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Red Giant Software's Instant HD

Instant HD from Red Giant Software is pretty cool! By Heath McKnight

I love third party plug-ins and software apps for Final Cut Pro, and for this article, I'll be taking a look at Instant HD from Red Giant Software (, makers of the terrific Magic Bullet line of plug-ins.  I am only focusing on one plug-in this time because I wanted to add a little workflow in.

Working With Instant HD
For my test, I exported a widescreen Standard Definition (SD)/NTSC 24p (856 x 480, 23.98 fps) QuickTime clip from an HD project. I purposely wanted a true widescreen clip to avoid pillar boxing (vertical letterboxing) that you'd see on a 4:3 NTSC clip that goes to HD (720 x 480). 

Note: You MUST use progressive video, not interlace. This is in the instructions Red Giant Software supplies with the plug-in (you can also use the application with After Effects and Premiere Pro).  If you have 60i video, use the De-Interlace filter to create a progressive-scan version, or use Magic Bullet, Nattress, or DVFilm's 24p filters to convert (it can't have a pulldown, either). It doesn't have to be 24p; it just has to be progressive.

I open Final Cut Pro and go to File, Easy Set-Up and select DVCPRO HD 720p24. I import my widescreen NTSC clip and drop it onto the 720p24 timeline.  In the latest versions of FCP (6 and 7), it will ask you if you want the sequence/timeline settings to match the clip. Click No and the clip is now on the timeline. 

Go to the Effects tab in FCP and go to the Video Filters Folder, then locate the Red Giant folder with Instant HD contained within.  Drag the filter onto your clip, then double-click to send it to the Viewer. Click on the Filters tab and you'll see the Instant HD settings.

  Here's what I set for mine

My Instant HD settings

I set the Input Size to NTSC DV Widescreen (720 x 480), but manually changed the horizontal aspect ratio to 856. I also kept the Input Aspect Ratio at .89 and it seems just fine. If you're not using 856 x 480 video, but 4:3/720 x 480 video, go ahead and select NTSC DV (720 x 480) and instead of trying to "stretch the pixels" to 1280 x 720 (and giving an appearance of being horizontally stretched out), it'll add pillar boxes to your video.

Here's the resulting video; the original widescreen 480p24 and the 720p24 Instant HD result (both encoded from FCP via QuickTime Conversion, H.264, and AAC/128 kbps audio):

9:04 AM, Widescreen NTSC Standard Definition, 856 x 480, 24p. 

9:04 AM after the Instant HD uprez; 1280 x 720, 24p

I think Instant HD from Red Giant Software is a pretty cool little plug-in!  It's a lot of fun and I'm already imagining what other NTSC/SD clips I may have sitting around that I can turn into 720p HD and eventually put out on Blu-ray Disc or online.  To find out more about Instant HD, visit

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:NLE, video editing, final cut pro plugin, video workflow


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