Molecule VFX artist on how she uses Mocha Pro for clean-ups, screen burn-ins, and more only shows like Dickinson and Only Murders in the Building.
Ask the Artist: Manooj Manoharan, Rotopaint and Compositor
5 minute read
How he uses Silhouette and Mocha Pro for clean-ups and roto, why he's most proud of his work on Robert Zemekis' The Witches, and creating tutorials.
Manooj Manoharan is a rotopaint and compositing artist based in Montreal, Canada, who has worked on features and commercials including The Witches (Warner Bros. Pictures), For All Mankind (Apple TV, season 2), and Stranger Things (Netflix, season 3). He currently works at Method Studios and uses Foundry Nuke along with Silhouette and Mocha Pro. He also runs a YouTube channel where he shares tutorials and podcasts on VFX and animation.
Where are you from and how did you get your start in the industry?
I am from India and moved to Montreal last year. After my graduation, I was hired by a VFX post-production company BOT VFX back in 2011. It was a time when studios in India were getting a lot of roto and paint work for stereo conversion and I started my career as a roto artist with projects like John Carter and Ghostrider: Spirit of Vengeance.
What are your go-to Boris FX plugins and which effect/features do you rely on most?
I use Foundry Nuke as my main compositing software package for all my roto/paint and compositing works, but the heart and soul are Silhouette and Mocha Pro!
I do my tracking in Mocha on the other side clean plate and touch-up, and in Silhouette with the help of inbuilt tracking options.
Personally, I rely on the auto paint option in Silhouette most of the time as it’s easy to track the paint strokes and arrive at a result. All the tools are super useful. My all-time favorites are blur and drag tools — but without the eraser tool, my output will be incomplete.
What project are you most proud of and why?
A recent project I am proud of is The Witches by Robert Zemeckis, which premiered last year. It was a challenging project requiring complex paint work and multiple split comps. It was a great learning opportunity for me.
How do you prep before a big project?
I believe that learning and constantly updating ourselves helps us whether it is the beginning or end of a project deadline. But to be precise, I usually plan the workflows and acquire as many details regarding the project from leads or supervisors.
What’s a keyboard shortcut you can’t live without?
I would say that without Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+S, and Arrow Keys. It’s a troublesome life for a rotopaint artist especially if you are an avid user of Silhouette and Mocha Pro.
How do you keep yourself fueled/your favorite snack when you’re in an epic session?
Since we have been working from home for some time because of the pandemic, I have stuck to scheduled breaks so I don’t over-indulge. I try to stay hydrated throughout the day and snack on dry fruits. But sometimes I treat myself to homemade sweets or cakes. It’s a pandemic after all.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I always get inspired whenever I check Behance and there are lots of YouTube channels that keep on inspiring me. They also motivate me to do more content on my YouTube channel too!
Sometimes I find time to read technical blogs to push the limits, LOL!
What do you do when you start feeling creative burnout?
Yeah! Burnout is a real problem, especially when working from home. If so, I like to step out for a walk or call a friend to give myself a break. Also watching some random funny videos or continuing to read the book I was reading the night before relaxes me.
What’s your favorite film and/or TV series?
We have tons of content on all the streaming websites and some of them in my recent watchlist are The Midnight Sky, Wonder Woman 1984, The Witches, Clouds, Scam 1992 (Regional), C U Soon (Regional), The Croods: A New Age, and the list goes on…But some of my all-time favorites are Chernobyl, The Avengers series, Jack Ryan, and Sacred Games (Regional).
If you could collaborate with any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?
Neill Blomkamp. When I watched District 9, I became a huge fan of his work and when I read more about him he became an inspiring personality.
What career and/or life advice would you give your younger self?
I would like to advise my younger self on three things.
- Build a YouTube channel with professional content as YouTube is gonna become the busiest video platform in the future.
- Learn Python so that it can ease my work and help profile me better as an artist.
- Work hard as lots of streaming platforms are going to boom on the Internet and moviemaking will change to face a new era!