If you ever get to meet the people behind Red Giant, you’ll understand what we mean when we say they’re just a bunch of fervent storytellers. Yeah, they’re more publicly known as a software company, but their product ideas are rooted in their enjoyment of filmmaking. How many times have you said to yourself, “I wish there was a tool or plug-in that did what I need?” Red Giant not only ponders that question, but then goes out and answers it – which is pretty much like giving two middle fingers to the headaches of post workflow.
Full disclosure: We’ve been using Red Giant software in one form or another for over ten years, and we really couldn’t do without some of their products now that we know they exist. PluralEyes, Looks, Colorista, Cosmo, and Denoiser, to name a few. The company lets you download anything in its library as a free trial, which you can later purchase, but it also packages suites that offer a set of products at a cheaper rate.
We’ll be looking at version 12.6 of the Shooter Suite, which provides you with a set of seven tools that centers on saving time toward your edit. PluralEyes, Offload, Denoiser II, Instant 4K, BulletProof, Frames, and LUT Buddy are all included in the $399 package.
If we had to choose only one plug-in from this suite to use for the rest of our lives, we’d definitely pick PluralEyes. Hands down, it’s the best software available for syncing audio and video. Version 3.5 is standalone software that utilizes a sleek, easy-to-use interface that analyzes and marries the audio from your devices and camera with a click of a button. It’s fast, accurate, and best of all, it does all the work for you. We use Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 as our NLE, but if you have Premiere Pro CS6 or later, you can take advantage of the PluralEyes connector, which places the program as an extension in Premiere Pro. This allows you to work with PluralEyes and Premier Pro together instead of as two standalone programs. If you’re in the same boat as us, importing and managing clips in separate bins is simple to understand and navigate. After hitting the sync button, PluralEyes uses advanced algorithms to match your audio with video. There are 1-up and 2-up views and an area to zoom in on the waveform to double-check sync. Once you’re happy with the results, exporting an XML file to your NLE is a three-click process. PluralEyes give you export options for Premiere Pro, Media Composer, Final Cut, and more.
We previously reviewed Offload more thoroughly and since then we’ve integrated the program into our daily workflow. Its software makes data wrangling so easy to understand even Grandma can do it. There are four sections to the interface: source, copy, backup, and preview. By selecting your media source, Offload allows you to create a copy and a backup with a few clicks of the mouse. After selecting a destination for your media to be copied to, you can also add subfolders within Offload or bypass the second backup altogether. The transfer utility uses checksum verification, giving you confidence that all your media will be backed up with no issues.
As one might guess from the name, this program helps reduce and eliminate noise reduction in your video. This plug-in is especially good for when you find yourself shooting in lowlight or at high ISOs. Denoiser II v1.4 supports Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects CC 2014, CC, CS6, and Final Cut Pro 7. Version 1.3 supports CS4, CS5, CS5.5, and CS6 as well as Final Cut Pro 7. Applying the effect to your video clip is a quick drag and drop, and its default settings actually put you at a good starting point. Within the tool there are options to fine-tune and adjust the enhancement, as well as other advanced options like shadow and highlight offset. Thankfully cameras are vastly improving their lowlight shooting capabilities, but when we do run into a noticeable situation, Denoiser has never let us down – it fixes our images with a very natural look.
In what used to be called Instant HD back in the 1.0 days, version 1.5.1 allows you to up-convert your video in a variety of high-resolution formats, including 4K. The program generates new pixels to match the dimensions of your choice, then adds a touch of sharpening and anti-aliasing to help preserve the image details. Within the options, you can choose 1280×720, 1440×1080, 1920×1080, 2048×1556, 4096×3112, 3656×2664, 3840×2160, and 4096×2160. Red Giant also gives you adjustment to further tune sharpness, quality, anti-aliasing, and filter type. While we don’t use Instant 4K on a regular basis, it’s great if you’re trying to match various formats.
BulletProof is like Offload – but on steroids, as it adds metadata and color correction into the mix. Like Offload, BulletProof lets you back up your data to multiple locations, but gives you the added power to organize the footage even further with tags, metadata, star ratings, all while the clips are being imported. The program also allows you to review your clips by scrubbing or playing selected videos. You can even use playlists to create temporary rough cuts before you hit the edit bay. Besides the program’s ability to organize your clips, you can apply a color grade using LUTs, or a three-way color wheel that controls highlights, midtones, and shadows.
BulletProof is great for dailies too, as it allows you to export various formats and codecs right from its interface. You can choose to burn timecode, the color correction, or the metadata for editors to reference. There are also export presets that integrate BulletProof with PluralEyes so you can start syncing your footage before lunch. While Offload is a simpler way to data wrangle your footage, BulletProof offers so many more advantages to a workflow. If we could suggest learning one over the other, BulletProof is the way to go.
While we haven’t needed to use Frames on a consistent basis like the other programs in the suite, we’re glad it’s available as an option. The plug-in converts your interlaced footage to standard 24p in a variety of platforms, producing a smooth, film-like look right on your timeline. The tool runs inside Adobe Premiere Pro, After Affects, or Final Cut Pro, and includes several options for cropping like Super 16, anamorphic, and widescreen, among others.
LUT Buddy is one of the newer releases from Red Giant, but it’s just as powerful as the company’s earlier products. To put it simply, LUT Buddy reads the image before any color correction is executed and then extracts any differences to an image as a LUT for future reference. Bing-bango-bongo – the “How did I stumble into this cool look?” query has been answered. The great thing about LUTs is their portability. With an easy export, they’ll go wherever you go.
The other thing we admire about Red Giant is its sense of community. Last year they introduced Universe, which gives users free access to post workflow tools. Need your video to have a VHS or fish eye look? They got it. The company also has created hundreds of how-to videos and step-by-step tutorials for each of its programs. So if you get stuck along the way, your question is probably already answered in one of their videos. But if you need further support, you can email them with a support ticket or browse their forums for an answer. To get seven tools for just under $400 is quite impressive. We’d pay that much for PluralEyes alone, but we’re glad we don’t have to and get so much more included.