Of course, major industry trade shows are intermittent. And yet, innovation continues 365 days a year. As such, Foundry has introduced Foundry LIVE, events that support technical innovation and showcase how the company’s products can be used in studio and artist workflows to achieve high- quality results in visual effects and animation.
“Our mission is to help our customers efficiently tackle complex visualization challenges so they can scale to meet demands and envision incredible ideas, better and faster,” says Jordan Thistlewood, Director of Product – Pre-production, LookDev & Lighting at Foundry. “Foundry LIVE is a great space for us to meet with customers and industry, and share all work and insights on how we are supporting their pipeline.”
Foundry’s recent LIVE event was held at the end of January in Montreal, home to many world-class studios and artists – from small boutique shops to large global facilities. And, the timing could not have been better, as the audience of Foundry product users and VFX enthusiasts got a preview of the exciting features in the new Nuke 12.1 release, which just debuted February 19. In addition, the company reviewed the features in the recent Katana 3.5 release.
As a special treat, Method Studios provided insight into its global pipeline – comprising Nuke, Mari, and Katana – and detailed how it was used in some recent productions there, including the acclaimed Ford vs. Ferrari film.
Juan Salazar, creative product manager, Nuke family
Foundry’s Juan Salazar did a deep dive into Nuke 12.1, touching on the new artist facing tools to improve usability, additional performance improvements, and how HieroPlayer, Hiero, and Nuke Studio have been optimized for review. Nuke Version 12 was introduced last July. Already, the company is working on Version 12.2, which it plans for available in the near future.
Salazar opened by telling the audience how Nuke 12.1 promotes new efficiency in current and future pipelines without compromising scalability and flexibility. He then reviewed some of the new features and functions.
UI scaling: Nuke 12.1 adds support for UI scaling when using high-resolution monitors on Windows and Linux, bringing all the platforms in line (high-res display support for MacOS was added into Nuke 12.0v1).
Shuffle node: Salazar spent some time discussing the new Shuffle node in Nuke 12.1, which singularly replaces both the previous Shuffle and ShuffleCopy nodes. Moreover, it has an updated, user-friendlier UI, can support one or two inputs, and will support up to eight channels per layer. The updated node also improves on stability and offers consistent channel ordering relative to the previous Shuffle node.
GridWarpTacker: In this product update, there are a number of especially useful feature improvements that help users control and move data within a script. New export options enable users to export tracking data from the GridWarpTracker node to a Tracker (baked), Tracker (linked), or a Transform node. Tracking data can also be exported from the entire grid, a selection of grid points, or a single grid point.
ParticleBlinkScript: Foundry has added ParticleBlinkScript node, which works similarly to the BlinkScript node but includes the ability to write BlinkScripts that operate on particles. As a result, users can write their own Particle nodes to create the specific behaviors they need.
Cara VR GPU Caching: Who doesn’t want more speed? With improvements to Nuke’s GPU processing, images can be cached on the GPU between nodes for faster execution of GPU node chains. Scripts with chains on Cara VR nodes in NukeX and BlinkScript will retain data on the GPU rather than transferring it to and from the CPU in between nodes.
QuickTime Audio & Surround Sound Support: Multichannel audio support has now been added to Nuke Studio, Hiero, and HieroPlayer. Artists can import MOV containers holding audio on Linux and Windows without the need to extract and import the audio as a separate Wav file.
New Bin and Track item Version Linking: A new behavior links source clip versions between a project bin item and its corresponding track items. Now, changing the version of a clip on the project bin or on a sequence will change all other instances of the same clip that exist in the same sequence or in other sequences. This streamlines the process of updating sequences, for example when propagating changes across 10-, 30-, and 60-second cuts of a project.
There is a host of other addition as well, Salazar pointed out.
Kicking off the event, Thistlewood took the stage to discuss the recent Katana 3.5 release. Among the various improvements are material workflow updates and performance improvements. To drive home this point, he pulled up a slide that provided a snapshot of Katana’s scene processing performance and how it has improved significantly from Version 2.5 to 3.1 with improved Alembic and a multi-threaded renderer plug-in.
With all the attention given to USD in the industry, Thistlewood noted that Katana 3.5 has been updated to use USD 19.11 for both the Hydra viewport and import plug-ins. This was punctuated with graphics illustrating the effectiveness resulting from this support in the viewport.
According to Thistlewood, there will be three releases of Katana this year. In the spring, we will see Katana 3.6, which will focus on snapping, network material editing to replace NM splice and NM parameter edit, with a specific focus on look development. In the summer, Katana 3.7 is expected, with emphasis on viewer workflows. Later, Katana 3.8 or 4.0 will debut, with support for Python 3 and VFXRP 2020.
Other features Katana 3.6 will target for the alpha release are: super tools in shading contexts, multiple stream updates for Katana Catalog, string concatenation in reference expressions, OpWrite node, and dockable widgets.
Viewer updates will concentrate on high-quality, fast real-time interactive feedback, which is the key to iteration cycles, Thistlewood maintains. Realizing “workflow is king,” Foundry will add material workflow updates. “We recognize usability is just as important as performance and customizability.”
As a special treat, Foundry product customer Method stepped onto the stage to discuss the importance of Katana in its pipeline for look development and lighting, and Nuke for compositing. Then, the eye candy was presented. Method provided a breakdown of its recent work for the highly acclaimed Ford vs. Ferrari racing drama and how they used Nuke, Mari, and Katana to generate amazing content.
Method also provided a glimpse at the work for the recently released Birds of Prey, which continues the adventures of Harley Quinn.
Nathalie Girard, head of 2D, Method Studios, at Foundry LIVE.