Profiling Imagineer User Trixter
January 10, 2012

Profiling Imagineer User Trixter

Since 1998, Trixter has been creating outstanding visual effects and digital character animation for feature films, television and commercials. From the early days, Trixter established itself as a major player in the field of emotive character animation, both for fully computer generated animated features as well as live-action productions.
Over the past few years, Trixter has expanded its expertise by branching out into visual effects and has recently accomplished some outstanding work for German and international projects such as Percy Jackson, Lilly The Witch, Iron Man 2, Narnia 3, X-Men: First Class, Journey 2, Captain America and many more.

Today, Trixter is unique in its ability to provide quality digital production for live action and animated features, in mono or 3D stereo. Whether it be key framed computer generated creatures or motion capture driven performances, matte paintings or FX work, Trixter has the experience and talent to deliver work of the highest standards. Its community of innovative digital artists and computer technologists collaborate creatively with filmmakers, helping them to bring their vision from the storyboard to the theater and delight audiences around the globe. Trixter has offices in Munich, Berlin, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Imagineer Systems’ Ross Shain recently spoke with Michael Habenicht, Compositing TD for Trixter, and talked extensively about their innovative and highly acclaimed stereo 3D and visual effects projects from this past year. They also talked about mocha and the role it played in their pipeline.

Imagineer: Can you tell us about recent projects Trixter has worked on, the challenges you faced and how you overcame them? We understand that you used mocha fairly extensively on many tough projects; what can you tell us about your experiences?

Michael: mocha has been used extensively on all projects at Trixter
 this year, ranging from stereo conversion for "Green Lantern" to VFX for "X-Men: First Class," "Captain America: The First Avenger," and "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." mocha’s Planar Tracker and roto capabilities were heavily relied on for these films!

Imagineer: Tell me a little about your pipeline and the other software you use. How does mocha integrate into your workflow? 

Michael: We use Nuke for all the compositing here at Trixter
. mocha integrates really well as it is only a matter of exporting to the clipboard and then pasting directly in Nuke. Also the new features since Nuke 6.2 was released that allows us to export only the keyframes for shapes, instead of having to “bake” every frame, really improves the workflow and speeds things up. So much can be done in mocha that, once we export to Nuke, there’s little back and forth for final adjustments - and that’s another huge time saver!

Imagineer: How many shots were tracked with mocha, and how did mocha assist the process? 

Michael: Well, I would say nearly every shot gets tracked with mocha at some point in the process - mocha touches everything, especially if a shot requires some cleanup, replacement or roto. It provides excellent results in no time. Simply load your clip, draw the shape, track it, paste it into Nuke. Our artists, some of whom have never used it before, learned it very fast and were instantly impressed by what can be achieved. The ability to add a grid to the tracking gives us very good, fast feedback and perspective about the quality. Also the magnifier that shows the keyframe before and after is an essential aid to good consistent roto.

Imagineer: Can you talk about any particular challenges or shots on which mocha was a significant help? Would these shots have been more difficult to achieve in another set of tools? 

Michael: On X-Men our task was to replace Mystique's eyes. Without mocha, it wouldn't have been possible in the given time while allowing us to keep to our quality standards. The shots provided several challenges. First we had to track the eyes or the face to get the general movement. mocha's robust algorithm significantly helped with this. It doesn't get distracted easily by small movements and variations in the pattern that differ from the overall movement. So blinks of the eyes were rarely a problem like they used to be when you tried to track a single feature in another software. The first round of tracking helped to roto the eyes and place the new ones. The second round tackled the movement of the pupil. Reproducing all subtle movements of the original performance was key to a successful shot. This way we could preserve all the character's emotions even with her new set of eyes!

On Journey 2 (a project in stereo 3D) we had to do a lot of cleanup. An animal that was used on set for filming had to be removed here and there so that a new CG creature could be inserted. mocha was a big help by providing reliable tracks for patches and roto.

mocha is an amazing tool that keeps getting better. We’re looking forward to new developments with mocha - features we know will benefit us even more, like a python api. This new feature will help us integrate pipelines and workflows even more effectively. 

mocha has truly changed the way we work here at Trixter and enables us to tackle the most complex VFX and stereo 3D conversion projects with the confidence that we can deliver flawless results, every time!