Ben's Comp Newsletter: Issue 047


This week's newsletter is one of the most information-packed ones this year! With a python script, a technical blog post, more particle setups, and a video essay, I hope you learn something new, or find a tool that improves the way you work, or think about work. Enjoy!



In the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with something dangerous: replacing one of the most-used shortcuts in Nuke with something better. We're all used to the m hotkey creating a Merge node for us, but as Deep compositing has become more-or-less common-place, I thought the hotkey could use a little upgrade.

I created SmartMerge, which enhances our favourite m hotkey to be context-dependent! As partially demonstrated in the gif above, here's how it works:
  • If a 2D node & Deep node are selected, create a DeepRecolor node to connect them. However, if you have multiple sets of Reads & DeepReads selected, SmartMerge will hook the pairs up based on how similarly the filenames in the Reads & DeepReads are named.
  • If only Deep nodes are selected, create a DeepMerge node.
  • If a ScanlineRender node is selected, intelligently choose whether to Merge or DeepMerge depending on other nodes that are selected.
  • If only 3D nodes are selected, create a Scene node.
  • If only 2D nodes are selected, or if nothing is selected, create a vanilla Merge node as per usual.
Because you're subscribed to this newsletter, I wanted to share this new tool with you first before uploading it to Nukepedia. I encourage you to download it, use it, and report back with how it's working for you, or with any bugs you might find!

Personally, adding functionality to the existing muscle memory I have has been a game-changer.

Click here to download bm_SmartMerge.

What exactly does the Grade node do?

I discovered Chris Turner's blog this week, which includes some pretty neat things!

Being a technically-minded Compositor, and understanding what's happening to the pixels in your image when you're creating nodes and changing knobs, aids you when creating photorealistic images. Chris wrote an article titled, Nuke's Grade Node Demystified, which goes through the math of how the Grade node operates.

Whether you're new to Compositing or a seasoned professional, this article is worth a read to refresh some fundamental knowledge about your craft.

Click here to read the article: Nuke's Grade Node Demystified.

More Particle setups!

Let's face it, particles in Nuke still suck, even after last issue's cool Particle Lightning setup. I reached out to some friends, colleagues, and students from my Python for Nuke 101 course, and asked them what their favourite particle toolsets were. Unsurprisingly, there weren't many responses, but I do have some more to share with you!


Flying through clouds, or having wispy clouds in the background of a shot, is a task that is often completed by a Compositor. Because Nuke's particles are slow to calculate and like to sporadically re-calculate every frame, I wanted to create something light-weight that only operates on a single frame, so that it's fast to play back, and would be quick and easy to iterate on the look.

I came up with a simple setup I call Cloudtastic, which I believe solves these issues. How it works is, you plug in single frames of similar-looking smoke or atmospheric elements as particles, and they get randomly scattered about inside the volume of a Cube, which you can fit to fill the camera's frustum. These particles are all oriented toward the camera so you don't get any hard edges or weird angles, and you can choose to kill particles within a certain distance to the camera, so they don't cause any popping throughout the shot.

The only downside to this method is you can't have the clouds organically fade off when they pass through the camera, (but you CAN use this Particle Killer tool to get rid of them), and your cloud sprites won't have any animation, which is a non-issue with how fast cameras usually fly through them!

Click here to download Cloudtastic.


Josh Parks created a quick, but effective Confetti setup using Nuke particles for a commercial project he was working on. He's made a tutorial about how to recreate it, which you can watch here.
Click here to download Josh's Confetti Nuke Script.


We have to mention one of the OG particle setups, created by Frank Rueter. It's super simple: there are three different sprites of rotoscoped birds, which are fed into Nuke's ParticleEmitter to scatter them about, and make them fly through frame in a direction of your choosing.

No matte painting establishing shot would be complete without them!

Click here to download Frank's Flock Of Birds from Nukepedia.

What's Wrong With Modern CGI.

In July 2014, I was sat in a cinema seat in Adelaide, gawking at Weta's amazing work on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. As the credits started to roll, a group of people sitting in the row behind me started commenting, "wow they did such a good job getting the apes to act like that!", which quickly evolved into "they should shoot things for real more often because it's way better than the CGI in Captain America: Winter Soldier, which looked sooooo fake!"

I had to restrain myself from correcting these folks, but their comments have stuck with me since. I always have a hard time boiling down why certain films have better VFX than others to friends and family who don't create the "movie magic" themselves. It usually involves explaining something like: "We sometimes think dinosaurs and spaceships look fake, even when they're incredibly well made, because subconsciously we know they don't exist in the real world. Although, when you see CG buildings or a well-animated animal, most people can't tell the difference."

A couple of weeks ago, a video essay was released on the Corridor Crew YouTube channel titled, What's Wrong With Modern CGI. I love this video as it does a great job of briefly explaining our craft, and how bad VFX can be created by incredibly talented VFX artists, in a simple way that even Grandma can understand.

Click here to watch the video essay.

Did you find this newsletter informative?

Have you created, or do you know of any outstanding Gizmos, Python Scripts or Tutorials that you would like to share with the global Compositing community? Please reply to this email, and I will do my best to include it in a future issue of this newsletter.
Click here to view previous issues.

Support on Patreon

Ben's Comp Newsletter: Issue 047 is sponsored by Keegen Douglas.

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