The Foundry's Philippa Carroll discusses the latest developments to its compositing tool

What Nuke’s non-commercial licence means for game developers

Compositing, finishing and editing tool Nuke is perhaps most famous in its role serving Hollywood.

The node-based VFX, editorial and finishing toolset has established itself as something of a standard in the realm of moviemaking, recently helping Gravity champion 3D cinema releases. The suite of technologies has been used in numerous other blockbusters, with the company behind it, The Foundry, seeing its solutions employed in every movie nominated for a Best Visual Effects Oscar since 2008.

That’s all well and good, but just how relevant is the technology to game developers, and is it really that accessible if it thrives serving the world’s largest VFX operations?

Certainly, there’s a relevance to games – as well as related realms such as virtual reality development. Numerous game teams have applied Nuke to their in-game cinematics and trailers. Recently, for example, Polish VFX studio Platige Image used Nuke and The Foundry’s 3D painting tool Mari to produce an impressive trailer for The Witcher 3.

But that still positions Nuke as a powerful, undeniably popular option for VFX teams. Such outfits, of course, exist in and serve the games sector. But a significant part of the games making business today sees agile, smaller teams making ambitious games, while the giants of triple-A are increasingly setting up low-headcount internal teams to target mobile and experiment with the likes of VR and less substantial Steam releases.

Home free

However, The Foundry recently released Nuke Non-commercial, a license model offering a slightly curtailed feature set – for example limiting output to a still-respectable 1080 HD – to allow artists across the industries the toolset serves to explore its potential.

"We’re really excited about Nuke Non-commercial," says Philippa Carroll, head of media production, business strategy and operations at The Foundry. "There has always been a free watermarked version of Nuke available for play and experimentation. But we found the watermark annoying and we’re sure lots of aspiring artists out there did too.

"So we decided to open it up, making it more useful, and letting someone decide if they want to use Nuke commercially before having to pay for it. We also want to give you access to all of the products within our Nuke family in this way as well, because we’re sure like us you’ll love the extra features packed into NukeX and Nuke Studio."

The idea is a fairly simple one at its core. By opening up Nuke to – effectively – anybody who wants to give it a try, The Foundry hope aspiring talent can ready itself for using the tool in the future, eventually integrating the suite of compositing technologies into more industries and ways of working.

And, explains Carroll, the Foundry also see Nuke as boasting much potential in arming VR developers with a toolset that will help them push the medium forward as the middleware ecosystem supporting current-gen virtual reality matures. In a space like VR, where standards, working practices and production processes are still in their early evolution, and where knowledge sharing is a powerful force, the open-access spirit of Nuke’s new non-commercial license could be particularly useful and alluring to artists.

"We see so much potential; some in how customers currently use Nuke in VR, and some ideas we have about how we can address challenges presented by live immersive action content in VR," Carroll offers.

"Our customers across industries – film, TV, short form, games – increasingly look for ways to solve creative challenges when creating VR projects. Right now, many of them use Nuke to solve these issues. What’s exciting is how we’re working closely with them on a number of areas to help with this new area of production and new challenges."

Nucular Fusion

And so it is that Nuke Non-commercial hopes to help rising talent test the waters of Nuke as an option for compositing, while contributing to the push for greater things in every industry that is currently exploring VR, as well as AR applications.

To smooth that process and hit those goals, The Foundry has also established a new community structure around Nuke, which Carroll and her colleagues intend to grow with the toolset.

"We have a new community area for Non-commercial users and we hope this grows, with new users helping each other in a friendly and fun environment," confirms Carroll. "Also, we have loads of free tutorial content on our website on the learn page. And Nuke already has an in-app help, which is great because it’s in context support, tutorials and assets help you directly in app."

Whether Nuke’s continuing penetration into the games sphere will ever match the toolset’s standing in movie VFX remains to be seen, but for those in need of a compositor, or for emerging game artists looking to develop a distinct skill through an accessible offering, Nuke Non-commercially seems to have ample potential.

Below, for those interested in the finer details, is a list provided by Carroll of the finer points of the restrictions in place in the Non-commercial Nuke license, as contrasted to the full version, which must be used for commercial projects (student demo reels are exempt, while promotional, pitching and pilot materials for business purposes are not):

Nuke Non-commercial has the following restrictions:

  • Output resolution limited to HD (1920×1080).
  • Disabled nodes including: The WriteGeo node, Primatte node, Ultimatte node, BlinkScript node, and GenerateLUT node are disabled in the Non-commercial Nuke range. Exporting a LUT from the MatchGrade node is also disabled.
  • 2D format support disabled for MPEG4 and h264
  • No third-party plug-in support: Only plug-ins that are shipped with Nuke can be used in the Non-commercial version. OFX plug-ins and custom plug-ins compiled with the NDK can only be used in the commercial version of Nuke.
  • No monitor output support: There is no video monitor output support in the Non-commercial Nuke range.
  • Exporting Nuke Studio Sequences as EDL/XML is disabled.
  • Encrypted data storage: All external data storage is encrypted, including Nuke scripts (these are saved with the extension .nknc), gizmos (saved with the extension .gznc), Nuke Studio timeline projects (saved with extension .hroxnc) and copying to the clipboard. Among other things, this means Nuke Non-commercial saves files in an encrypted format, unlike the commercial version, which saves scripts unencrypted as plain text. The commercial Nuke range cannot load files created with Nuke Non-commercial. The Non-commercial Nuke range can, however, load scripts and gizmos created with the commercial version.
  • Limited Python scripting. The Non-commercial licenses of the Nuke range restrict the amount of nodes that can be retrieved at a time by scripting. Functions such as "nuke.allNodes()" in Python will return only the first 10 nodes available rather than all of them at once, and scripts written to iterate through the node graph will not be able to retrieve any more nodes beyond a set point. The commercial Nuke range can retrieve any and all nodes at any time as the command names would suggest.
  • Frame Server slave rendering is disabled.

Terminal mode restricted: Running Nuke in terminal mode (-t) is restricted to the use of existing .nknc scripts and Python file

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