In Part One we looked at how Red Giant Bulletproof imports media and structures it in catalogs. Please read the disclaimer because it is relevant here as well. In Part Two we looked at how Bulletproof organizes and helps review media and footage.
In this part we’ll look at how Bulletproof helps with metadata and color. We’ll also look at export features, and how all this will fit into a predefined and established workflow.
Refining your footage
By ‘Refine’, Bulletproof means you get to:
- Deal with Metadata
- Deal with color
By hitting the Refine tab you get the following screen:
It has the same playback view, along with logging changes you’ve made while in the Review stage. There is one minor addition here, though, and that is the ‘Pinning’ option:
Let’s say you have multiple clips selected, and want to change the metadata of only one of them. You can pin that particular clip by clicking on the yellow pin (top left). Once you’ve done this, any changes made to metadata or color in the Refine stage will only apply to the selected clip.
This is a great idea, except I had the following major problems:
Bug, or my mistake? The clips are in a vertical order on the left-hand side pane, and the top-most clip is always the one selected. If I’ve got two or more clips as shown above, and I select all of them, there is no way for me to pin the second or any subsequent clip. If I try to select it, the entire selection is lost and I have to start from scratch. I can only pin the first clip in the list. When I change the sort order, I can still only pin the first clip. Am I doing this wrong?
Loose logging, or my mistake? Whenever I logged a clip, and then tagged it with a star or some other property, the In and Out points revert back to their defaults. I tried this with different clips, and the problem was always repeated. This means, once you’ve logged your shots, you can’t add stars or other tags on them without losing your in and out points (I used the metadata pane and the direct on-thumbnail versions). This applied to all the clips, to the point where I feel (unless it is my mistake) that the logging feature in Bulletproof simply cannot be trusted to stay put once done. The Metadata in and out points in the Metadata pane also behave weirdly when this happens, because they don’t default to the previous state, but the state it was brought over, from Review.
On the right-most is the Metadata pane, where you can view and play with the metadata associated with each clip. The main types are:
- Basic Info – What you get when you select ‘Get Info’ on your Mac, plus your In and Out points.
- Slate – Slate information if you’re doing it that way.
- Labels – The labels (I’ve used the word ‘tags’ to define them) you’ve applied from within Bulletproof.
- Markers – The markers added while logging are available here, and you can add notes to them.
- EXIF data
Note: I’m not sure if EXIF data is passed in DSLRs in video mode, because the clips I brought over didn’t have any. This could be a result of missing sidecar files.
It is a relatively easy task to select all the clips and apply basic copyright and project information to them. This works seamlessly. To learn how to use each metadata type, read Red Giant’s excellent examples here.
Okay, so all this metadata is written, but where is it stored? Bulletproof uses the XMP format, but unlike Prelude it doesn’t store the metadata within the files themselves, but as sidecars (I’m not sure about this, more later).
Is this a valid argument? H.264 fully supports the XMP format so I’m not sure why Bulletproof creates .XMP sidecars instead of embedding metadata in the clips themselves. It could be because Bulletproof doesn’t want to touch the source clips under any circumstances, but that’s missing the whole point of XMP. Why not create .txt files instead? On the other hand, I understand how Bulletproof cannot maintain the integrity of the original premise and make an exception here. Should the choice be the end user’s? I think it should.
All metadata changes made within Bulletproof are stored in the catalog. XML isn’t supported. Color
Under the metadata panel you’ll find the color panel:
Design Suggestion: Why not have two tabs, instead of hiding the color controls at the bottom? This way, one doesn’t have to scroll to the ends of the earth or use the trackpad for every change.
The color options are limited but powerful enough:
- Auto white balance
- Color wheels, specifically the Colorista 3-way
- RGB curves
According to the manual, it is highly advised to follow the order in which the color controls are displayed. The GPU is used for color processing. Image files cannot be graded.
Better white balance? In the future I hope this will include the ability to dial in the color temperature instead of having to choose a white-like color on a laptop under the bright sun on a hot sunny day during a blistering shoot. DSLR shooters usually don’t have DIT carts or OLED monitors. Red Giant recommends you go for the whites in the eyes.
What about levels? And saturation? The color wheels and Curves features are self-evident but one will have to learn the Colorista and Magic Bullet way of doing things (I didn’t bother, it’s not my cup of tea). If you want to learn more on how to use Colorista within Bulletproof, click here.
As far as LUTs are concerned, a few are installed by default with Bulletproof, in the .cube format (3D LUT, 32x32x32, formerly Speedgrade format). The three major groups being:
- EOS Standard (?)
This works well with LUT Buddy. Since only DSLRs are supported at this time, I didn’t dig deeper into this. I don’t shoot in Cinestyle even, so what’s the point? Bulletproof intends to have the ability to create LUTs in the future, but until that day comes, I cannot consider it to be the go-to tool for color grading on set.
Exporting from Bulletproof
Hit the Export tab and you get this:
Two modes again: As mentioned in Part One, I hope only one method stands tall, and I support the second one (what Red Giant calls the ‘engineer-friendly’ layout).
By default you have two Export Clips boxes checked, but you can uncheck one (or add more). There are two divisions of settings:
- Global Settings (for all selected clips taken as a whole)
- Export Clip Settings (for each clip or selection of clips)
Timecode might need to be continuous, and this is why it is under Global settings. Once you’ve selected your settings you can save it as a preset.
Note: The exported clip contains the entire clip instead of the logged version. The In and Out points are saved as metadata (more later).
Supported Export Formats
The supported export codecs are as follows:
The maximum resolution is 1080p, and the frame rates are 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97, 50 and 59.94. As you can see, Bulletproof only supports those codecs that it can import currently. I tested the Prores settings and I must say it did a good job quality-wise. To see the Prores options, you must have FCP-X, Motion or Compressor installed.
Possibly dumb questions: If the clip exports as-is, without logging taken into account, then what is the point of exporting it by re-rendering it? You have the option to apply color settings, but if you don’t need that then what gives? If I need FCP-X to get the Prores options, why not use FCP-X to do my ingest and logging, especially since Bulletproof doesn’t support XML at this point?
There is no way to change the bit rate of the H.264 dailies. The quality is good, and it hovered at about 9.5 Mbps when I tested it.
I couldn’t find any way to change the export file name. What if I wanted two copies in the same folder? Nor is there any way to change the file name ‘appendages’ for dailies or proxies.
If you select ‘Apply Color Settings’ your color correction will be baked in. You can also burn in Timecode, frame information, file names, etc.
Export and transcoding speeds are good, and feel snappy. I didn’t have a single error in my testing.
What about metadata? Is the metadata saved? Yes, I verified that logging information was saved on export. The logged footage will appear as a subclip in Adobe Premiere Pro along with the full clip upon import. Cool.
What about the markers? However, what is missing is the markers created. They don’t show up, and that is a bit frustrating. What’s the point in filling markers with notes, if you nobody else can see them later?
Should you use Bulletproof?
So, what’s the bottom line? Bulletproof has features that are snappy and straightforward to use. I did find the occasional hiccup but I can’t completely fault the software for it. After all, it’s still in beta stage.
Will I be using Bulletproof when it ships, for $199? No. Here’s why:
- Prores and H.264 support only.
- Canon cameras support coming soon, but no word on XDCAM or XAVC.
- No RAW, or higher than 1080p, support currently.
- Unreliable logging and marking export.
- No XML support, and limited XMP support (I imported the footage into Prelude to check metadata).
- Couldn’t find the sidecars on export, and I tried all settings. Dude, where’s my sidecar?
- Red Giant color correction system.
I hope this brief review and guide has given you enough information to get started with Red Giant Bulletproof. At the moment, it is still nascent software with lofty ambitions. I only hope they are able to deliver, because the idea is definitely a winner.
What do you think? Do you think Red Giant Bulletproof will reach its full potential?