Hands-on with mocha Pro/Plus, Focus Magazine, Feb15
02 March 2015


Written by: Ian Sandall, Focus Magazine, February 2015

For a good part of my working life I survived without knowing how a single piece of broadcast software worked. This all changed when I got my first NLE and from those early Speed Razor days to now I’ve got pretty reasonable on editing software and especially the fascinating plugins that we all need to get the latest effects. I now have a favourite NLEfor commercials and high production value work (Premiere Pro) as well as a favourite for speedy cut’n’shuts (that would be Avid) as well as a choice if I just want to have a laugh and see how badly wrong they got it. I’ll leave you to work that one out. But the elephant in the room hasproved to be After Effects. I knowwhat it does and what it’s good atbut even after some hourshave never actually managedto make it do anything thatlooks vaguely professional– something that a skilledperson could do easily. So Inormally just walk away. AndI think part of the problemfor me is that everythingtakes so long! So for nowI’m content to know what AEdoes (which is useful froma production point of view)but get other people to do my ‘dirtywork’. So when I was asked to review thelatest version of Imagineer System’s mocha, something – that to my eyesat least – appeared to have some ofthe elements and work methods ofAfter Effects, I was initially less thanenthusiastic. How wrong I was - andhow pleased I am to have reviewedit.My mind was changed in twostages. First, when I spoke toa few GFX wizards who told mehow amazing mocha was andsecond when I saw just howquickly and just how brilliantlyit works. mocha is available in (pardonthe pun) various flavours anda basic version is bundledwith After Effects CC already. Onenotch up from that is mocha Plus at$245 which works with After Effects,Premiere Pro, Final Cut, Motion, andBoris FX; above that is mocha Pro at(gulp) $1495 which works with justabout any video software out thereincluding some very esoteric ones. At its heart, mocha is basically veryclever planar tracking* technology.So clever that they’ve licensed thetechnology to loads of other companiesin the FX business. And won anAcademy Award.To stabilize anything, remove thingsfrom shots, add elements that trackwith your shot, rotoscope or basicallymatch anything into existing scenes,you need to know where everythingis first. You need to track it.Everywhere you look there are flatplanes. On any given shot you mayhave a wall, a floor or any number ofthem. By tracking a plane as opposedto ‘point tracking’ (which is how simplertracking technology works) youget far more accurate results and aremuch less likely to run into problemswith motion blur, noise, things in theway or lighting changes. And problems mean duff effects andbasically scenes that don’t quite lookright - which would never do! So youneed to get it right first time. And mocha delivers.Anyone who’s marvelled at some ofthe effects in the Harry Potter movies,The Hobbit, Black Swan, The AmazingSpiderman or The Wolf of Wall Streetwill have seen (or not seen as thecase may be) mocha at its best. Sohow’s it going to be useful to those ofus with rather lower budgets who are(to put it politely) a few steps furtherdown the production food-chain? Well, actually quite a lot. But beforewe talk about the possibilities forcorporates, lower-end commercialsand web promos, I’m going to handover to a multi-talented editor and AEperson, Matt Thompson ...’‘From now on I will only be using mocha for tracking! In the past I usedAE which did a good job,but before I even startedprojects I would advise producershow things shouldbe shot in order to get agood track when in post.There is no need for me todo that anymore as mochawill cope with anything! mocha is very easy to useand considerably more accurate.This is because its engine isintelligent enough to figure out trackingdata without using tracking pointsso it can be used effectively on prettymuch any type of shot you want. Tracking is considered by some tobe a very tricky and complex techniquethat requires lots of prep, skilland hours; if the footage isn’t quiteright the tracking probably won’t beeither. On a certain level that is stilltrue, but using mocha has reallychanged my mind. Withinminutes I was getting perfecttracks on footage I wouldn’thave considered trying to trackin AE! Not only was the trackingand stabilization moreaccurate, it was much quicker.It really made me change theway I looked at footage. I usedto have a good Idea of what Iwas capable of with regards tothings like this, but mocha hasexpanded my horizons and got melooking at things differently. mocha Plus’s integration with Premiere is a perfect example because if youaren’t necessarily up to speed on AE/Nuke/etc. (he means me I think ….)you still have opportunity of takingadvantage of some of its greatfeatures. Filmmakers, videographers, don’tbe scared! Have a try as it really issimple to use. mocha’s website hasloads of video tutorials that can helpyou get to grips with the programso whether you are trying it for thefirst time or if you are an experiencedMotion Graphics artist, thereis something there for you. As someone who is familiar withAfter Effects, I found the integration mocha has with it to be oneof the best features. Exporting theinformation to subsequently copyinto AE was something I found veryeasy. This software is fantastic!’ It’s unfortunate that both Matt andI did not have more time to reallypush mocha as whatever wethrew at it, it just worked. The finalclincher (for me) was seeing howfast mocha worked. Admittedly itwas running on a fast Macbook Prowith SSDs but even so I was blownaway. Inevitably we were just puttingHD into it so cannot judge what4k or higher will do. A few of our tests are here andthanks to Matt for editing these: So what’s it going to be useful for(and do you need the Pro versionwhen the Plus version is much morejustifiable?) Well in terms of use, the inevitablefirst choice is stabilization of anythingwhere the camera is moving.Tracks, handhelds and even in-carare all possible – quickly and accurately.Replacing stuff or even removing italtogether is another possibility andthis works better than you could evenimagine, mocha just filling in massiveparts of the frame. And finally for adding titles that‘track’ with the action this software isjust phenomenal. But that is all reallythe tip of the iceberg. Drill down and mocha does far more as a cursorylook round the Imagineer site willprove. So is it worth spending $1495 for mochaPro? Certainly if you’re going touse it every day. Nothing else comesclose. It’ll speed up workflows noend; for any type of Motion Graphicssetup or AE station in a facility house,it’s a no-brainer. For rather lessfrequent use, the ‘strippedout’ mocha Plus will probablydo. It doesn’t have so manyfeatures (but are you going touse the extensive 3D featuresof Pro? I didn’t think so) butthe features it does have arereally useful. For years we’ve been saying‘we’ll sort it out in post’ andfinally here’s a tool that actuallyWILL! But more than that,having its capabilities meansthat we can now plan shotsand effects to take advantageof the great things that mocha can do. So it’s not justbecome a filmmaker’s servant,it’s become a true part of thecreative toolkit. And it’s rarethat you can say that aboutsoftware. *To find out more about planartracking, Imagineer have agood video here: I’m indebted to Matt Thompsonfor his cheerful help and inputon the preparation of thisreview. The Imagineer websitehas loads of how-to videosshowing the various featuresof the software in use. Check these out first and also noteyou can download demo versionsbefore you purchase.

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