Gradient FX Relies on Mocha Pro for Friends with Benefits Postproduction
October 6, 2011

Gradient FX Relies on Mocha Pro for Friends with Benefits Postproduction

Marina Del Rey, Calif. - Award-winning artist and technology-driven VFX studio Gradient FX completed work on the romantic comedy, Friends with Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
"We used mocha extensively on Friends with Benefits. It's a romantic comedy, so our ability to create moods and cinematic ambience in post is critical. And mocha plays such an important role in scenes you'd never think would require a lot of work. In one sequence, Timberlake and Kunis are on a New York City rooftop with the Empire State Building in the background. The director wanted a clear night sky with twinkling stars behind the actors. Mocha made quick and easy work of rotoing the actors so we could replace the skies behind them. What would've taken hours, took only minutes," says Thomas Tanenberger, co-founder of Gradient FX.

In Friends with Benefits, much of the interaction between characters is smartphone use--calling and texting constantly. And in a romantic comedy, it's all part of the chemistry, mood, and timing that needs to be maintained in a realistic way.

"Smart phones just don't have the brightness and clarity to shop up on the movie screen, so every single one of them needs to be replaced," continues Tanenberger. "We used mocha extensively for screen replacement throughout the entire movie--mochamakes it simple and fast and incredibly accurate--realism is key!" 

Many post houses can relate to when the directors asks for what seems to be a simple request, can most often wreak havoc and add multiple hours, if not days, to the project.

"One sequence that really stood out for us was the restaurant scene, where the actors were dining al fresco on the street. It was a big shot, with the camera starting with a wide shot above the scene, craning down to narrow the focus onto the character. The directors wanted the shot flipped. Seems easy, right? Well, on a city street loaded with street signs, posters, images, graphics, it's suddenly not that simple. Everything was inverted, any and every sign with a written word on it was backwards and had to be changed. With mocha, tracking, roto and stabilization working together beautifully, we extracted all the signs, stabilized them and tracked it all back. This would've taken days of tedium, but with mocha, we made quick work of the shot," Tanenberger says.

Seamless workflow becomes increasingly important to shops like Gradient FX; when time is of the essence and you have artists working on impossible deadlines, the last thing you need is integration issues between applications. Thomas adds, "In our workflow, mocha is often the 'in between step.' We do a lot of our work in Nuke, so our ability to export seamlessly from mocha to Nuke is critical. Mocha makes smooth work of this. Feature film postproduction is heavily pipelined, and teamwork is so important, so you also need tools that work perfectly in synch with each other.

"Mocha is very unique, without it, jobs like this would've taken days or weeks longer. It may not always be glamorous, but the tedium of manual frame-by-frame manipulation can become overwhelming. But with mocha central to our pipeline, it's a life saver. You can see why we've been with mocha since day one," Tanenberger continues.