Post Magazine

July 2017

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Page 39 of 43 38 POST JULY 2017 REVIEW S ince its conception, the cinemat- ic virtual reality (or 360 video) production industry has been quite the Wild West. It seems like just yesterday we were taping GoPros together and batch processing thou- sands of frames through software designed for panoramic still photogra- phy. The first piece of VR content I ever shot and post produced required me to fight with technology every step of the way because at that time, there were almost no tools designed specifically for working with VR content. The entire post process required complex work- arounds and jury rigging to get traditional post production tools to play nicely with equirectangular (unwrapped spherical) video long enough to finish a project. Thankfully, several companies in the industry have heard our struggles and have since set out to create tools that enable VR content creators like myself to expand the possibilities of immersive storytelling. While the industry is still in its infancy, the VR tools and workflows available today have improved by leaps and bounds, allowing immersive stories to be told better than ever before. One of the most exciting advance- ments for the post world is the release of Boris FX's Mocha VR — a new spin on a tool that has been used for years in the traditional video production world and trusted by some of the top names in the film industry. But first, a little background on Mocha. BACKGROUND Mocha, one of the world's first pla- nar motion tracking applications, was designed nearly 15 years ago by Imagineer Systems, with input from VFX company Cinesite. What's set Mocha apart from the beginning is the way that its unique planar tracker fol- lows objects. Unlike traditional motion tracking, which uses point trackers, Mocha's planar tracking system goes above and beyond by tracking com- plex pixel patterns through the most challenging of environments. Mocha is able to track objects that go off-screen, objects that are partially obscured and even out-of-focus footage. This method of tracking can dramatically reduce manual keyframe labor, allowing VFX artists to focus on creative tasks. Now part of the Boris FX family of tools, Mocha VR is a 360 video-opti- mized version of Mocha that has been completely rewritten to work natively with equirectangular footage. It brings with it all of the features of Mocha and more, enabling simplified roto-masking, object removal and stabilization. OBJECT REMOVAL While Mocha VR's planar tracking can be used for various post VFX tasks, such as replacing screens and backgrounds, ro- to-masking with less manual keyframes, and digital makeup and beauty enhance- ments, the most enticing feature for 360 video and VR production houses like SubVRsive will most definitely be Mocha VR's powerful remove module. Because spherical videos offer viewers a full 360-degrees x 180-des- grees panoramic field of view, every single frame in a 360 production requires equipment like tripods, rigging equipment, drones and rovers to be masked and painted out. While that is a relatively simple task for station- ary shots, it's quite a time-consuming challenge when it comes to scenes that require the camera to be moving. These moving shots are where the Mocha VR remove module really shines. Mocha VR's unique object removal module works a lot like the 'content aware' tool in Photoshop. It analyzes the frames before and after the frame being rendered and uses the available information from around the object selected for removal to automatically paint out rigs, rovers, drones and other objects from 360 shots. It can even tackle difficult patterns, shadows and changing backgrounds with finesse. The wonderful thing about this feature is how little manual work it requires. It can be as simple as tracking the object you want to remove, telling Mocha VR where to look for replacement information and letting the removal process render. The folks at Boris FX have been kind enough to produce several tutorials on how to optimize this workflow so that it renders as quickly as possible, but in an effort to provide even more flexibility, the company has included the ability to use "clean plates" to increase the efficien- cy of more complicated removals. The clean plates feature allows users to bring frames from different parts of a scene into Photoshop, so Mocha VR can use those few frames of clean plates to gen- erate the removal throughout the scene. This process can dramatically increase the speed of the removal process by giv- ing the exceptional manual control over the process when necessary. IMAGE STABILIZATION Aside from object removal, another unique post challenge VR content creators face is image stabilization. Traditionally, post-stabilization meth- ods involve cropping an image slightly and running a pan-and-scan to keep the image centered. But this doesn't work with equirectangular images. Because 360-footage must be kept at 100 percent scale in order for the video player to seamlessly wrap it around the viewer, no cropping can occur. Instead, 360-content stabilization must be achieved by reorienting the sphere to compensate for any changes in camera orientation during capture. You must adjust the yaw, pitch and roll of the spherical image to keep the horizon lev- el and minimize vibration or shaking. Some software solutions attempt to solve this issue during the image stitching process, but in most cases they lack the tracking engine and man- ual control needed to achieve decent results without hundreds of keyframes. Alternatively, many VR plug-ins can enable this type of stabilization on BORIS FX MOCHA VR A NEW SPIN ON A FAVORITE TOOL EXPANDS IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING POTENTIAL BY RYAN THOMAS CO-FOUNDER & VP OF CONTENT SUBVRSIVE AUSTIN, TX SUBVRSIVE.COM

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