Red Giant Denoiser II (review)

Low light conditions equal noise in video recordings made with anything but the most expensive camcorders. I took a GoPro recording and tested Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Denoiser II running inside After Effects CS6. And my jaw fell to the ground.

If you’re into video editing, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Black Magic Design mentioned occasionally, and then more specifically Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve (not the light edition). This 900.00 USD application has a denoising algorithm built-in. It only works if you happen to have a nVidia CUDA card in your Mac.

What about something slightly less expensive, running on any machine that can run After Effects CS4 to CS6? Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Denoiser II is nothing like DaVinci Resolve’s denoising system. It doesn’t need you to have a nVidia card in your Mac, which enables noise killing on iMacs, Mac Minis even.

But is it any good? Well, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I just ran it at its default setting. You can see results side by side in the image below. They speak for themselves.

Image of a clip before and after applying Denoiser II.

Image of a clip before and after applying Denoiser II.

Is it perfect then? Nope. There are some controls so you can play with the settings. If it were perfect with each type of clip/shot/take noise, these wouldn’t be needed. You can’t configure much, though, so it’s not as if you first need a degree in physics before you can work wonders with this tool.

But it’s not always straightforward. The clip I used in the screenshot above was ideal: it has a uniformly coloured area, the wall, which makes it easier for Denoiser II to sample the noise you want to get rid of. And it does so without sacrificing sharpness and details too much.

Screenshot of Magic Bullet Denoiser II controls in After Effects.

Screenshot of Magic Bullet Denoiser II controls in After Effects.

But if you don’t have a uniform area and still want to remove noise, you’ll have to experiment with the controls and that isn’t difficult, but your eyes get tired very quickly — mine did, anyway — as you’re literally staring at a screen that changes subtly from setting to setting.

So, you’ll get eye fatigue, but you’ll also be certain that at some point during your experiments with different settings, you’ll have found one that gets rid of the ugly mottling throughout the footage.

The only thing I could want for with Denoiser II is a clearcut workflow describing how to get from noise to no noise in a structured way. If it exists at all.