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Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?

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andrew donaldson
Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 12:12:28 pm

Hello cow fans,

This is less support related and more just me thinking and chasing your opinions, etc...

I've been one of those jack of all trades editors for about 10 years now.
You know the type: cutting in FCP, motion graphics and coloring in AE, and the last couple of years cinema 4D for 3D stuff, etc.
I've actually been more of a compositor / motion graphics designer the last few years but still call myself an editor.

Recently i have been thinking of 'moving up' from AE to Smoke or Nuke.
and when I say moving up i mean that's because most of the big high end houses here in London don't use AE, they use Smoke, Nuke Flame, etc...

I think I want to move into that arena because that's where the majority of the good and interesting work is done (and to be completely honest to make more money.)

Its not that Im unhappy with AE, its just that it seems that the big post houses don't seem to use it.

My question really is that all you guys who use AE for doing what you do, have you never thought about using Smoke, Nuke, etc to get the 'bigger' work?
Do you see it as a step up?

I hope this doesn't come across as naive, because alot of the time when I see work that's done in the high end systems, I think i could probably do it in AE. But saying to a post house, "you don't need Nuke I can do it in After Effects" won't really fly!

Just wondering what you guys think...

Cheers!

Ps, i also understand that just because you can use the tools doesn't ensure you the work!


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 1:04:51 pm

As someone who started on a Flame and gradually moved on to AE (passing though Paint&Effect/Combustion/Commotion) I can say that it all depends on what you want to do and how you want to make your living. I totally relate to the "I can do that in AE- you don't need Nuke" - I think at this moment you can do everything in AE that you can do in any other "big name" package. But you have to adapt to the market you are in. In my opinion Nuke is the one that will get you more opportunities.
I for one though have enough income to stay with AE - it allows me to do way more cool stuff than when I was working with the Flame because I can be a one man band a lot of the times and I get to experiment a lot.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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andrew donaldson
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 1:27:30 pm

Thanks for your reply, Ted.

I guess I'm keen to grab the best opportunities I can.

Money aside, we all want to work on the best projects available, ie working with beautifully shot RED footage rather that miniDV tapes from a Z1!
I feel that more often than not i am asked to key sketchy green screen footage and im never completely happy with the results - because its usually a 'save the shot' shot. If I was a Smoke/Nuke compositor then the chances of getting better work would be higher.

And like you, If i was a one man band I wouldn't pay the premium for a 'big name' product, but im not really in a position to do that right now.

I just feel there's a sea of people who say they are After Effects artists (that usually turn out to be nothing of the kind). And clients don't tend to take AE too seriously alot of the time.

Thanks for your reply!


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Vishesh Arora
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 3:17:50 pm

andrew

I am with Ted on staying with AE. It depends on what you have to do in life and what you love. I too love AE a lot and experimenting on it. But in my country too, Smoke is used for High End production. I have many freinds who are earning pretty well because they migrated from Ae to smoke.
At the end it depends on personl satisfaction. I am happy with AE and want to stay with it in future too.

Vishesh Arora
3D and Motion Graphics Artist
Films Rajendra

Blog:
http://digieffects.wordpress.com

Demo Reel(3D):







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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 4:48:31 pm

Yep- I hear ya, although I did not use DV footage in ... I can't remember exactly. 720p is the lowest quality I work with and I have done entire projects shot on RED (commercials and music videos, some even for cinematic release). One thing worth mentioning is that I did the production on those projects as a Creative Director and Producer so I had complete control of what we used in post.
I know lots of AE artists that do a lot of Motion Graphics for high end productions and even a few who work on feature films- granted those are just a few.
In the end if your work is great and folks start knowing you for your high end results they will care less what software you use.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 6:46:23 pm

I think that it's misguided to think of this an an either/or decision. After Effects and Nuke obviously have overlaps, but they are different tools for different tasks, and we expect that any given person will move back and forth between the two, just as you move back and forth between Photoshop and After Effects for different parts of a job, depending on what you're doing.

Don't imagine a mutually exclusive decision where there isn't one.

We like Nuke, and we like the Foundry (as you may have noticed, since we bundle multiple pieces of their software with After Effects).

See this post from After Effects product manager Steve Forde, in which he addresses this point:
http://blogs.adobe.com/sforde/2012/12/06/comments-on-top-feature-requests-o...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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andrew donaldson
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 8:37:58 pm

Hi Todd,

Since you work for Adobe, i don't want to give the wrong impression here!

I have used AE since version 5/6 or something, and absolutely love it. But regardless of the truth of the matter, Nuke or Smoke is regarded in the industry as a more 'professional' tool - for specific tasks.

I really wanted to know if any other After Effects user has experienced the desire to move to one of the 'higher end' applications. As it could lead to better, more fulfilling work. Not to mention more money..!?

Im not really comparing the two, because I know 100% the tool is only as good as the guy using it.
I just think that (however unfounded) Nuke or Smoke are considered 'high end' whereas After Effects is unfortunately not.

Finding work and getting people to see your reel is a battle against everyone else, and that battle field is significantly smaller with Nuke or Smoke.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 11:06:25 pm

I don't think that "higher-end versus lower end" is the right distinction to make. It's more a distinction of the kind of task.

After Effects is clearly much better at animating and at creating motion graphics. Nuke is clearly better at complex procedural compositing. (I think that what's open for debate is whether After Effects is better for simple compositing, and there I think that a case can be made that it's easier for most people to work with for simple compositing.) You will often need both for a job, but at different points.

Consider, for example, Iron Man's HUD in the recent movies. For the first movie, the Orphanage did all of the motion graphics work in After Effects and then composited the result in Nuke. The applications each serve their purpose.

I know a lot of folks who use Nuke, and they nearly all also use After Effects.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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Darby Edelen
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 7:52:07 pm

[andrew donaldson] "I hope this doesn't come across as naive, because alot of the time when I see work that's done in the high end systems, I think i could probably do it in AE. But saying to a post house, "you don't need Nuke I can do it in After Effects" won't really fly!"

I'd agree with this.

I have experience in Nuke but I'm much much more comfortable in AE. Where I work there are those who default to using Nuke, and then there's me :) I have yet to see something done in Nuke that I couldn't do in AE (and sometimes faster and better!). However, I think this has a lot to do with familiarity with the applications. If I had as much experience in Nuke as in AE then I'm sure it would provide more varied solutions. Ultimately though they are both tools I'd use every day.

All that said: I would definitely recommend learning Nuke. However, once you know Nuke well enough to get along in it, don't discount AE either. Sometimes it'll be easier, faster and all around better to go with AE.

Clients don't care how the work gets done as long as it does, but your colleagues might care about interoperability. Nuke fits better into most high end workflows and processes and that is probably a big reason that it's preferred in collaborative work.

Darby Edelen


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andrew donaldson
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 30, 2012 at 8:45:45 pm

Darby, that's exactly what im talking about.

As i don't have any clients of my own and am fairly new in town, i would have to find work in a post house and there's defo a divide in compositing / finishing systems.

Nuke is getting more votes than Smoke at this stage tho!

Oh, and one more thing, I don't want to drop AE (because im sure i will always 'think' in AE) just look into learning something new to open up more possibilities...


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Angelo Lorenzo
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Dec 31, 2012 at 2:11:18 am

I would say what's the harm in saying you know both on your resume?

I would, however, choose Nuke over Smoke. Smoke seems to be a one-stop-shop for smaller houses which means they're already dealing with a small team of sr. artists.

With Nuke, you can get up to speed quickly with skills like roto and clean plate painting. This would allow you to get your foot in the door when a studio has a big project and needs artists for grunt work.

--------------------
Angelo Lorenzo

Need to encode ProRes on your Windows PC?
Introducing ProRes Helper, an awesome little app that makes it possible
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Bryan Woods
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Jan 2, 2013 at 5:10:48 am

My background: Camera man > Film editor > Compositor (keying and finishing) > Motion Graphics Artist.

What I've learned:
Never do compositing (roto/keying/3D comping) in AE, and never do motion graphics in Nuke. Use the right tool for the job. AE == Nuke in terms of "high end" tools. If I have someone wanting to join my team for motion graphics and all he knows is nuke, I'd laugh at him. If I have a green screen shot that needs keying and my artist wants to use AE I'd laugh at him too! Your post is the equivalent of saying "I've been using acrylic paints for years, but I think its time I stepped up to the high profile tools, like Oils".

Learn a new tool; be that much more valuable to a potential client/house. Its as simple as that. (and have fun).


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Walter Soyka
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Jan 2, 2013 at 6:56:09 pm

General question for the group: how many folks are actually seeing significant motion graphics work done in Nuke?


[andrew donaldson] "My question really is that all you guys who use AE for doing what you do, have you never thought about using Smoke, Nuke, etc to get the 'bigger' work? Do you see it as a step up?"

Others have commented on Nuke, but I can talk a little bit about Smoke.

I started training off-and-on with Smoke in 2011, and I got serious about it last year with Smoke 2013. I did purchase a license (it's 20% off through the middle of this month, by the way), but I bought it for my little studio's internal use on projects where I can dictate the workflow, not for billing myself as a Smoke freelancer. More on that in a minute.

There's a lot I like about Smoke (including the CFX timeline workflow, Action, and the pen-oriented and context-sensitive UI).

However, I could not use Smoke as my only tool. There are some things I don't like (no dope sheet, no vector import, no 3D tracker, no particles, no projection, poor 3D viewport navigation, secondary limits on the Colour Warper module, lots of rendering).

I view Smoke as a nice addition to my toolbox, but at this point, I think nearly every Smoke project I do will have some Ae work in it, too. Like Todd said, these are not either-or choices.

As for learning these tools to get bigger work, I think that at least in the short term, Smoke work will be tough to break into as a freelancer. Learning on Smoke 2013 will not adequately prepare you for working on Smoke 2012 or prior (the internal workflow is hugely different), so you are immediately disqualified from any shops who have not upgraded. Beyond that, there's a lot to learn before you can sit down with a client in the room, and bedside manner matters, so most shops seem to be looking for Smoke artists with several years' experience.

The next couple years will be an interesting ride for Smoke. It may finally see bigger adoption, given its reputation, capabilities, its new timeline centricity and its more attractive pricing, and the huge push Autodesk made at NAB last year. If more shops adopt Smoke, then of course the need for able Smoke artists will rise. On the other hand, there's nothing you can do in Smoke that you can't do on some other combination of desktop tools, so shops not already using Smoke may not be interested in changing their workflow.

If you have to pick between adding Smoke and Nuke to your Ae experience, I'd ask two questions: First, do you have an easier "in" with someone at one of these shops on one or the other? Second, what kind of work do you want to do more of? Smoke work will probably have some kind of editorial or finishing component, whereas Nuke work will probably be mostly single-shot compositing.

If you want to stick with pure motion design, your current combination of C4D/Ae is outstanding, and it may just be a matter of pursuing a different clientele to get more interesting work.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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andrew donaldson
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Jan 3, 2013 at 9:39:11 am

Great points about pre-2013 Smoke Walter, I wasn't sure how significantly they had changed things. When you start saying things like having a client in the room, that's when things start becoming a little scary with new tools!

My background is as an FCP editor who now uses AE 75% of my day for Compositing and Motion Graphics. but don't call myself a compositor or a motion graphics designer!
The wierd thing is im not sure about calling myself a "designer", call it stupid of crazy, i dunno...

Since i can use C4D, AE and FCP i get alot of broad-spectrum work. And the point of the thread was because AE is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades tools. And to learn Nuke would be a more specialised tool, hence less competition and more money?

Scared of repeating myself here, I'll let others chip in their 2c/p...


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Steve Drew
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Apr 14, 2013 at 10:07:11 pm

Hi Andrew

We have similar backgrounds. I started editing in 1997 on Avid, changed to FCP around 2001 and stuck with it until I stopped editing in 2010. Throughout that time I was using After Effects to do compositing, title design, motion graphics etc, and before Apple's Color came out, for grading as well.

I made the switch to Nuke, and the decision to pursue visual effects in 2010 with the sole purpose of getting out of the tvc / broadcast industry and into feature films. It paid off, and I'm now a compositor on several 'hollywood' films a year.

As others have said, the choice of software is really down to your choice of career. If you want to stay in TVC / Broadcast, there is absolutely nothing wrong with After Effects. In fact, it's probably the gold standard for graphic work. If you want to move into really high-end TVC finishing then yes, Flame / Smoke or Nuke are all very sensible options. The benefits of the Autodesk stuff is usually speed. There are clients in the room, paying £1,000+/hr and they want to get things done yesterday. After Effects can get there, but it takes time to. Nothing to do with operator speed - the fastest AE artist VS the fastest Flame artist: Flame will win.

Nuke can be quick to work in when you have to, and know how to, but it really shines in it's ability to really perfect a shot - and that can take forever. That's why it is getting to be the only compositing software used in the feature film industry, because as important as speed is, it really is the quality of the work that is the focus 9 times out of 10.

I left the TVC / Broadcast world because of how fed up I was becoming with the expectations of half of the people that were hiring me. Jobs like cutting a 5 min TV promo from 13hrs of footage, and they'd book me for one day. Of course, there were no camera sheets or anything... that kind of stuff depressed the hell out of me. The focus was on bashing things together in as little time as possible, with no refinement time really even cared about, let alone given.

I just decided one day to learn Nuke, off my own back, through fxPhD etc, and try to get a job in VFX - where I would take an ego hit, in not being one of the head creatives on a job, but could at least be proud of the work I was contributing to.

My point with all this waffle, is that it's really up to you and where you want to go.

I still take motion graphics work from time to time, and I still use After Effects for it. Any compositing I do in Nuke.
Sure, you can composite in AE and do motion graphics in Nuke, there are no rules. But being very experienced in both, my advice is to work with their strengths, not against their weaknesses.

Don't worry too much about the software. Choose your destiny, everything else will fall in line with it.

Steve Drew
Film Editor & Visual Effects Artist, Melbourne


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Nils Crompton
Re: Leaving AE for Smoke / Nuke...?
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:12:27 am

Thanks sooooo much for taking the time to write these post people. I'm in a similar boat and this has been an invaluable read.

iMac i7 2012, 32GB
OSX 10.8.4
Blackmagic Cinema Camera


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