Archive for Hollywood Ending

Colour Grading and the Book Trailer

Posted in Technology with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by evanbutson

Many of you may not know this but my wife (a significantly more talented person than I) has written a book, and it comes out later this year (September 1st to be exact). Set in LA, the main characters visit many of the spots where famous celebrities have died. As my area of expertise, motion video, generally has bugger all to do with the written word you might wonder where this post is going. Well, as her background is in PR, my wife was adamant that when this book was launched she would have every type of media covered, including websites, business cards, press, stills from locations that are covered in the book, you name it.

Hollywood Ending

So with that in mind earlier this year we set off for a holiday to LA, with the idea that we would also do a little bit of prep work for the book as well. As this was primarily a holiday I wasn’t going to be lugging round three or four Pelican cases of gear, so i set myself the rule that unless all my gear, still and video could fit in a single backpack, it wasn’t going. My video gear thus consisted of a Canon HV-30 set to shoot HDV 25p, a suction mount for mounting the camera to the car for in car pieces to camera and a few mics. Several weeks later and we had shot enough footage for the trailers that were to go up on the website leading up to the books release.

Now comes the grading stuff. I have been a user of the grading software Magic Bullet for years now, but I must admit I hadn’t upgraded for a few versions, it did what I needed and so I left it as is, that is until CS4, when my tried and trusty version of Magic Bullet would not install, bugger, oh well I suppose an upgrade is in order, well after contacting the fine folks at Red Giant Software as I couldn’t figure out what package most closely matched my old version, and I couldn’t see any upgrade options that matched what I already owned, I was offered a VERY nice upgrade price to Magic Bullet Looks.

And so after cutting the first of the little 3 minute teaser trailers for Kathy’s book, I went to do what I usually did with Magic Bullet, drop a look on, add a Vignette and be done with it, because, and I have to admit this in public, I never really messed with the Magic Bullet settings before, I just found the interface to confusing and it was hard to see what subtle changes would do to your image without exiting the application and then clicking in your timeline, back and forth it was just too complicated. And so, the first trailer went up and looked great. Nothing too complicated so far.

So time rolls on and now I have to cut the second trailer which I do, unfortunately I notice a problem with the in-car footage where I had mounted the camera to a suction mount on the window pointing at the driver, the exposure had been set based on when I had mounted the camera, however as anyone who knows the winding roads in the Hollywood hills around Mullholland Drive will tell you, it aint that easy, we ended up driving in areas that were completely in shadow and then rounding a corner into direct sunlight, the result being a particular piece to camera that I wanted to use was about 3 stops over-exposed, not enough to make in un-usable, as these videos have a doco style about them, but still not ideal. However, once I had locked the edit and I went about applying the Magic Bullet Look I had chosen for these pieces, I discovered that that 3 stops of over exposure resulted in a VERY ugly picture once the Looks had been applied. What to do, I first off tried turning off the looks, and trying to grade down the shot to match the shot before that was well exposed and then re-applying the Looks, that didn’t go so well, it seems that Magic Bullet Looks when applied to footage that has been altered by another filter will generally result in a different look than you expect. I was about to throw my hands into the air and give up when i remembered that Magic Bullet has a new interface for selecting looks (which I had used) but that interface also was a new way of dealing with looks, adjusting their setting and creating your own, they call it Toolchains. So I loaded up the interface with the problem shot selected, and as usual, instead of reading user manuals and understanding the different features I just started clicking around, the interface is a wonder of simplicity hiding great power (I wish someone would describe me that way, one day), when you select a look you can see the different elements in a chain that go to making up that look, clicking on any of those elements allows you to alter the individual settings. Want an extra element, just drag and drop into the chain, which is what I did, a simple drag and drop of the Exposure element, and then clicking three stops down and wammo, the footage looked perfect and interestingly with no real quality loss, a first for compressed footage like this for me.

Magic Bullet Looks Interface

Now that I know the software has such power, I am looking forward to having more of a play and really finding out what it can do. In the meantime you can check out the results at or the HD versions at