NUKE in a state of FLUX

Nuke 4.5 in production. In this week’s podcast we talk to Jonathan Egstad, visual effects supervisor for the Paramount release “Aeon Flux” starring Charlize Theron. For our online story we chatted to Gary Meyer, Nuke Product Specialist about the details of the 4.5 release.

Jonathan Egstad is one of the most talented digital effects supervisors in the film industry today. Among his accomplishments, is the Scientific and Technical Achievement Academy Award for Digital Domain’s proprietary compositing software Nuke. Jonathan was responsible for creating its architecture and its large selection of interactive capabilities. Jonathan most recently worked on the Paramount release Aeon Flux .

Nuke 4.5 was released last week

His other credits include working on key sequences for “Star Trek Nemesis”. Egstad also worked on the seamless blending of CG water and practical water elements in the climactic Ahab sequence for Rob Cohen and Revolution Pictures “xXx”. Prior to that, he worked on some of over 250 shots on the production of director Simon Wells’ The Time Machine, in which he helped choreographed CG elements to visually represent time travel at 300 years per film frame to arrive at a destination 800,000 years into the future.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Digital Domain

During his tenure at Digital Domain, Egstad’s worked on “Apollo 13”, “The Fifth Element”, “True Lies”, and “Titanic”. He also worked on Cameron’s “Terminator 2-3D: Battle Across Time”. This 70mm 3D film expanded the possibilities of 3D filmmaking and is still regarded as a technological breakthrough. In this weeks podcast he discusses his experiences with NUKE and how he uses it daily in the shows he supervisors.

Listen to the podcast to see how 3D mapping was used in this entire scene

His credits at Digital Domain also include working on Twentieth Century Fox’s “I Robot.” In “I Robot”, he was focused to integrating a fully CG character seamlessly into a real environment. D2’s CG lighting design and compositing expertise were integral to the believability of the work in that film.

In this scene, as Egstad explains in the podcast, almost every scene had to be reconstructed in NUKE before the 3D robot could be added. This was achieved with NUKE’s Camera Mapping.

After last week’s annoucement of NUKE 4.5 we chatted to Gary Meyer, Nuke Product Specialist at D2 Software, to find out a bit more about the new version:

"Aeon Flux" image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Digital Domain.

In this major shot from “Aeon Flux” (the jungle scene mentioned in the podcast) – the textures were, according to Gary Meyer, “monstorous” . It contained:

15 8k plates (8192×8192)
6 4k plates (4096×1024)
24 2k plates (2048×2048)

This image from “Aeon Flux” shows a partial 3D view of the scene. The screengrab doesn’t contain all of the textures listed above, but probably significantly more than other compositing systems 3D space can likely handle, and when fully loaded, the team could “spin it around as if there were a single cylinder in the scene” explains Meyer.

A green screen example from "Aeon Flux" in the new IBK keyer

fxg: With such advances why isn’t this version a 5.0 rather than a 4.5 release?

GM: Good point, it could be considered that, especially once you see how much faster the 3D space is. Realistically, tho, there was mostly a lot of core work done, so in terms of actual features or looks it doesn’t read like a major release. Lots of fixes, lots of improvements, but in the end, just on this side of the 4.5/5.0 question, we feel.

the Image based keyer is a new approach to keying

fxg: How hard was the OSX port ?

GM: Not too bad. Our developers were a bit surprised to find that development on OSX was less like Linux development than Windows was, but thought that the OS had some interesting implementations. Just took a bit of getting used to.

In the sequence above the IBKSFill node generates the key and the IBKGizmo takes the two images and performs the actual key while the IBKedge to removes any halo effect.

fxg: Is the OSX port the same as the IRIX/WIN/LINUX versions?

GM: Yes, no differences

fxg: Have you done speed comparisons between the various versions of NUKE ? Where do they differ?

GM: No, other than Intel vs. Mips, and I am sure you know what the results are there.

editors note: fxg will be speed testing NUKE on the new quad 4 proc Mac G5 to compare it to other common compositing options, these benchmarks will take a few weeks.

All images courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Digital Domain

fxg: Has Digital Domain used the OSX version in production ? If so to what extent, if not – who has ?

GM: It is being used at Digital Domain, but more for previz and tests (laptop work). As we just started shipping the product today, it’s in the hands of only a few customers. The OSX version is running a few days behind the other two (main) platforms, but only in terms of getting installers out. That has nothing to do with the version itself, but current customer demand.

fxg will publish an independent review of NUKE in an upcoming story.

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