Using Magic Bullet Looks v4 in DaVinci Resolve

Is Magic Bullet Looks 4 Fast Enough For Client-Attended Sessions?

September 3, 2017

Magic Bullet Looks is a powerful plug-in for creating looks. Does the newest version play back in real-time? How is its performance in Davinci Resolve?


Revisiting the latest version of Magic Bullet Suite

Magic Bullet has a long and storied history dating back to the early transition to Digital Video cameras in the early 2000’s. Since those early successful days, Red Giant Software moved Magic Bullet from beyond the ‘film look’ plugin and developed an entire suite of plug-ins for all the major non-linear editing platforms.

In a previous Insight, I looked at Magic Bullet Looks 3 (and in the context of my FCP X Desert Island Challenge I’ve looked at other plugins in the Magic Bullet Suite). I make no secret that I’m a huge fan of Magic Bullet Looks. But…

I never use Magic Bullet Looks on client-attended color sessions

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Magic Bullet Looks always required rendering since its real-time playback was non-existent. Anywhere from 5 – 12 frames per second was the most I could ever get with that plug-in applied. And I can never judge the final quality of a look without seeing it playback at near real-time. Typically – I’d use Looks to create the look. Then I’d recreate it by hand, in DaVinci Resolve (or Apple Color, many moons ago) to maximize my playback and render times.
  • Until recently, Magic Bullet Looks couldn’t output to an external, color-managed display. As a colorist, I often throw my computer displays out of whack, so there’s never a question of which display is the proper reference. This made working in Looks difficult since I could never be sure of my final result until I applied the Look and exited out of the plug-in.

Is Magic Bullet Looks 4 now fast enough for client-attended sessions?

One of the headline features in Looks 4 is its GPU acceleration. In other words, it’s no longer limited by the capabilities of your CPU – and in theory, this should massively speed up the playback and render performance of the plug-in.

But if you’ve been in this business a while, you know that merely making a plug-in GPU aware isn’t enough. The software has to be re-written to optimize how it works with your graphics card. Some plug-ins (like Blackmagic’s ResolveFX) are super-optimized. Other plug-ins get almost zero performance boost since their developers don’t know how to program for GPU processing.

In this Insight, we explore the performance gains (or not) of Magic Bullet Looks 4.

Our primary focus is answering the question: Is the new GPU-aware Magic Bullet Looks 4 fast enough to keep a color grade session moving?

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Homepage Forums Is Magic Bullet Looks 4 Fast Enough For Client-Attended Sessions?


    Thanks for the look at this, Patrick … that’s a rather nice performance uptick there.

  • Remco Hekker

    Hi Patrick,
    I would definitely like to hear more looks. Haven’t used it in a long time.

    regarding the preview on your reference monitor:
    Have told resolve to release the video hardware when an other app is in the foreground?

  • Jan Klier

    Good plugin review.

    But it leaves a more fundamental question unanswered – Having a look library to quickly try out ideas in which direction to take a grade or give a client quick previews to steer a conversation is a very useful thing, almost a must-have. On the flip side, there is the danger if the client knows that we more or less slap a look on it, what separates a colorist from a guy with a camera, Premiere, and a plugin? Yes, there is a bit more thought going into it, and separating out base grade, shot matching, and then a look is different. I just think it’s a slippery slope that deserves more thought.

    There are those quick projects where the economics just require copy-and-paste. Nothing wrong about that. The client gets what he/she pays for.

    As an alternative I do like the approach the companion book to the Color Correction Handbook takes, which is explain various looks and deconstructs them into the base operations to get there – like the basic bleach bypass. They could be saved in look galleries or in some cases as LUTs to enable quick experimentation as well without a plugin. Part of the job is understanding looks, how they work, and building your own look library.

    Would love to hear a follow-up episode that explores best practices for colorists for building such a library and how to use it vs. the trade-off to pre-baked looks.

    And to be clear, this isn’t meant as a critique of the review. It’s the constant tension between art and commerce. The reality of the industry and raising the bar as a professional. There are no easy answers and no single answer.

  • Robbie Carman

    Jan –

    You are of course right, and with over 700 items in our library we’ve covered a lot of the topics you raise in depth.

    Dan, tends to cover these topics more then myself and Patrick. Here is small list of insights to get you started. Remember the library is searchable and you can save Insights to a list in your account. Also be sure to check out the series navigation on the side of Insight which leads to other realated Insights. .

    Dan’s Dirty Looks series is pretty good. Start here:

    Dan’ts Look Inspiration series is also really good. Start here:

    An additional breakdown series. Start here:

    Specifically about look libraries:

    as well as (please note this insight is not displaying correctly, we’ll fix it, its a hold over from the transition to our new site)

    If I think of some more in the library I’ll pull them and post here.

  • Jan Klier

    Robbie – you are right. There are already quite a few, and I very much enjoy’s Dan’s insights on that and in fact that has informed much of my thinking in that area. I should have given that more credit in my comments.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    In addition to what Robbie said… we can’t ignore a plug-in just because it’s easy. If you don’t have a way of quickly iterating looks for a client then the gal down the street will, and eventually your clients will notice.

    Also – if you watch my Insights on using plugins, I talk extensively about using the default plug-in settings as a *starting point*. If you never make any adjustments then it is indeed a pre-baked look and your skill is suspect. But if you learn how to use a tool like Magic Bullet Looks, it’s strong suit is its ability for total customization. The point of MB Looks isn’t their 50 preset Looks. It’s the customization of those Looks after you’ve chosen a direction that makes it so valuable.

    Frankly, having ML Looks or having your own library of Power Grades… does your client care which it is? Or is the client’s concern that you care enough to have the previews to show them, on demand… and the knowledge on how to use the underlying toolsets to modify them quickly, without stumbling around?

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Yup. That toggle made no difference. I’ll submit this as a bug. I recorded it just before heading to China and never followed up to find out if its a bug.

  • Robbie Carman

    no worries! Thanks for being a member!

  • Hello Pat,
    Magic bullet looks was my first open door toward color grading.
    I love the way they organize the tools. As a person coming from the production fieldd it’s super easy and intuitive use them.
    Honestly I put it aside after I made the switch from Premiere + Red Giant look > to Premiere to DaVinci Resolve, and now I’m trying to handle all the project in Resolve.

    I didn’t know they made the plug in available for Resolve, so thanks for this insight.

    By the way in the trial version I downloaded (I run Win 10) no matter how many nodes I have before the node wherein I drag the MB looks effect, it always shows me, in the plug in window, a non-graded image. I can’t grade this way.
    It’s strange because this bug doesn’t not happen in your insight.

    Maybe it’s just a bug of the trial version, but that keeps me away from purchasing it for now.

    Luca Enrico Canessa

  • Patrick Inhofer

    That bug is definitely NOT happening to me. You may want to reach out to Red Giant, send them the details of your system and see what they say?

  • Juan U

    I’m not getting similar results, and I’m running a 1080ti with 24 cores and 64gb… My timeline is 4K dng, but monitoring at 1080p. Could that be why I still only get really low fps with looks turned on?

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