Red Giant Bulletproof is a unique ingest, logging and data wrangling tool. This series of articles is specifically a review and guide of the Red Giant Bulletproof (Bulletproof from here on) Beta version v1.0 (0.23.1).
My review and experience with Bulletproof is a simulation of what I would do under an actual shoot. There is no way I’d use it on a professional job without knowing how reliable it is.
I’ve tested the beta version, which Red Giant has made free for download. It is currently only available for Macs (I’m using OS X 10.8), and all features aren’t supported yet. It should be understood that my notes and statements are likely to be rendered moot when the final version is released, or when the next beta is out.
I strongly urge everyone to read the Bulletproof manual, which is written brilliantly. It is a welcome change to the other crappy manuals I’ve been reading lately. The manual is available here.
Not that anybody cares, but I support and welcome Red Giant’s idea of releasing this software as a beta first.
What is Bulletproof?
The software is designed to work in fives stages, sort of like a step-by-step workflow. You don’t have to follow them in the order laid out, but it is a natural way to do things, and a good habit to develop. Not all projects will require all stages.
So, what are the five stages of Bulletproof?
- Organize (+ Metadata)
- Review (+ Logging)
- Refine (+ Color)
- Export (+ Backup)
In this part we’ll cover catalogs and importing. The names for each stage were possibly (and probably) arrived at to encompass their future functionality. At the present though, I find the names slightly confusing. But that could be just me.
The burning question you’ll want answered is: Should I bother with the beta version currently? The first step in answering this question is to know whether your current workflow is supported or not.
Currently supported cameras and formats
For a current list of supported cameras, click here. At the time of this writing, only Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and the GoPro cameras are supported. If you are using a camera or file system that is not supported at this time, you cannot completely evaluate the effectiveness of Bulletproof.
The devil is in the details, especially when it comes to knowing how Bulletproof handles ‘sidecar’ files, proprietary metadata and file structures. At the present time this isn’t possible.
Personal example: I had downloaded Bulletproof early hoping I can use it, if only briefly, on a shoot with the C300. I was a bit disappointed to learn it doesn’t support MXF. Opportunity lost.
At its core, Bulletproof has catalogs. A catalog is a project.
If this is so, why does Bulletproof insist on calling a project a catalog? Simple. A catalog works like a virtual hard drive. Imagine working directly from the Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (PC), organizing folders any way you like, and so on. That’s the freedom catalogs give you – but with one important lifeline.
Bulletproof does not delete anything at this time. It has a ‘Remove’ feature, but that is only to remove files or folders from the catalog (virtual folder view). It does not change anything in your drives or files. Bulletproof can only open one catalog at a time.
My suggestion: Red Giant might introduce a ‘Delete’ feature in the future, but I think it is unnecessary. If you don’t want a clip, don’t import it. Once you import and backup your clips, you are going to erase the media anyway. Having both ‘Remove’ and ‘Move to Trash’ or ‘Delete’ is confusing, and potentially catastrophic.
In a nutshell, you open a new project (catalog) and have the ability to organize your footage into folders and sub folders, without changing its actual state on your drive. Simple and powerful. You can create a new catalog at any time, and at startup:
You can choose where your catalog (a .rgcat file) resides. In the same folder, you will have your Cache files and Log files, all in separate folders.
Your media will be stored in a different folder. Once you get going and arrange your media in your catalog, this media folder will begin to look like a clone. This is neat. However, if you change anything directly on your drive, like create a folder or add stuff, Bulletproof will not know about it. This is what I meant when I said your catalog is like a virtual folder.
Red Giant advises that you make all folder and file changes within your catalog, and never on the drive itself.
How to import media into Bulletproof
Once you have created a catalog, you will be thrown (the correct word I assure you!) into the Import screen (click to enlarge):
Suggestion: Why is everything yellow? I find the layout and colors (one color only) confusing and a bit maddening. When on the field, under pressure, and possibly in the bright sun, a bit more ‘organization’ might make this a more enjoyable experience.
Among the four panes in the above image, can the import pane (third one) follow a different color scheme?
When you highlight a clip on your drive, the thumbnail will popup on the next pane. Bulletproof supports:
- Video – thumbnail, not scrubbable like Prelude or FCP-X
- Audio – Music icon
- Still images – image thumbnail
- Sidecar files (like THM, etc.)
.txt is not supported at the current time, which I hope is temporary.
Note regarding thumbnail preview: The thumbnail preview lags, surprisingly. On a computer that can generate instantaneous previews on both Prelude and FCP-X, it is frustrating to wait for the Bulletproof thumbnail previews to load, and they don’t even scrub!
The third pane gives you import options. There are two major functions you can perform here:
- Backup (making duplicates)
Strangely, Bulletproof has two modes or screens for import. Here’s the second one (you get this by clicking the icon on the top right):
Strong suggestion: Why, Red Giant? According to the manual, the first ‘friendly’ import screen is to make life easier for whoever needs it. But that’s baloney. Any person who uses the import menu a few times will quickly learn it. Once that is done, if that person wants to get to it, there’s an additional click involved – every time.
On a general note, professionals who handle data wrangling on set tend to be the geeky kind. They don’t need to be treated with kid gloves like the average consumer. If such professionals can’t handle the simple second import screen, or take the time out to read and learn the manual, I might not want them handling my precious data anyway!
The color and metadata settings are deactivated in the Beta version. The only way to import is by choosing either:
- the date-wise folder naming convention, or
- the current location (which is the name of the folder your media currently resides in)
A plea to Red Giant: Is this software only for North Americans? The date format needs to support both versions. Secondly, what if I don’t want to sort my media according to date, but according to camera (like on a multi-cam setup or 3D setup)? I realize I can create folders (explained below), but then I might as well do that on my hard drive.
I hope Red Giant gives us a few options to create a base folder structure, and then save that as a preset (the option exists already, but is rudimentary at present). How much time will that save?
Quirk? Every time you click ‘Import’, the screen slides to the ‘Organize’ view. Why do we have to keep going back and forth? Why not let us decide when to ‘Organize’?
The fourth panel shows your virtual catalog, with folders and all. You can create folders, nest them under other folders, and organize your media in any way you want. This exercise is similar to how you might do it on a hard drive, except Bulletproof automatically carries your metadata along automatically.
I’ll cover backups later, but just a quick note: Bulletproof backs up data with CRC 32 error checking. You can add as many backups as you want, but it will take more time.
For every single step, an activity status popup tells you how things are going:
Finally, under the fourth pane, in your catalog view, you have the option of organizing your media via Playlists. By default you always have:
- Most Recent Import
- Most Recent Export
You can add your own and drag clips into it. You can rearrange clips according to your preference. This looks like a handy tool to generate dailies or different versions of the same scene, but I haven’t tested it completely. Good thing to have though.
In Part Two we’ll look at how Bulletproof organizes and ‘reviews’ media and clips.