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Ask the Artist with Carmen Wong, Nuke Compositor
5 minute read
Why she uses Mocha Pro for tracking needs on projects like Yellowstone and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, learning to trust your gut, and more.
Carmen Wong is an East Coast transplant currently living in Los Angeles, California. She began her career as a roto/paint artist using Boris FX Mocha Pro and Silhouette together and now relies heavily on Mocha Pro as a Nuke-based compositor. Her recent credits include Yellowstone, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I Am Groot, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Visit her IMDB page.
Where are you from? How did you get your start in the industry?
I grew up in Maine and then spent my college years in Massachusetts and Georgia. My path into VFX started during my undergraduate studies. I attended Springfield College in western Massachusetts, where I received a B.S. in Computer Graphics/Digital Media. During this time, I learned how to use 3D Maya, ZBrush, Adobe Suite, and Unreal engine. Eventually, I discovered I wanted to learn more about the world of VFX. That’s when I headed south to Georgia to continue my studies. I started to learn Nuke, Houdini, RenderMan, and Python programming, among other software, at Savannah College of Art and Design, where I received an M.F.A. in Visual Effects. Upon graduation from SCAD, I got my first job in Boston as a roto/paint artist working on feature films and commercials. Eventually, I worked my way into the compositing department.
What Boris FX tools do you use? Which effects/features do you rely on most?
As a compositor, I rely heavily on Mocha Pro. It’s my first go-to software for tracking if I haven’t received one from the tracking department. I’ve used Mocha on almost every project I’ve ever worked on, whether it be commercial, episodic, or film. This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with the in-house VFX crew on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We had a small team tackling a bunch of shots. Many of the shots I worked on there required the use of Mocha Pro to complete. I enjoy the Mocha node within Nuke and how you can have Mocha up and running and tracking within seconds without going through the process of creating a new project and file. It’s simple but such a time saver.
During my roto/paint days, I used Silhouette and Mocha on a daily basis. The built-in Mocha system within Silhouette is incredibly powerful. The first movie I got to work on was a boxing movie called Southpaw, where we were given the task of extracting the boxers in the ring so that the compositors could place the crowd in the stadium behind them. I couldn’t imagine doing that amount of articulate roto without using Silhouette and Mocha combined. It would have taken twice as long. The amount of control that you have over your shapes is most helpful.
What project are you most proud of — and why?
I’m proud to have worked on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever because it was a new challenging experience. It was the first time that I got to work on-site with the editorial, director, and in-house VFX teams. There were a lot of talented people working on the show around the clock. It was great to see all the pieces fall together at the end. There’s no better feeling than watching a movie you worked on for months in a theatre and hearing everyone's reaction — from laughter to shock/surprise and even tears.
How do you prep before a big project?
Bigger projects often require putting in a lot of extra hours during the weekend and even weekends. I’d say the best way I can prep for them would be to do as much exercising and relaxing as I can so I don’t burn myself out too much during the crunch time.
What's a keyboard shortcut you can't live without?
Ctrl + S: It never feels good to lose any work, whether it’s 10 minutes worth or an hour.
How do you keep yourself fueled/your favorite snack in an epic session?
I keep myself fueled by drinking lots of tea. I love snacking on mochi, seaweed, gummy worms, and Sour Patch Kids.
Where do you turn for artistic inspiration?
I enjoy checking out different museums as well as traveling. I learn so much from exploring the world and meeting new people, whether you’re visiting a town two hours away or flying to another country twenty hours away.
What do you do when you start feeling creative burnout?
I talk to other artists and try to bounce ideas off each other. It’s always interesting to get a different perspective. Everyone has a different opinion.
What's your favorite film and/or TV series?
I loved Finding Nemo when it was released. It is such a fun and beautifully created underwater world. I also really enjoyed the TV series Breaking Bad.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino because I enjoy the shows they create, from Gilmore Girls to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. They create and produce such complex and interesting characters along with great storytelling that are an absolute joy to watch. What makes a great show or film is when everything gels together, from the storytelling to the acting and the visuals.
What career and/or life advice would you give your younger self?
The career/life I’d give to my younger self would have to be to trust my gut and worry less about how others think I should live my life. I’ve learned over the years that I’m the one that has to live with the decisions that I make, from what job I have to where I live, etc. As long as I’m content with those choices, that matters most. We all have different interests and goals in life. What makes me happy doesn’t necessarily make someone else happy, and that’s ok.