Magic Bullet Colorista review
Needs PowerPC G5 or Intel processor + Mac OSX 10.3.2 or later (Mac OS X 10.5 not supported) + 1GB RAM
Review Date: 13 Mar 2008
Price when reviewed: (about £100)
Reviewed By: Ben Frain
Magic Bullet Colorista is a plug-in colour correction tool. For a single purchase price the plug-in can be used in Motion, Final Cut Pro and After Effects.
Installation is straightforward, with a different installer for each host application and unlike other plug-ins, it isn't necessary to manually paste the plug-in into the relevant folder.
With a clip selected in a host application, it's a case of adding the Colorista filter to it, then selecting the effect's settings to get down to business.
The Colorista interface follows existing colour correction conventions by using a three-way set of colour wheels. From left to right these control Lift (for blacks and shadows), Gamma (mid-tones) and Gain (highlights). There are slider controls for saturation and exposure - and settings for controlling the Power Mask feature. In After Effects between the colour wheels and saturation slider is a white balance colour picker. When using the plug-in with Motion or Final Cut Pro it's necessary to shift-click the colour swatch in the Gain wheel to open up OS X's built-in colour picker.
A generally accepted colour correction workflow is to set white balance in a shot, then black and white points (using the Lift and Gain wheels) before correcting saturation and exposure prior to applying secondary corrections of specific areas that need it. In practice this takes you from top to bottom down the Colorista interface.
The Power Mask feature, used to apply corrections to specific areas of a shot, is very easy to use. By applying another instance of Colorista to a clip it's possible to specify a rectangular or oval area within a shot to apply corrections to. There isn't a built-in motion tracker but that's not a problem if using After Effects (which has its own motion tracker tool). If using Final Cut Pro though, key-framing the mask can be tedious.
Colour correction with Colorista is simple and it processes correction effects speedily. Rendering is still required before final output and this process, as expected, is faster on more powerful systems.
The included PDF manual contains tips that aren't necessarily obvious. One is holding down the Alt key while dragging the colour wheels - this allows changes at the mouse speed. The manual too provides the workaround for a white balance colour picker in Motion and Final Cut Pro.
Using a single interface for colour correction across multiple applications has its advantages - it's only necessary to learn and master one set of controls. Colour correction through a plug-in effect is additionally advantageous for users who would rather perform corrections as they go rather than switching to specific tools for the task such as Apple's Color.
It's hard to recommend Colorista for casual users, particularly as it doesn't yet support Mac OS X Leopard. But anyone looking for a cross-application, cross-platform colour correction tool would do well to take a close look.
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