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Five things I learned from CGWorkshop’s ‘Rotoscoping With Mocha'

By Nicholas Restuccio
November 25, 2011
Five things I learned from CGWorkshop’s ‘Rotoscoping With Mocha' I recently got the opportunity to attend the Rotoscoping With Mocha, with Steve Wright (pictured below) online seminar offered by the CGSociety (www.cgsociety.org). Here's some of what I took away.

1. Online Training is the Future and the Present
The educational landscape is changing faster than anyone wants to admit. Online training is a great way for working professionals to stay relevant in any field, but especially for technology professionals and content creators. We get to re-learn our professions from the ground up every two years as the cost of doing business. For most of us, training has to come to us and be accessible any time of day from any computer we happen to be in front of. Ergo, online training is a only solution that works, and the CGSociety’s workshop was exactly what I expected it to be: accessible from any machine at any time.

2. Workshops with software license are cost effective
With a retail price of $1,695 for a single-seat license, Imagineer’s Mocha Pro is a little out of reach for most independent artists. The workshop provides a temporary, but fully unlocked, license that lets freelancers and even small studios go beyond the demo to experience the entirety of the software's features for a fraction of the cost. This also lets artists new to, in this case rotoscoping, gain valuable software fluency before being put on a project. So they can hit the ground running rather than scrambling to learn the software while on the clock and under deadline.

3. Instructor Feedback is the Key
While small, private universities still advertise a learning environment with one-on-one instructor interaction, few online training sources do. The direct interaction with the instructor separates the CGWorkshop’s seminar from other canned online training videos. After you've completed your weekly assignments and posted it to the forum, you receive an audio review of your work within a couple of days. Wright walks you through your project file with constructive criticism and detailed instructions on how to improve your work. For many artists this is a rare opportunity to have their work critiqued by someone other than a superior or a client, and hearing something other than "I don't like this part" is revelatory.

4. Divide and Conquer
Many artists when tackling their first roto assignment will try to use one giant matte to cover their subject. This creates an unwieldy mess once the subject begins to move, and by the end of the shot it's almost impossible to manipulate. The more elegant solution is to break the target silhouette into smaller pieces and use a series of smaller roto shapes with fewer points. That saves time and produces a better-looking matte that moves more gracefully. But keep an eye on where your smaller mattes overlap each other, and maintain a smooth edge.

5. Feathered Edges Make all the Difference
After just a few hours with the software, most users can draw a pretty decent matte around a subject. After four weeks of training you'll begin to see all the problems with the early mattes you drew. One of the most common problems is this: most of the objects you'll want to roto have soft blurry edges. The first mattes most artists draw have sharply defined edges that give their rotos a harsh and artificial look. The way to fix this is by using the built-in suite of edge feathering tools in Mocha. They allow you to control the amount of edge feathering simply and directly by removing that hard edge and making for better roto mattes and in turn better compositing.

I'll expect good things from CGSociety in the future as they expand their offering of classes and seminars. I'm curious to see how having such comprehensive instructor interaction holds up for workshops with more participants and with more complex software tools like Nuke and Maya.


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