Magic Bullet Colorista II: the Top Cross-Platform Color Correction Tool for Indies?
Magic Bullet Colorista is one of the more indispensable post-production plugins in my toolbox, as it is a very high-quality primary color corrector. I like Colorista because it's powerful, it's easy to use, and it's cross-platform, which means you can use the same plugin on Macs and PCs, and within Final Cut, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. However, to date Colorista hasn't offered secondary color correction, which allows for more precise adjustments; with the release of Colorista II, Red Giant has added this missing feature -- and many more.
Here's their hype video, where you can see the very intuitive mouse-based three-way color corrector and new secondary CC at work:
In addition to the bona fide secondary color corrector, new features include Keyer, Power Mask shapes, Pop, Master Stage, and "improved" Auto Balance. Auto Balance was one of my favorite features of the first Colorista -- and was the reason I generally used Colorista's controls instead of the three-way CC included in the more expensive Magic Bullet Looks plugin -- because Auto Balance offers an easy way to find a starting point for color grading. Here's Red Giant's Stu Maschwitz with a tutorial of Colorista II -- check out the Keyer feature halfway through the video with the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper box:
Since the majority of No Film School readers are Mac-based Final Cut editors (according to your survey answers), one question about Colorista I anticipate is, "how does Colorista II compare to Apple Color?" Color, after all, is a very high-end tool that is bundled free with FCP. So why use Colorista II instead? Scott Simmons at ProVideo Coalition has posted a review, wherein he states:
Can Colorista II replace Apple Color for full color correction work? I think the short answer is yes, in many places it can and it’s especially easy to use Colorista II instead of Color if Final Cut Pro is your host application. It’s much easier to toss Colorista II on a few shots and get a good secondary key correction without the hassle of moving back and forth to Color... The normal process would have been to drop the shot into its own FCP sequence, send the single shot to Color, grade, render a new ProRes file and roundtrip back to FCP. Colorista II and the amazing new secondary keyer handled the correction like a champ... When I’m working unsupervised on a deadline I want to hit the sweet spot between the quality tool and the efficient workflow. Colorista II appears to hit that sweet spot nicely.
I'm with him -- I find Color's workflow to be slow and confusing, and have been using Colorista as a way to get good results in a fraction of the time. Furthermore, if you're an Adobe CS5 user, this will be of interest:
Colorista II also has the option to render using your GPU which will come in handy if you have a beefy video card. Under Adobe’s Mercury Playback engine I was able to get full frame, realtime playback of corrections applied to native Canon H.264 files even without GPU acceleration. That Mercury Playback Engine is nothing short of amazing.
Colorista II looks to be a very powerful tool, leapfrogging the first version of the plugin and maturing into a legitimate all-in-one color corrector. The plugin is $299 new and is a $99 upgrade if you have Colorista I; either purchase nets you Mac/PC/After Effects/Final Cut Pro/Premiere Pro versions all at once. The upgrade path is a bit confusing if, like me, you already own the complete Magic Bullet Suite, but I suspect from their naming scheme ("Suite 2009.2") that they're not going to release new versions of the Suite plugins all at once, but rather upgrade the individual plugins on an ongoing basis.
I ask in the post title if Colorista II is "the best cross-platform color-correction tool for indies" because it is somewhat unique in its pricing, which is lower than high-end plugins like the software-only version of the DaVinci Resolve, which will be $995 when it is released in September (plus, Resolve is Mac-only). In fact, there aren't a lot of cross-platform color grading plugins available -- Synthetic Aperture's Color Finesse is the first that comes to mind, and while it ranges in price from $575 to $1995 depending on version, it is included free with After Effects. In fact, Final Cut, Premiere Pro, and After Effects all include built-in three-way color correctors, but if you find yourself looking for something a bit more advanced, in my opinion Colorista II is the best bet. If you're interested in Colorista II, you can download the free trial and give it a shot. Finally, remember there's a good color correction tutorial (also from Stu) embedded in the DSLR Guide's Color Grading page.
What are your thoughts on Colorista II? Are you content with the built-in color correction tools of your current NLE?