What you can do with Nuke

What exactly is NUKE?

Nuke Logo

Nuke is a supremely fast and powerful node-based compositing application used to create high-quality film, animation, commercial or broadcast vfx content. It has been used on almost every big Hollywood extravaganza, including Avatar. The latest version as of this writing is release 6.3, which is Nuke’s biggest ever upgrade. So, what makes Nuke so good?

Nuke loads on an average computer in seconds. It’s interface always feels smooth and silky. Those who are used to the clunky AE interface will feel like they are gliding on clouds.

In video-land, 32-bit (floating) is the highest quality you can get. Don’t confuse this with the 32-bit vs 64-bit OS. 32-bit in this case refers to Color Depth. The basic video color depth of cameras (like the HDSLRs and prosumer models) is 8-bit. Most of the JPEG images you see on the internet are in 8-bit. What this means, is that there are 8 bits (or values) that can represent the color of a single pixel. However, to represent the real world (high-end LCD panels, High-end projection screens, and the human eye), one needs many more bits, because there is a lot more color detail. Most LCD and projection systems top at 12-bit. This is why, in photography or videography, the ‘standard’ is around 16-bit. What 32-bit (floating) gives you is unlimited precision to reuse the files again and again without losing data. In color terms, it’s almost a world in which an action has no reaction. This is important, since most videos in HD are either 10-bit or 12-bit. It’s not a perfect world in video-land. But it is, when it is brought into Nuke.

Resolution Independent:
Have you ever had the problem of importing various kinds of files on to a single timeline or project? Most applications cannot handle it without causing injury to body and soul. The great thing about Nuke, is that you can drop in ANY kind of footage, with whatever resolution and color space it has, and Nuke will accept it without a second thought. It can’t be that simple, right? Yes, it can.

After Effects is layer-based, like Photoshop. You add each effect layer by layer, until there are so many layers that you’ll curse yourself for not naming each one individually. Nuke is node-based, kind of like a flow-chart. But we all know how complex flow-charts can be, right? Not if you’re working on them. Imagine Tom Cruise from Minority Report playing with his monitor, that’s how it feels to use a node-based system. It’s like drawing, and since you can bunch up things visually, you’ll never feel lost – you can find anything perfectly within seconds. How cool is that?

Multi-channel workflow:
This one’s so easy to do, but tough to explain. Nuke streamlines the workflow into channels, beginning with RGB and Alpha. However, you can add many more channels, depending on what information you want to add to the footage. This comes in handy when you have multiple renders of a 3D object – each in its own channel. Through every step of the flowchart, you can control which channels are affected and which left alone. It is so simple, but incredibly powerful, intuitive and helpful. Once you’ve mastered channels, you won’t ever want to try anything else.

3D Space:
After Effects works in 2D Land. Well actually, it has 2.5D, but that doesn’t really count since you can’t import and composit 3D models. Imagine creating a 3D world or scene in Maya and importing it into Nuke for compositing. That’s what you can do. To see what I’m talking about, watch this video:

Stereoscopic workflow:
Nuke’s stereoscopic workflow allows you to work on stereo footage as one image stream, only splitting out to separate left and right image streams where necessary. It also supports an arbitrary number of image streams to do multi-views with ease.

3D Particle System:
This is why I’m excited about version 6.3. Until now, Nuke didn’t have a powerful particle system, which made creating fire, water, debris, etc, difficult. Now we can.

Keying software:
Nuke includes four of the best chroma keying software out there: Primatte, Ultimatte, Keylight and IBK. All of them work differently, and among these four, 99% of your keying needs will be taken care of. Enough said.

The plug-ins and NukeX
Nuke offers the best plug-ins money can buy. Nuke also comes in a version titled NukeX. I would recommend anyone who is buying Nuke to try out NukeX. For the extra money that you will be paying, you will get these superpowers –

  • 3D camera tracker
  • 3D particles
  • Planar tracker
  • Denoise
  • Modelling & point cloud generation tools
  • Lens distortion
  • RenderMan Pro server support
  • FurnaceCore
  • Fore more information on these tools, click here. For more information on all the new features in version 6.3, click here.

    I have barely scratched the surface on what Nuke is capable of. The best place to learn more about Nuke and its features is from The Foundry, the creators of this phenomenal application.