A suite of seven tools helps you get organized, saving you time and money
By Brady Betzel
If you have ever been an assistant editor, an editor who had to prep their own content, or even a production assistant who was asked to go way beyond their job title and perform DIT duties on set, you know that without the right tools, that “quick and easy” job you took on Craigslist can quickly turn into a 12-hour day and immediately become not worth the time.
If you have ever regretted taking a job after realizing that the job description stated “content is already organized and in sync” but they really meant you are the one that will need to “organize and sync” (without jam sync timecode), then you need to pay close attention to this review of Red Giant Shooter Suite. Red Giant Shooter Suite (currently in version 12.6) contains seven tools that will help make offloading, organizing, proper metadata entry, synchronizing, denoising, upressing, deinterlacing and LUT-ing much more enjoyable.
Included in the Shooter Suite package are PluralEyes, Offload, Bulletproof, Denoiser, Instant 4K, Frames and LUT Buddy. In this review, I will dig in deep to just a few of the tools, but every tool is worth way more than the price of $399 (a savings of $345 if each were bought individually, although LUT Buddy is a free download). Keep in mind that every tool could potentially save you tons of time, money and more importantly your sanity.
First up is Red Giant Offload. Offload is one of those really simple tools that can potentially save your job. More often than not I see and read about jobs that ask for an “experienced” DIT, editor or assistant editor to be on set to transfer footage from cameras, log, add LUTs and many other responsibilities. The only problem is they usually want to pay $100/day — not a good rate-to-job responsibility ratio. (My advice is don’t take that job.) So to those posting these ads on Staff Me Up and Craigslist, do those poor new hires a favor and buy them Offload, at the least.
Offload allows the user (Mac or Windows) to choose a media source folder (including XDCAM, GoPro, etc.), a folder to copy the assets to and a folder to copy a back-up of the assets to. This all happens very simply and even shows a preview thumbnail of the files at the bottom. One issue I had with Offload was that as I was transferring some footage from my GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition, I plugged in a drive with XDCAM footage on it and crashed the program, so one word of advice: let all of your files transfer before plugging in more drives.
Anybody could understand this awesomely simple interface, however, the real power lies in the checksum verification (a way to check the integrity of transferred data when compared to its original source media — but keep in mind it doesn’t check for errors, only that the beginning file and end file match exactly) that is done almost instantly after the files are done being copied or backed up. In addition, the checksum text file can be located and copied. Trust me, keeping a copy of things like the checksum file may seem trivial, but when you get an editor or director that wants to blame the low person on the totem pole, you can whip out this file and their argument ends there… hopefully.
If your skill set lies beyond Offload, you’ll want to open Bulletproof, which takes the idea of copy and backup to the next level with addition of metadata editing, light color correction, curves adjusting and even LUT application. I really love the color adjusting with the Red Giant Colorista three-way and LUT addition — it even comes with a few LUTs like Prolost Flat to Warm. It’s quick, easy and with some practice, anyone with some post knowledge could learn to become a makeshift DIT.
I don’t have much real-world experience as a DIT, so I can’t definitively say if this is a lifesaver for that world, but what I can say is that with 10 years experience in post production I would feel comfortable asking my assistant editor to take a half-hour in Bulletproof, read the online manual and come up with a preset for a Bulletproof workflow to create ProRes Proxy files to edit with.
In terms of export options you can choose between PhotoJPEG, ProRes or H.264 MPEG-4 AVC, with or without a timecode burn-in, embedded XMP metadata and appended file names. It really is a one-stop shop for dailies creations. I would definitely recommend a newer iMac or, better yet, a new Mac Pro with 64GBs of RAM when dealing with high-resolution files — my five-year-old MacBook Pro was a little sluggish.
My favorite part of Red Giant Shooter Suite is by far PluralEyes. For years I have been using PluralEyes with Avid Media Composer and Symphony, always hoping Avid would eventually incorporate this technology into their grouping, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. It seems others did catch on like the forthcoming Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12, but I digress. PluralEyes 3.5 is the latest release candidate, and boy does it kick butt.
When taking that time-challenging job I talked about earlier, where the job poster claimed the media to be edited was already organized and in sync but in reality wasn’t, PluralEyes is the tool that will solve your problems as long as they recorded audio. From personal experience, I have taken over 40 hours of footage, without jam sync timecode, and PluralEyes lined it all up almost perfectly, although it took some time to match up the footage and isolate audio tracks. To make this work you must have audio for PluralEyes to sync the media properly.
PluralEyes works by analyzing waveforms and matching up what it thinks should match. Most of the time it is correct, but occasionally it isn’t. When it isn’t correct you can manually adjust the sync. What I love best is that when using it for apps like Adobe Premiere and Media Composer, your media comes back in fully editable.
PluralEyes doesn’t do any encoding or transcoding of your media files if you don’t want it to, so if you want to add new clips that don’t have audio but happen to have proper slating with timecodes, you can add it and start your multi-grouping. If you do want PluralEyes to make media files with the in-sync video and audio, it can do that too. This helps in apps that don’t support XML or AAF importing.
In Adobe Premiere CS6 or CC you can even use Red Giant’s PluralEyes 3.5 Connector, which allows you to transfer projects back and forth without the hassle of XMLs. To set up a project to be analyzed in PluralEyes you must import your media; add it to a timeline or sequence with different cameras or isolated audio on different layers; export the XML or AAF with linked media to PluralEyes; run PluralEyes’ synchronize command and, depending on how many hours of media, you have you could be off and running in under an hour.
I’ve previously tested this on an ISIS-connected Media Composer and it worked pretty well when using an AAF and linking to the media. If you have specific questions about how to properly set up an AAF for things like round-tripping with PluralEyes, tweet me @allbetzroff — I might be able to help you out.
A caveat to be aware of is identifying sync settings that you may need to enable like, “Try Really Hard.” If you have very low or rough audio you may want to check this option. It will go a lot more in depth when matching audio. The only downside is that it will take a lot longer to sync.
The final few tools included in the Red Giant Shooter Suite are Denoiser II, Instant 4K, Frames and LUT Buddy. Denoiser II is one of those tools you can just drop on a noisy clip and for the most part it does its job without any tweaking (although you can do some fine tuning, like luma offset or chroma smoothing). I dropped in a free stock footage clip from www.dissolve.com featuring a coffee mug. The footage wasn’t terrible to begin with but after bringing it into After Effects CC, I zoomed in close and saw some noise. I dropped on Red Giant Denoiser II and without any tweaking saw a vast improvement. What I like is that it got rid of the noise and some blocky artifacting without having to specify anything. It really made the clip look great; I might add a little noise back into the clip, color, then export.
Instant 4K is a plug-in for Adobe Premiere and After Effects that will uprez any footage to 720p, 1080p, 2K, 4K and many other resolutions. I added the effect to a 1920×1080 piece of footage and upscaled it to my composition’s width of 4096. The footage looked pretty great even after being upscaled so much.
To find out about the last two apps: Frames and LUT Buddy, check out http://www.redgiant.com/products/shooter-suite or follow Red Giant on twitter: @RedGiantNews. Do yourself a favor and if you aren’t following Aharon Rabinowitz already follow him @ABAOProductions. He has a host of tutorials and general amazing Red Giant awesomeness going on.
In the end, if you want a complete toolset for copying, organizing, verifying, synchronizing, denoising, and upressing your images, then you will want to purchase the complete Red Giant Shooter Suite 12.6. Personally, I think Pluraleyes and Bulletproof are worth the $399 cost of admission — add in the magic of Denoiser II and the 4 other Red Giant video tools and you have a true technical value pack. Every person who works in freelance production and post that is in the realm of onset shooting, organizing media, and assistant editing should have Red Giant Shooter Suite in their toolbox.
Just to reiterate, here are my top Red Giant Shooter Suite 12.6 highlights: it contains seven highly specialized video tools in one package saving over $345; it comes with newly released Offload for easy and worry-free transfer and backup of master files from camera memory cards; and it includes the lifesaving PluralEyes 3.5 auto-syncing app, which can really save hours of work.