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FuseFX Taps Nuke For Extensive VFX on Showtime's "United States of Tara"

Studio's Other Hit Series Include "Glee," "The Good Wife," "Hung," "Big Love," "Mercy" and "Lie to Me"

When Burbank-based visual effects studio FuseFX began working on the new season of Showtime's "United States of Tara," it turned to Nuke, The Foundry's powerful compositing application, to facilitate the extensive green screen effects required for a series about a woman with a multiple personality disorder.  Award-winning actress Toni Collette stars as Tara Gregson, a suburban wife and mother who tries to juggle family, career and a dissociative identity disorder that has her alternate personalities appearing at inopportune times.

Although Nuke has been best known as a feature film tool, the feature-rich software has proved very adaptable to VFX for television. 

 "It has become the industry standard," says Jason Fotter, senior artist and Co-Founder at FuseFX.  "We moved to Nuke about a year ago, and it was the difference between night and day. We were able to quickly develop a robust pipeline.  Each one of our shows has its own format.  Some follow a film workflow using DPX files.  Some are tape based.  Some can be a mix of both.  Using our pipeline we convert everything to DPX files for shot work, and work in a full 32bit Linear Workflow.  This allows us to work in a pre-defined structure and at the very end deliver whatever is necessary for a particular project.  It allows artists to focus creatively on shots and not worry about the technical aspects.  It also bridges the gap between 2D and 3D extremely well, enabling us to import basic geometry and project images onto it without having to go to a 3D package."  Nuke's cross-platform ability - FuseFX has Apple Macintosh and PC workstations and a PC-based render farm - is also a plus.


Episodes of "United States of Tara" have numerous "co-consciousness" scenes where Tara interacts with one of her multiple personalities.  To accomplish these seamless conversations requires an actor with Toni Collette's talents and skillful green screen compositing.

"We've all done green screen shots before, but Nuke's Image Based Keyer (IBK) is tremendous," says Fotter.  "No other package has a keyer like it.  I was a Flame artist and I've used After Effects, but IBK is unlike any other keyer I've ever used - it's incredibly powerful.  With IBK I'm able to hold the detail in Tara's wispy blonde hair without a ton of work.  It frees me up to work on other aspects of a shot, things that make it look real - all on a TV budget and schedule."

Nuke's 3D capabilities have also been instrumental in creating set extensions for the show.  In one scene Tara and another actor drive off the backlot at CBS Studios necessitating FuseFX to extend an alleyway and bridge in the background.

"The Series is shot on the Genesis , but we like to use the Red Camera for VFX elements," Fotter notes.  "We brought in the RED 4K data from the background plates, and Nuke reads the raw RED data extremely fast.  We stitched the 4K plates together and put them into Nuke's 3D environment where the speed of Nuke allowed us to quickly get shots into a working state and move through versions as we made the shots the best we could.  We could focus on the details without ever feeling constrained by the software."

The process worked so well that FuseFX did another set extension soon afterwards.  "They shot a night version of the same exterior and we added fireworks in the sky, so we ended up combining a full background extension, fireworks and the addition of interactive lighting into a single shot," says Fotter. 


He notes that people often cite rendering time as key to an efficient VFX pipeline.  "In my experience, it's not about how fast you render.  If you can render faster you'll put more detail into shots.  Nuke gives us the ability to say, 'Let's add this or that detail' to a shot.  It gives us great creative flexibility."

Nuke also has an easy learning curve so artists who have not been exposed to it before have been able to master it quickly.  "Once you learn it and have to go back to other software, you feel frustrated," Fotter reports.  "Other tools are much more cumbersome."

FuseFX plans to implement Nuke on an upcoming feature.  And the package is always on hand to meet the VFX needs of the company's strong roster of other TV shows, including the hits "Glee," "The Good Wife," "Hung," "Big Love," "Mercy" and "Lie to Me."

Contact:  Lanny Sher, 323-653-0380;

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Related Keywords:compositing, NUKE, foundry, FuseFX, United States of Tara

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