Is Nuke the new Shake?

Mark Christiansen

A series of press releases from The Foundry since NAB have marked major steps forward for Nuke as the emerging software leader for visual effects compositing. The latest of these is this morning's news that Weta Digital has invested in a Nuke site license, less than a month after ILM announced the same. During that time the Nuke founder/developers managed to reacquire ownership of the software in what may have appeared from the outside like a confusing flip-flop of assets between Digital Domain and Foundry. The bottom line seems to be that the people who make Nuke have secured control of its destiny for the forseeable future, and major studios have responded by investing in that future.

For those keeping score, the field of visual effects has not had a clear dominant application for at least 3 years since apple announced that version 4.1 would be Shake's last update. Most studios did not feel compelled to make a sudden investment in new software at that time as there was substantial investment in a Shake pipeline at many facilities. Among the alternatives from Autodesk, Avid, Adobe and Eyeon, there was no clear successor. Nuke, while publicly available, was at that time owned and developed within Digital Domain, and its user interface, features and even marketing did not seem focused far beyond the needs of that studio.

Now, in many ways it appears that the high end visual effects field is standardizing around Nuke, with major studios in every effects capital of the world now possessing site licenses. Major improvements to Nuke are due by the end of the year.

A meeting with Foundry principals Bill Collis, Simon Robinson and Richard Shackleton last month revealed that they are poised to continue innovating the software and business model to meet the demands of an ever-evolving market. For now, the focus is to meet the needs of these major feature film houses that have invested in the software's future. Weta has been using Nuke's stereo compositing features Ocula heavily for its work as the lead house on James Cameron's Avatar (to which this author also contributed as a digital artist recently - not for Weta).