some notes from the Toronto Nuke User Group

The Nuke User Group was held on Tuesday.  It took a bit to plan out, but it came together nicely.  There were three presenters.  From The Foundry, Deke Kincaid showed off the new features of Nuke 8.  

I've been using Nuke 8 for about a month now, and it feels like an evolutionary release, not a revolutionary one.  I guess I've been spoiled by the last few years, it feels like every release since The Foundry took over development has been massive.  Versions 6.3 and 7 were especially strong, containing tools that I use on a daily basis.

With version 8, it felt a bit like they were taking a breath and fixing things that had been overlooked for years.  A much improved help system, improvements to the dope sheet, a text node that wasn't embarrassing are all worthwhile developments.  One of the biggest things for me is the fact that Quicktimes now render without shifting the colour and gamma (at least in my tests), which is a huge deal.  There was no tool that blew my mind like seeing the improved Point Cloud Generator in version 7, or the Deep Compositing in 6.3.  Maybe the closest thing is the Blink Script, which seems very impressive with it's flexibility.  I don't know the first thing about coding, so putting in the time investment to start learning the basics seems pretty daunting.

Once Deke was done, Alex Branton from Mr.X showed a very cool Python tool he made.  They had several shots that required fire to be placed on cards.  There was so much fire that just placing the cards in the correct 3D space was taking a lot of time.  The lighters would create Locaters for where the fires should be placed in Maya.  Then when Alex would import the geometry in Nuke, his tool would read the position of the locators and position everything correctly, placing the fire footage on the cards.  It's much more impressive than what I'm typing here, it was pretty spectacular to see in action.  The basics of the shot were roughed in very quickly, and there was lots of built in flexibility to edit things.

When Alex finished up, Adrian Sutherland from Spin came up and showed four shots from the series The Borgias.  He broke down the shots in a lot of detail, describing how Spin outputted their 3D passes, how they put together their matte paintings, and how they leveraged Nuke's particle system for crowd duplication.  

All and all, I think it was a really good night and I think everyone came away with some new knowledge, or some new tips or tricks they could use.  I was very pleased to see how all the different companies came together to help with the presentations and hosting.  

Early thoughts on the Nuke 8 announcement

Today, The Foundry announced Nuke 8.  I only have a few minutes before I have to run off to work, but I have a few early thoughts.

First off, the feature I'm probably most looking forward to is the UV Editor.  There have been countless times when I've generated geometry using the Point Cloud Generator that I'd want to use to catch projections that are rendered to the UV view that I couldn't use because the PCG doesn't generate UVs.  This would necessitate either taking the geo out to another program to UV edit, or try projecting UVs in Nuke, which never worked out well if the geometry was non-planar (which was all the time).  So I'm really happy to hear about this, I think I'll likely use it all the time.

I'm also interested in checking out Deep images generated from Nuke's own scanline renderer.  There's been a handful of times that would have been helpful to have.

It looks like there's a lot of features that, while not earth-shattering, will be very helpful.  Things like improving the dope sheet (which will take into account time changes on keyframes correctly) and having the colour wheel built into the colour corrector properly sound like things that I'll use all the time.  I always use the colour wheel when colour correcting, so that's great.

I am surprised that there's no mention of Nuke/Modo integration.  I was really hoping that Nuke would integrate some of Modo's rendering functionality in this version (especially having just one bounce of raytracing to be able to render reflections in Nuke would be so helpful).  What's odd is that The Foundry have been working on (and showing at trade shows) intense Nuke-Heiro-Modo integration, but there's no official word on it.  I was hoping Nuke 8 would contain some of that, but it looks like we'll have to wait.

Another year over, a new one about to begin

The other day I was in my classroom, just walking around and making sure that there was no garbage hanging around, when it hit me that I had been teaching in that classroom for ten years.  I had been teaching for about a year when we moved from Seneca's tiny campus on Jane St, to a brand new building on the campus of York University (Seneca is one of the biggest colleges in Canada, and has several campuses around the Greater Toronto Area, mine is at York).

It's staggering to think about the amount of change that's taken place over that time. Ten years ago, the program was primarily a compositing course, teaching Combustion and Flame.  We actually had four Flames at the school, which was pretty crazy if you think about it.  It didn't take long to move away from them.  The writing was on the wall for those very expensive systems, there was a clear shift towards PC-based workstations.

We changed over to Digital Fusion and taught that from about 2005 to 2009.  The school didn't really want our program to move to Linux, so even though Shake was the dominant compositing package, we were on the pretty painful version 5 and 5.1 of Fusion for a while.  Fusion was adding their 3D environment to the package, and it was quite buggy.

Along the way we added matchmoving to the program, first with Syntheyes and now with PF Track.  Maya was added early on, which is still a mainstay of the program, considering that Toronto is very much a Maya city.  Houdini was added in 2011.  

We were the first program to add Nuke on the East Coast, and I'm pretty sure in North America but I can't prove that.  I certainly didn't hear of any other schools teaching Nuke back then.  This was just before Nuke swept the industry, but you could see it coming.  I remember back then it seemed like every two weeks you'd see a press release saying that a site license of Nuke was purchased by some huge studio.  

I just finished putting together this year's compilation reel.  I'm always amazed and inspired by what the students can put together in eight months.  Really, that's the secret of teaching, I get back far more than what I put in.  Every year I have a fresh class of students that are so excited and eager to learn.  Their eagerness is contagious, a true pleasure to be around.

To all my past students, cheers, here's to you. I hope the next ten years will be as nice as the last.