Tag Archives: Boris FX

Review: Boris FX Continuum 2020.5 and Sapphire 2020

By Brady Betzel

The latest Boris FX 2020 plugin releases like Continuum, Sapphire and Mocha, as well as the addition of the Silhouette software (and paint plugin!), have really changed the landscape of effects and compositing.

Over the course of two reviews I will be covering all four of Boris FX’s 2020 offerings — Continuum 2020.5 and Sapphire 2020 now, and Mocha Pro 2020.5 and Silhouette 2020.5 to come soon — for NLE applications like Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Blackmagic Resolve. Silhouette is a bit different in that it comes as a stand-alone or a compatible plugin for Adobe Premiere or After Effects (just not Avid Symphony/Media Composer at the moment).

Because they are comparable, and editors tend to use both or choose between the two, Continuum 2020.5 and Sapphire 2020 are first. In an upcoming review, I will cover Mocha 2020.5 and Silhouette 2020.5; they have a similar feature set from the outside but work symbiotically on the inside.

While writing this review, Boris FX released the 2020.5 updates for everything but Sapphire, which will eventually come out, but they are dialing it in. You’ll see that I jump back and forth between 2020 and 2020.5 a little bit. Sorry if it’s confusing, but 2020 has some great updates, and 2020.5 has even more improvements.

All four Boris FX plugins could have a place in your editing tool kit, and I will point out the perks of each as well as how all of them can come together to make the ultimate Voltron-like plugin package for editors, content creators, VFX artists and more.

Boris FX has standardized the naming of each plugin and app with release 2020. Beyond that, Continuum and Sapphire 2020 continue to offer the same high-quality effects you know, continue to integrate Mocha tracking, and have added even more benefits to what I always thought was an endless supply of effects.

You have a few pricing options called Annual Subscription, Permanent, Renewals (upgrades), Units and Enterprise. While I have always been a fan of outright owning the products I use, I do like the yearly upgrades to the Boris FX products and think the Annual Subscription price (if you can afford it) is probably the sweet spot. Continuum alone ranges from $295 per year for Adobe-only to $695 per year for Avid, Adobe, Apple and OFX (Resolve). Sapphire alone ranges from $495 to $895 per year, Mocha Pro ranges from $295 to $595 per year, and Silhouette goes for $995 per year. You can bundle Continuum, Sapphire and Mocha Pro from $795 to $1,195 per year. If the entire suite of plugins is too expensive for your wallet, you can purchase individual categories of plugins called “units,” and you can find more pricing options here.

Ok, let’s run through some updates …

Continuum 2020.5
Boris FX Continuum 2020.5 has a few updates that make the 2020 and 2020.5 releases very valuable. At its base level, I consider Continuum to be more of an image restoration, utility and online editor tool kit. In comparison, Sapphire is more of a motion graphics, unicorn poop, particle emitter sparkle-fest. I mean unicorn poop in the most rainbow-colored and magnanimous way possible. I use Continuum and Sapphire every day, and Continuum is the go-to for keying, tracking, roto, film grain and more. Sapphire can really spice up a scene, main title or motion-graphics masterpiece.

My go-to Continuum tools are Gaussian Blur, Primatte Keyer (which has an amazing new secondary spill suppressor update) and Film Grain — all of which use the built-in Mocha planar tracking. There are more new tools to look at in Continuum 2020, including the new BCC Corner Pin Studio, BCC Cast Shadow and BCC Reflection. BCC Corner Pin Studio is a phenomenal addition to the Continuum plugin suite, particularly inside of NLEs such as Media Composer, which don’t have great built-in corner pinning abilities.

As an online editor, I often have to jump out of the NLE I’m using to do title work. After Effects is my tool of choice because I’m familiar with it, but that involves exporting QuickTime files, doing the work and re-exporting either QuickTime files with alpha channels or QuickTime files with the effect baked into the footage. If possible, I like to stay as “un-baked” as possible (feel free to make your own joke about that).

BCC Corner Pin Studio is another step forward in keeping us inside of one application. Using Corner Pin Studio with Mocha planar tracking is surprisingly easy. Inside of Media Composer, place the background on v2 and foreground on v1 of the timeline, apply BCC Corner Pin Studio, step into Effects Mode, identify the foreground and background, use Mocha to track the shot, adjust compositing elements inside of Avid’s Effect window, and you’re done. I’ve over-simplified this process, but it works pretty quickly, and with a render, you will be playing back a rock-solid corner pin track inside of the same NLE you are editing in.

Avid has a few quirks when working with alpha channels to say the least. When using BCC Corner Pin Studio along with the Avid title tool, you will have to “remove” the background when compositing the text. To do this, you click and drag (DO NOT Alt + Drag) a plugin like BCC Brightness and Contrast on top of the Avid title tool layer, enable “Apply to Title Matte” and set background to “None.”

It’s a little cumbersome, but once you get the workflow down, it gets mechanical. The only problem with this method is that when you replace the matte key on the Avid title tool layer, you lose the ability to change, alter or reposition the title natively inside of the Avid title effect or title tool itself. Just make sure your title is “final,” whatever final means these days. But corner pinning with this amount of detail inside of Media Composer can save hours of time, which in my mind equals saving money (or making more money with all your newly found free time). You can find a great six-minute tutorial on this by Vin Morreale on Boris FX’s YouTube page.

Two more great new additions to Continuum in release 2020 are BCC Cast Shadow and Reflection. What’s interesting is that all three — Corner Pin Studio, Cast Shadow and Reflection — can be used simultaneously. Well, maybe not all three at once, but Corner Pin Studio with Shadow or Reflection can be used together when putting text into live-action footage.

Life Below Zero, a show I online edit for Nat Geo, uses this technique. Sometimes I composite text in the snow or in the middle of a field with a shadow. I don’t typically do this inside of Media Composer, but after seeing what Corner Pin Studio can do, I might try it. It would save a few exports and round trips.

To ramp up text inserted into live-action footage, I like to add shadows or reflections. The 2020 Continuum update with Cast Shadow and Reflection makes it easy to add these effects inside of my NLE instead of having to link layers with pick whips or having special setups. Throw the effect onto my text (pre-built graphic in After Effects with an alpha channel) and boom: immediate shadow and/or reflection. To sell the effect, just feather off the edge, enable a composite-mode overlay, or knock the opacity down and you are done. Go print your money.

In the Continuum 2020.5 update, one of my most prized online editing tools that has been updated is BCC Remover. I use BCC Remover daily to remove camera people, drones in the sky, stray people in the background of shots and more. In the 2020.5 update, BCC Remover added some great new features that make one of the most important tools even more useful.

From an ease-of-use standpoint, BCC Remover now has Clone Color and Clone Detail sliders. Clone Color can be used to clone only the color from the source, whereas Clone Detail can be used to take the actual image from the source. You can mix back and forth to get the perfect clone. Inside of Media Composer, the Paint Effect has always been a go-to tool for me, mainly for its blurring and cloning abilities. Unfortunately, it is not robust — you can’t brighten or darken a clone; you can only clone color or clone the detail. But you can do both in BCC Remover in Continuum 2020.5.

In addition, you can now apply Mocha Tracking data to the Clone Spot option and specify relative offset or absolute offset under the “Clone” dropdown menu when Clone Spot is selected. Relative offset allows you to set the destination (in the GUI or Effects panel), then set the source (where you want to clone from), and when you move the destination widget, the source widget will be locked at the same distance it was set at. Absolute offset allows both the source and destination to be moved independently and tracked independently inside of Mocha.

There are a lot more Continuum 2020 updates that I couldn’t get into in this space, and even more for the 2020.5 update. More new transitions were added, like the trendy spin blur dissolve, the area brush in Mocha (which I now use all the time to make a quick garbage matte), huge Particle Illusion improvements (including additional shapes) and Title Studio improvements.

In 2020.5, Particle Illusion now has force and turbulence options, and Title Studio has the ability to cast shadows directly inside the plugin. Outside of Title Studio (and back inside of an NLE like Avid), you have direct access to Composite modes and Transformations, letting you easily adjust parameters directly inside of Media Composer instead of jumping back and forth.

Title Studio is really becoming a much more user-friendly plugin. But I like to cover what I actually use in my everyday editing work, and Corner Pin Studio, Cast Shadow/Reflection and Remover are what I use consistently.

And don’t forget there are hundreds of effects and presets including BCC Flicker Fixer, which is an easy fix to iris shifts in footage (I’m looking at you, drone footage)!

Sapphire 2020
I’ve worked in post long enough to remember when Boris FX merged with GenArts and acquired Sapphire. Even before the merger, every offline editor used Sapphire for its unmistakable S_Glow, Film Looks and more.

It’s safe to say that Sapphire is more of an artsy-look plugin. If you are wondering how it compares to Continuum, Sapphire will take over after you are done performing image restoration and technical improvements in Continuum. Adding glows, blurs, dissolves, flutter cuts and more. Sapphire is more “video candy” than technical improvements. But Sapphire also has technical plugins like Math Ops, Z Depth and more, so each plugin has its own perks. Ideally both work together very well if you can afford it.

What’s new in Sapphire 2020? There are a few big ones that might not be considered sexy, but they are necessary. One is OCIO support and the ability to apply Mocha-based tracking to 10 parameter-driven effects: S_LensFlare, S_EdgeRays, S_Rays, S_Luna, S_Grunge, S_Spotlight, S_Aurora, S_Zap, S_MuzzleFlash and S_FreeLens.

In addition, there are some beauty updates, like the new S_FreeLens. And one of the biggest under-the-hood updates is the faster GPU rendering. A big hurdle with third-party effects apps like Continuum and Sapphire is the render times when using effects like motion blur and edge rays with Mocha tracking. In Sapphire 2020 there is a 3x speed and performance increase (depending on the host app you are using it on). Boris FX has a great benchmark comparison.

So up first I want to cover the new OCIO support inside of Sapphire 2020. OCIO is an acronym for “OpenColorIO,” which was created by Sony Picture Imageworks. It’s essentially a way to use Sapphire effects, like lens flares, in high-end production workflows. For example, for Netflix final deliverables, they ask the colorist to work in an ACES environment, but the footage may be HLG-based. The OCIO options can be configured in the effect editor. So just choose the color space of the video/image you are working on and what the viewing color space is. That’s it.

If you are in an app without OpenColorIO, you can apply the effect S_OCIOTransform. This will allow you to use the OCIO workflow even inside apps that don’t have OCIO built in. If you aren’t worried about color space, this stuff can make your eyes glaze over, but it is very important when delivering a show or feature and definitely something to remember if you can.

On top of the tried-and-true Sapphire beauty plugins like S_Glow or S_Luna (to add a moon), Boris FX has added S_FreeLens to its beauty arsenal. Out in the “real world,” free lensing or “lens whacking” is when you take your lens off of your camera, hold it close to where it would normally mount and move the lens around to create dream-like images. It can add a sort of blur-flare dreamy look; it’s actually pretty great when you need it, but you are locked into the look once you do it in-camera. That’s why S_FreeLens is so great; you can now adjust these looks after you shoot instead of baking in a look. There are a lot of parameters to adjust, but if you load a preset, you can get to a great starting point. From defocus to the light leak color, you can animate and dial in the exact look you are going for.

Parameter tracking has been the next logical step in tying Mocha, Continuum and Sapphire together. Finally, in Sapphire 2020, you can use Mocha to track individual parameters. Like in S_LensFlare, you can track the placement of the hotspot and separately track its pivot.

It’s really not too hard once you understand how it correlates inside the Mocha interface. Sapphire sets up two trackers inside of Mocha: 1) the hotspot search area and position of the actual flare, and 2) the pivot search area and position of the pivot point. The search area gathers the tracking data, while the position crosshair is the actual spot on which the parameter will be placed.

While I’m talking about Mocha, in the Sapphire 2020 update, Mocha has added the Area Brush tool. At first, I was skeptical of the Area Brush tool — it seemed a little too easy — but once I gave in, I realized the Area Brush tool is a great way to make a rough garbage matte. Think of a magnetic lasso but with less work. It’s something to check out when you are inside of Mocha.

Summing Up
Continuum and Sapphire continue to be staples of broadcast TV editors for a reason. You can even save presets between NLEs and swap them (for instance, Media Composer to Resolve).

Are the Boris FX plugins perfect? No, but they will get you a lot further faster in your Media Composer projects without having to jump into a bunch of different apps. One thing I would love to see Boris FX add to Continuum and Sapphire is the ability to individually adjust your Mocha shapes and tracks in the Avid Effects editor.

For instance, if I use Mocha inside of BCC Gaussian Blur to track and blur 20 license plates on one shot — I would love to be able to adjust each “shape’s” blur amount, feather, brightness, etc., without having to stack additional plugin instances on top.

But Boris FX has put in a lot of effort over the past few updates of Continuum and Sapphire. Without a doubt, I know Continuum and Sapphire have saved me time, which saves me and my clients money. With the lines between editor, VFX artist and colorist being more and more blurred, Continuum and Sapphire are necessary tools in your arsenal.

Check out the many tutorials Boris FX has put up: and go update Continuum and Sapphire to the latest versions.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producers Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Boris FX beefs up film VFX arsenal, buys SilhouetteFX, Digital Film Tools

Boris FX, a provider of integrated VFX and workflow solutions for video and film, has bought SilhouetteFX (SFX) and Digital Film Tools (DFT). The two companies have a long history of developing tools used on Hollywood blockbusters and experience collaborating with top VFX studios, including Weta Digital, Framestore, Technicolor and Deluxe.

This is the third acquisition by Boris FX in recent years — Imagineer Systems (2014) and GenArts (2016) — and builds upon the company’s editing, visual effects, and motion graphics solutions used by post pros working in film and television. Silhouette and Digital Film Tools join Boris FX’s tools Sapphire, Continuum and Mocha Pro.

Silhouette’s groundbreaking non-destructive paint and advanced rotoscoping technology was recognized earlier this year by the Academy of Motion Pictures (Technical Achievement Award). It first gained prominence after Weta Digital used the rotoscoping tools on King Kong (2005). Now the full-fledged GPU-accelerated node-based compositing app features over 100 VFX nodes and integrated Boris FX Mocha planar tracking. Over the last 15 years, feature film artists have used Silhouette on films including Avatar (2009), The Hobbit (2012), Wonder Woman (2017), Avengers: End Game (2019) and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019).

Avengers: End Game courtesy of Marvel

Digital Film Tools (DFT) emerged as an off-shoot of a LA-based motion picture visual effects facility whose work included hundreds of feature films, commercials and television shows.

The Digital Film Tools portfolio includes standalone applications as well as professional plug-in collections for filmmakers, editors, colorists and photographers. The products offer hundreds of realistic filters for optical camera simulation, specialized lenses, film stocks and grain, lens flares, optical lab processes, color correction, keying and compositing, as well as natural light and photographic effects. DFT plug-ins support Adobe’s Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro; Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Motion; Avid’s Media Composer; and OFX hosts, including Foundry Nuke and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve.

“This acquisition is a natural next step to our continued growth strategy and singular focus on delivering the most powerful VFX tools and plug-ins to the content creation market,”
“Silhouette fits perfectly into our product line with superior paint and advanced roto tools that highly complement Mocha’s core strength in planar tracking and object removal,” says Boris Yamnitsky, CEO/founder of Boris FX. “Rotoscoping, paint, digital makeup and stereo conversion are some of the most time-consuming, labor-intensive aspects of feature film post. Sharing technology and tools across all our products will make Silhouette even stronger as the leader in these tasks. Furthermore, we are very excited to be working with such an accomplished team [at DFT] and look forward to collaborating on new product offerings for photography, film and video.”

Silhouette founders, Marco Paolini, Paul Miller and Peter Moyer, will continue in their current leadership roles and partner with the Mocha product development team to collaborate on delivering next-generation tools. “By joining forces with Boris FX, we are not only dramatically expanding our team’s capabilities, but we are also joining a group of like-minded film industry pros to provide the best solutions and support to our customers,” says Marco Paolini, Product Designer. “The Mocha planar tracking option we currently license is extremely popular with Silhouette paint and roto artists, and more recently through OFX, we’ve added support for Sapphire plug-ins. Working together under the Boris FX umbrella is our next logical step and we are excited to add new features and continue advancing Silhouette for our user base.”

Both Silhouette and Digital Film Tool plug-ins will continue to be developed and sold under the Boris FX brand. Silhouette will adopt the Boris FX commitment to agile development with annual releases, annual support and subscription options.

Main Image: Silhouette

Mocha VR: An After Effects user’s review

By Zach Shukan

If you’re using Adobe After Effects to do compositing and you’re not using Mocha, then you’re holding yourself back. If you’re using Mettle Skybox, you need to check out Mocha VR, the VR-enhanced edition of Mocha Pro.

Mocha Pro, and Mocha VR are all standalone programs where you work entirely within the Mocha environment and then export your tracks, shapes or renders to another program to do the rest of the compositing work. There are plugins for Maxon Cinema 4D, The Foundry’s Nuke, HitFilm, and After Effects that allow you to do more with the Mocha data within your chosen 3D or compositing program. Limited-feature versions of Mocha (Mocha AE and Mocha HitFilm) come installed with the Creative Cloud versions of After Effects and HitFilm 4 Pro, and every update of these plugins is getting closer to looking like a full version of Mocha running inside of the effects panel.

Maybe I’m old school, or maybe I just try to get the maximum performance from my workstation, but I always choose to run Mocha VR by itself and only open After Effects when I’m ready to export. In my experience, all the features of Mocha run more smoothly in the standalone than when they’re launched and run inside of After Effects.**

How does Mocha VR compare to Mocha Pro? If you’re not doing VR, stick with Mocha Pro. However, if you are working with VR footage, you won’t have to bend over backwards to keep using Mocha.

Last year was the year of VR, when all my clients wanted to do something with VR. It was a crazy push to be the first to make something and I rode the wave all year. The thing is there really weren’t many tools specifically designed to work with 360 video. Now this year, the post tools for working with VR are catching up.

In the past, I forced previous versions of Mocha to work with 360 footage before the VR version, but since Mocha added its VR-specific features, stabilizing a 360-camera became cake compared to the kludgy way it works with the industry standard After Effects 360 plugin, Skybox. Also, I’ve used Mocha to track objects in 360 before the addition of an equirectangular* camera and it was super-complicated because I had to splice together a whole bunch of tracks to compensate for the 360 camera distortion. Now it’s possible to create a single track to follow objects as they travel around the camera. Read the footnote for an explanation of equirectangular, a fancy word that you need to know if you’re working in VR.

Now let’s talk about the rest of Mocha’s features…

Rotoscoping
I used to rotoscope by tracing every few frames and then refining the frames in between until I found out about the Mocha way to rotoscope. Because Mocha combines rotoscoping with tracking of arbitrary shapes, all you have to do is draw a shape and then use tracking to follow and deform all the way through. It’s way smarter and more importantly, faster. Also, with the Uberkey feature, you can adjust your shapes on multiple frames at once. If you’re still rotoscoping with After Effects alone, you’re doing it the hard way.

Planar Tracking
When I first learned about Mocha it was all about the planar tracker, and that really is still the heart of the program. Mocha’s basically my go-to when nothing else works. Recently, I was working on a shot where a woman had her dress tucked into her pantyhose, and I pretty much had to recreate a leg of a dress that swayed and flowed along with her as she walked. If it wasn’t for Mocha’s planar tracker I wouldn’t have been able to make a locked-on track of the soft-focus (solid color and nearly without detail) side of the dress. After Effects couldn’t make a track because there weren’t enough contrast-y details.

GPU Acceleration
I never thought Mocha’s planar tracking was slow, even though it is slower than point tracking, but then they added GPU acceleration a version or two ago and now it flies through shots. It has to be at least five times as fast now that it’s using my Nvidia Titan X (Pascal), and it’s not like my CPU was a slouch (an 8-core i7-5960X).

Object Removal
I’d be content using Mocha just to track difficult shots and for rotoscoping, but their object-removal feature has saved me hours of cloning/tracking work in After Effects, especially when I’ve used it to remove camera rigs or puppet rigs from shots.

Mocha’s remove module is the closest thing out there to automated object removal***. It’s as simple as 1) create a mask around the object you want to remove, 2) track the background that your object passes in front of, and then 3) render. Okay, there’s a little more to it, but compared to the cloning and tracking and cloning and tracking and cloning and tracking method, it’s pretty great. Also, a huge reason to get the VR edition of Mocha is that the remove module will work with a 360 camera.

Here I used Mocha object removal to remove ropes that pulled a go-cart in a spot for Advil.

VR Outside of After Effects?
I’ve spent most of this article talking about Mocha with After Effects, because it’s what I know best, but there is one VR pipeline that can match nearly all of Mocha VR’s capabilities: the Nuke plugin Cara VR, but there is a cost to that workflow. More on this shortly.

Where you will hit the limit of Mocha VR (and After Effects in general) is if you are doing 3D compositing with CGI and real-world camera depth positioning. Mocha’s 3D Camera Solve module is not optimized for 360 and the After Effects 3D workspace can be limited for true 3D compositing, compared to software like Nuke or Fusion.

While After Effects sort of tacked on its 3D features to its established 2D workflow, Nuke is a true 3D environment as robust as Autodesk Maya or any of the high-end 3D software. This probably sounds great, but you should also know that Cara VR is $4,300 vs. $1,000 for Mocha VR (the standalone + Adobe plugin version) and Nuke starts at $4,300/year vs. $240/year for After Effects.

Conclusion
I think of Mocha as an essential companion to compositing in After Effects, because it makes routine work much faster and it does some things you just can’t do with After Effects alone. Mocha VR is a major release because VR has so much buzz these days, but in reality it’s pretty much just a version of Mocha Pro with the ability to also work with 360 footage.

*Equirectangular is a clever way of unwrapping a 360 spherical projection, a.k.a, the view we see in VR, by flattening it out into a rectangle. It’s a great way to see the whole 360 view in an editing program, but A: it’s very distorted so it can cause problems for tracking and B: anything that is moving up or down in the equirectangular frame will wrap around to the opposite side (a bit like Pacman when he exits the screen), and non-VR tracking programs will stop tracking when something exits the screen on one side.

**Note: According to the developer, one of the main advantages to running Mocha as a plug-in (inside AE, Premiere, Nuke, etc) for 360 video work is that you are using the host program’s render engine and proxy workflow. Having the ability to do all your tracking, masking and object removal on proxy resolutions is a huge benefit when working at large 360 formats that can be as large as 8k stereoscopic. Additionally, the Mocha modules that render, such as reorient for horizon stabilization or remove module will render inside the plug-in making for a streamlined workflow.

***FayOut was a “coming soon” product that promised an even more automated method for object removal, but as of the publishing of this article it appears that they are no longer “coming soon” and may have folded or maybe their technology was purchased and it will be included in a future product. We shall see…
________________________________________
Zach Shukan is the VFX specialist at SilVR and is constantly trying his hand at the latest technologies in the video post production world.

Boris FX merges with GenArts

Boris FX, maker of Boris Continuum Complete, has inked a deal to acquire visual effects plug-in developer GenArts, whose high-end plug-in line includes Sapphire. Sapphire has been used in at least one of each year’s VFX Oscar-nominated films since 1996. This acquisition follows the 2015 addition of Imagineer Systems, developer of Academy Award-winning planar tracking tool Mocha. Sapphire will continue to be developed and sold in its current form alongside Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) and Mocha Pro.

“We are excited to announce this strategic merger and welcome the Sapphire team to the Boris FX/Imagineer group,” says owner Boris Yamnitsky. “This acquisition makes Boris FX uniquely positioned to serve editors and effects artists with the industry’s leading tools for motion graphics, broadcast design, visual effects, image restoration, motion tracking and finishing — all under one roof. Sapphire’s suite of creative plug-ins has been used to design many of the last decades’ most memorable film images. Sapphire perfectly complements BCC and mocha as essential tools for professional VFX and we look forward to serving Sapphire’s extremely accomplished users.”

“Equally impressive is the team behind the technology,” continues Yamnitsky. “Key GenArts staff from engineering, sales, marketing and support will join our Boston office to ensure the smoothest transition for customers. Our shared goal is to serve our combined customer base with useful new tools and the highest quality training and technical support.”

 

 

Review: Mocha Pro 5 plug-in for Media Composer

By Brady Betzel

A common theme among editors and colorists these days is where to draw the line when asked to do more than their job description. Some editors want to stick to cutting, while others find it exciting to push their creative boundaries. Personally, the more options I have in my toolkit, the more employable I become.

If you are one of those editors who doesn’t want to learn how to better track or roto, you might want to rethink your stance. If you need proof, hop on over to YouTube and search for tracking and rotoscoping tutorials. I bet you will find someone younger and hungrier than you doing things beyond your imagination. In the end, tools like Boris FX/Imagineer System’s Mocha Pro are life-altering tools for an editor that will directly affect how much time you can save and how much money you can make.

Whether you are obscuring a face with a blur or painting out an errant drone from the sky, Mocha Pro will turn hours of work into minutes. Mocha Pro 5, the latest update to the Mocha family, is a 2D planar tracker that tracks surfaces and planes instead of points. In simple terms, think of Mocha as being able to track objects with flat (or flat-ish) faces, like a billboard or the hood of a car, as opposed to a single point much like the tracker in Avid Media Composer.

Mocha Pro can be used as a standalone tool for $1,495 or as a standalone app plus multi-host plug-ins for $1,995. It can also be purchased as a plug-in only for Avid for $695, Adobe for $695, OFX (Nuke and Fusion at the moment) for $695 or multi-host for $995. There are also upgrade pricing options if you are coming from Mocha Pro 4. For software and hardware specs click here.

While Mocha Pro 5 isn’t cheap, there are many new features that justify the price of admission. One of the best improvements is the GPU acceleration. If you have a somewhat modern OpenCL-compatible graphics card (any of the current offerings from Nvidia, AMD and Intel, for example) then you will see a big increase in tracking speed.

In Mocha Pro 5 you can select GPU for rendering in the Mocha Preferences Menu > GPU tab. Mocha can either automatically select what it thinks is the best OpenCL device, you can identify it yourself or you can select none and go raw processor only.

The Plug-In Option
The new Mocha Pro 5 plug-in option is the other heavy hitter in this update. The plug-in option allows the editor or VFX artist to work natively in their favorite host app, such Adobe After Effects or Avid Media Composer. So they launch Mocha Pro, work with the native file formats supported in the host app and render within that apps’ world, all while still having access to the power of the Mocha Pro toolset.

While this is game-changing for anyone, it’s especially game-changing for Media Composer editors who are tired of trying to get the point tracker to work or who don’t have access to Boris FX BCC 10 — or maybe they want to go beyond what the Mocha tracker does through BCC 10.

You can now use your layer-based timeline, apply Mocha Pro to the clip in question and fully composite your roto, track or removal work within the Avid timeline. You can also export the data for heavier compositing in apps like Nuke or After Effects, even if you are working through Media Composer. Really incredible!

I have seen my productivity increase by hours using Mocha Pro. Instead of fiddling with the Paint Tool in Media Composer combined with the Point Tracker, I can get a rock-solid track in Mocha and an even cleaner matte than I would have if I stayed within Media Composer.

When working on freelance projects, I often get asked to do what some might consider VFX work — this typically doesn’t mean much more money. Because of tools like Mocha Pro 5, I don’t have turn down jobs because of time constraints.

Many clients appreciate my ability to tackle mild visual effects problems and become return clients because they can have one person do the work instead of many. And, let’s be honest, who wants to deal with coordinating projects and files between multiple people? I know I don’t if I can avoid it.

The Mocha Pro 5 features I tested for this review were the Lens Correction, Stabilize, Insert and Remove Modules using the Mocha Pro 5 plug-in for Media Composer

While I have the utmost respect for awesome rotoscope artists, I don’t have a desire to be one. I will leave that for you to check out on your own. There are some great tutorials on the topics I’m not covering, such rotoscoping and 3D camera solves here.

Real-World Tests
First off is Lens Correction. To test Mocha Pro 5’s lens correction ability I found some old GoPro footage, which is notorious for having a huge fish-eye effect because of its wide angle. (As a side note, Boris FX’s Continuum Complete has an easy Lens Correction fix built into its BCC v10 plug-in suite under Image Restoration.) But what if you want to keep the lens distortion, composite something into your scene and add the lens distortion to your insert shot? This is where Mocha Pro 5 comes into play.

After you apply the Mocha Pro 5 plug-in to your video layer in Media Composer, you can launch the app from the Effects Panel. From inside of Mocha you can jump to the Lens tab, click locate lines, locate and select lines in your scene that should be straight, select the type of distortion you have (for simple scenes, probably the 1-Parameter setting), hit calibrate and distort or un-distort. If you are applying the distortion to an insert shot, you will track the section of the shot you want to insert a shot onto, use the Surface Align tool to identify the surface, import the shot you want to insert, go back to Insert Menu on the original clip you want to composite on and identify the imported clip. Boom! Magic! Next, quit out and save from Mocha Pro 5, check off the Render box in the Effects Panel and select Insert: Composite from the drop down. After that long-winded explanation, you should have a shot properly tracked with the lens distortion applied.

For a great and quick tutorial check out Dan Harvey’s tutorial on BorisFX.com.

As a side note, when working in Media Composer, any effect that you apply to your clip underneath the Mocha Pro 5 plug-in will come through when working in Mocha Pro. Using a ProRes HQ QuickTime I had filmed that was flat in color, I color balanced and corrected the QuickTime in Media Composer and then wanted to do some work in Mocha Pro 5. It was a welcome surprise that the color came through; it really made tracking easier.

Up next I wanted to test out the stabilization inside of Mocha Pro 5. Media Composer’s Fluid Stabilizer is pretty good when it works, so naturally I wanted to see how the Mocha Pro Stabilize held up. While you can Stabilize or Region Stabilize within Media Composer (fairly well, I might add), there are limitations that Mocha Pro 5 really helps with. Once I dove into stabilizing inside of Mocha Pro 5 for Avid, I really began to like the process and methodology.

To get a succinct and great tutorial check out the famous Mary Poplin (Twitter @MaryPoplin) — she has a million great Mocha tutorials that can be found on the BorisFX.com or ImagineerSystems.com websites or on their YouTube page.

Simply, once inside of Mocha Pro you will track the ground plane, align your surface and grid and tell it what type of motion to stabilize for. You can even center, zoom and crop your footage to fill the frame. It’s pretty incredible. With a little time, you can turn a bumpy shot that you filmed out of the side of your car window into one that feels like it was filmed using a professional crane, or at least something close to that.

Finally, I wanted to touch on the Remove Module, and it is straight-up voodoo. Even after using it multiple times, I am still blown away at how well this works. Without going into too much detail, you define what is the background, foreground and what object you want to remove by drawing shapes and tracking them individually. One very important point that I often forget in Mocha is that layer order matters and will make a gigantic difference in your tracking success.

Mocha will read your layers from Top to Bottom. Top being closest to camera and Bottom being the furthest from camera, meaning the background should be your bottom layer. To achieve a successful remove, you need to track the background area that the object you want removed lies on top of and make sure that your garbage matte surrounding your removal object covers the entire object. Also, make sure the matte covering your background covers the entire area that your removal object goes through.

Then you need to track the object you want to remove… the entire object. Typically, your garbage mattes don’t need to be ultra-tight — just enough to cover the entire object you want removed. Without going too deep into clean plate techniques, if you find that your object doesn’t move enough for Mocha Pro to remove your object, you might need to export a frame of your video from Mocha Pro. Simply, click Create Clean Plate and paint out the object in an app like Photoshop. Once painted out, you can import the plate back into Mocha Pro and be able to see your results easily. I tried my hand at removing a shoe from a scene, and while I was able to remove the shoe I had a few crashes along the way. But, in the end, I was able to achieve a successful remove. Check out my Object Removal using Mocha Pro 5 for Media Composer, which I filmed using the DJI Phantom 4 (my review will be coming out soon).

Summing Up
While Mocha Pro 5 is fast for the magic it helps you create, it does need some time to render. My 2-3 second clip needed a few minutes to process the removal. For those wondering if my system was up to par I was running Avid Media Composer and Mocha Pro 5 on an HP Z1G3 workstation loaded with Intel Xeon E3 processors and an Nvidia Quadro M2000M graphics card, so the system is awesome (you will see a review of that in the future also).

In the end, if you need to track, rotoscope, remove or insert footage, Mocha Pro 5 is worth every penny. Imagineer’s Mocha Pro is one of those apps you must have in your post toolbox if you do any kind of tracking, object removal or inserts. It will shave hours off of your workload and directly increasing your productivity )and hopefully your paycheck).

If you are tired of using Media Composer’s built-in point tracker and still need to accomplish tracking, object removal, stabilization and more, Mocha Pro 5 is your savior.

Something I really love about the direct integration of Mocha Pro 5 inside of tools like Media Composer is the continued ability to export your tracking data to pass between apps. Say you are an overzealous offline editor who rules at Mocha Pro tracking in Media Composer but also wants to pass along that shape data to the Nuke or After Effects for some heavy compositing and/or further refinement — you can still export all of the data necessary. Awesome!

It will take a few tries to understand just how a planar tracker like Mocha Pro 5 works, but with the awesome tutorials from Mary Poplin, Martin Brennand and many others on Imagineer’s YouTube page, you should be up and running in a matter of hours.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Boris FX’s BCC 10 for Avid Media Composer

By Brady Betzel

I love plug-ins — Video CoPilot’s Element 3D, Red Giant’s Universe, Neat Video’s Noise Reduction and many more. There are some pros who like to pretend that they are too good for plug-ins or consider the use of plug-ins a crutch, but not this guy. I love them! Plug-ins make my job easier and more efficient.

Time is money and when you are doing something by hand that can be done faster by using a plug-in, you are wasting time and money — your client’s money and your time, which could be spent with family and friends.

I don’t always love the products I review, but I do love this one, so prepare yourself — I’m going to rave over Boris FX’s latest update to their BCC collection: Boris Continuum Complete v10. It even had an update to v10.01 last week, offering improved 4K handling, overall render speed improvements and — an important one for me —optimization of Avid project size when BCC AVX filters are applied.

Mocha Within Avid
The BCC v10 update is the biggest and most complete update to BCC that I have seen. I say that because in 2014 Boris FX acquired Imagineer Systems, the maker of the magical Mocha planar tracking software. When I first heard this news I almost jumped out of my skin, mainly because tracking inside of Avid’s Media Composer is lacking. And while Media Composer’s point tracker is appropriate for some circumstances, one thing it does not have is backwards tracking. Luckily for us Avid users, Mocha is now integrated into Avid via the BCC 10 highway… streamers and confetti should pop out of your computer after reading that sentence.

So what does Mocha mean for the everyday editor? Well, it allows for a much tighter tracker inside of Media Composer. Furthermore, if you use effects like Gaussian blur or the new BCC Beauty Studio, you can apply the Mocha tracking data inside of each effect in the effects editor. For example, if you are editing an interview featuring a person with less-than-perfect skin and the producer or director wants to fix that, you can… and pretty quickly. Yes, I know there are ways to do this for free using some sweet luminance mattes and maybe a slight blur on certain color channels, but, let’s be real, that might take hours, not to mention trying to track the facial movements, as well as erasing the teeth and eyes from the aforementioned stack of effects.

Once you apply Beauty Studio you can launch Mocha from within the effects editor inside of Media Composer, track the entire head shape with X Splines (or B Splines), track the eyes and possibly mouth to create your subtract (erase) layers, CTRL + Q or Command + Q on a Mac to quit Mocha, see your settings applied in Media Composer and, magically, you have a subject with smooth and appealing skin.

You should take that last paragraph with a little grain of salt, because while it is “easy” to accomplish this with the help of Mocha and BCC 10, there is a moderate learning curve, and sometimes there will be a large render time involved. My suggestion is to watch and read everything Mary Poplin does — she is on Twitter @MaryPoplin and on Imagineer System’s website with some excellent video tutorials. One tip, even if you think a certain video is too long or might not be exactly what you are looking to learn, Mary always finds a way to drop a bazillion tips into every video.

Another personal favorite tutorial creator is Kevin P. McAuliffe; he makes all sorts of great videos, but one I saw recently was how to easily make a scrolling credit bed in Media Composer with the help of the new BCC 10 Title Studio. You can also follow him on Twitter @KPMcAuliffe.

While BCC makes it fast and relatively easy to do things like key a greenscreen or make someone beautiful, it all comes at a price, and usually that price is rendering. I typically only render things I can’t view in realtime or really need to see play out in realtime, otherwise I will save my renders for when I am sleeping.

Other Updates
So what else is new and what is still great in BCC 10 besides the amazing Mocha integration you ask? I will quickly go over my favorites in the next few paragraphs.

Under the “Still Great” category is Chroma Key Studio. While this was released in BCC 9 I can’t say enough about it. If you’ve used SpectraMatte to death and can’t quite get a great key, you need to throw on BCC Chroma Key Studio, which is under the BCC Key and Blend heading. In the Effects Editor, change the view to source, sample the green and, usually, you are halfway home. I will dial in the density and Matte Cleanup settings first — think Clip Black and Clip White from Keylight inside of After Effects — then mess with the Light Wrap and Matte Choker settings until I can get it dialed in.

When I have a particularly poorly lit or uneven greenscreen behind the subject, I sometimes use the Pre-Key Cleanup to help even out the greenscreen color to sample from. I may even jump into my secondary color correctors in Symphony — isolate the green I want to smooth out, widen my input vector’s hue width to capture all of the offending greens I can, dial in a few other settings and dial my output vector to taste. From there you are usually good to go, but if you are still having trouble with motion blur or green creeping into those dreaded fingers waving, you can jump into BCC Image Restoration and apply BCC Noise Reduction on your base layer. Be careful though because this will add a tremendous amount of render time, and you will definitely need an overnight render.

Under the “What’s New” heading, I really love Boris FX’s BCC Remover located under Image Restoration; it’s basically a clone tool with the added ability to track using Mocha for your tracking and mattes. I use this constantly.

It’s as simple as watching a few Mary Poplin tutorials on how to use Mocha’s X or B splines to draw your masks. Then track, using the Uber key to adjust your track without adjusting your keyframes — or individually adjust your keyframes if you want — then quit, save out of Mocha and, finally, adjust your clone settings inside of Media Composer’s Effect Editor. You can choose from a few different fill types like auto-fill or clone. I have actually had success by just using BCC’s auto-fill with no additional adjustments necessary.

One thing that is not as obvious as I would like is that when you use Mocha and want to feather your mask, you need to twirl down Pixel Chooser Mask/Mocha to find it.

Video Glitch

I also love the BCC Light Leaks and Video Glitch plug-ins. You can use these for transitions or just throw them over your footage to give an instant flare to your footage. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know how much I love Rampant Design Tools. They offer some great high-quality tools, such as light leaks and grunge. If you are a light leak or grunge enthusiast and can’t find the right color or flow, then BCC 10’s Light Leaks or Video Glitch are for you. Immediately you can add the BCC Light Leaks effect (located in BCC Lights) or Video Glitch (under BCC Stylize), click on Show FX browser in the effect editor and sample different looks over the footage in your timeline.

Another warning here, while you can preview the presets over your footage in your timeline it does have to “cache,” so the first time your clip will play it will be slowly and with a stutter (think After Effects “realtime” rendering).

Share, Share, That’s Fair
A very cool thing in the new Boris FX Browser is the ability to view presets other people have made or sent you via email. This is cool, so stay with me. If you work in a networked editing environment, such as through an ISIS, then you most likely have a bunch of editors making all sorts of effects. If you’re an assistant editor, polishing editor, finishing editor, online editor or whatever title leads you to be in charge of a look of a show, the ability to share plug-ins and presets is critical.

BCC 10 has the ability to easily share and preview presets from different systems. In fact, you could have a folder of BCC presets on the ISIS that can either be copied locally or kept on the network drive to be shared by all. My suggestion would be to copy locally if you can and have someone update those presets on each system when needed, but what do I know? Anyway, you can find the presets on the system level under Program Files > Boris FX, Inc, BCC Presets 10 AVX.

Beauty Studio
The last plug-in I want to talk about was the already mentioned BCC Beauty Studio, located in BCC Image Restoration. Remember earlier when I mentioned the interview subject with less-than-perfect skin who could use a little touch up?

I especially like to use this in conjunction with Mocha to track facial movement and eliminate as much of the “beauty studio look” that I can by containing only the face or problem area. This plug-in does work with the presets, but again let’s be real, you should never accept a preset as the final version of your work — we can have the philosophical discussion of how a preset is not technically your work on Twitter if you want. Tweet me @allbetzroff.

Also, every person’s skin texture, scene lighting and even color temperature can change drastically between set-ups, so one preset might not work for another set-up. Basically, what I’m saying is you will need to learn this tool, and to do so I recommend searching through the tutorials and watching something like this. Do a little noodling and elevate your skills.

Over the years I’ve noticed that editors typically get to choose between two sets of plug-ins when working in Avid: GenArt’s Sapphire or Boris FX BCC — unless you are super lucky and get to have both. At this moment I really love what Boris FX has to offer, which is a high-end tracking solution, not to mention all the other features.

In overall value, it’s very hard to beat BCC 10 for Avid, Adobe, or any OFX-supported app like Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. (Currently, Boris FX BCC 9 is compatible with Resolve, but 10 is supposed to be released any day now).

The multi-host license — good for Adobe, Avid, FCP X and OFX supported platforms like Resolve and Sony’s Vegas Pro — will cost $1,995 for the full install package, and $695 for just the upgrade from v9. If you want to rent the multi-host version it will cost $595/year. The individual app licenses look like this:
Avid $1,695/Full – $595/Upgrade
Adobe $995/Full – $295/Upgrade
FCPX/Motion $695/Full – $195/Upgrade
OFX (Resolve) $695/Full
OFX (Sony) $695/Full — $195/Upgrade

BCC-10_TITLESTUDIO USE

Title Studio

Summing Up
It’s hard to cover Boris FX’s BCC 10 in just 1,000 words, but to sum up, I love it! So much so that I would recommend it to everyone out there working in Media Composer and Symphony.

Heck, I didn’t even cover the awesome feature of importing Maxon Cinema 4D models into the BCC Title Studio. Of course, you need to spend some time to figure out the intricacies of Mocha tracking as well as what each parameter does inside of the Chroma Key Studio, but luckily you have a great set of tutorials on the BorisFX.com website to get you up to speed.

If I could wish for one feature request, it would be the ability to easily take any Mocha work you did in one BCC plug-in, such as a Gaussian blur, and apply it to another, such as BCC Remover or BCC Composite. At the moment you need to export/copy the data from Mocha and load it in the plug-in you want to use it in. That solution works, but it would be nice to have a seamless way to move your tracking data.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

Boris Continuum Complete 10 for Avid now available

Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) 10 for Avid is now available from Boris FX. This release, which we reported on back at IBC, brings new tools for advanced visual effects, title design, digital beauty work and image restoration to the Avid timeline. BCC 10 for Avid also includes new filters, new transitions and a new subscription/rental option.

Among the most anticipated features are integrated Mocha technology for planar motion-tracking and masking; BCC Beauty Studio, a skin smoothing and retouching plug-in; and BCC Title Studio, Boris FX’s 3D titling and motion graphics tool.

More details:
– Integrated Mocha mask tracking in PixelChooser; Imagineer’s Academy Award-winning Mocha planar tracking and masking engine is integrated inside the BCC PixelChooser, allowing editors to do more advanced finishing work without leaving the editing timeline.
– BCC Beauty Studio is a new skin retouching tool that gives editors the ability to smooth skin and reduce blemishes to make their talent look better. A keying algorithm quickly isolates skin tones while retaining natural sharpness and contrast.
– BCC Title Studio is a 2D/3D titling and motion-graphics tool for designing and animating title opens, lower thirds and credit sequences at any resolution. OpenGL-accelerated features include extrusions, materials, cameras, lights and deformers for advanced title creation. The tool includes support for Maxon Cinema 4D models and Adobe Illustrator and features a custom user interface for simple to complex title creation.
– New tools for image restoration: BCC Remover fills in missing pixels and removes objects with clone and auto-fill options. BCC Dropout Fixer restores tape-based damaged footage with field dropouts. BCC Reframe is designed to reformat and stylize “vertical cell phone” video footage into a standard 16×9 aspect for broadcast.
– New effects/filters: BCC Light Leaks adds organic and naturalistic “in-camera” light and exposure effects to stylize and enhance footage. BCC Video Glitch recreates the distressed look of compression artifacts, signal loss and corrupt digital video.
– New transitions: Four new realtime transitions have been added with many prebuilt presets. BCC Cross Glitch mimics abrupt digital signal transitions. BCC Cross Melt conveys a new organic look and feel. BCC Light Leaks Dissolve creates a light exposure-based transition. BCC Cross Zoom combines zoom, glow and dissolve into one simple transition.

The Boris Continuum Complete 10 release offers new purchasing options for users.
BCC 10 for Avid has a new, lower price: a full license for $1,695 or an upgrade for $595. BCC 10 for Avid is compatible with Avid Media Composer, Symphony and NewsCutter.
BCC 10 Multi-Host licensing is one license activation for multiple host applications — Avid, Adobe and OFX — available as a full license ($1,995), upgrade ($695) or annual subscription ($595). The BCC 10 Multi-Host option will be compatible with Avid Media Composer, Symphony, NewsCutter, Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro CC, and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve (OFX).

BCC 10 for Adobe, Apple and OFX will be released later this year.

Boris FX buys Imagineer, makers of Mocha

In news that likely prompted a slightly less PG version of “holy cow,” Boris FX has bought Imagineer Systems, makers of the hugely popular and widely used Mocha, a planar tracking and visual effects tool used in film and TV. The technology won an Academy Award in 2013.

Mocha Pro has been used on the films Gone Girl, Birdman and Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and TV shows such as The Leftovers, Game of Thrones and House of Cards.

For its part, Boris FX develops VFX, compositing, titling, video editing and workflow tools for broadcast, post and film. So you can see how this purchase might be a good fit for the company. You likely know their Continuum Complete package of plug-ins.

postPerspective’s Brady Betzel has reviewed both products. Click here for Mocha Pro
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Review: Boris FX: Boris Continuum Complete V.9

By Brady Betzel

These days there are only a few one-size fits all plug-in packages worth the price of admission, and unfortunately when working on a new project it’s pretty hard to convince the line producer that you need more than one package.

Usually when an editor asks for Boris Continuum Complete (BCC), GenArt’s Sapphire, or even the lower-priced Red Giant Universe, the line producer will laugh a little when they see the price tags (multiplied by the amount of systems it would have to go on). Then, if you are lucky, they may even say, “Ok, choose one.”

So in this review I chose one: I will take a look at a couple of the latest updates to Boris Continuum Complete V.9’s plug-in library as well as give insights into whether BCC is right for your situation. I will be referring to both the Adobe After Effects/Premiere plug-in as well as the Continue reading