Imagineer System's mocha Pro V3.1 in Review

January 27, 2013 9:01 pm

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, Imagineer Systems, mocha, Nuke


"Every now and again comes a piece of technology like Imagineer's mocha that genuinely improves the life of the VFX artist. It's enabled me to do things in a fraction of the time I expected them to take, but also with amazingly repeatable results across many different types of footage. It offers an artist the ability to achieve results that would have been extremely time-consuming otherwise and, quite often, impossible without resorting to full plate reconstruction."
-Jake Morrison, VFX Supervisor Marvel Studios

Imagineer Systems is a software company that specializes in VFX for film, video and broadcast post production. Established in 2000 by Allan Jaenicke and Philip McLauchlan, Imagineer Systems "revolutionized visual effects software tracking with the creation of its industry renowned, award winning Planar Tracking image analysis engine." You've seen Imagineer's software at work on films like Alice in Wonderland, Iron Man 2 and the Harry Potter series.

Imagineer Systems' software, mocha Pro and mocha AE, have made such a significant impact on the VFX industry that the company has been honored by the "Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences with a Scientific and Technical Award for mocha and its Planar Tracking technology." Any number of major artists in the VFX industry will tell you that the mocha planar tracking software has saved them time and helped them solve tracking problems that most other software applications can't.


What Exactly is Planar Tracking?

Imagineer Systems uses planar tracking technology using simple spline shapes instead of the traditional point tracking in order to motion track a film shot. This method allows the user to create a series of planes on objects in the scene which provides more information than points. With better tracking data, mocha Pro users can achieve better results. Removing or adding objects in a shot, stabilizing an image or camera shot, 3D camera solving and more are made easier with mocha Pro using its unique planar tracking engine.

Mocha V3.1 What's New?

After nearly 18 months of development, Imagineer Systems released version 3 of mocha Pro in April of 2012. It was a huge release with major additions to an already very good VFX application. Important updates included redesigned layer controls, new transform tool, camera solver, nudge tools and view shortcuts, a new dope sheet view and many more core improvements to mocha Pro. Suffice to say that this version of the application has been quite well received.

Not content to rest on their laurels, Imagineer Systems released a 3.1 update to mocha Pro. Here are some of the new features they've added to version 3.1:

  • Greatly improved Lens Module;
  • Ability to import and use External Distortion Maps in all mocha Pro modules;
  • Ability to export rasterized Distortion Maps for Nuke, Fusion, Flame and more.
  • Support for export to new mocha Lens plug-in for After Effects.
  • RED (R3D) file support
  • Export colored roto shapes directly to Nuke and After Effects (or render externally)

In addition to mocha Pro, Imagineer Systems has other versions of their mocha software that are specifically designed for After Effects, After Effects CS6 and HitFilm. You can see a full list of new features to all versions of mocha at the Imagineer website

Benefits of using mocha Pro V3.1

"At Hive FX, we handle upwards of 250 shots per season on Grimm, with every single sequence touched by mocha Pro and After Effects," added Jim Clark. "Just about every sequence we do for Grimm is shot hand-held and in very low lighting and with very little, to no tracking data. These conditions would make ordinary trackers go crazy!"
-Jim Clark, Hive FX President

My introduction to mocha came at SIGGRAPH 2011 when I introduced myself to Mary Poplin who was running the Imagineer Systems booth. Knowing nothing about the application, Mary proceeded to give me a terrific 15-minute introduction, climaxed by Mary showing me how mocha Pro can remove an entire character from a scene in pretty short order. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

Even for a relative novice to motion-capture and roto, mocha Pro V3.1 was easy to set up and get started. The interface is clearly designed and intuitive. Imagineer has an excellent website with plenty of support for new users. Plus, the community of users is very active and enthusiastic. The application's help system is excellent and the manual is detailed and clearly written.

I particularly enjoyed using the layer system in mocha Pro. You can easily assign areas you want to track to different layers which will be familiar to anyone who has used layers in, say, Photoshop. I like that the new layer system in V3 uses color to distinguish each layer. This makes it much easier to tell layers apart.

mocha Pro V3.1 gives you very precise control of your tracking elements right down to the pixel level. Selection tools allow you to adjust the selection area in great detail. Camera tracking is very good, too. I was able to export tracking data to both Maya and Cinema 4D with relative ease.


I was impressed with mocha Pro at SIGGRAPH a year or so ago, but after using the program for a few months I'm very impressed with the application AND with the people who run the company. There's an excitement there that comes from knowing you have a great product and in developing and sharing the product with the community/industry.

If you are considering VFX in your indie film, this application will help you achieve your special effects goals quickly and powerfully. And if you are in the industry, but haven't yet tried mocha Pro V3.1, I urge you to try the demo as it will save you time and money. Plus, it's a fun application. Something you just can't say very often in the computer graphics field. The more you use mocha Pro V3.1, the more you WANT to use it. And how many technical Academy Award winning applications can you say are fun to use?

mocha Pro 3.1 from Imagineer Systems has my highest recommendation.


Imagineer Systems produces two main versions of their mocha planer tracking application: mocha Pro V3.1 (reviewed here) which is priced at $1,495 for the full version, with upgrades starting at $495, and mocha AE, which is a "stand alone Planar Tracking and rotoscoping utility optimized for After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro and Motion users" and is priced at $245, with upgrades starting at $195. They also have several other "plug-in" versions of mocha which you can read about at their website. Their excellent Product FAQ is also worth a look. If you'd like to compare various versions of the mocha application, this page on the website is useful.

mocha Pro V3.1 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. mocha AE is available for the Windows and Mac operating systems only. Full breakdown of hardware specs are available here. For this review, I used a mid-level Windows 7 64-bit self-built workstation. mocha Pro V3.1 never crashed during my testing period of several weeks.

I'd like to thank Imagineer Systems for making mocha Pro V3.1 available for review. Special thanks to Mary Poplin for here excellent instruction. And congratulations to everyone at Imagineer for the Academy win.

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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.




January 28, 2013

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