Review: SliceX powered by mocha is a must have for FCPX
Now if only we could get this tool in Adobe Premiere Pro
By Scott Simmons | June 12, 2013
When it comes to quality motion tracking it’s hard to beat Imagineer Systems and what they have with their mocha technology. When it comes to masking tools inside of Final Cut Pro X it’s hard to beat what CoreMelt has come up with in their SliceX masking tool. Combine that masking of SliceX and the tracking of mocha and you’ve got a very must-have tool for FCPX in the recently released, $149 SliceX powered by mocha.
Core Melt released the very powerful masking tool SliceX earlier in the year (we profiled it in our Useful Tools column) but it was the announcement, and subsequent showing at NAB, that mocha tracking technology would be added to SliceX that took it from a probably should have FCPX tool to must have FCPX tool. You can still buy the original non-mocha powered SliceX for $79 but that would be silly since if you have to do masking in FCPX, more than likely, at some point some object you have to mask is going to move. CoreMelt sent over a license for the Editblog labs to pound on for this review.
The idea behind SliceX powered by mocha is simple: Use the SliceX drawing tools to make a shape, bring up the mocha tracking options and then track that shape backwards or forwards. Mocha will automagically track that shape. Unlike a point tracker which needs a point and a surrounding area to track, mocha’s planar tracker can track various planes within a frame making it easier to set up and usually more accurate to track.
Before you jump in and use the tracking technology first it’s a matter of picking one of six tools in the SliceX toolbox.
Depending on the task at hand SliceX provides six different effects to choose from.
Many NLE masking tools are just a single tool with options for placing control points as well as things like edge softness. With SliceX you’ll choose one of the six tools based on the effect you need to achieve. The Shape Mask Layer is most like the 4 or 8 point garbage matte you might have used in FCP7 (though infinitely more powerful) but others will have some great usefulness as well. Their titles are pretty self-explanatory.
Giving this beer a more amber color is easy with a simple mask so you don’t get any of the fence or bottle that could happen with a secondary color correction key.
SliceX’s mask controls let me easily draw that mask in about 5 seconds.
Things get a bit more complex when an object you want to isolate in the frame is moving and SliceX powered by mocha allows for this as well. Below is a shot of a bird feeder that is gently swaying in the breeze. The bottom is a bit ugly with rust and SliceX offers a simple fix.
This isn’t a terrible complex thing to fix as the oval shapes means it’ll be easy to mask.
I drew a shape around the bottom of the feeder, opened the mocha options by clicking on the orange mocha icon and clicked the track forward arrow.
A bit of color correction in the Color Correct Shape Mask Contrast control means this shot is all done.
Here’s the before and after:
It’s important to note you can only draw one shape per SliceX effect applied. But you can apply multiple SliceX effects to a clip. And both of those can use the mocha tracking engine. Or you can duplicate the clip, place it above in the timeline and apply another SliceX effect there. While drawing shapes is easy it would be nice if you could draw a shape from the center out instead of just the corner as that often makes it easier to get a circle or square mask just right. I also didn’t find a way to symmetrically constrain a shape when you first drag it out though you can constrain when changing an existing shape via shift when dragging a control point. You don’t have separate circle and square tools but rather a control point to Change Rounding Radius.
Dragging that orange control point let you go from a square to a circle. With the Rounding Radius point in the middle of the shape you have a circle.
A more complex mocha track
The mocha engine inside of SliceX allows for some pretty cool things to happen in addition to just following a plane inside of the image. There’s an Apply Transformation toggle that will attempt to adjust the shape around your object as the mocha engine tracks it.
With Apply Transformation turned on mocha will try to keep the selection around the object as best it can.
Results will differ depending on the shot. This one was tough with the dog’s skinny legs and tail moving out of the selection as well as the pattern of the grass.
But a situation like this is where SliceX’s keyframing comes in very handy. By enabling keyframing via the key in the SliceX toolbar, you can manually move keyframes in time and SliceX will record those moves and animate the selection. A little keyframes toolbar will pop up to help. While I was animating a lot of keyframes the toolbar wouldn’t let me move back and forth between them though it was clearly making animations. Unfortunately there’s no way to see an animation timeline and directly manipulate those keyframes but that’s most likely a limitation of FCPX’s effect architecture and not SliceX. You can drag marquees around multiple control points to move more than one at a time so that makes manual keyframing easier. Overall it works well.
Here’s my selection around the dog after manually adjusting some of the results after mocha’s attempt with transformation. It was easy to do and quite fast so while the mocha transformation was far from perfect it gave a great starting point.
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