Magic Bullet Quick Looks 1.2
Digital video can be quite neutral in appearance, especially compared to the huge range of character available from different types of film. Fortunately, you can give your video a little more personality at the editing stage, and this is what Magic Bullet Quick Looks is intended to provide. It promises 100 different effects to make your video appear as if it came from all manner of sources, from old film stock to popular TV styles.
The Quick Looks come as a plug-in for Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro and Motion, Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer, plus Sony Vegas. So the suite is clearly aimed at the professional end of the market, albeit with plenty of choice when it comes to host application. But at $99, it isn't priced accordingly. This is because Quick Looks is actually a cut-down version of the higher-end Magic Bullet Looks. In the transition to Quick Looks, quite a few things have been lost, in particular the $399 price. But you still get a lot of options.
We tried Quick Looks with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. The filter works through a separate interface, rather than entirely within the host application as with native effects and some other plug-ins. This provides a gallery of the options, grouped into categories such as Horror and Music Video. A frame from the clip you are working on is loaded as reference, and you can then click through the various choices to see which option you like best.
However, each effect is essentially canned. The only parameter you can configure is the strength of the Look you have chosen. This is where Quick Looks has been drastically reduced compared to its more expensive sibling, and there is an upgrade button readily available. Nevertheless, the range of presets is pretty vast, so this is far from a taster merely intended to tempt you towards the more expensive option. If you don't have the time or need for massive customisation, the full Looks would likely be overkill anyway.
There are masking tools available for the filter, back within the host app. So if you want to localise a Look to a specific area of the video this is possible. Although there is also still a standalone app, this only allows you to load a sample image or video frame to try out the options. The full version lets you create custom presets on a computer with no editing software installed, which you're much more likely to find useful than simply choosing a preset prior to editing.
Whilst the customisation options have been radically reduced, the Quick Looks still use the same rendering engine as their bigger brother. Called Deep Color RT, this is GPU accelerated, and claims to offer real-time previews at up to 720p. We were mostly using higher-resolution AVCHD, which wasn't played backing real time, but still rendered quickly. The effects are GPU accelerated up to 4K resolution, although a reasonably recent graphics card with 256MB is required. For higher resolutions, an nVidia 8800-series card or greater is necessary.
The Magic Bullet Quick Looks don't offer much user control, but they do provide a lot of different options. Whilst you might be able reproduce some of them by combining filters you already have, this will take time to create, and the results will almost certainly take a lot longer to render. So if you do want to extend the range of appearances available to your favourite professional-grade video editing app, Magic Bullet Quick Looks offers decent value.