Colorista 2 – Lust at first sight (an amorous review)

Color grading is like sex; it’s easy to confuse quantity with quality. I’ve been a fan of Magic Bullet since day 1, but I tend to find Looks a little promiscuous for my taste. With a vast array of garish presets and a veritable cornucopia of infinitely adjustable filters, it’s definitely the playboy of the family.

Colorista, by contrast, has always been the prim little sister. Until yesterday, she’d give you a 3-way largely indistinguishable from the one that comes with Final Cut Pro, but that’s about it.

But guess what? Colorista met some bad boys at college, and she showed up today as Colorista 2, all ready to party. Unlike Looks, she still works right on the timeline, but she now has a badass keying function that pops up in a separate window.

She doesn’t have any Looks filters, like diffusion or lens flare, but she does have easy-to-access primary and secondary settings, and – also new in this version – very attractive curves.

Most importantly, Colorista 2 lets you selectively grab any color you please, and adjust it however you want. Need your orange tones lighter? Click and drag, and it’s done. Want some greener grass? Click and drag. Essentially, this gives you RAW-like control of compressed footage. Now that’s nasty!

I spent the better part of this afternoon with Colorista 2, and overall I found the experience quite satisfying. Here’s what I liked best:

1) Being able to selectively adjust color is amazing. I shot and edited a video promoting golf at a resort recently, and the color grade was a constant struggle between trying to make the course’s grass look good and the players’ skintones look good. Both, unfortunately, were in the midtone range, so any adjustment to one affected the other. Using the original Colorista, I wasn’t able to do much with the shot you see below. Cooling off the highlights a little gave me a marginally bluer sky, but the yellowish grass left me stuck. With Colorista 2, that’s no longer an issue. Just click on green and pull it one way, and click on orange and pull it the other. Brilliant!

2) The keyer is excellent. I worked with it, in conjuction with a power mask, to try to whiten up the teeth of an interview subject, and was very impressed with the level of granular control it allowed.

3) As always with Red Giant products, what’s under the hood is just as impressive as the paint job. The plugin installed, ran, and rendered flawlessly. Compared to the stock Final Cut color grading tools, Colorista 2 handles transition areas more smoothly, and can push color farther before starting to show compression artifacts and digital noise.

I didn’t experience any significant issues while working with Colorista 2. The power mask interface is still clunky in Final Cut (apparently it’s very elegant in Premiere), but it’s quite usable, and functions perfectly.

Colorista 2 is well worth the price ($99 for the upgrade), and will be my default color grading tool from now on. Or, to put it another way, hell yes, I’d like to go steady!

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