Review: Magic Bullet Colorista II

This new version of the old favorite Colorista packs quite a punch, makes Apple Color tremble in its boots
Scott Simmons
By Scott Simmons 07.23.10


Colorista. It's one of those indispensable tools for those doing serious Final Cut Pro work. If you're color correcting and finishing in your FCP box then the built-in 3-Way Color Corrector becomes merely adequate in comparison to the image quality you can crank out of Colorista. And Colorista has always worked in your other host applications as well (Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Avid Media Composer) so that rounds out its usefulness. But one thing that has always been missing from Colorista is secondaries, something you'd often find yourself wishing for. With Magic Bullet Colorista II, from Red Giant Software, that wish has been answered ... in a big way.

Colorista version 1, while a quality color correction tool, was just one instance of the grader with the option to apply a mask via the Power Mask controls. Colorista II, full of features, is basically three copies of the tool in one. There's Primary, Secondary and Master controls built in each time you apply the effect. Each control has subtle differences depending on the control like Secondary having a keyer and Master having curves control. This new 3-tiered Colorista is a bit like Apple's Color in that regard. Color uses the "rooms" metaphor with Primary In, Secondaries and Primary Out as it's three main working rooms. You don't have Geometry controls in Colorista II since you make your geometry changes right in your chosen host application. In many situations Colorista II is going to give Color a run for its money.

And what about Apple Color?

I mention Apple Color as this seems like it might be a common question: 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. Of course there's still certain advantages that moving to a dedicated application like Color will give you; most notably a hardware control surface, which is still a very valuable tool for serious grading. But according to Stu Maschwitz, Red Giant Software's Creative Director, creator of all things Magic Bullet and everyone's favorite color grading advocate, "we are obsessed with creating some kind of control-surface experience for the majority if #CII users." This came out of one of the many tweets that Stu has been teasing the post-production community with for the last couple of days. Some type of surface would up Colorista's standing quite a few notches.

In the week or so I've been testing out Colorista II I had one specific instance where I needed to make a rather difficult secondary correction. 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. Sure there's those instances when a client might be around that it feels more impressive to move into a dedicated color correction tool like Apple Color but 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.

Lots of new controls

Colorista II is pretty much a re-think of the entire product. Thankfully you will still see the familiar color wheels upon applying the plug-in so you can go to work quickly. But upon closer inspection (you'll have to scroll down through all of the different controls as there's too many to fit on one screen) you'll see a lot more control. And I mean a lot more control.


You might first notice that there are some new little tic marks around the familiar color wheels. While you can still click and drag in the same spots as old there's a new tic mark that is an easy way to adjust the hue. Spin that around the circle and the color wheel dot follows. You can also grab a new saturation slider that's been added to the color wheel to adjust the saturation of whatever color has been chosen in a particular wheel. A double click on a control resets the parameters. More fine correction details can be achieved when you click the new calculator icon:


This opens numeric RGB controls for tweaking of specific color channels. Don't be frightened off thinking you have to type in numbers via this new control as you can scrub with the mouse to raise or lower values. I love this new addition as I often find myself using the Advanced tab of the Primary In room in Apple Color to adjust individual RGB lift/gamma/gain, especially to balance the color of an image, so I'm sure I'll find myself doing the same with these new controls in Colorista.

The other big control addition you'll see upon first scanning Colorista II will be the HSL wheels. It's quite genius in concept and simple in execution. The ring around the outside of the wheels contain tiny colored dots (they include red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, purple and magenta). Drag them either closer to or further away from the center to change the saturation and lightness. Drag them around the circle to change the hue. It's a new and different way of thinking about manipulating color from what was available in Colorista 1 and it works well. And it's quite a visual way of working and by visual I don't mean just seeing the results in your image but also seeing what you are doing in the tool itself.

My before frame, I want to remove all color from the beer in the glass.

The HSL controls before adjustment.

I used a Power Mask in the Master control of Colorista II to target my correction only to the beer in the glass.

The image after removing all color from the beer.

You can see the HSL controls and how the colors of the control itself changes to reflect the correction.

Of course I could have chosen to turn down the saturation to achieve the same result but I wanted to show a good example of what the HSL sliders will do as you make corrections using them. I think a new control like this might get me experimenting in a way that I wouldn't have done before. Experimenting in a grading session often leads to some fun discoveries so I'm excited to work with these new controls.

Next Up: Secondaries and What's Missing

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