Mind & Machine: Crowdfunded Sci-Fi series – Con Man

At Imagineer, some of our staff are unabashed fans of director, Joss Whedon’s sci-fi, space western TV show Firefly. While, Firefly was unfortunately cancelled after only 11 episodes, it went on to build a large and passionate audience from DVD sales, online streaming and the companion story in Whedon’s film, Serenity.

Recently, the popular Firefly & Serenity stars, Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion rebooted their unique experiences and cult-like following, into an incredibly successful crowdfunded IndieGoGo project and produced the web series, Con Man. The new series (available exclusively On Vimeo On Demand) is a lighted hearted take on the sci-fi community and follows Tudyk and Fillion’s “fictional alter egos” through the strange post-show life of conventions, in-store appearances and post-cancellation success and failure.

At Siggraph, Imagineer was excited to meet Mind & Machine VFX, the team behind Con Man and even got involved in the crowdfunding by donating mocha Pro software to help support the unique project. Here we discuss the tight-deadline, tight-budget project with Kevin Hoppe, Associate VFX Supervisor and Mind & Machine founder/VFX Supervisor, Billy Brooks, to explore how mocha Pro’s tracking & roto tools helped keep the project on time and on budget.

Mind & Machine VFX was born during the post-production of the sci-fi film Space Station 76 when VFX Supervisor, Billy Brooks, assembled a crack team of generalists to help finish nearly 500 visual effects shots over seven months. Mind & Machine is based on a collective of freelancers working remotely, and specializes in quick turnaround effects for film and TV. While mocha has been a part of their workflow since inception, mocha Pro happily turned out to be a real win on Con Man. Mind & Machine uses both The Foundry’s Nuke and Adobe After Effects for compositing and supports the workflow with the Adobe bundled mocha AE and mocha Pro to support Nuke. Both workflows came in handy when the team had many more screen replacements than originally estimated after the edit was complete.

“On Con Man we had quite a lot of screen replacement shots that were fairly easy, but also were somewhat of a surprise, so there was not a lot of room in the budget for them. mocha Pro allowed us to put one artist on these shots and finish them all in very little time.”

  • Kevin Hoppe, Associate VFX Supervisor

Kevin Hoppe had a lot of positive things to say about using mocha Pro on_ Con Man_. mocha Pro was used on about fifty shots, pasting mocha solved planar tracking data directly into Nuke produced a fast & efficient workflow, compared to manually hand correcting tracks inside of Nuke. “Shots where the background needs to be tracked, shots that have out-of-focus elements, or contain objects leaving frame and coming back are hard for any tracking software, but mocha really helps gets those shots right for Con Man,” said Hoppe. For truly difficult shots where there was not enough data to track, mocha was able to solve one axis, providing a solution for the Mind & Machine artists to get the basic motion down and simplified the manual key-framing process.

mocha Pro simply became the software we reached for whenever there was tracking to be done. It works so well and so dependably that it didn’t make a lot of sense messing with anything else. Even though it might have been overkill for some shots, the guarantee of a good track is priceless.”

To view the Con Man web series, visit Con Man on Vimeo.


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