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November 2014
Issue: April 1, 2012

Review: Imagineer Systems' Mocha Pro V.3

By: Erik Vlietinck

PRODUCT: Imagineer Systems’ Mocha Pro 3.0.0

WEBSITE: www.imagineersystems.com

PRICE: $1,495

PROS: Layer groups, bounding box, join tool

CONS: Layer naming may get confusing after Merge

Imagineer Systems released Mocha Pro 3.0.0 with a bunch of new features that will make many of their customers happy as they meet their most urgent demands: On the management side, a layer tree system with layer grouping in folders, and project merging capabilities. In the tools department, the ability to quickly change a group of splines using a bounding box, the ability to select and modify multiple splines, an enhanced link tool to join points on the same or on separate layers, and a dope sheet for key manipulation. The release also offers better zooming and 3D camera solvers for After Effects, Nuke, Maya and C4D.

Mocha Pro is a planar tracker and rotoscoping tool, and while this hasn't changed with Version 3, the features that were added in the new version expand and build further on Mocha's ease-of-use, making the tracker a more powerful tool in the process. 

In terms of workflow, Mocha Pro 3 hasn't changed much from the previous version. However, if you're part of a workgroup, there is a huge efficiency boost: you can now merge projects. “Merge Projects” is a menu item that will be used mostly by artists who split up a project across various collaborators in order for each of them to work on a small part of the job. When all the parts are ready, the project manager can simply merge the project files into his own by selecting "Merge Project..." from the File menu.

Grouping and merging are quite flexible. The key point is that new layers in an existing group merge back to the same group. One possible workflow would be:

- Supervisor makes the initial project and sets up all the right footage settings such as frame rate and aspect ratio.

- Supervisor can then make groups for different objects in the scene, maybe put a single layer in each group with a rough shape showing the objects of interest for that group.

- Supervisor saves the project file.

- Each artist in the team makes new layers to create his roto in an existing group; artist can hide the layer drawn by the supervisor or delete it.

- Each artist saves his own copy of the project with a new name.

- Supervisor merges each artist’s work back into the master project when the work is done. The work comes back into the same groups he or she created.

This is just one approach. In my testing, I just made multiple projects of the same footage, created some roots of different parts of the clip in each project, and then merged the projects into the first I started with. That worked too. The only constraint is that the footage must have the same dimensions, length and aspect ratio across all projects being merged.

There shouldn’t be a problem with duplicate layers after merging either — something that I was curious about. It seems that the Imagineer Systems engineers disambiguate internally using a numeric ID. That does leave the project manager or supervisor with an extra task after merging: renaming the layers. If that step is skipped, it becomes difficult to know which layer each of them has worked upon.

For individual rotoscoping artists, the Merge Projects feature won’t be the most important novelty. The new functionality relating to layers and working with splines will matter much more to them. The ability to colorize individual splines as well as mattes seriously improves the workflow as it makes it so much easier to quickly see the different splines and mattes on a layer.

With the introduction of layer groups, Imagineer Systems has taken this new capability a step further. You can colorize splines and mattes on a group level as well, so that all layers and mattes of one layer group can have identical colors. With groups — folders, essentially — also allowing artists to turn off entire layer/spline/matte sets with one click, as well as being collapsible, there’s a nice bonus in efficiency and simplicity. 

Creating a spline in Mocha Pro has always been as easy as creating a Bezier curve in Adobe Illustrator, but you couldn’t change more than one point on that curve at a time. Worse yet, you couldn’t select multiple layers. In that respect, Version 3 is a dream come true. You can select multiple points on the same layer, as well as on different layers — even if those are not adjacent to each other. And it gets better.

When you now draw a spline, a white dotted rectangle will appear when you finish the spline. This rectangle is a bounding box and it allows you to reposition the entire spline, rotate or scale it, or change its aspect ratio. This is an improvement that is bound to save a lot of time.

Another improvement — and one that allows you to avoid gaps between adjacent spline shapes — is the Join tool. It took me a bit of trial and error before I grasped how it works exactly, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy. The way it works is that you select a point on one spline, then select the tool, then drag the point over to a point on an adjacent spline that you want to join with the first one.

The result is that both splines are now joined on that one point — the first one being the parent of the second one. Any action you take on the joined point affects both splines in that specific area. It’s easy to break the parent/child relationship as well, using the context menu when selecting the joined point.

In the area of keyframing, the Dope Sheet shows a lot of promise, but is currently limited with regards to what you can do with it. You can move group keys, and all layer keys will move with it, and you can copy and paste keys. The Dope Sheet timeline can be scaled, just as the Curve Editor, which is also still available.

The last set of new features in Version 3.0.0 are related to 3D cameras in After Effects, Maya, Nuke and Cinema 4D. To support 3D cameras Mocha Pro 3 has a new tab “Camera Solve.” This new camera solver uses planar tracking information to define a camera, then allows for an export of a 3D camera with null objects to assist the placement in a scene.

In order to benefit from this new feature in After Effects, users must have the “Mocha 3D track importer for AE plug-in” installed in the right folder of their After Effects installation.

The 3D camera solver has three different tracking modes:

- Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) camera tracking, which has to be used when the camera itself doesn’t move around the scene. In this scenario there is no parallax problem to solve.

- Small parallax tracking is used when the camera itself is moving and objects are not at close range but neither at great distance. Camera focus is usually long. 

- Large parallax tracking is for when the camera is moving, camera focus is anything from long to short, and objects can be up close or far away.

Lacking the After Effects plug-in, I am not capable of saying much about this new feature except that judging from a demo video it looks like the PTZ mode is quite simple to use, while the parallax modes require more than just basic knowledge of After Effects’ virtual 3D cameras.

You will be able to export the 3D information to FBX as well; currently Maya and Nuke, later also to Cinema 4D and others.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most of Version 3’s improvements can be catalogued as either time saving or easier to use. Some of the features will dramatically increase workflow efficiency, especially when large projects are managed by a team. In terms of new creative capabilities, the camera solver will especially appeal to After Effects users because of its associated plug-in.

Erik Vlietinck can be reached at: http://it-enquirer.com.