Advanced colour grading in any NLE: Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks 2

Red Giant’s Magic Bullet plug-in suite is well known and established, but until recently you needed a copy of After Effects or Final Cut Pro 7 / Motion 4 to use it. Final Cut Pro X users were out of luck. Until now.

It’s now compatible with Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Sony Vegas Pro, and the latest versions of After Effects, and it does wonders for giving footage a mood. Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks 2 can also be used for colour correcting, almost replacing its own full-scale colour grading Colorista plug-in.

IT Enquirer rating

9.5/10
URL: www.redgiantsoftware.com

Pros
  • interface
  • number of combinations
  • quality of output
  • Colorista II Highlight, Midtone, and Shadow correction wheels
  • scopes
Cons
  • colour wheels are difficult to manipulate
  • the Grain effect: Crumplepop’s set is better
Price (approx.): €236.20

Magic Bullets Looks 2 isn’t as easy to use as Irudis Tonalizer|VFX Pro, but it comes with a whole array of tools to completely change the looks of your footage. It isn’t “only” a colour grading plug-in, but also includes digital lens and matte box effects. And as far as I can tell, it’s the only plug-in that offers these capabilities at such a high level of quality and functionality.

The Looks.

Looks 2 has tools that are borrowed from Mojo, Cosmo and Colorista II. Those plug-ins can still be purchased separately and are still more complete than those you’ll find in Looks 2. But what you’ll find in Looks 2 is quite impressive — Red Giant hasn’t skimped on features, so that for many people Looks 2 is going to be all they need.

Looks 2 still has its innovative interface: a huge collection of presets slide in from the left while the individual tools, neatly organised per category, slide in from the right. Every tool can be switched on and off, and the whole collection of settings (which you can save as a custom preset) equally so.

Looks 2 gains tools:

  • Pop
  • Cosmo
  • Colorista 3 Way
  • Hue/Saturation
  • Ranged HSL
  • Lens Distortion
  • Haze/Flare

It has new scopes as well, for a total of 6:

  • Hue/Saturation
  • Hue/Lightness
  • Memory Colors
  • Skin

Due to the categorisation method in Looks 2, some of the tools will appear in multiple categories. For example, Pop appears in both the Subject and Post tools.

I’m not going to elaborate on what you can achieve with Looks 2; if you want to know you should definitely view the Plot Device video on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/24320919. The nine minutes you spend viewing this advertising video will tell you all about Looks 2 and what it can do for a video recording.

The Scopes.

Leaves me with the task to comment on simplicity, user-friendliness and perhaps an evaluation of Looks 2 compared to similar tools such as Da Vinci Resolve.

Looks 2 is simple to use and it’s not. It’s simple to use because the categorisation is intuitive: Subject, Matte, Lens, Camera, Post. This resembles the physical shooting of a movie so well, any video pro, dSLR shooter or photographer will instantly know what is meant by a “Spot Fill” and why it is kept in the Subject “room”.

It’s not simple because the possibilities are literally endless; if you have time on your hands and you keep experimenting long enough, you’ll find at least a dozen good looking “moods” or colour grades that fit your story’s purpose.

Looks 2 is also user-friendly, except perhaps in one area — but here, you may well disagree. Personally, I find the colour wheels not terribly easy to operate; I have that same problem with all colour wheels, so it’ll probably be me.

The full controls.

How Looks 2 stacks up against an application like Da Vinci Resolve is easy: it stacks up very well. Although with Da Vinci Resolve you feel like you’re more in control and you can do more, I challenge you to try find something that you can do with Da Vinci Resolve and can’t do with looks 2 (I’m not speaking colour correcting here, because for full colour correction I think you still need to buy Colorista II as well).

The video below shows the original clip (with truly bad lighting) on the right. The Looks 2 enhanced version is on the left.

Integration with Final Cut Pro X

The integration with Final Cut Pro X means you can apply Looks 2 to a masked area, much like Final Cut Pro X’s built-in colour editing tools. This allows you to apply the full look to only parts of a clip — which can be useful if your clip alternates between very light and very dark passages, for example.

Given that if you buy the entire Magic Bullet suite, you’ll also get Looks 2 for Photoshop (called very aptly PhotoLooks 2), as well as a whole bunch of other footage enhancing tools, you can’t go wrong with this Red Giant classic.

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