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  • Writer's pictureGavin Whittaker

Out-Nuke the Competition: 10 Powerful Tips for Maximum Script Efficiency

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Hey there, Pixel-Pushing Powerhouses!

Ready to embark on a quest for the holy grail of Nuke scripting? Craving some spicy tips to supercharge your workflow and blast off into the realm of eye-blindingly speedy compositing? Well, buckle up, because today we're diving headfirst into a treasure trove of optimization gold.

We've got 10 fiery tips on the menu, hand-picked to transform your Nuke scripts into lean, mean, compositing machines. These tidbits are all about cranking up your performance to the max, making your scripts not just faster, but also as sleek and manageable as a freshly detailed sports car.

But remember, this is just an appetizer in the grand feast of Nuke mastery. Think of it as a tantalizing amuse-bouche, a little taste of the vast menu of scripting optimization techniques out there.

So, strap in, fellow compositing cosmonauts, and get ready to blast your Nuke skills into a whole new orbit! 🚀 Let's dive in, shall we?

Dont have time to read the article? You can listen to a podcast of the full article here: LISTEN TO PODCAST

1. The Art of Script Organization: It's Not Just for Bookshelves

Ah, the beauty of a well-organized Nuke script! It's a bit like a well-curated bookshelf - it's not just pleasing to the eye, but oh boy, it's soooo much easier to navigate. When your nodes are neatly arranged and grouped together, it's like having your favourite novels, mystery thrillers, and cookbooks each on their own designated shelf. It saves you time, headaches, and the occasional "Why on earth is 'The Hobbit' next to 'How to Cook Everything'?" kind of confusion.

So, how do you bring this level of organization to your Nuke script?

Meet your new best friend: the Backdrop node. It's like those cute little bookends, holding a group of related nodes together. Want to group all your colour correction nodes? Put a backdrop around them. Need to bundle all the nodes for a particular effect? Backdrop it! Not only does it keep things tidy, but it also gives you a clear visual guide of your script's structure. Remember to label them clearly - it's like naming your bookshelf sections. You wouldn't label your cookbooks as mystery novels, would you?

Don't forget the power of Post-It notes, either! They're great for leaving little messages and reminders for yourself (or to others if you're handing off your script). Need to fix something later? Post-It. Need to remind yourself why you used a certain node? Post-It. They're like those little bookmarks sticking out of your favorite recipe in the cookbook - simple but oh-so helpful.

And then there's the B-spine. The B-spine in your script is like the main aisle of the library. It's the main pipe that carries the principal flow of information from the top of your script to the bottom. Try to keep it clean and clear, free from crisscrossing pipes. It's like avoiding those annoyingly placed book carts that make you zigzag down the aisle.

So, whether you're creating a spellbinding VFX sequence or simply tweaking colors, remember that a well-organized script is the first step to a smooth journey. Happy organizing!

2. Precomp Like a Pro: Your Ticket to a Tidy Workflow

Precomping in Nuke is a bit like meal prepping for the week on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sure, it may seem like a hassle at first - chopping all those veggies, marinating the chicken, boiling the quinoa - but oh wow, does it save you heaps of time when the weekday hustle hits! It's the same with precomping.

By packaging up parts of your script that are complete into a single Precomp node, you're essentially creating a ready-to-go 'meal' that Nuke can easily 'digest.' It's like having a neatly packed container of chicken stir-fry ready to heat up, instead of having to cook everything from scratch.

And there's another big plus - precomping can free up some much-needed processing power for the rest of your work. Going back to our meal prep analogy, it's like clearing up your kitchen counter so you have more space to bake that delicious apple pie.

But remember, precomping is not about cramming everything into a single 'container'. It's about neatly organizing your 'meals' - or in this case, parts of your script - so you can easily find, modify, or 'reheat' them when needed.

So, if your script is getting a bit too 'spicy' to handle, remember: precomping can be your secret ingredient for a smooth and efficient Nuke workflow. Bon appétit!

3. Unnecessary Channels: Keep 'em Out of Your Pipe!

Alright, let's talk about channels in Nuke. You can think of channels as different types of spices in your spice rack. You have your Red, Green, Blue, Alpha, Depth, Position, Motion, UV Normals, and many more. Sounds pretty exciting, right? But just as you wouldn't pour all the spices into your soup, you don't want all these channels clogging up your pipe.

See, each channel in your script is like an ingredient contributing to the flavor of your composite. But not every dish needs every spice. Check for the "Purple line" - Nuke's way of telling you which channels are being passed down the pipe.

Take the ScanlineRender node, for example. It's like that over-enthusiastic chef who will happily give you every spice in the kitchen. While its enthusiasm is appreciated, you might not need all those extra channels it offers. If you're not careful, you'll end up with a spice overload!

Here's a simple solution: just pop in a Remove node below the ScanlineRender. It's like telling the chef, "Thanks, but I'll stick with the basics." Set the Remove node to keep the RGBA channels, and voila! You've streamlined your data pipe. And don't worry, if you need to add a pinch of Z-depth or sprinkle of UV Normals later, you can always do that.

And let's not forget about CG render passes - they come loaded with their own set of AOVs (Arbitrary Output Variables), each carrying different information. It's like having a fancy spice mix. Once you're done using them in your tree, be sure to remove any unneeded AOVs.

Remember, keeping your Nuke script clean and efficient is like mastering the art of seasoning. Use the right channels in the right amounts, and your composite will turn out just perfect!! :D

4. The Beauty of Bounding Boxes

Bounding boxes in Nuke are like invisible suitcases – they carry the pixel data of your nodes. But here's the thing, these suitcases can balloon up faster than a popcorn bag in the microwave, filling up with more 'air' (empty pixels) than actual 'popcorn' (useful data). And just like overpacking a suitcase can make your journey cumbersome, oversized bounding boxes can weigh down your script's performance.

To keep them trim and slim, consider using the Crop node. It's the Nuke equivalent of a baggage scale. It lets you ditch that extra weight and carry only what you need. Just remember to uncheck "Reformat" in the node properties. We don't want any unwanted squeezing or stretching, do we?

Dont forget you can have nuke help you out by highlighting when your BBOX gets a little too big for it's boots! :D

EDIT: use with caution ⚠️ I hadn't realised before, but there is a bug with BBOX outline function where it slows down your script if you have a large number of nodes because the outline is constantly evaluating all upstream nodes. A good alternative is to turn on every once in a while to check them turn back off again until The Foundry fix this...

. ..Thanks to Tim and Erwan for the heads up on this one 😄

Now, for the cherry on top. The Merge node in Nuke is a little like a travel agent, combining two journeys (A and B inputs) into one adventure. By default, it might set the bounding box to the larger of the two inputs. This might seem like getting a free upgrade to first class, but in the world of compositing, it can be more like a detour you didn't sign up for!

To avoid this, you can set your Merge nodes to 'B' bounding box. This will keep your bounding box in check, only as big as the B input, avoiding any unnecessary extra space. It's like picking the cosier, more efficient economy seat over the space-hogging first class!

SPECIAL TIP: There's a neat little trick you can do in Nuke to set default values for any node's settings. All you need is a pinch of Python added to your file. The file is like Nuke's morning coffee - it's the first thing it goes through when it wakes up (or rather, starts up).

nuke.knobDefault('Merge2.bbox', 'B')

Add this line to your file, and voila! All new Merge nodes will default to 'B' for bounding box. It's like Nuke always knows just what you need before you even ask.

Remember, the file is a powerful tool for customization. Use it wisely, and it can supercharge your Nuke workflow! Happy scripting!

5. Kiss Unused Nodes Goodbye

Are you a digital hoarder? Time to clean up. If there are nodes in your script that aren't doing anything, show them the exit. Unused nodes are like those apps on your phone you never use. They're eating up memory and slowing things down. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness... and speediness!

6. Make Peace with Proxies

Proxies in Nuke are like having a stunt double for your high-res footage. Use them to make quick work of your real-time previews and render tests. Remember, you can always switch back to your full-res stunner when it's time for the final render.

7. Cache In

Make friends with Nuke's cache. It can save a ton of time, particularly with heavy nodes that don't change often. That way, Nuke can remember the output and doesn't have to work it out from scratch every time. It's like having a good conversation with an old friend - you don't have to reintroduce yourself every time!

8. Harness the Power of Toolsets: The Convenience of Pre-Set Blocks

Toolsets in Nuke are like your favorite playlist - a curated collection of nodes, perfectly set up, and ready to go. They are incredibly handy when you find yourself frequently using the same sequence of nodes or a particular setup.

Setting up a Toolset is like prepping your workbench before you dive into a project. Instead of fetching each tool one-by-one, wouldn't it be more efficient if you had them all arranged neatly within arm's reach? That's exactly what a Toolset does. It groups together a set of nodes, complete with all the required connections and settings, ready for you to plug and play.

Creating a Toolset is simple. Arrange your nodes, select them, and then choose "Create Toolset" from the Node tab. This saves your setup in the Toolsets menu, ready for you to drop into any script with a single click. You can think of it like saving a favorite meal on your food delivery app - ready to order again anytime!

Remember, the objective is to streamline and speed up your workflow. So, build Toolsets of your most commonly used setups, or complex systems that you're likely to use repeatedly. This way, you're not just working hard, you're working smart!

With the right collection of Toolsets, you'll be whipping up dazzling composites faster than ever before. They're like your greatest hits album, and you're the rockstar. So, get out there and rock on with your efficient, streamlined workflow!

9. Don't Get Lost in Gizmo-land!

Gizmos in Nuke are like Swiss Army knives - they can do a lot, but sometimes you just need a plain old knife. Gizmos often come packed with many options, many of which you may not need for a particular task. Having too many options can actually slow down your workflow as Nuke needs to process all that extra data. So, when the task at hand is simple, stick with simple tools. Not every job needs a gizmo, sometimes a straightforward Grade, Simple Expon Glow or Transform node will do just fine.

10. Smart Viewer Bypass: The Magic of $gui and Switch Nodes

When it comes to working on hefty Nuke scripts with some particularly processing-intensive nodes, every bit of speed you can squeeze out matters. And that's when the powerful combo of $GUI and Switch nodes comes into play, like a super tag team in a wrestling match.

Picture this: You have some heavy nodes (like a noise reduction or a particle system) that are essential for your final render but are an absolute drag on your system when you're working in the viewer. It's like trying to cook a feast with every appliance running at once – your kitchen (or computer) is going to get heated pretty quickly.

Here's where $gui swoops in to save the day. This handy little expression can differentiate between your viewer and your render output. When you're working in the viewer ($Ggui=1), you can bypass those heavy nodes to keep things snappy. When you're rendering out ($Ggui=0), those nodes kick back into gear.

Pair this up with a Switch node, and you've got a dynamic duo. Connect the original heavy node to one input of the Switch, and an 'easier-on-the-processor' version (or even just a simple placeholder) to the other. Then set the Switch condition to be '1 if $gui'.

Now, when you're tinkering away in your viewer, Nuke will use the placeholder, keeping things speedy and responsive. But hit that render button, and BOOM – Nuke automatically switches over to your full-quality nodes for the final output. It's like having your cake and eating it too, without blowing a fuse in your kitchen!

Remember, optimizing your Nuke script isn't just about what's on the canvas, it's about what's under the hood too. Work smart, not hard, and let $gui and Switch nodes do the heavy lifting for you.

You've Made it to the End, Superstar! 🎉

Whoa, look at you, sticking it out all the way to the end of this VFX marathon! Give yourself a hearty round of applause because you've just levelled up your Nuke script-optimizing game. You're now armed with 10 mighty tips that are gonna make your compositing experience smoother than a well-tuned bezier curve!

With these tricks up your sleeve, you'll be navigating those heavy-duty scripts like a seasoned pro, slashing render times and squashing inefficiencies with the grace of a samurai. Talk about supercharging your workflow!

So, take these tips, put on your compositing cape, and jump into your next Nuke adventure with confidence. Remember, it's not just about working hard but working SMART. Let your scripts fly as high and as fast as your creativity, without any of the laggy turbulence. Happy compositing, you VFX virtuoso! 🌟

And hey, don't forget to drop by again for more exciting insights into the wonderful world of Nuke. Until next time, keep those pixels dancing and your nodes sparkling! 😉

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