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Laforumi Adopts The Foundry's Nuke and Says... "You'll Like It Too"Hamburg-based visual effects boutique tests Nuke on new Mont Blanc watches project (April 09, 2008)
It`s fitting then that Nuke 5, The Foundry`s comprehensive compositing solution "designed by artists for artists", has found a place in this hotbed and given a thorough workout on an intensive 30-second showcase project for Mont Blanc timepieces.
Lafourmi is the brainchild of Florian Bruchhäuser and Sascha Schmidt. Prior to establishing the business, both had been freelancing for over a decade worldwide Schmidt working across Europe, Asia and South Africa as a senior inferno artist/VFX supervisor, and Bruchhäuser as a 3D artist/technical director jobbing around Europe, and enjoying a two-year stint at Dreamworks Animation in the US.
"We had both experienced a lot of radically different composting cultures, pipeline methodologies, and learnt a lot about creativity," says Schmidt. "For visual effects we knew that it`s not always about the big, ?front-room` machine. When you know what you are doing, you can take an intelligent approach use lower-price, desktop software like Nuke, integrate it into an efficient pipeline and start making amazing digital effects."
The pair combined their complementary knowledge and skills, establishing Lafourmi in 2006 as a business where a small number of artists could successfully deliver projects that were several times larger than might be expected. Bruchhäuser says, "Our company is all about the skills and talents of the people working here. We don`t want to be businessmen, we want to be artists making stunning visuals."
Try Nuke? you`ll like it!
To live the dream, Lafourmi developed a proprietary pipeline, optimised through in-house software. "Off-the-shelf products connected with glue-code isn't a new idea," says Schmidt, "but it is kind-of-new for a small company."
Plugged into this pipeline today are client-attend VFX finishing systems, a range of 3D animation software, plus Nuke playing a vital role as cost-effective workhorse.
"With Nuke we have a desktop-based system that delivers really strong performance in areas where our front-room gear either isn`t suitable, or weak, or very expensive to upgrade. Along with being a great compositing system, Nuke fits the bill perfectly for things such as handling high-dynamic range imagery, I/O and group-working," says Schmidt.
Bruchhäuser says he first learnt about Nuke in 2006 from one of compositors at Digital Domain in LA, who extolled Nuke`s ability to handle 32-bit, floating point files, as well as its strength as a compositing system for 3D animation.
"We were highly aware of the buzz going around the industry when The Foundry took over Nuke in 2007, so we decided to have a much closer look. At the time, Nuke 4.6 operated like a proprietary, in-house compositing system, but we could see its potential. The Foundry invited us onto their beta-programme, and we found their first release, Nuke 4.7, to be a really stable platform.
"But Nuke 5 has taken it to another level. It gives compositors some great new features and improvements. I am certain that people will like the look and feel the new GUI, the Python scripting and the sheer level of control you have. I`d say to other compositors out there to try it once you have used it you will really like it."
The first project to run through Nuke at Lafourmi is a 30-second animation, delivered at 720p, for Mont Blanc`s ?Collection Villeret` watches. The visuals swirl slowly around the intricate mechanism of the Swiss-made watch, before the camera pulls out to reveal the gorgeous jewel-encrusted timepiece. The project was animated entirely in CG, with meticulous compositing in Nuke giving a photorealistic result.
"Every scene is made up from 20 to 25 layers," says Bruchhäuser. "We rendered everything from the 3D department in multi-passes specular, diffused, reflection, motion vectors, occlusion, depth, object, masks, etc. Nuke`s job was to comp these together, and to make the results to look really good. So we started the project by gathering around Nuke doing comp tests and colour corrections."
Bruchhäuser says that the key challenges in post-production today revolve around getting the data in and out of different packages, and knowing that your tools are doing exactly what you are telling them to do.
"We really hate packages that are closed, or only accessible through an expensive or complicated SDK.The great thing we learnt about Nuke on the Mont Blanc job is that it can open 32-bit, EXR files, and process them quickly with no problem at all. Good compositors and 3D artists need a small but flexible bag of nodes to create good comps and Nuke scored here too. As it is open source, with expression nodes, Nuke allowed us to quickly analyse the rendered images, combine layers and play around with the various render passes.
"It`s this fundamental functionality that makes Nuke a great compositing tool. You are able to access and adjust every channel, and pass the results into other nodes. Nuke lets you break down even the biggest VFX shot into its smallest, simplest components. You would have thought this would be straightforward in this day an age, but there are still a lot of other packages our there that not able to do the job."
Schmidt also praises the ability of Nuke to support different operating systems. "We wanted to have the flexibility to run Nuke on different workstations, so we bought a floating license. We had Nuke running on Mac OSX and an Widows XP during the Mont Blanc project, and it worked very well indeed."
Nuke is now firmly established within Lafourmi`s pipeline, with a number of car commercials next on the agenda. Looking towards the future Schmidt and Bruchhäuser say they`d like their ?anthill` to grow, but they want to keep their feet on the ground.
"At Lafourmi every project is a personal thing, whether it is bread-and-butter or glory work. Visual effects post production is as much an abstract business as it is technical. It can also be a highly sensitive and emotional business for the clients and the artists too. And this is fundamentally why we like Nuke. Nuke gives us raw and precise compositing power. With other packages getting the result you want is not so easy. For us it`s all about real composting, With Nuke you know exactly what you are going to get."
About The Foundry
The Foundry is a world-leading innovator of visual effects and image processing technologies that boost productivity in motion picture and video post production. On February 10th 2007, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded a Sci-Tech Award® to The Foundry`s development team for the Furnace image processing suite. The company now holds a trio of Academy Award® winning products including the high-end compositing system Nuke, and keying application Keylight.
The Foundry`s products support a wide range of host platforms including After Effects, Autodesk® Media and Entertainment Systems, Avid DS, Baselight, Film Master, NUKE, Scratch and Shake. The company has also driven OpenFX, an open standard for visual effects plug-ins, now broadly adopted by host and plug-in developers such as Autodesk®, Assimilate, FilmLight, Digital Vision, Grass Valley, Soluciones Graficas por Ordenador (S.G.O.), Photron and others.
Customers include: Digital Domain, The Moving Picture Company, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Warner Bros and Weta Digital Ltd.
The Foundry is headquartered in London, and has offices in Los Angeles. For more information please visit The Foundry`s website at www.thefoundry.co.uk
Lafourmi Postproduction GmbH
Lafourmi is a 100% artist-driven visual effects house based in Hamburg, Germany. Completely owned by artists, Lafourmi creates photorealistic visual effects for international commercials or feature films. With the charm of a boutique Lafourmi has the effectiveness of a larger scaled visual effects house. For more information please visit http://www.lafourmi.de
Related Keywords:The Foundry, Lafourmi, Nuke, visual effects, VFX, Mont Blanc watches, Collection Villaret, Nuke 5
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