The Wizards of Aus: VFX Wizardry on YouTube Budget

The Wizards of Aus is a witty fish-out-of-water comedic TV series that follows Jack, a Gandalf-type wizard, who decides to leave a wannabe Middle Earth to live a normal low key life in the human realm. What could go wrong?

“This might be the strangest thing you see this year. But it’s so worth a look.” – Herald Sun & Daily Telegraph

The highly ambitious series is the brainchild of LateNite Films, a small creative production studio in Melbourne, Australia. The Wizards is LateNite’s biggest project to date, features celebrity cameos including Guy Pearce, has stunning visual effects – and was produced on a shoestring budget using Adobe After Effects and Imagineer’s mocha Pro. The series recently debuted in Australia by broadcaster SB2 and can also be seen in its entirety online.

“Stunning visual effects and celebrity cameos combine to tell a distinctly Aussie tale that’s part fantasy, part comical take on modern life” – Sunday Herald Sun

We sat down with LateNite’s Chris Hocking, General Manager/Producer, and Michael Shanks, Writer/Director, and asked them how mocha helped them pull of this magical feat.

Q & A

What was the post-production process like on The Wizards?

CHRIS: It was basically just Michael and myself working stupidly long days for 37 weeks – pretty much exclusively in After Effects & mocha. We had a few helping hands for some of the more complex 3D work like dragons, destruction and snakes, and a couple of the really, really time consuming roto/paint jobs – but for majority of the series, I did all the roto and tracking, and Michael did everything else.

MICHAEL: As Chris mentioned, our post period was about 37 weeks, usually pulling 14 hours days – it was crazy! Without mocha, which is _so_ fundamental now to our workflow you could easily add weeks to that post-production schedule.

What mocha modules have you used? 

CHRIS: I’m in the Track, AdjustTrack, Camera Solve, and Stabilise modules all the time. I’m yet to really get my head around the Insert & Remove modules so far. I’ve tried them a couple of times, but I generally end up just jumping over to After Effects because that’s what I know. However, just like it took me a while to truly understand the Track module in mocha – I’m confident, that once I “get” the Insert/Remove modules, it’ll be a massive time saver. The problem with learning on the job is that you never have time to stop and just play with things – you just need to be constantly turning over shots!

MICHAEL: I’m more of a layman when it comes to a lot of software I use – to the point I probably couldn’t tell you what modules I’m using! I just dive in and try and get software to work for me with as few tutorials as possible (because I’m an impatient hack). But what’s great about mocha is even with my reluctance to actually learn things, it’s so user friendly that after about 20 minutes of fumbling around I reckon I figured out how to do all I was hoping!

How many shots did you track with mocha?

CHRIS: For Wizards we had about 145 Mocha shots – majority of which were roto. To keep things as simple as possible, I generally exported out the Rendered Shapes as ProRes files, to keep things nice and snappy within After Effects.

MICHAEL: I think we probably used more shots than that for mocha, it’s now part of my pipeline for _every _shot. There’s always something that requires tracking or roto and Mocha is the fastest solution I’ve come across to do either of those fundamental tasks.

What is your favorite feature?

CHRIS: The planar tracker is like magic. The fact that you can use multiple planar tracks to generate a 3D solve is simply incredible.

MICHAEL: Planar tracking is a dream for both tracking and stabilization. I love it.

Would you recommend mocha to other post-production colleagues?

CHRIS: Absolutely. For anyone still doing painful time-consuming roto within After Effects – STOP NOW.

MICHAEL: Yeah, I’ve been telling all of my friends about it. None of my friends work in post, however, so they’re bored and confused – but I tell them nonetheless.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

CHRIS: I’m lucky in that for a job like Wizards, I get to be across the entire process from the initial budgeting stages, right through to exporting out the DCP for the cast and crew screening. Even though it was pretty much just Michael and myself locked away in Michael’s dungeon for 37 weeks during post – during production, we had an absolute dream team of amazing people to collaborate with.

MICHAEL: I just liked having Chris in my dungeon for 37 weeks. The entire show was just a ploy to get that to happen. What I love the most about my roles in Post Production is the endorphin spike I get every time I finish a comp. There’s something really amazing about seeing one of your shots go from an empty/unusable /confusing shot into a finished comp that tells your story.

Any additional thoughts you want to share?

CHRIS: I think next time we do a crazy VFX heavy show like this, we’ll employ some helpers for roto!

MICHAEL: I think the next time we do a crazy VFX heavy show like this, I’ll drink some cyanide.

Learn more about LateNightFilms.

Watch every episode of The Wizards of Aus.


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