Animation Magazine

Tech Re­views

- By Todd Sheri­dan Perry Tech · Animation · Blackmagic Design · Avid Technology · Python · Adobe · Adobe After Effects · Media Composer · American Horror Story · Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Boris FX’s Mocha Pro 2020, Sap­phire 2020 and Sil­hou­ette 2020.

Boris FX’s Mocha Pro 2020

It’s been a lit­tle too long since I’ve re­viewed Mocha Pro, and it’s about time that we have a new one. Mocha Pro is known as a su­per pow­er­ful pla­nar tracker whose data can be used for a plethora of VFX so­lu­tions such as mon­i­tor re­place­ments, ob­ject re­moval, ro­to­scop­ing, etc. And 2020 is push­ing those fea­tures fur­ther. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The first big fea­ture is the abil­ity to cre­ate “Mega Plates.” VFX pros are con­stantly stitch­ing to­gether mul­ti­ple frames of a mov­ing shot in or­der to cre­ate a huge back­ground im­age that we can bring into Pho­to­shop and turn into a matte paint­ing or cre­ate an empty plate. Mocha Pro uses the track­ing data from the shot, and auto-mag­i­cally seams pix­els to­gether into a mas­sive im­age that cov­ers the en­tire cam­era move. That im­age can then be ma­nip­u­lated and comped back into the shot us­ing the same track­ing data that was used to track it in the first place. For ex­am­ple, take the footage of a per­son trudg­ing through the snow — on the eighth take, when his foot­prints from the other takes are all over the place. Cre­ate a Mega Plate, paint out the old foot­prints in the Pho­to­shop (or Nuke or what­ever), and then comp it back in. This is a su­per huge time-saver.

Next on the list is the Area Brush. I love this, be­cause I hate ro­to­scop­ing. Imag­ine a world where you can paint the area you want to track. A vec­tor-based spline is cre­ated where you painted, and you are ready to track. That’s when you re­al­ize that the world you imag­ined is now the world you are cur­rently liv­ing in. This is a fast and ef­fi­cient way of cre­at­ing ro­tomat­tes. And you can paint counter-mat­tes to mask the masks you are track­ing — as when other ob­jects are mov­ing in front. Or sub­tract­ing from the mid­dle of the mask, for times (like sun­glasses, for in­stance) when in­ter­nal re­flec­tions are con­fus­ing the track­ing en­gine. Again, this fea­ture proved to be an amaz­ing time-saver.

And on the house­keep­ing front — Mocha Pro now has an OpenColorI­O (OCIO) color management sys­tem, which is an ab­so­lute must for larger stu­dios, or smaller stu­dios work­ing on larger films. Python sup­port has also been up­dated to 3.7 for those that have cus­tom pipe­line tools that need to com­mu­ni­cate with Mocha Pro. And, with Boris FX bring­ing Sil­hou­ette into the mix, Mocha Pro talks nicely with the new fam­ily mem­ber, shar­ing shapes, cor­ner­pins, color data, etc., for a more seam­less flow of in­for­ma­tion.

I turn to Mocha Pro fre­quently for prob­lems rang­ing from the most mun­dane to is­sues where so­lu­tions in other soft­ware have failed. I be­lieve it should be a re­quired tool in your VFX tool­box. Don’t for­get: MochaPro has an Adobe plugin for Af­ter Ef­fects and Pre­miere Pro, as well as the OFX ver­sion with sup­port for a mul­ti­tude of plat­forms like Nuke, Black­magic’s Fu­sion, Flame, Avid Me­dia Com­poser and more!

Web­site: bor­

Price: $295 (12 months); Mocha Pro + Sap­phire (12 months): $595; Mocha Pro + Con­tin­uum (12 months): $495; Mocha Pro + Sap­phire + Con­tin­uum (12 months): $795

Boris FX’s Sap­phire 2020

Sap­phire and the other GenArts tools be­came part of the Boris FX fam­ily af­ter Mocha Pro, but be­fore Sil­hou­ette. So, you can say it’s the mid­dle child. But this prod­uct came from a very good home and has a long legacy of high­end plug­ins, es­pe­cially in the Flame and In­ferno worlds. Now we can all use them, and we should cel­e­brate be­cause they are quite great. And to add a dol­lop of whip cream on the banana split, it was rec­og­nized by the Tele­vi­sion Academy with a nice lit­tle Emmy Award.

Sap­phire 2020 is more about im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency and cre­ative work­flow and less about su­per sexy new plug­ins. How­ever, there is a su­per sexy new plugin: FreeLens.

Free­lens­ing — or lens whack­ing — is a tech­nique where you re­move the lens of the cam­era from its mount, and then hold the lens loose in front of the film sen­sor. This re­sults in all kinds of un­pre­dictable aber­ra­tions such as light leaks, ar­bi­trary fo­cus, tilt-shift ef­fects, etc. It gives the footage an “artsy” and fre­quently “dreamy” look, and is ap­par­ently all the rage!

The FreeLens mo­d­ule in Sap­phire ap­prox­i­mates this, and makes it more con­trol­lable. By ad­just­ing the lens ma­nip­u­la­tion, de­fo­cus, light leaks, you can de­sign the look of the whack. Ad­di­tion­ally, there is a pa­ram­e­ter to af­fect any ran­dom­ness by toy­ing with the shake mode — a pa­ram­e­ter­ized way to an­i­mate the value, and give it an or­ganic feel.

Like Mocha Pro and Sil­hou­ette, OpenColorI­O (OCIO) has been in­cor­po­rated into Sap­phire so that the re­sult will have the same color

trans­forms that are hap­pen­ing to the footage in other parts of the work­flow. This is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal in mak­ing sure that you are work­ing within the same color pa­ram­e­ters that have been set by the client — and re­main through the end color grade.

Be­cause Sap­phire is now part of the Boris FX fam­ily, the nu­mer­ous al­ready ex­ist­ing Sap­phire ef­fects as well as the new FreeLens can be tied to Mocha Pro which is help­ful for mask­ing out the FreeLens from ar­eas that you’d like to keep clear and vis­i­ble— like text or an ac­tor’s face. Also, for pre­vi­ous ef­fects, you can track lens flares to sources, lock con­tact points in Zap — the light­ning plugin. And like Freelens, track mat­tes can be used to isolate the ef­fects or hold them out.

The Pre­set Browser gives you an in­ter­face to se­lect and/or de­sign looks for the ef­fects, but in 2020 it has a com­pare mode to wipe be­tween the orig­i­nal footage and the ef­fect, and 16 more Lens Flares have been added to hun­dreds of al­ready ex­ist­ing pre­sets. Also, many of the ef­fects have been op­ti­mized to use your GPU — but also faster speeds on the CPU.

Sap­phire is (and al­ways has been) a more pre­mium plugin, so it’s not the cheap­est on the mar­ket. But, to be fair, a lot of ef­fects are in­cluded in the pack­age. And not to bow to a log­i­cal fal­lacy of ap­peal­ing to author­ity, but a lot of vis­ual ef­fects and de­sign houses work­ing on nu­mer­ous com­mer­cials, tele­vi­sion shows and films have Sap­phire in their quiver. Web­site: bor­­ucts/sap­phire Price: $495 (12-month sub)

Boris FX’s Sil­hou­ette 2020

Late last year, Sil­hou­ette be­came the lat­est fam­ily mem­ber in the grow­ing Boris FX house­hold. At the time, I hon­estly thought, “Hmm, in­ter­est­ing. But they al­ready have a strong roto tool in Mocha Pro,” com­pletely for­get­ting that in its evo­lu­tion, Sil­hou­ette has grown from hum­ble be­gin­nings as a roto and paint tool into a full fea­tured, node-based com­posit­ing tool with stereo sup­port and time­line se­quencer. Sil­hou­ette 2020 has so many new fea­tures, I could spend this en­tire re­view only talk­ing about the ro­to­scop­ing fea­tures. So, let’s see how this goes.

First is­sue of ro­to­scop­ing is the tedium of spline cre­ation. Sil­hou­ette 2020 has a cou­ple meth­ods of al­le­vi­at­ing that. One is set­ting key points around the shape you are roto-ing, and Sil­hou­ette de­tects the clos­est edge, grow­ing the curve as you add more points. The other is loosely draw­ing around the in­side edge of the fore­ground ob­ject, and then draw­ing an­other loose curve to de­fine the back­ground. Sil­hou­ette then fig­ures out what’s what, and cre­ates an edge sep­a­rat­ing the fore­ground and back­ground.

Next is­sue in ro­to­scop­ing is con­sis­tency of an­i­mated edges as ob­jects move around. The same mag­netic tech­nol­ogy used to cre­ate splines is used to grab points on the edge, and have Sil­hou­ette de­tect the edge and snap the spline to it. That helps im­mensely. But you also now have ac­cess to Ro­toOver­lay tools. Onion skin­ning shows where the splines have been and where they are go­ing. So, you have a vis­ual for con­ti­nu­ity of move­ment. Not only that, but if you see an er­rant line, you can click on it and jump to that frame to fix the prob­lem. On top of that, there are slid­ers for weight con­trol be­tween keyframes to fine-tune the in­ter­po­la­tion. This in­cludes a slider for mo­tion blurred frames to ad­just where in-be­tween curves are, but you can also ad­just the shut­ter of the cam­era to de­ter­mine how much blur there is.

Sil­hou­ette is al­ready a pow­er­ful paint tool. New brushes in­clude dodge and burn tools which can be re­fined to work within tight ex­po­sure pa­ram­e­ters — in the high­lights or mid­tones or shad­ows, for in­stance. This, as well as be­ing able to paint in just color or de­tails, is ideal for beauty work and cleanup. The paint strokes are vec­tor-based and non-de­struc­tive, so pa­ram­e­ters can be ad­justed af­ter the fact and an­i­mated.

All of these ro­to­scope and paint­ing tools can be driven by Sil­hou­ette’s own so­phis­ti­cated track­ing tools, or seam­lessly work with MochaPro.

Bor­isFX has put both tools into a sub­scrip­tion bun­dle that, given the power you are get­ting, doesn’t have a bad ROI at all.

Web­site: bor­­ucts/sil­hou­ette Price: $295 (12-month sub)

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