Note: Continuing with our artist interview series, we profile compositor, Roni Rodrigues from the award-winning London effects facility, BlueBolt. At last years’ SIGGRAPH, Roni stopped by the Imagineer booth and mentioned how mocha was greatly helping his tracking and compositing work. Following the recent release of “Jupiter Ascending,” Imagineer’s Ross Shain and Roni were finally able to catch up for a quick follow up.
Q: Hi Roni, thanks for syncing up. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How long have you been in post-production and what are your specific responsibilities at BlueBolt?
My name is Roni Rodrigues and I’ve been working in the post-production industry for the last 12 years. After video editing for many years, I decided to broaden my knowledge & study Digital Effects at the National Film & Television School (2012). Since then I have been working in VFX at Bluebolt, where I am now a junior compositor.
BlueBolt is an award-winning Visual Effects facility offering high-end 2D, CG and Digital Matte Painting to the international film and television industry. Our team has extensive experience on productions of all scales. We pride ourselves on delivering the very best quality and service from concept and pre-production through shoot supervision to final delivery.
Q: How long has Mocha been a part of your workflow? What were some of the reasons BlueBolt decided to use it?
Mocha Pro has been a part of our workflow for approximately 7 months now. At the time, we had a major film project which required a lot of make-up & wig fixes and we were using the planar tracker in NUKE X to output Corner Pin nodes in order to track skin textures. Quite often we would spend a lot of time trying to get the perfect results we needed, especially when trying to track plates with severe lens distortion. It didn’t take long to realize that Mocha Pro provides quick & accurate planar-tracking, even when there are no clearly defined tracking points in the image. Mocha delivered the desired results the first time on many occasions, allowing artists to spend more time on creative decisions.
Q: You have mentioned “Jupiter Ascending”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Fortitude” and “The Imitation Game” were some of the most recent projects you used mocha Pro to complement NUKE on. Can you tell us a bit about these projects? What specific areas of mocha are used?
We started using Mocha Pro on “Jupiter Ascending” where we had several shots in which we were required to track faces in order to make actors appear older. Although the planar tracker in NUKE X is good, it struggled to give the right results quickly on some shots, especially when actors rotated their heads. We used mocha’s planar tracker to track facial features instead, adding aging marks, crows feet around eyes and age lines around mouths, while always keeping the natural distortion of the stretching skin when they were speaking. The results were great and we saved a lot of time on what was previously a partly manual process in NUKE alone. From that point onwards we used mocha Pro on almost all similar shots. After that successful experience, we adapted the same workflow for face-replacements and similarly detailed work on many other shows such as “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”, “The Imitation Game”, “Fortitude”, “Macbeth”, “Woman in Gold” and others.
Q: How does Mocha integrate into your Nuke workflow?
The integration into NUKE is quick and easy. As soon as the tracking is done, we copy the track data into the clipboard and paste it directly into NUKE. This appears as a Corner Pin node and can be edited within NUKE in the usual ways if necessary.
Q: Approximately how many shots get tracked with mocha in any given project (perhaps choose 2 projects to compare)? How did mocha assist the process?
Our work is usually varied and requires us to make educated choices before we start each shot. We use NUKE with 2D tracks by default, but if issues arise we know that mocha is going to solve the problem. When planar-tracking is definitely required, we use Mocha as our first-choice tracker approximately 60% of the time because of its ease and speed.
Q: The projects that BlueBolt has worked on are quite different in terms of genre, style and visual effects. Can you tell us how projects like these compare? For example, a sci-fi movie like “Jupiter Ascending” seems like it would be very VFX-heavy while one might not expect many visual effects in “The Imitation Game.” What kind of shots are you working on and how does Mocha fit in?
Different projects have different requirements. “Jupiter Ascending” was obviously heavy in easily noticeable VFX. Other projects like “The Imitation Game” have provided more varied challenges. We needed to produce invisible VFX in the form of clean-up work and set extensions as well as rebuilding battle scenes and bombed buildings from WWII. Mocha’s powerful tracker was relied upon regularly for the kind of seamless work we produced.
Q: How much time do you typically spend on a particular film?
That varies and depends upon many factors. Each shot is studied and discussed in advance. Then we work with the clients on the general approach to fit their needs and the time-frame. It’s important to make good decisions in the early stages. Strangely, some of the simplest looking shots can actually be very technically challenging. We have produced complex CG shots that can take up to 6 months – from the concept through all the approval stages to 3D builds to the final compositing. Other work like clean-up usually takes between 1-3 days.
We have found that Mocha Pro is great for planar tracking. It is considerably more accurate, reliable & flexible than other tools we could use. Time is always an important consideration and mocha often provides the best results in the quickest time.
Q: Can you talk about any particular challenges or shots that mocha helped on in any given project? Would these shots have been more difficult to achieve in another set of tools?
The biggest challenge we had was during the “Jupiter Ascending” project where we needed to accurately track facial expressions. Many shots were close-ups and there was no room for any inaccuracies in our tracking. Analyzing and separating areas to track in order to age actors was challenging. Mocha was more than capable of hitting the mark quickly.