Review: CoreMelt TrackX tracker in Final Cut Pro X

CoreMelt did it again. With SliceX the company was the first to incorporate Oscar winning mocha Pro technology in a Final Cut Pro X plug-in. TrackX is a second plug-in that uses the mocha engine to deliver three tracking capabilities — Simple Tracker, Text Tracker and Layer Tracker. Of these three, the latter is the most “complex”, but that doesn’t mean you need to become a compositing whiz kid to create some stunning effects with TrackX.

TrackX lets you track the motion of an apparently moving object (Ed.: if you use a slider and pass by a static object, that one moves relative to your camera…) in a video in order to attach text or graphics that follow the motion of that object directly in Final Cut Pro X.

TrackX interface inside Final Cut Pro X

With TrackX, you can insert floating lower thirds tracked to people’s movements, replace an iPad screen or a billboard with your own graphics or video and do myriads of other creative things, all with the same ease and simplicity as with SliceX. TrackX uses the same mocha engine as the one that you’ll find in Imagineer Systems own mocha Pro. mocha Pro isn’t the only tracking software available, but it sure is the best.

Imagineer Systems developed what is known as a Planar Tracker, which was honoured in 2013 with a Science & Engineering Academy Award. It’s the same Planar Tracker that is used by TrackX. CoreMelt offers TrackX both as a stand-alone plug-in and a bundle with SliceX. With SliceX you can remove objects, and mask them, with TrackX you can attach an element (that isn’t in the original clip) to a moving object. Those capabilities cover about 99% of what compositing artists need, all inside the Final Cut Pro X environment.

CoreMelt sent me a license for the bundle. Installation was easy, but as I still had the old SliceX plug-in installed from the previous review I ran into problems with the interface disappearing randomly. After removing all CoreMelt plug-ins from the /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro/Templates/Effects and /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro/Templates/Generators folders and re-installing the bundle, everything worked like a charm.

Just like SliceX, you drag TrackX from the Inspector to your Timeline. The only difference is that TrackX lives under the Generators tab, while SliceX can be found under the Effects tab. TrackX adds a Generator clip above your main clip in the Timeline. Selecting the TrackX clip reveals the TrackX interface which looks exactly like the SliceX one, with tracking shapes organised in a column, a button to de-activate the mocha engine, a button to activate keyframes and a control bar with which you can start/stop tracking, change tracker settings, etc. All controls can be positioned wherever you want on the screen.

TrackX has three editing ‘rooms’ if you wish: Tracking, Surface and Mask. It’s especially the cutting up of the workflow into easily recognisable steps that makes this plug-in a breeze to work with.

TrackX has a simple tracker

The Simple and Layer Trackers have an “image well” to load a graphic or a video that goes inside the shape you create. With the Simple Tracker, the Inspector allows you to resize and position the surface that will move along with your tracked object.

By the way, the Layer and Text trackers also allow you to resize and re-position the surface in real time, right inside the Viewer Display. Another difference between the Simple Tracker and Layer Tracker is that the former only enables scaling, rotation and offset from the track, but no masking nor the ability to place the surface (the surface is not the tracker — you can always track with perspective compensation turned on) into a perspective skew.

The text made with the Text Tracker is made to lie down...

The Layer Tracker does offer you all those capabilities, which means that with the Simple Tracker you’ll always end up with a surface holding text, video or a graphic that is directly facing you, while with the Layer Tracker you can create a surface that appears to lie down, for example. In addition, these effects can be key-framed over time using the Final Cut Pro X Inspector as you would otherwise.

The Layer Tracker further allows you to invert the mask, blur it, give it a roundness factor, etc., etc. The Text Layer delivers exactly the same capabilities, but instead of an image well, you get a button that opens a text editor. The text editor enables you to enter text that will move along with the tracked object. It looks like it’s the OS X editor, which is quite a complete editor, giving access to different fonts, margin settings, line spacing, background colour and transparency, and even access to paragraph styles.

Combining TrackX with other plug-ins

I tested TrackX on its own, in combination with SliceX and with Rampant Design’s SketchFX icons and Alphanumeric clips.

In every instance, TrackX is a dream come true. It’s not only simple to use, but also has practically no learning curve at all. On its own, it’s easy to see how you can enrich footage with elements that aren’t in your original footage. For example, with the Simple Tracker you can attach a lower thirds title in literally a matter of seconds. Or think of the “squares” moving along with people as they walk, style “Person of Interest”.

Combined with SliceX, TrackX behaves the same way and without slowing down Final Cut Pro X, which is quite an achievement by itself — I frequently encounter slow-downs when I try combining plug-ins that accomplish complex effects.

I tested the Layer Tracker — which together with the Text Tracker will set your creativity free completely — with some of my own video clips running inside a tracked shape, but also with Rampant Design’s SketchFX clips. These have an alpha channel and the effects you can get by using them in combination with TrackX are simply brilliant.

TrackX with Rampant Design SketchFX icon

Of course, you can also create your own compositing elements in Apple Motion (or any other equivalent app) to fit inside the image well of TrackX. You needn’t even worry about their size too much, as you can manipulate to your heart’s content. With TrackX and SliceX combined, the sky really is the limit in Final Cut Pro X.

What’s there not to like

Nothing is perfect, and neither are mocha’s technology and everything using it. Mocha does come close, though, and the only two things you need to keep an eye on are tracked objects that run out of the frame — in that case, TrackX (as does mocha Pro, for that matter) offers keyframe based tracking — and reflections.

Reflections are the most painful, as they will mess with the mocha tracking system in the most ugly ways possible. But then again, these two imperfections are the only ones I could find.

TrackX by itself costs approx. 80.00 Euros, while the SliceX/TrackX bundle costs about 120.00 Euros. That’s really cheap for a tracker performing this well with the added comfort of doing it all inside Final Cut Pro X.

If you want to take compositing further (but outside the Final Cut Pro X environment), then mocha Pro is your best choice for approx. 440.00 Euros. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need After Effects, BorisFX or another professional compositing tool to make the most out of it.