We've all been there. You were hired for a run-and-gun shoot only to find the location has terrible lighting. Or your shoot is running later into the evening and the sun is going down fast, without any lighting to plug in. The ISO gets cranked up, and your exposure is saved at the expense of adding unwanted noise to your image. This is where noise reduction software becomes useful, and a new product from Red Giant has changed the way it approaches this task with Denoiser III.
Denoiser III is a part of Magic Bullet Suite 13, a package of seven products that includes popular tools like Looks, Colorista, and Mojo. If you’ve been working in video postproduction for more than a little while, then you’ve probably seen one of their many promotional films, and likely have used previous versions of their products.
Denoiser III has been rebuilt from scratch, with new processes going on under the hood. New computer vision technology came from a company called wrnch, which deals in augmented reality tech. This alternative method of analyzing footage delivers much faster results than previous versions, and editors stand to benefit directly from that.
The marketing materials for the new Denoiser suggest that it’s better, faster, and easier to use, so I took it for a test drive to see if that was the case. I wanted to look closely at the quality of results, how my MacBook Pro handled it, and whether or not it was simple to use. I’ve used noise reduction software before, and was interested to see how this one compared.
Ease of Use
Installing the plug-in is pretty standard, and what’s cool is that you can download a free demo version that is fully functional, so you can really try before you buy in this case.
I use Premiere CC, and a folder labeled Magic Bullet now appeared in my Effects tab. Drag and drop the Denoiser III filter onto your clip, and you’re presented with a mere five sliders. This is nice to see, as with complex noise reducers there can be a lot of parameters to deal with, and it can be overwhelming to find the right recipe of values for your footage. On the flipside, if you like to dig deep and fine tune exactly what is going on, this might not be to your liking.
Quality of Results
When you drop Denoiser III onto a clip, it automagically analyzes the footage to create a noise profile (rather than you needing to select one yourself) and determines how to best to remove the noise that is present. The slider controls allow the user to increase or decrease the amount or intensity of a given parameter. Below is a video with a few example clips, and I talk about a couple of them in the paragraphs that follow.
I found that Denoiser was able to reduce the overall noise and smooth out areas of my image that displayed color blocking. I wasn’t able to get results as amazing as what is shown in their example videos, but the amount of reduction was definitely noticeable. Admittedly I was throwing some pretty bad clips at it, just to see how far I could push it. With adding a slight color grade to the clips, I could reduce noise even more if I crushed the blacks just a little bit.
High ISO footage (3,200) from a GH4 seemed to have a lot of color blocking going on, and Denoiser was able to smooth it out some, but not completely remove it. Video recorded on a DJI Inspire at high ISO appeared to me to have a smaller, finer noise pattern which cleaned up decently after tweaking the control parameters, but I did still see some compression artifacts when I really studied the image.
In another clip that was filmed at night, I could clearly see horizontal noise patterns across all of the footage, it really was terrible. Denoiser cleaned up the more exposed parts of the image well, but the darker areas still showed a little noise, even with the reduce and smooth parameters set to 95. Lowering the shadows and midtones just a little bit also helped. In the end, this clip was saved. I would not consider using this clip in a final edit without Denoiser, so that alone proves its worth to me.
Speed of Rendering
The speed at which Denoiser works is directly impacted by how high the parameters are set. The more reduction, the more work that your computer has to do to render those results. Of course clip size also plays a role, so expect longer processing times for larger resolution media.
When editing clips on my 2015 MBP with 16 GB of RAM and a 2.8 GHz processor, I found that 4K clips would play smoothly at quarter resolution with Denoiser applied at its default settings. When I went to render a six-second clip at full 4K resolution, it took three minutes to process. A five-second clip at 1080p took only thirty seconds to render a full-resolution preview.
Everyone's results will vary a bit, but I can tell you that historically using noise reduction software will make even robust systems chug. It's nice to see that Red Giant has optimized Denoiser III to work with lower resolution playback settings as needed, and can play in real-time in some cases.
In the end, a little noise reduction is going to be helpful, but don’t think that you can just shoot noisy footage and that this will save you, because it won’t. When you have no alternative and just have to shoot at a high ISO, know that this can ease the sting of poor looking footage, but it certainly won’t make it perfect.
This is a great tool for if you're shooting scenes in low light, even if your ISO is low. Plenty of cameras will display a small amount of noise, even at reasonable ISO or gain levels. This is where a product like Denoiser will really shine; applying a modest amount of noise reduction on clips that have a small amount of visible grain will do wonders. Like the example above with the clip shot at night, there's no way I would have used that clip without Denoiser III. Red Giant continues to be a great plug-in developer and Denoiser III fits well into their product suite. Denoiser III is priced at $199 with academic and upgrade discounts available.