Red Giant BulletProof is in its public beta phase. Since a couple of days now, the company has released a new beta that is pretty much feature complete. BulletProof is a complete offload, preparation and delivery application for footage originating from a Canon or Nikon dSLR, or from a GoPro Hero2 or Hero3 action camera.
BulletProof has some functionality that you'll also find in Shotput Pro, i.e. the offload and backup feature. Just like Shotput Pro, you can offload your clips and back them up to several media simultaneously. But that's where the comparison ends as BulletProof goes where no offload solution has gone before.
On the other hand, and as a note of serious criticism, BulletProof still has a long way to go before it can measure up against Shotput Pro in terms of which footage you can offload exactly. Shotput Pro doesn't care about footage formats at all. BulletProof is currently limited to those three camera types.
Red Giant BulletProof has a plug-in architecture
However, in a short Q&A I had with Sean Safreed, Red Giant co-founder and the man behind BulletProof, he told me that they designed BulletProof to fill a real need in the daily workflow of filmmakers everywhere. "I initially decided to include Canon, Nikon and GoPro support because there is a wide audience of users that make indie films, corporate event and wedding videos exclusively using these cameras, which we knew from our experience with the PluralEyes user base," Safreed said.
The good news therefore is that over the coming months, Red Giant will be aggressively adding support for other cameras like Canon C series, Arri Alexa, and BlackMagic Cameras shooting in ProRes along with ProRes recorders.
Safreed: "We have built BulletProof with camera extensibility in mind an in fact our camera support is built as a plug-in that we can quickly update independently of the main application. When we talk about camera support, we also want to do it right. That means testing with data directly from any given camera model, making sure we can extract and display all the metadata the camera can supply accurately, and making sure that the images that we produce look correct."
"Some formats like the .mov format on the GH3 would be easy to support — and in fact we can view and transcode those files now — but to truly support that camera, we want to make sure that we can support all the formats the camera can output which includes movies in .mp4 format and in AVCHD," he added.
There is even better news as even the updated public beta of BulletProof performs very much like a finished product. I have seen version 1.0 Apple and Microsoft apps that were less polished.
BulletProof Import/Export and the Catalogue
Red Giant BulletProof's concept is simple: you create a catalogue of your clips, offload these clips to a folder that you define and apply edits to these clips in preparation of your work in your favourite NLE. You manage the actual files from within BulletProof. In that respect, BulletProof is much like a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, a sort of lightweight Final Cut Server.
The catalogue feature in BulletProof works well. It's simple to rename virtual folders and to re-arrange clips in virtual folders. Import features are good too. They offer granular control over where the clips will ultimately end up. For example, you can select to import only media, in which case you're entirely free to choose the folder into which your media will be copied. Select "media and folders" and you'll copy the entire file path — which is much the same way Shotput Pro works. At import time, you can also apply presets for colour grading, metadata and keywords.
One flaw is the speed of import/export. The lacklustre performance could be attributed to this version still having a lot of debug code and therefore being slow. However, slow speed is worse with Hero3 files than it is with Hero2 files. The import side is workable. The export side to ProRes 422 is really very slow as it takes about four times as long to transcode as with Squeeze 9.
I asked Safreed about this and he confirmed my findings. However, the shipping version should have general performance improvements along with speed increases when importing, backing up and exporting.
BulletProof's rooms workflow
Just like many professional colour grading applications, Red Giant BulletProof uses a rooms workflow, although the company seems to prefer the word "View". You start with the Import tab or room then proceed to Organize. You can also start with Organize, which makes sense when you already have imported footage before. In the Organize room you can add labels, flags and star ratings, or tag a clip as a Circle Take (a term from before the digital video age — it means the best take). The next step is Review.
The Review room or view is, in my opinion, a redundant step as you can also set markers, a poster frame and I/O points in the Refine room, which is the third/fourth step. Refine includes not only colour grading but also metadata management. Colour grading is done with Red Giant's professional-grade Colorista system. In the Refine room, a surprise awaits you. If you have PluralEyes 3 on your system, a tab allows you to synchronise your footage with external audio from BulletProof via what seem to be a seamless integration with PluralEyes. Very nice.
The final step is Export, which allows you to output to multiple export locations and a couple of codecs.
Export includes ProRes, one H.264 type and PhotoJPEG options. None of the transcoding options can be customised as with Squeeze or Episode. It's a beta, so this list could be expanded when BulletProof is released. If it's not, it's rather limited in scope.
All of the edits you can perform within Red Giant BulletProof can be saved as a preset. If you want to save your colour grading, you can create a preset, if you want to save your codec settings, save them as a preset. You can even create Group settings, which are combined presets. And you can create Playlists, which are preset clusters of clips, a sort of saved searches across folders.
BulletProof also has two viewing types: one is for beginners, with lots of visual feedback, while the other is for people who know what they're doing. Both views are identical in terms of functionality as far as I could tell. It's just that if you have done this sort of work before, it works quicker and with less distractions in Expert mode than in the default view.
Is Red Giant BulletProof efficient?
Working with BulletProof surely is a pleasure. Its DAM features are well thought out. It has features that greatly support working with groups of clips. For example, in the Refine room, if you're selecting a bunch of clips and want to apply something different to just one or a few clips, you can pin these without deselecting the others. The Pin allows you to get back to these as soon as you've finished dealing with the selected group.
The metadata BulletProof supports is impressive, but it's not directly supported by Final Cut Pro X, for example, nor by Avid Symphony or Media Composer for that matter. In Final Cut Pro X you must import BulletProof's metadata via XML, but not all of the fields that I filled in — and which make sense to view in FCP as well — were filled in Final Cut Pro X. This could be a bug, but it could also be the way it is (as I've experienced with Final Cut Pro X and metadata from other apps).
The workflow is pretty much orientated towards Apple and Adobe products. Avid or LightWorks (which should be available for Mac OS X in a couple of months) users will find that some of the most interesting features are more or less confined to BulletProof itself.
In my opinion, provided Red Giant works on BulletProof's performance, expands camera support and codec support, they have a killer app as I think BulletProof appeals to a huge market of content creators and storytellers.