Red Giant Shooter Suite in Review
December 29, 2014 1:44 am
Red Giant Shooter Suite
Red Giant. It's a company that makes video editing tools and associated plugins. They sent me the Red Giant Shooter Suite 12.6 to play around with. For those not familiar:
"Red Giant Shooter Suite is a set of 7 tools that gives you the freedom to shoot the way you want, with the confidence that your footage will make it from your camera to the editing timeline safe, sound and in sync. "
Some tools are stand-alone, others are plugins. It has everything from a denoising plugin, to utilities to help you safely get footage off your camera and onto your computer. It also has PluralEyes, a one touch audio/video synchronizer. The complete Shooter Suite is priced at around $400. I picked a few of the tools from the suite for review: PluralEyes, Offload and BulletProof. Not all tools in the suite were covered.
Yes, it's actually awesome.
What does it do?
Syncs audio and video from multiple sources. Huge time saver. If you read none of the rest of this review, buy PluralEyes, or at least try the free 30-day demo. The rest of the software in the suite is pretty okay, but Plural Eyes is what sold me. Worth it's weight in gold - assuming software weighs something. Anyway, I was pretty pleased with PluralEyes overall. Why so awesome? Example time:
Assume you've recorded video with your camera and audio with an off-camera mic. When shooting is done you would have to sit at your computer and try and match up the video to the separately recorded audio. This is what clapboards were invented for but even they aren't perfect. When recording a longer shot there can often be some degree of audio video drifting that occurs. This makes a/v syncing, what sounds simple, a time consuming task - especially with a lot of clips.
PluralEyes fixes this. It is a stand-alone program where you load all of your audio and video clips, click sync and bam done. It examines the crappy audio as recored by the on-camera microphone and compares it to the high quality audio as recorded by the off-camera mic. It then shifts the clips in time to ensure they all match up. You then export your time line to your favorite non-linear editor.
It supports a ton of NLEs (not shown). See http://www.redgiant.com/products/all/pluraleyes/compatibility/
Does it suck or is it awesome?
Mostly awesome! One click - bam done. There is almost zero learning curve. Plural Eyes was pretty great, really fast, quality results. Usage can, of course, be more complicated than this, having several cameras and several microphones, etc., but it's a tool that is really easy to just pick up and use. Recent versions of PluralEyes can even account for and fix audio/video drifting during a clip. It was awesome.
What's the major thorn with PluralEyes?
Not so much a major thorn, but a mild irritation. If you record video from multiple cameras at multiple frame rates, PluralEyes will complain and refuse to sync them. This is easy to work around; simply create a new camera bin and drag the "inconsistent" footage to the new bin. Then drop it into its own track and you can now synchronize as usual. It would be nice if PluralEyes would just do this for me, and just warn me about it. It's a bigger irritation if you're working with a lot of clips.
This is easily fixed by placing media clips recorded at different frame rates in different media bins.
Any other issues?
PluralEyes was a little sluggish when browsing the network. It works, but if you try to type a UNC path into the export dialog box, it becomes a bit sluggish temporarily as you type each letter. Otherwise there were no major faults I could find. It seemed like a pretty good product all the way around. It also worked well with remote file servers. (This contrasts with my experience with Offload and BulletProof.)
What did you like about PluralEyes?
Pretty much everything, which is surprising for me. In a review I try to do a pros vs. cons comparison, but with PluralEyes in particular, there weren't really any major cons to be found. Hats off to everyone at Red Giant Software for Plural Eyes!
Bottom line, is PluralEyes worth it?
A resounding yes! PluralEyes takes an otherwise boring, time consuming task of a/v sync with multiple cameras and clips and turns it into a one-button affair. It's like having an intern that actually knows what they're doing!
Copy files from camera to laptop with checksum assuredness.
What does it do?
Offload copies stuff from your camera to your laptop while on location and makes damn certain everything went smoothly with checksum verification. It's one of those in-the-field tools for use out there in the fog of film making.
Offload copies files while simultaneously creating a backup copy at a different location of your choosing, at your option. Its main selling point is being as idiot-proof as possible while ensuring file integrity. It has a nice UI. Big thumbnails. It understandably doesn't show thumbnails for proprietary formats. (I'm looking at you, Nikon - Get your act together.)
Does it suck or is it awesome?
Mostly awesome. It even writes out a detailed text-based log file with checksums. However, Offload did have some thorns, some minor, one major. First the minor thorn:
Offload doesn't let you type in a file path to specify an offload location. Instead, you have to use the point-and-click UI. This is 2014, who cares, right? You care! If you work with a lot of network accessible servers, or a sluggish SMB browse master on the network - you certainly care! Typing a UNC path like \myserverfoo would be way faster. Speaking of which...
No support for typing a UNC path.
What's the single biggest thorn with Offload?
I'll get flak for this: `Offload` doesn't speak SMB protocol, or any network protocol for that matter. Writing data to Windows shared folders - not gonna happen. Write to a remote linux/FreeBSD box running samba? Nope. A NAS device? No-can-do. If you're trying to save data to a network server via a "windows share" i.e. using the Server Message Block protocol (SMB) like \myserverprojectsfoo, Offload can't do it. The work-around is to map a network share, to a drive letter in Windows Explorer. This certainly works, but the issue needs fixed. I know - it's an in-the-field tool. We'll get to that.
Offload works flawlessly on a single laptop, but it is not network-aware.
Any other issues?
Offload tries to compute if there is enough free space at the destination before doing any copying. If there isn't enough space it doesn't copy anything:
Good intent, bad idea.
I would have preferred a "try anyway?" option. The reason I'm seeing the error above is because Offload doesn't understand SMB aka "windows shares" and therefore concludes there must be no free space on the remote server. In reality, there's terabytes and Offload just doesn't know what a remote server is.
What should have happened?
Speaking SMB would be nice. Granted, it's a crappy network protocol, but it's also ubiquitous. Offload should also have warned me there might not be enough free space but it should have let me choose to proceed anyway. Why? Because it's calculation could be wrong.
How could a free space calculation be wrong?
Getting off subject, but: File servers and NAS devices are often configured to lie about available free space. This is done as a work-around for crappy older programs that made the same fatal mistake of trying to compute free space prior to an operation.
Why would the servers lie? Because old programs, some of which are unfortunately still in use, don't understand modern multi-terabyte arrays. They would report zero, or even a negative amount of free space and therefore fail. Even older versions of Adobe Photoshop were guilty of this. Network administrators would configure file servers to lie and report a constant amount of free space that these programs could understand. Unfortunately, out of necessity, doing this is still not uncommon.
Finally, I would rather have most of my footage copied over and a big fat red warning message, rather than none of my footage.
What did you like about Offload?
For a simple one-laptop setup it worked great! It provided additional integrity checking over a simple copy operation via MD5 checksums. This is especially good when using crappy file systems like FAT, and to a lesser extent, NTFS. The UI was well thought out. It's pretty, it's very simple to use. I could show a non-technical person how to use it in 5 minutes and be confident they would use it correctly in the field. That alone makes it invaluable.
Huge progress bars integrated directly in the UI. Good deal.
Bottom line, is Offload worth it?
Yes. What's it worth to be damn sure? Offload is a simple application filling a much needed niche. Granted, a programmer could accomplish the same thing with a shell script forged from coffee. (The beverage, not the language.) I wouldn't buy it personally, simply because I am that programmer. However, unless you're a programmer, you're going to have to spend more than $50 to convince one to write it. So really, just buy Offload instead. It has a nice UI. It was easy to use. It was easy to show a non-technical person how to use. It's been well tested. There are people you can call if you have questions. (You probably won't have any questions, it was pretty simple.) So yeah, I'd argue it's worth it.
Detailed log files of every copy operation including their MD5 checksums.
BulletProof organizes your life!
What does it do?
BulletProof is an asset manager, a footage catalog, a hot librarian for your clips - something like that. BulletProof also copies files from your camera to your computer. It lets you review your footage, add notes, make tags, make labels, mark clips in a given color, apply some limited pre-processing, i.e. color corrections and lookup tables (LUTs). BulletProof makes backup copies of your clips to multiple locations, etc. Lots of good stuff found in BulletProof. It basically brings order to chaos.
Import clips into the catalog.
Is it any good?
Yes! BulletProof was actually pretty awesome. It definitely helped when dealing with a lot of footage and several takes, etc. It let me sort things out, mark the clips I wanted to keep, add notes, all that good stuff. BulletProof was way better than using a dumb file system browser like Windows Explorer for the same task. An asset manager like BulletProof does indeed make your life a little easier.
BulletProof supports basic pre-processing such as color corrections and lookup tables.
Any troubles with BulletProof?
Unfortunately, yes. It suffered from the same problem as Offload; It didn't speak SMB protocol, i.e. it didn't know what a remote Windows share was. Remote file server? NAS device? What the hell are those? It didn't understand UNC paths, the same basic problem as Offload.
BulletProof doesn't like UNC paths so much.
Before you throw things - I know! BulletProof is supposed to be an in-the-field tool just like Offload for use out there on set. Even so, a lot of times my "set" is in a studio and knowing how to talk to a remote file server would be helpful. On that note, we also have wi-fi in the parking lot.
What did you like about BulletProof?
As long as I was working on a single local machine it was totally fine. Otherwise, I had to map a bunch of network drives to fool BulletProof into thinking they were all local files. Certainly not a crisis, but it should be fixed.
Easily access massive amounts of clip meta-data in the sidebar.
Bottom line, would you buy BulletProof?
Leaning yes. I certainly liked the tools BulletProof gave me to organize my clips, etc. However, BulletProof could be improved in some ways. Most notably if BulletProof could have talked to a remote file server and properly display a full sized JPG.
BulletProof is strictly a clip catalog, it doesn't like JPGs.
No JPG support?! Yeah, I was surprised too. There's no JPG support at all. It's strictly a footage manager, not an image manager. You can see JPG thumbs, but not full sized images. I made an angry face too. Even if I can't edit JPGs, I would have liked to have been able to see them. I snap a lot of stills of sets, props, costumes, etc. That said, I did like all the rest of the software. I especially liked the fact that the UI was pretty clean, despite showing a vast amount of information. Despite this, I'm still leaning toward yes in the worth-it category.
Overall, the Red Giant Shooter Suite was a pretty decent lineup. For a price of around $399 I was impressed. There's a lot of very useful tools in the Red Giant Shooter Suite to the average film maker. Granted, I outlined some of the faults I found and complained verbosely, but there was nothing major. Even the network qualms I had, I found easy work-arounds. Best of all, the Red Giant Shooter Suite has a free trial readers can check out!
Also, Red Giant itself is a pretty awesome company. They have the "Red Pledge Guarantee". Some highlights:
- 30 day money back guarantee. Always! Even on rainy Sundays. No questions asked.
- One price for all hosts. Your purchase works in all supported host applications and operating systems.
- Free Support. Ask us anything, no charge, during business hours by phone, email or online chat.
- Two computer license. One for your workstation and one for your laptop.
- Easy Upgrades. ALL previous versions qualify for an upgrade to the latest release.
My experience with the Red Giant Shooter Suite was pretty great, but you don't have to take my word for it. (I'm sorry, LeVar.)
Kurt Foster (Modulok) falls somewhere between programmer and visual effects artist. When not sifting through technical manuals, he takes on freelance roles in both programming and visual effects, attempting to create a marriage of technical knowledge with artistic talent. He can be seen helping out on the Renderosity Maya forum, when time permits.
December 29, 2014
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