Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bombs away!

So many possibilities with the name of this entry...  Duke Nuke-em, Drop the Nuke, Ground Zero, Nukes Away, To [insert enemy country here] With Love... you might notice a theme with them.

Today I want to talk briefly about Nuke, the compositing program by The Foundry.  In short, this is the program that most companies use to put all the different elements they create together.  It is also where they can add certain affects, which were impossible or unsatisfactory before this point.  For a long time, the industry mainly used Shake, owned by Apple Inc., however, it was discontinued in 2009, and while some studios still use it, it has mainly fallen to the wayside and Nuke is taking its place.

For most people, the closest thing to Nuke they will use is Adobe After Effects, which will allow you to do many of the same things as Nuke, but not nearly as robust or thoroughly.  After Effects mainly works with layers, much like Photoshop, giving the ability to place layers of effects over each other and blend them together.  However, this is actually very limited, and in the end, a Node-based network, like Nuke, is much better.  Both Nuke and Shake use node-based networks, much like Houdini as well.

The work I have been doing on Nuke is actually very fun.  I often have to go into Maya and separate a scene into passes, rendering only one portion of the image, from a specific object to a light, or even a mask, and then take these parts into Nuke, where I have to put them back together.  The advantage to this is that I can manipulate these elements in ways that are impossible or very difficult in Maya, giving me more control over my image.  These can be big changes, such as an overall hue shift for the entire scene, or something much smaller, like a tiny detail of an ambient shadow on a specific set of grapes.

Often, the node network will get rather cluttered, so it is up to the compositor to keep their work space organized, so when/if others have to work with it, they can understand with certain ease what all is happening.  I have heard horror stories about expert compositors who leave such a messy pile of spaghetti they call a node network that it literally took days to go through when handed off to someone else.  So recently, I have been working on keeping my networks organized and orderly.

Here is an example of a node network for a scene I am working on in one of my classes.  I did not make any of the scene itself, only split it into parts and composited it together again, adding ambient occlusion, color shifts, glows, etc.  While you can't see the names of the nodes at this distance, trust me when I say you can zoom in and see the names of every node easily identified.

Enjoy and keep pixellated!

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