PRODUCT: Imagineer Systems' Mocha
PRICE: $2,995 for node locked; $4,495 for cross-platform floating license
is included for roto work
We put Imagineer Systems' Mocha to the test on a real-world
project in need of planar tracking. And for those of you who don't have a full
understanding of pixel and planar tracking, here are some basics:
When people need to track and add/replace something on
screen, typically you use a pixel tracker. This pixel tracker can log on to a
pattern and follow it along across the screen. Pixel tracking fails miserably
when you try to track an object that changes perspective, scale or z-depth.
Mocha picks up where pixel trackers fail.
This planar tracker allows the user to set a selective plane
instead of a point to track its movement, and changes it from frame to frame.
Imagine replacing the screen on a cell phone or an iPod that is hand held —
that screen is a plane and a plane is a shape that remains constant. Mocha
calculates translation so that even if turned sideways, the composite data
remains constant. It is actually a mathematical genius at work.
TRIAL BY FIRE
Although it's not always possible or preferred, the best way
to test a product is by using it on an actual project, which is exactly what we
did. Our experience was a trial by fire with a major deadline looming. The
images you see below are from a nationally-televised commercial for Toy Story
action figures from NYC's Uproar in which Mocha came to our rescue. We were
challenged with adding a Toy Story logo to a door. Sounds simple enough, right?
Wrong. The door swings open with the logo on it, so it's a bit more of a
challenge now. But not only does the door swing open, the camera is moving
toward it throughout.
So the challenge is to lock the logo to the door, which is
moving back in z-space; the door is opening on a hinge and the logo is getting
smaller in the distance while remaining constant size on the near edge of the
door. On top of that, the camera is on an up angle, being manually pushed on a
dolly through the door frame as the door is opening. None of it is motion
control — it's all manual movement. The math behind calculating scale, rotation
and z-space movement with the camera offset would keep a roomful of mathletes
busy for a while. At Stitch, we were using Autodesk Inferno on the spot. We
were able to get a decent track with Inferno; we just never got an exact lock
on the door.
The pixels change shape, size and position, all
simultaneously. After many attempts (and hours) using Inferno's pixel tracker
we decided to try out Mocha on a real job. Typically we would never use review
software on a real-world project, but we had run out of options. And the
clients were due in two hours to see the finished door perfectly tracked. With
time against us we started using Mocha, after watching a tutorial provided to
us. Within one hour we were done!!! Perfect track, rock solid. Mocha calculated
We saved out the tracking information and imported it into
Inferno. Then in Inferno we applied that data to our bi-linear surface, and it
looked great. With some color correction and a few glare layers we made a
cartoon-looking painted image on the door. The client approved it on first
sight — no revisions. There is no better way to say it: Mocha kicks ass. It
made this nightmare of a tracking project happen on time and under budget.
Needless to say, we are buying it.
UNDER THE HOOD
Now that I've shared my in-the-trenches story about how Mocha makes a big
difference in workflow, I will get technical about what it actually does. By
defining a plane to track, Mocha can take into account scaling, perspective,
rotation and environmental variables. Things like grain, motion blur, rain,
snow and lighting changes typically throw off trackers and make them swim.
Mocha can track perfectly, with all those anomalies. Adjust Track compensates
for drift by keyframing, and the four-point surface area makes problem shots much
easier to deal with.
Tracking shots that go out of frame are made easy in Mocha.
Using planar technology, Mocha can accurately track shots as they move out of
frame. Typically that can be a lot of guesswork and trial and error — this
product is a real time saver.
There are also many parameter tweaks within the software
that allow users to customize their workflow. And it isn't overwhelming like
many other programs with daunting menu pages that get a user lost and confused.
Another benefit is the export utility. Mocha supports export to Inferno, Flame,
Flint, Smoke, Combustion, Avid DS, Quantel generationQ, After Effects, Shake
WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
An added bonus is that Motor — Imagineer's automated
rotoscoping tool that saves many hours painting frames — is fully implemented.
It has full spline controls to manipulate the masks. It uses the tracking data
to create tween frames, which help minimize having too many keyframes in the
animation. When the roto is finished you can export the masks and shapes into
all of the aforementioned programs. We all know rotosoping can be pure hell at
times. The Motor part of Mocha can really help save time creating mattes and
leave more time for creativity.
After putting it through its paces, using it in a real-world
situation and coming out ahead of the game, we find Mocha to be a great
product. Next time you have a shot that's hard to track, go online and download
a demo version. Like me, you will become a fan.
Fred Ruckel a Compositor with Stitch in NYC. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.