Steve Wright's - Industrial Strength Training for Visual Effects Compositing Artists!

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This is a collection of videos and writings that Steve has produced over the years that are now made available for free to visitors of this website. New items are added periodically, so be sure to set a link and check back to see the latest additions in the following categories:

OP-EDS - Steve writes an industry op-ed for his monthly newsletter and this archive contains the previous publications.
NUKE VIDS - four in-depth Nuke tutorials that Steve has created for The Foundry that are actually hosted on their website.
SHAKE VIDS - 10 quick Shake tips to enhance your Shake compositing experience.
ARTICLES - a collection of various articles Steve has written covering visual effects and digital intermediate topics.

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What's So Hot About Alembic?
December 2012

Every so often a real game changer comes along for visual effects and animation. In 2003 it was OpenEXR released by ILM for the entire world to enjoy. In 2010 ILM did it again by teaming up with Sony Picture Imageworks to release yet another game changer - Alembic geometry. This mysterious new CGI creature promises to revolutionize our production workflow, but how? And what is Alembic anyway? Read more at What's So Hot About Alembic?

The Trouble with Color
September 2012

In my role as a visual effects compositing teacher, trainer, and author I have encountered hundreds of visual effects artists (over 600, actually). One thing I’ve often encountered is a lack of a solid understanding of color – specifically digital color, where color hits the computer. I’ve identified two causes of this trouble with color. Read more at The Trouble with Color

The Next Nuke
June 2012

I was hanging around The Foundry booth at the recent NAB show to check out the new happenings for Hiero and Mari and got a very special treat. Jon Wadelton, the Nuke product manager, sat down with me one-on-one with his laptop to show me the cool new things coming soon in the upcoming Nuke release. I have been authorized by The Foundry to give you a sneak peak here. Read more at The Next Nuke

Death of an Icon
February 2012

I was saddened by Kodak’s announcement in January that they had to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Not only is Kodak an icon of the movie industry that I love, but I personally have fond memories of eight years (1997-2005) doing visual effects for Kodak’s Hollywood Cinesite operation. I was there to witness Kodak’s schizophrenia as it flirted with embracing the digital age, yet unable to let go of the chemical film business. Seen from the inside, the reasons for the fall are easy to understand. Read more at Death of an Icon

Game On
January 2012

If you want to do world class visual effects then the only place to be is in feature films, right? Not any more. Video games are rapidly stepping up the quality and complexity of their visual effects simply because it makes them a lot of money. We all know that “Deathly Hollows part 2” is the current record holder for fastest selling film at the box office at $169 million its first weekend. You may not know that Harry Potter was crushed like a bug by the release of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” (Activision) just this last November with sales of $750 million its first 5 days. Read more at Game On: your next VFX job just might be a game

Screaming at the Greenscreen
December 2011

During my 20+ years of compositing visual effects I have worked on plenty of “A” films. The disturbing truth seemed to be that the bigger the budget the badder the bluescreen. Truly, some of the worst greenscreen and bluescreen shots I have had to salvage were on $100+ million movies. It is infuriating to know that the hideous problem you are working all night to solve was easily avoided simply by shooting it properly in the first place. I therefore offer these tips on photographing them so you do not end up like me - screaming at the greenscreen. Read more at Screaming at the Greenscreen

Seek Higher Ground
October 2011

Anyone who has been working in the vfx industry knows that more and more production jobs are drifting offshore and that there is less and less visual effects work to be found here. So the question that vfx artists that want to stay in the game are asking themselves is "what can I do to stay in the industry I love?" The answer is - seek higher ground.... Read more at Seek Higher Ground

Parallel vs. Converged
August 2011

The recent explosion in popularity of stereo 3D films has triggered a raging debate over the best stereo camera arrangement - parallel or converged (toe-in). The discussion has taken on religious fervor with each stereographer trying to out-stereograph the other to establish himself as the high priest of stereography. What is obviously needed here is some good old-fashioned R & D to nail down standards and practices with facts, math and science so we can get on with the business of producing quality stereo movies.

In fact, some very serious science is being set up even now and will eventually result in… Read more at Parellel vs Converged.

The Deep Magic!
June 2011

I was recently fondling a shiny new beta version of the new Nuke6.3 release and among the exciting new goodies like a planar tracker, an integral particle system, and a new displacement shader for stereo conversion; I discovered Nuke’s deep magic - integral support for the new deep image technology. With deep images you can do deep compositing, and this is a real game-changer for the world of compositing visual effects. Read more about The Deep Magic! - the new deep compositing in visual effects.

United We Fall
February 2011

As all of us in the visual effects industry know, there has been a steady decline in the visual effects work in the Los Angeles area over the last decade. We are losing work to offshore facilities at an alarming rate. There are three well-known basic causes for this. First, cheaper labor, second, aggressive foreign tax incentives, and third, punitive taxes and filming fees here in the state of California. And yet, to this dismal array of crushing obstacles to our industry, there is talk about adding a fourth obstacle that will surely be the final nail in the coffin of L.A. visual effects - unionizing.... Read more about United We Fall!

Virtually Universal: The Future is Here
December 2010

Avatar was a block-busting jaw-hanger for several reasons - stunning 3D stereo, fantastic worlds, great characters, brilliant CGI, fabulous art direction, etc. But one of the most important production innovations James Cameron made was creating a virtual set where he could freely move a camera around and view his three-dimensional world in realtime. While this gave him unprecedented freedom of camera movement, building this all up took many weeks and was a major science project. Not any more.… Read more about Virtually Universal: The Future is Here!

Planar Tracking: A Third Alternative
October 2010

I have always been a great fan of motion tracking. To me, it is one of the most wondrous things a computer can do. I may be prejudice because I have had to hand track shots in the days before tracking software and know what a pain in the arse it is, not to mention how wobbly the results are. The computer, however, can lock onto a feature and hold steady in a way that the human eye cannot. I have tracked hundreds of shots using point trackers and 3D camera trackers, but I have recently discovered a third alternative - planar tracking.… Read more about Planar Tracking: A Third Alternative

Camera Tracking: A Technical Wonder
September 2010

I remember once being given the grand tour at Digital Domain, the powerhouse VFX studio in Los Angeles. As we were walking from building to building and room to room I saw nothing but computer workstations. Finally we wound up in a sound stage where my guide pronounced this to be the last soundstage left at DD, used primarily for large dance numbers. I was thunderstruck. The world of models and miniatures, motion control rigs, cloud tanks, pyro experts, stunt men, matte paintings - the meat and potatoes of visual effects - had all concatenated down to one single technology - computer animation.Of course, live action plays a prominent role in visual effects since many things are still best shot live. But we live in a visual effects world that routinely puts CGI and live action in the same shot. But there is a colossal barrier to blending the worlds of live action and CGI… Read more about Camera Tracking: A Technical Wonder

3D TV in the Home
August 2010

Not so fast.The entertainment community is all a-twitter over stereo 3D movies and are in a head long rush to crank out as many as they can. So what about the 3D TV in the home? How soon will it be here? What will be the technology? How much will it cost? Will you have to wear those silly glasses? ... Read more about 3D TV in the Home

The Indian Exodus
June 2010

There is much concern in the VFX industry about our jobs being outsourced to India, and even China. Indeed, India is rapidly booting up a visual effects industry and has a vast pool of low cost artists to staff it with. Since I have been to India five times to conduct VFX training (the most recent being a two-month visit to two different facilities) I am often asked about the “lay of the land” there. While India has much potential, they do have some systemic problems to overcome...Read more about The Indian Exodus

World Goes 3D
May 2010

One of the most startling trends I observed at the April NAB in Las Vegas is how rapidly the whole world has gone 3D. Everywhere you looked - editing systems, compositing programs, color timing systems, display systems - the 3D production workflow was being supported. There are now “3D ready” television sets being offered to the consumer by Samsung and even a 3D video camera from Panasonic is in the offing...Read more about World Goes 3D

March 2010

At the end of January The Foundry released NukeX, their enhanced version of Nuke. What NukeX adds is a very capable camera tracker, the lens distortion tools you need to go along with it, plus a core set of Furnace plug-ins that are an absolute must for camera tracking. I have been exploring NukeX for nearly a month now and I must say it is truly awesome... Read more about NukeX-traordinary

The Lighter/Compositor
December 2009

Heads up visual effects compositors, our world is about to change again. Just when you got your head around 3D compositing here comes 3D lighting. The official handwriting is on the wall. The Foundry (Nuke) and Sony Picture Imageworks (SPI) announced in early November that SPI’s proprietary Katana 3D lighting software will soon be integrated into Nuke. This will have a profound effect on the visual effects pipeline affecting both 3D and 2D artists. You only have about one year to prepare.... Read more about The Lighter/Compositor

Fan Films
November 2009

Fan films embrace a startlingly large sub-culture of producers, writers, cinematographers, directors, editors, and visual effects artists that create movie shorts inspired by popular feature films. Many are cheesy and poorly done with handy cams and look like high school skits, but some are very serious and superbly done. These serious fan films offer a tremendous opportunity for aspiring digital artists to finally solve the age-old conundrum - how can I build a job-getting demo reel?... Read more about Fan Films

2D Goes 3D
October 2009

There is a paradigm shift under way in the world of compositing visual effects. More and more of the shot finishing is being pushed from the 3D department into the 2D department. The reason being, of course, costs and schedules. Revisions can be made much faster in the 2D department, so both time and money are saved by migrating the work into it. This change has introduced two major innovations, multi-pass cgi compositing and 3D compositing... Read more about 2D Goes 3D

From Flat to 3D
September 2009

3D (stereoscopic) movies are exploding in popularity but it may come as a shock that many of them are not actually filmed in stereo. Even some cgi films that are already 3D productions are filmed flat then later converted to 3D. Shooting live action in stereo is fraught with so many problems and additional expenses that many film makers avoid it like the plague. The answer is increasingly to shoot the movie flat then convert it to 3D in post-production... Read more about From Flat to 3D

Shake the Undead
August 2009

Apple’s recent announcement that they are no longer selling Shake rekindled another round of the “Shake is dead” pronouncements. The first round occurred in April of 2006 when Apple announced that it was no longer supporting Shake.In stark contrast to all this, I am here to pronounce that Shake is alive and well with several more years of life left in it... Read more about Shake the Undead

Legacy Software
July 2009

ILM has recently joined Weta Digital and Intelligent Creatures, all visual effects powerhouses, to obtain a Nuke site license. The interesting thing here is that ILM already has very sophisticated compositing software developed in-house over many years, yet felt the need to purchase Nuke. ILM is finally starting to confront the legacy software conundrum... Read more about The Legacy Software Conundrum

nuke vids

Color Management Parts 1-4
Color Management part 1Color Management part 2Color Management part 3Color Management part 4
ibk keyer
parts 1-3
IBK Keyer part 1IBK Keyer part 2IBK Keyer part 3
parts 1-3
Keylight part 1Keylight part 2Keylight part 3
parts 1-3
Primatte part 1Priamtte part 2Primatte part 3
part 1
part 1

shake vids

Comp Tip#1 - Gamma SlammingComp Tip#2 - The Matte MonitorComp Tip#3 - Procedural Garbage MattesComp Tip#4 - Blur & Curve Matte AdjustmentsComp Tip#5 - Add Mix Composite Clipping
Shake Tip#1 - Inserting a Node with 4.1Shake Tip #2 - Freezing the Image ViewerShake Tip #3 - How to Make a GridShake Tip #5 - How to Make One Channel ImagesShake Tip #5 - ColorX Node Syntax


What's So Hot About Nuke?

Nuke has emerged as the compositing software of choice for VFX facilities that want to move up to the next level in their compositing departments for both visual quality and production efficiency. Its unique management of floating point colorspace coupled with its novel multi-channel architecture and superb 3D support make it the most effective compositing tool for any CGI production pipeline. Any digital artist that wants to stay on the leading edge of VFX compositing needs to learn Nuke. Download a PDF of the article What's So Hot About Nuke?

Commercials: How They Changed Film Production Forever!

While digital compositing is what I do, I started out as a CGI artist working on television commercials. For me, it all started on Super Bowl Sunday, 1984— “Super Sunday,” the showcase for all cool new commercials. A spot came on with a sexy robot pitching the virtues of packaging food in cans for the Canned Food Information Council (a spot entitled “Brilliance,” created by Ketcham Advertising). It blew me away! Download a PDF of the article Commercials: How They Changed Film Production Forever!

Digital Intermediate: The Wave of the Present

Student Filmmakers magazine ( publishes articles on filmmaking for the students of universities and film schools to prepare them for their new role as rising stars in the movie making business. One of the major paradigm shifts in modern filmmaking is the Digital Intermediate (DI) process where the entire movie is digitized and color corrected on a computer system. This article gives an eye-opening tour of the DI process and all its amazing capabilities and man-traps from scanning the film to delivery of the 24P master video. Download a PDF of the article Digital Intermediate: The Wave of the Present.

Jill Bogdanowicz: The Colorful Colorist

A profile of Jill Bogdanowicz, a winsome colorist with impeccable credentials such as Blade 3, Ray, and She Hate Me. A fine arts major and a physics minor at University of New York at Geneseo, she grew up in her father's lab, a color scientist for Kodak. Entering the trade at a the very tender age of 18, she landed an internship position at Kodak as a telecine assist. The article goes on to explore Jill's fascination with color science and how her expertise in it helps with color timing features digitally.   Read more about Jill Bogdanowicz: The Colorful Colorist.

The Autoconform Process: The Agony and the Ecstasy

A description of the autoconform process is and the virtues and complexity doing it in the Digital Intermediate process. It has the advantages of not cutting up the precious and irreplaceable camera negative and provides unlimited freedom for revisions. However, it is also very much more complicated for the DI facility to execute and requires extremely close coordination with the production company's editorial department. Read more about The Autoconform Process: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Power & The Glory: The Scope of Creative Control in the DI Process

The Digital Intermediate process is very new and very technical so there is much confusion and curiosity about what can be done in a Digital Intermediate suite and how it works. This article attempts to de-mystify the DI process to make it understandable to non-computer experts. It describes the various color correction tools that are available plus new advanced image processing tools such as degrain and scratch repair that can now be applied to improve the overall quality of a feature film. Read more about The Power & The Glory: The Scope of Creative Control in the DI Process

Digital Intermediate:
The Inner Workings
by Charlie White

This article actually started out as a recorded interview of Steve by Charlie White to collect background for an article. When the one hour phone interview was over Charlie had so much material that he decided to just transcribe the entire conversation as one huge article. It is a wide ranging conversation on the current state of Digital Effects and the Digital Intermediate industry with some crystal ball gazing of future trends. Read more about Digital Intermediate: The Inner Workings an interview with Steve Wright by Charlie White.