My first week with Nuke by The Foundry

First Nuke Composition from Michael Tempest on Vimeo.

As you may have read in my last post, I have decided to blog about more than just my development thoughts. So here is the first post of a different variety, the above video above is the culmination of my first week with Nuke by The Foundry

Movies have always been a big passion of mine, and I have always dabbled with videography, such as band videos, but it has never felt like it has fulfilled what I want to explore. One of the main disciplines in movie production that interests me the most is Compositing.

What is compositing?

Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene. (Compositing, 2015)

So this past week I decided to start finally teaching myself in my spare time (When my fiancee goes to bed) how to composite. The first step was deciding what software to use, after some brief research on the subject, it seemed that Nuke was the industry standard now for compositing in the film industry. Also, a brilliant fact is that The Foundry have made a non-commercial version available free of charge! A game changer for professional software houses, to let people learn the software they want to use for free is fantastic.

A little about Nuke

Nuke is a powerful node-based VFX, editorial & finishing tools (The Foundry:: NUKE product page, 2015)

Being a node based editor rather than the standard linear editor seems to a lot more sense to me and has made the learning phase a lot easier. I think this maybe down to the developer mind. Also, it seems to make a lot more sense for compositing, as you can build up node groups of functionality for FX that encourage reuse in your projects. We all know how developers like making reusable code. Another thing Nuke allows you to do is develop with Python, something I have meant to learn for a long time for web apps. So now I can combine my two disciplines!

How are you learning?

I've always found one of the best ways to learn is to do. For me, it is the only way things stick in my mind, whereas reading a book simply doesn't make it sink in. So I decided to scour the net to find resources and decided that Digital Tutors would be the best solution for me. They have a vast library of tutorials not just for Nuke, but for lots of other software, so if you are looking at learning something new, I highly recommend taking a look.

So what did you learn?

A new interface

Always one of those hard to tackle things when learning new interfaces. Luckily for me Nuke is pretty simple in terms of layout, this is partly down to it being a node based editor. Another factor that I think has helped my transition to getting to grips with the interface is that I have played around a lot with video editors and image editors in the past. Contributing to a good grounding in what you should be using when using the new software.

Node based editing

It has been a pleasure to work in a node based way; it just makes so much sense for this style of editing. The big step I had to learn was the way you blend separate assets. With most video editors of the linear fashion, you have a stack of assets in layers, this defines how the assets merge. Whereas with Nuke you use different types of node, the main I have used so far is a simple 'Merge' node. Giving you a background plate pipe and a top pipe, which just makes a lot of sense.

Rotofilters / Rotopainting

These are similar the masking functionality of Photoshop. They allow you to create a mask that you can use either with filters or if you wish on an asset. Rotofilters are more if you want to create shapes for the mask similar to the pen tool in Illustrator. Rotopainting is like it says on the tin, you paint in the detail of the roto.

3d Digital Assets

One thing I never knew is that almost all digitally created assets like 3d models when used in film often have a subtle blur filter applied. This makes the digital asset sit better in filmed scenes as they are simply too sharp for the eye to compare the detail.