By Gary Jackemuk
Shake is often called the ultimate compositing tool for high-end film graphics. With interface improvements and the speed gained by adding multiprocessor support to Version 2.2, Nothing Real has taken steps to hold on to that title. Furthermore, the company has announced the addition of a Linux-based rendering-only option to its offerings on the NT and Irix platforms.
Shake's interface is separated into four main regions, all of which can be resized and customized. The upper left region contains the default image viewer where work is displayed, along with controls that are dependent on the image, such as tracking or matte generation.
The upper right portion contains the node view. Shake is a node-based program, meaning that to build a composite, you add compositing operations (nodes) and link them to create a process tree. Inputs can come from disk (either live-action or rendered from a 3D package), or can be generated inside Shake.
|Among the enhancements in Shake 2.2 is an improved interface. The area at the bottom left shows the new Time View feature. |
The lower right side of the screen is where the controls for each node appear. This area, which changes depending on which node is selected in your process tree, is where you'll find the global settings for many operations, such as the default length of a composite.
Lastly, the bottom left side of the screen shows operators, which, when selected, become nodes in your tree. They are grouped based on functionality and separated into tabs, some of which include Image, Color, and Transform.
Numerous improvements make Shake's four-region interface more user-friendly. For instance, the timeline is easier to navigate, and you can view where you set your keyframes on the current active node. (Shake is similar to many 3D animation packages in that keyframes are used to manipulate most of the parameters in a given node within the process tree.) One missing attribute to keyframing inside Shake, however, is the capability to advance to the next keyframe in any given node. I'm told this capability is planned for a future release.
Other additions to the GUI include a Time View tab that enables you to shift sequences of images in a temporal fashion. Using this layout, you can slide your image sequence forward or backward in time by highlighting the image bar associated with the fileIn node in the Time View and shifting it forward or backward. By shifting it forward, you can have your frame 1 start at frame 9, and all the other frames in your sequence also will shift in time accordingly.
The new macro editor was greatly needed, as it enables you to create and customize compositing nodes to streamline repetitive operations and improve work flow. An additional enhancement is a color wheel for visually generating color-correction changes or solid frames.
Although the enhancements to the GUI and the speed improvements in the overall processing create a solid compositing package, Shake still has a few limitations, especially in terms of color correction, keying, and rotoscoping. Most of the tools necessary for doing advanced color corrections are primitive. While experienced and technical users can build complex nodes that control highlights, lowlights, and other attributes by using the basic color manipulation nodes and writing their own equations, other users might have difficulty putting such tools together. One way Nothing Real is addressing some of these issues is by integrating several third-party plug-ins (Keylight, Ultimatte, and Tinder) into the package. A procedural paint module is on the horizon as well.
Nothing Real has made a large step in improving an already powerful and versatile program and also in making it easier for new and non-technical users. Novice and intermediate users will find the additions and improvements, especially in the GUI, extremely useful and productive. Advanced users will love the speed and the enhancements, but will quickly begin asking when they can get their hands on the next major release, Version 2.5, which is scheduled to ship in the fall and to include the functions missing in this version.
Gary Jackemuk is a DFX supervisor based in Hollywood, California. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Price: $9900 for a network license. Shake Render 2.2, $3900 for a network license.
Minimum System Requirements: NT and Linux: Pentium II or III (dual-processor system recommended); 128MB of RAM; OpenGL-compatible graphics card.
SGI: O2, Octane, or Onyx/Onyx2; 128MB of RAM