motion Detection Adjustments, and Detail Pattern Size. Here, you'll also choose whether to de-artifact. Add your project to the Render Cue, check your settings, click Render, and be prepared to wait.

A 20-minute test file being converted to 24p with De-interlace and De-artifact selected would take nearly 11 hours to process on a 2.26ghz Pentium 4 system with 768mb of PC800 RDRAM. If you're not going to convert to 24p and only want to de-interlace and de-artifact, you can ex-pect much faster performance. De-interlacing and de-artifacting the same test file, without converting, cut the render time to four hours. If you're just looking to de-interlace or de-artifact, less expensive solutions will provide acceptable results in about the same amount of time; but, it's the quality of the finished output and the total solution that makes Magic Bullet Suite worthwhile and worth the price.

The Looks Suite tool is the true beauty of Magic Bullet Suite. Here, you can choose to apply a variety of looks designed to em-ulate those achieved through film processes and treatments commonly used in mov-ies and television, such as Bleach Bypass, Color Reversal, Sepia, and others. You also can design your own. Magic Bullet Suite includes enough options—more than 30 presets—to cover most situations. The time saved using presets can cover the cost of the entire suite.

The remaining tools in the Magic Bullet Suite tool box include Opticals, Letterbox, and Broadcast Spec. Opticals enables you to mimic film-like fades, burns, and dissolves, whereas Letterbox helps you crop your project to the aspect you desire, whether 4:3, 1.66:1 (Super16), 16:9 (Wide-screen TV), 2.35:1 (Anamorphic), 1.85:1 (Theatrical), and 2.76:1 (Ultra). Broadcast Spec is the last step in the process and one that adjusts your project to create broadcast safe or legal color and luminance values.

With Magic Bullet Suite, you can come closer than ever to that elusive film look, so close in fact, that many people will believe that you shot 35mm film. Yet, the results you'll get with these tools, like others, depend entirely on what you start with. If you feed Magic Bullet Suite poorly framed, poorly lit, low-resolution footage, then you're not going to get what you want out of it. But if you feed Magic Bullet Suite quality source material, you'll be amazed with the results. But be prepared for long rendering times. The more you ask Magic Bullet Suite to do, the longer it will take. But, even so, Magic Bullet Suite should be required software for any studio.

Magic Bullet Suite is available in two versions: SD supports standard NTSC and PAL formats, and HD supports all resolutions supported by After Effects, including high-def formats (1280x720 and 1920x1080). ..

David Singer (singercreativeservices@ is a founding partner of Singer Creative Services offering digital photographic, video, and other services.

Red Giant Software
Price: $995 (SD) or $1995 (HD)
Minimum System Requirements: Adobe After Effects 5.5 or later, 256mb of RAM, and Mac OS 9.2 or higher or Windows 2000 or XP