The Chickening: VFX Remix Wows at Sundance

Tags: Mocha

What happens when mocha artists are let loose on a classic Kubrick film? VFX artists and directors, Nick DenBoer and Davy Force recently wowed the audience at the Sundance Film Festival with their raunchy and absurd remix of The Shining. Making the waves at many film festivals, this short takes Kubrick’s original horror film footage and magically reworks the characters into a fictional trailer for a bizarre new viewing experience. Now going viral,  The Chickening  might soon be known as the project that propelled these two effects artists to the mainstream!

Note: Mature content might not be appropriate for viewing at work! 


According to Nick DenBoer, The Chickening was a “proof of concept project” for a new form of TV Show – where every episode is a different classic film, remixed to give it a new narrative. DenBoer and Force both specialize in humor and visual effects rich projects. They have wanted to do something like this since collaborating on a crazy Ken Block project for DC shoes . Recently, their scheduled aligned and The Chickening  was fully hatched. Luckily Imagineer’s mocha Pro  was the secret weapon to help attack the intensive roto and tracking required to deliver this “no budget” project to the masses.

Indeed, this project has a lot of roto and masking.   mocha definitely helped in that department… Some of the shots are far from perfect but we made this in our spare time with no budget… so we had to manage our time and effort accordingly. With all the roto and tracking work on our plate, I knew right from the start that mocha Pro would be a big part of the project.

The two directors spent 1 week collaborating on the story, shooting elements and rough editing, then spent about 2 and a half months working on effects and compositing from their respective locations (DenBoer in Toronto and Force in LA). For replacing mouths, actors were shot on green screen with a reference monitor close by to help match the angles and lighting.  Faces were stabilized and rotoscoped with mocha  and composited in Adobe After Effects with lots of feathering, colour correction and grain matching.  DenBoer mentioned “significant time savings” when using mocha to mask the Danny character on the tricycle and was also able to “mask out Jack Nicholson with hardly any keyframes!”


This is not the first mocha effects heavy project that DenBoer has gotten attention for. As a former writer/producer for Conan O’Brien on TBS, DenBoer’s comedy parody shorts have been laughed at for years. According to Denboer, “While working on Conan , I would sometimes capture a live news clip in the morning, do a green screen shoot, comp it and send it off before rehearsal at 3:30 PM. Then I’d have an hour or 2 to blast off revisions for it to make it on air that same day. It is a crazy turn around so you have to learn how to prioritize things and compromise to get the best piece out quickly. Unlike traditional VFX, comedy usually allows you to be a bit loose. Sometimes the imperfections and haphazard VFX can add to the humor.”

mocha Pro has been part of my workflow for around 3 years. I also use Adobe After Effects and Maxon C4D. I do a lot of rotoscoping and motion tracking so I bounce between AE and mocha constantly. I just learned about MochaImport+  which blows my mind so I’m excited to implement that into my workflow!

DenBoer has also applied his unique style to many different projects including advertising, viral web shorts, music videos even political advertising. These Canadian political spoofs  were made last year for Vice Media. “I used mocha a lot for rotoscoping and tracking. The clips were a huge hit in Canada where, other than the odd crack-smoking mayor, Canadian politics is usually pretty boring!”

Since The Chickening premiered, DenBoer has taken the film to over 3o film festivals. “I think my favorite part is hearing people react to my videos. It’s great making people laugh and I’m glad when people enjoy my work.” To learn more about video artist, Nick DenBoer go here .


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