This Software Suite is the Antidote to Indecisive Directors

The problem is well recognized and longstanding, and from all indications, only getting worse: Indecisive directors who haven’t a clue but ‘know it when they see it’. This all-too-common affliction among mostly young, newbie directors can lend itself disastrously to a dysfunctional, stressful set, failed friendships, and abruptly curtailed collaborations.

For the creative cameraperson, it can be challenging not knowing what the heck the director is thinking in terms of a look. Sure we all want to do our best, and we shooters can be particularly obsessive about it, but we need good communication with the above-the-line folks, from particularly the director, whose vision we are entrusted to translate in the most visually effective terms possible.

For several years Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks has been my primary go-to tool for communicating with directors, indecisive and not. The latest version, Magic Bullet Looks 3.1, offers a very easy to peruse shopping list of over 200 preset looks from high-profile movies and TV shows. Directors who are at least somewhat film- and TV-literate can choose from a warm and fuzzy Jerry Maguire look, for example, or the heavily diffused feel from Eyes Wide Shut, and then use that look as a starting point for further exploration and tweaking. It really is the ideal way of working with collaborators who can’t articulate what they want. And heaven knows we are seeing an awful lot of these folks lately!

For the cinematographer/director of photography Magic Bullet Looks can be very effective and even a career-saver. The tool speaks the language of movie and TV professionals, bringing less experienced directors up to speed quickly when considering a range of possible visual treatments. It is especially suited for the team player cameraman or woman who likes to reference movies when exchanging ideas and potential looks with collaborators.

Magic Bullet Looks presets

Magic Bullet Looks is a comprehensive color-grading tool that offers hundreds of classic feature film and TV looks that can be further tweaked virtually without limit according to one’s need or desire. A custom look may also be created from scratch.

Magic Bullet Looks is a direct extension of the shooter’s craft, enabling close control of a project’s post-camera look. As a color-grading tool, MBL does not obviate in any way the need for a sophisticated color corrector like Davinci Resolve. In fact MBL and Davinci Resolve are the ideal team, offering serious power to accomplish routine and specialized tasks in the post-production environment.

Unlike the individual plug-ins also included with the package, Magic Bullet Looks is a standalone application that does not support a simple, drop-it-on-the-timeline-and-get-it-done workflow. The need to launch the separate MBL application can be a serious drawback for  users facing a time-crunch or who are loath to leave the warmth and coziness of their NLE environment.

Colorista 3

While MBL offers broad color-correction capabilities, most color-correction tasks can be performed more simply and conveniently via a specific timeline applicable plug-in like Colorista. While Colorista uses power windows to isolate problem areas, such windows or masks are usually better applied in the host NLE. Colorista 3 features a much simpler workflow compared to previous versions of the software that many users found intimidating. 

To address this possible drawback, Red Giant offers the individual Colorista, Cosmo, and Mojo plug-ins designed to accomplish specific tasks directly from the NLE timeline. For color correction, all three are applied as simple pull-down filter options; this ease of use ensures that users will actually use these tools and not forsake them for lack of convenience. 


The Magic Bullet Cosmo plug-in specifically softens skintones, and does so quickly and conveniently. A comparable effect may be achievable within the Magic Bullet Looks application but not quite as easily.

Magic Bullet Cosmo specifically targets and softens skin tones, while Mojo seeks to impart the look of a Hollywood blockbuster by shifting a production’s overall color palette into the red-orange wavelengths. Additional plug-in tools within Magic Bullets Looks 3.1 include Film Negative/Film Print, Lens Vignette, and a nifty new LUT Tool featuring 14 new LUTs and the ability to import LUTs created elsewhere and then customize them virtually without limitation inside MBL.


Imparting a strong red-orange component along with the enhanced skintones Magic Bullet Mojo aims to create a classic Hollywood blockbuster film look.

Bear in mind that color-correction, i.e. the post-camera process of fixing problems in color, is not the same as color grading, which aims to impart a consistent creative color treatment for an entire project. This is where Magic Bullet Looks really shines, offering a rich color-grading environment via its many preset looks while also allowing extensive color-correction capabilities.