The folks at Red Giant Software are smart. Not only do they create some amazing tools, they design those tools for maximum user productivity. The release of BulletProof 1.0 proves the point. For the past several months, Red Giant has put the software through a public beta testing period, soliciting feedback on all features of the media workflow tool. From the stability and usability of the 1.0 release, it would seem they listened to their users.
Currently available for Mac and forthcoming for PC, BulletProof is a solution for ingesting, backing up, organizing, preparing and transcoding footage that bridges the gap between camera and editor. If you shoot compatible cameras and codecs, it could very well be the best $199 you ever spent. (BulletProof is also available as part of Red Giant’s $399 Shooter Suite, which includes Frames, Instant HD, LUT Buddy and PluralEyes.)
The BulletProof workflow is presented in a series of five views, arranged in a left-to-right flow that mirrors what filmmakers do on set. The five components are: import, organize, review, refine and export.
BulletProof import screen
BulletProof streamlines the process of getting material recorded on solid-state media to the editing drive. Without BulletProof, you would drag-copy those files to a hard drive, or possibly just use your NLE to ingest the files directly from the card. The first method, the finder copy, is slower and has less error correction than copying through an application. And while importing through your NLE is preferable to a drag-copy, importing through BulletProof is even better. BulletProof will validate and back up your footage to multiple destinations.
If you have defined presets for color, metadata or keywords, they may be specified at time of import.
At this time, BulletProof is limited to use with footage from GoPro, Canon and Nikon cameras and Apple ProRes files. I am looking forward to Red Giant adding support for AVC formats and MXF-wrapped material.
While the format is not supported explicitly, I have been able to import .mp4 files from Sony XDCAM SxS footage. BulletProof also recognized Sony PMW-F55 XAVC files as H.264 files and imported them.
Adding a LUT
Once footage is imported, the next step is to organize it: delete clips, rename them, add metadata, add keywords. Nothing esoteric here. Just a logical workflow. Organize view is the most detailed way of viewing and sorting the media in your catalog. (A catalog is a project file, saved to your hard drive, that includes a database and cache files. Most likely you will create a new BulletProof catalog for each project. The software keeps only one catalog open at a time.) You can organize your project by creating new folders and subfolders, moving the clips between folders, and removing clips from the catalog.
The next step in the workflow occurs in the review tab, where you look at individual clips to further organize the catalog. Double-click a clip to review it. Identify in/out points, set a poster frame, etc.
I found the most compelling part of the software in the refine tab. You can add and edit detailed metadata for each clip, from EXIF settings to markers to client notes. You can auto-balance the image, do a one-light correction with Magic Bullet Colorista (in my mind, about the best color plug-in out there), adjust curves and add a lookup table. All metadata and color settings are non-destructive.
If you are familiar with Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite, then you already know BulletProof’s color tools. Colorista 3-Way is from two products, Magic Bullet Colorista II and Magic Bullet Looks 2. Auto Balance comes from Colorista II, and Curves is from Looks 2. The LUT controls are also distributed in Magic Bullet LUT Buddy.
I reviewed BulletProof with footage shot on a Canon DSLR using the Technicolor CineStyle profile. BulletProof ships with 12 LUTs, including several CineStyle options. Additionally, you may import any 1D LUT you have created or downloaded.
Once you’ve refined your images, export them for use in your favorite NLE. Here again, you can export to multiple destinations and in multiple formats. Codec choices include all flavors of ProRes, MPEG-4 AVC or PJpeg formats. You may also change resolutions, set or ignore in/out points, or even burn timecode in several formats.
For this test, I exported my footage as well as an XML file for Apple FCP X. I likewise could have exported XML or XMP for Adobe Premiere Pro 6 or CC. BulletProof also supports XML for Final Cut Pro 7.
The next step is to launch your NLE and begin the edit. You may choose to import individual clips at this point, but the better bet is to use the XML options in the BulletProof export process. Since I exported an XML file for FCP X, all I needed to do within FCP X was choose Import XML and navigate to the folder in the BulletProof catalog containing the exports. Importing the XML brings all of the footage into FCP X, organized by keyword collections. The same process takes place with Premiere Pro and FCP 7. All the metadata—whether generated by the camera, added by the user or modified in BulletProof—is available in the NLE.
Depending on the export options specified, color information, markers and trimmed clips will also be present. In my case, the one clip to which I applied a LUT and performed a one-light correction imported with those color corrections intact.
BulletProof is not without its limitations. It works with only certain cameras and formats. It would not recognize AVC files from my Sony NEX camera, for example, and could not parse MXF-wrapped clips.
Additionally, ProRes files recorded on my Sound Devices PIX 240 did not transfer with their embedded timecode. Timecode all started at 1:00:00:00. Importing that footage into FCP X, though, the starting timecode displayed as 55:55:12, meaning that something was interpreting this 23.98 footage as drop frame, which is impossible. Red Giant has acknowledged this issue and has indicated that it will be fixed in a software update.
Exported footage in Final Cut Pro X
I would position BulletProof as a DSLR or GoPro shooter’s best friend. The ability to not only ingest files to multiple locations but also to perform basic color correction, add keywords and metadata and export in multiple formats makes BulletProof a valuable tool. I’ll reiterate the value of its strong backup workflow. File-based video recording can be a scary proposition; multiple backups are the best insurance policy a filmmaker can buy.
This is a solid product. The extensive testing with many thousands of beta users and careful attention to feedback has produced a version 1.0 release far more stable and feature-laden than many other vendors’ 1.0 offerings.
BulletProof 1.0 belongs in the toolkit of every editor who deals with media supported by this application. While I hope that Red Giant expands codec and file format support in future software updates, it’s still a great product in the interim. Use it and speed up your workflow while protecting your data.
Product:Red Giant Software BulletProof
Pros: Ingests footage quickly and accurately. Import process includes validation and backup to multiple destinations. Use is intuitive. Powerful metadata and keyword capabilities. Color correction and LUT application. Transcode and export to popular editing formats.
Cons: Does not properly read and display clips with embedded timecode. Copies clips into library even if the clips already exist elsewhere on the same drive.
Bottom Line: A must-have for DSLR shooters. Securely copies and backs up data while providing straightforward tools for preparing clips for edit.