CG Compositing Series – 1.2 Categories of Passes


Download the project files for this video here to follow along:

1.2 Categories of Passes Files – Nuke scripts and slides only (2.8 MB)

If you haven’t downloaded the FruitBowl Renders already yet, you can do so now:

You can Choose to either download all 3 FruitBowls at once:
FruitBowl_All_Renders_Redshift_Arnold_Octane.zip (1.61 GB)

Or Each FruitBowl Render Individually for faster downloads:

FruitBowl_Redshift_Render.zip (569.1 MB)

FruitBowl_Arnold_Render.zip (562.8 MB)

FruitBowl_Octane_Render.zip (515.4 MB)

The project files and the Renders are separate downloads, so if you have already downloaded 1.1 What and Why files or the Fruitbowl Renders, there are a couple ways to combine them to work.

  1. Either add the .nk script to the previous package (in the folder above SourceImages, with the other .nk scripts)
  2. Or simply drop the Render files into the SourceImages folder of the new 1.2 project folder

This will help the Read nodes auto-reconnect to the sourceImages for you.


Often there are a lot of renders passes to sort, and it’s useful to divide them into categories based on their functions. We can divide up all the render passes by how they are used.

There are 2 Overarching Types of CG Passes:

  1. Beauty Rebuild Passes – Will recreate the Beauty Render
  2. Data Passes – Helper passes

There are 4 Main Categories of CG Render Passes

  1. Material AOVs
  2. Light Groups
  3. Utilities
  4. IDs

Material AOVs

  • Used to adjust the Material Attributes (Shader) of objects in the scene

Examples:

  • Diffuse, Specular, Reflection, Sub-Surface Scattering, Refraction, Texture/Color, Emission, Raw Lighting, etc.

The passes in this category should add up to recreate the beauty render, as demonstrated in the previous video

From now on in the series, if I only say “AOVs”, I am referring to this category here. I will try my best to say Material AOVs, but I am so used to it being in my terminology and don’t find the AOV “all render pass” definition very useful.

Material AOVs are passes related to the shader or material from the 3D application. When we use these passes, we are wanting to manipulate the material or the shader of the object

Extra Research on Materials:

Material Attributes & Properties | 3D Wombat

Textures, Shaders, and Materials | Working with Models, Materials, and Textures in Unity Game Development | InformIT

Sources for Material images:

Everyday Material Collection for C4D – Greyscalegorilla

Realistic Vray Materials I by AlexCom | 3DOcean


Light Groups

  • Used to adjust the Individual lights in the scene

Examples:

  • Key, Rim, Fill, HDRI, Light-Emitting Objects, etc.

You can separate your lights however you like. Usually you see things like the 3 point lighting set up broken out into different lights. Along with HDRI and light emitting objects separated.

We are usually adjusting light attributes such as temperature and intensity

3 point lighting reference:

Types of Film Lights (and How to Use Them)

Color temperature – Wikipedia

In the fruitbowl renders, I have just named the lights LG01, LG02, etc

References, extra reading material on lights and light groups:

Setting Up Proper AOV’s and LightGroups With Arnold – Lesterbanks

The Basics of Three Point Lighting for Portraits

Three Point Lighting – Morgan Adams Next Gen Blog


Utilities

  • Used in combination with tools to achieve various effects like defocus, motion blur, re-lighting, etc

Examples:

  • Depth, Motion Vectors, Normals, Position, Ambient Occlusion, UVs, etc

These do not add up to the Beauty Render

References:

Render Elements – V-Ray 5 for 3ds Max – Chaos Help

VRayNormals – V-Ray 5 for 3ds Max – Chaos Help


IDs

  • Used to create alphas or mattes for different areas of the render

Examples:

  • RGB IDs, Object IDs, Texture IDs, Cryptomattes, etc

The ID category could probably live under the Utilities Category, but I do think the separation of these 2 categories is useful.

ID’s sole purpose is to pull out an alpha or matte channel, whereas Utilities can have many use cases beyond just that.

Many times a texture artist working on characters will make custom texture matte passes that can be rendered out as Texture RGB IDs to help isolate those important parts of the texture for adjustment in comp.

These also do not add up to the Beauty Render


Nuke Script: Breaking out Categories of the Renderers

Nuke script is a node graph representation of the slides table we looked at and I’ve broken out the passes in the categories for each of the 3 render engines.

In order for the LayerContactSheet node to display just the passes for each category, I am removing all layers from the other categories.

Useful Unlimited Remove tool:
K_Remove – Nicolas Gauthier
http://www.nukepedia.com/gizmos/channel/k_remove

I’ve also broken out all of the Category’s Layers into shuffles when a text of the layer name into a contact sheet. The main difference would be that this contact sheet would be renderable, and the UI text on the layerContactSheet is not.

In the Beauty Rebuild Passes Section, underneath we have a Material AOV rebuild and a Light Group Rebuild, showing that these passes add up to equal the Beauty.

Please look through the different categories and different Render Engines to familiarise yourself.


Tips and Tricks for making contact sheets

Split Layers

Here are some links to some various Split out layers / shuffle layers python scripts found on nukepedia:

http://www.nukepedia.com/python/misc/split-layers
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/shufflechannels
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/multichannelsplit_v03

Display Postage Stamps in node Graph

You can turn on the Shuffle Node’s postage stamp in the node graph with
alt + P for a more visual overview

Make a Text node auto display a Shuffle’s layer name

If you use a Text Node, you can display the layer name of the Shuffle it is connected to by entering the following:

For Old Shuffle Nodes:

[value input.in]

For New Shuffle Nodes:

[value input.in1]

Multi-Paste to Selection

Paste to Selection python script by Frank Rueter on Nukepedia:
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/pastetoselected

W_Hotbox by Wouter Gilsing – which also contains paste to selection button:
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/ui/w_hotbox

Nicer Contact Sheet

ContactSheetAuto tool by Tony Lyons on Nukepedia:
http://www.nukepedia.com/gizmos/merge/contactsheetauto

Multi-connect inputs

To multi-connect inputs on the contactSheetAuto node:

  1. Select the contactSheetAuto node first
  2. Next select the inputs in exactly which order you want the inputs to appear
  3. click the Y key and nuke will connect the inputs

Also works on a Merge node, or any node in nuke.

CG Compositing Series – 1.1 What And Why


Download the project files here to follow along:

1.1 What and Why Project Files – Nuke scripts and slides only (1.2 MB)

You can Choose to either download all 3 FruitBowls at once:
FruitBowl_All_Renders_Redshift_Arnold_Octane.zip (1.61 GB)

Or Each FruitBowl Render Individually for faster downloads:

FruitBowl_Redshift_Render.zip (569.1 MB)

FruitBowl_Arnold_Render.zip (562.8 MB)

FruitBowl_Octane_Render.zip (515.4 MB)

Place the FruitBowl renders files into the /SourceImages/ folder of the project files and nuke will reconnect the read nodes.


What is a CG multi-pass Render?

A CG Render with multiple extra layers or passes that are to be used to recreate the Beauty Render and to aid in further manipulation while Compositing.

Why do we need it?

  • Renders are Expensive, and Changes are often necessary.  It can take too long to make tweaks and hit notes if you have to re-render the image.  
  • Sometimes it’s faster to find the “look” you are going for in Comp, rather than waiting for the Render results. 
  • Some effects are better achieved in Comp and need additional passes to help achieve the effect in Compositing.

Terms and Definitions

Here are some useful Terms and Definitions that I will be using in this series. They are commonly used in the industry, but sometimes they can be confusing or interchangeable, so I will try and define them for us to help while discussing CG Compositing

  1. Render – The output image or final result of the export calculation from the CG software.
  2. Renderer – The Render Engine or algorithm used to produce the render.
  3. Render Passes – A general term for additional layers exported by the CG renderer meant to be used alongside the main render. These might come contained within a multi-pass EXR or be rendered as separate images.

SourceImages and Stamps

  • All of the read nodes and source images in the nuke scripts will be located at the top of each nuke script under a “Source Images” Backdrop
  • You will need to re-link the files in this area if you are following along

We will be using Adrian Pueyo’s “Stamps” add-on to nuke in order to populate our nuke script with the files in the source image folder.

You can download Adrian Pueyo’s Stamps from Nukepedia:
https://www.nukepedia.com/gizmos/other/stamps

or from GitHub:
https://github.com/adrianpueyo/Stamps

Here is a direct link to the Stamps Online Documentation:
http://www.adrianpueyo.com/Stamps_v1.0.pdf


Different Types of Renderers

Common Renderers

  1. Arnold
  2. Redshift
  3. Octane
  4. V-Ray
  5. Cycles/Eevee
  6. Mantra
  7. Renderman
  8. Maxwell

Reference Websites

Websites:
Tool Farm | In Depth: Which 3D Renderer is best?
https://www.toolfarm.com/tutorial/in_depth_3d_renderers/

Render Pool | 10 Best Rendering Software by Price
https://renderpool.net/blog/best-rendering-software/

Blender Guru | Render Engine Comparison: Cycles vs The Rest
https://www.blenderguru.com/articles/render-engine-comparison-cycles-vs-giants

ActionVFX | Which 3D Render Engine Should I Use for VFX?
https://www.actionvfx.com/blog/which-3d-render-engine-should-i-use-for-vfx

Radar Render | Redshift vs Octane Comparison
https://radarrender.com/redshift-vs-octane-comparison/

Ace5 Studios | Render engine comparison – Redshift, Arnold, Octane, Cycles 4D
https://ace5studios.com/render-engine/

Thesis Paper:
Konstantin Holl | A Comparison of Render Engines in Nuke – Thesis
https://www.hdm-stuttgart.de/vfx/alumni/bamathesis/Holl

Videos:
Art Cafe | Grant Warwick about Bias and Differences of 3D Rendering Engines – Youtube
https://youtu.be/UwjVbRYoDZ0

Andrey Lebrov | About RENDER ENGINES – Youtube
https://youtu.be/fAKCwAwIPMg

Default Application Renderers

  1. AutoDesk Maya – Arnold
  2. Cinema4D – Redshift
  3. Blender – Cycles / Eevee
  4. Houdini – Mantra

Third party plugins

  1. Octane
  2. V-Ray
  3. Renderman
  4. Maxwell

Most Common Renderers in 2021

  1. Arnold
  2. Redshift
  3. Octane
  4. V-Ray
  5. Cycles / Eevee

Renderers used and provided in this series

Rendered from Cinema4D

  1. Arnold
  2. Redshift
  3. Octane

Credits and Inspiration

Inspiration for FruitBowl render:

El Profesor | Research: Blender 2.83 CYCLES vs Maya 2020.2 ARNOLD
https://youtu.be/jyqTAvfC7GI

The still life scene was originally set up in Blender 2.79 with photogrammetry models by Oliver Harries:

ArtStation – Oliver Harries
https://www.artstation.com/olyandros

Oliver Harries Portfolio
https://oliverharries.myportfolio.com/

GumRoad | Free FruitBowl Photogrammetry Model Collection
https://oliver-harries.gumroad.com/l/CZNAS

Chase Bickel provided us with our Fruitbowl Render Scene and AOV renders for Redshift, Arnold, and Octane

Chase Bickel’s Portfolio
https://www.chasebickel.com/


Additional Downloadable Renders

  1. V-Ray Architectural Scene:

Chaos Group | Cryptomattes post with render
https://www.chaosgroup.com/blog/how-to-use-cryptomatte-render-elements-in-v-ray-for-sketchup

Download link:
https://static.chaosgroup.com/documents/assets/000/000/152/original/Cryptomatte.zip?1581515323

  1. The Foundry Toolset Examples – Renderman Example Render

Link to the 2GB download package for nukes toolsets content, there you can find the Renderman Example file
http://thefoundry.s3.amazonaws.com/products/nuke/toolsets/toolset_examples.zip


Ways to View Render Passes

LayerContactSheet node

  • Shows a grid of all the layers in the input
  • LayerContactSheet is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to get a visual overview of all the passes contained in your render.
  • Turn on Show Layer Names to get UI labels of each pass name. This is only a GUI overlay, so you cannot render it out, it’s just for viewing purposes, but it’s great for identifying the pass names we are looking at

The Viewer

  • The Viewer shows an alphabetical dropdown list of channels of the stream where the viewer is plugged into.
  • Remember to set the viewer back to RBGA when you are done viewing that layer
  • You can use the PageUp PageDown hotkeys to cycle through layers in the Viewer
  • Along the bottom left of the viewer, it also lists all the channels separated by commas. It’s good to occasionally look at this part of the viewer to keep track of if you’ve lost your layers from the stream, or you are accidentally carrying layers that you do not need anymore in the stream.

Shuffle node

  • The Old Shuffle node will show a list of all layers in the stream which it is plugged into if you use the “in 1” dropdown
  • Good way to quickly check what layers are in your stream, but not as visual as layerContactSheet

ShuffleCycleLayers python script:

I wrote a tool called “ShuffleCycleLayers” which you can use hotkeys like Page Up, Page Down or + , – to cycle through the layers of the selected shuffle node, just like the viewer layer cycler. Maybe some people will find this handy if they don’t like to changed the viewer channel dropdown and would prefer to cycle through Shuffle node layers

http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/shufflecyclelayers

Difference between Old Shuffle and New Shuffle:

  1. Old shuffle only displays list of layers within the stream the input is plugged into
  2. New shuffle displays list of every layer in the nuke script

If you’d like to exclusively use the old shuffle node instead of the new shuffle node, you can add this line of code to your menu.py in your User/.nuke/ folder

nuke.toolbar(‘Nodes’).addCommand(‘Channel/Shuffle’, ‘nuke.createNode(“Shuffle”)’, icon=‘Shuffle.png’)

Or, simply type X in the nodegraph and type

Shuffle

hit enter to get the old shuffle

Splitting or Shuffling out Layers

  • Split Layers is a python script that shuffles out all available layers from a selected node
  • This will make 1 shuffle per layer all connected to the source.
  • You can then just view and toggle between all the layers in the nodegraph
  • selecting all and hitting the hotkey alt + p will toggle on the postage stamp feature in all the shuffles, and if you visual thumbnails for all the passes. This can be useful for grouping and organising the passes.

Here are some links to some various Split out layers / shuffle layers python scripts found on nukepedia:

http://www.nukepedia.com/python/misc/split-layers
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/shufflechannels
http://www.nukepedia.com/python/nodegraph/multichannelsplit_v03


Layers vs Channels

  • Channels are the individual pieces that make up a Layer, or Channel Set. The most common example is red, green, blue and alpha, channels that make up the rgba layer
  • A layer must contain at least 1 channel, but often has multiple channels.
  • Nuke prefers layers to have a maximum of 4 Channels per layer, any more and it has difficulty displaying them in the GUI interface
  • It becomes significantly more difficult to see the channels beyond 4 that are in 1 layer. Nuke’s interface is built around displaying 4 channels.
  • An individual channel in nuke is written as LayerName.ChannelName, to let you know what layer it belongs to
  • Depth.Z for example, in which Depth is the LayerName, and Z is the ChannelName
  • Whenever there is only 1 Channel, this displays in the viewer as the red channel, since it’s the first channel visible in rgba
  • There are also many cases where someone will just refer to it as “The Depth Channel”, where they are recalling referring to the Layer, but since it commonly has only 1 Channel, they are talking about the same thing.
  • Some nodes in nuke deal with layers and channel differently, or prefer to deal with one vs the other
  • A shuffle dropdown displays LayerNames for example whereas a Copy node displays Channels, and therefore the list is much bigger since it is displaying the individual pieces of the layer
  • Blur node “channels” dropdown actually lists layers, and then you can toggle the channels of that layer on/off
  • Basically any node with a mask input is dealing with channels since it only needs 1 channel to function
  • The first 4 channels of a layer are mapped to, and will display as Red, Green, Blue, and Alpha in the viewer, regardless the actual name of the layer. Any more than 4 channels in a layer and nuke has a hard time displaying them
  • A motion pass for example, is describing motion in XY directions. Left-Right and Up-Down. So only 2 channels are needed in the Layer and they display as Red and Green
  • A position pass, for example, is usually describing XYZ – 3D space coordinates, and sometimes the channels are actually named x, y, and z. So Position.x, Position.y, Position.z
  • Since X, Y, and Z are taking up the first 3 channels in this layer, they will display as red, green, blue

AOVs

  • AOVs stand for Arbitrary Output Variables
  • Arbitrary output variables (AOVs) allow data from a shader or renderer to be output during render calculations to provide additional options during compositing. This is usually data that is being calculated as part of the beauty pass, so comes with very little extra processing cost.

https://learn.foundry.com/katana/3.6/Content/ug/rendering_scene/define_aov_output.html

  • They can be considered ”checkpoints” or “steps” in the rendering process. The render engine splits up many calculations while making the final image (Beauty) and is exporting these smaller steps out to disk so we can combine them and manipulate them in Comp.
  • The important thing to take away is the renderer takes these “pieces, these AOVs, and combines them together to form the final Beauty render. We are essentially trying to recreate this process with our CG rebuild, while retaining control over the individual pieces.
  • One of the best things about AOVs is we get them “for free” since the renderer was going to calculate them anyway.
  • AOVs can sometimes be just a “catch all term” for all layers/passes you will render out
  • “What AOVs are you exporting” is a common question, and many 3D applications will use the term AOVs to define any render passes (even though some of them require extra work to get, like ID’s or custom passes)

Differences in the Render AOVs

  • All the renderers are essentially doing the same thing. They are crunching the numbers, using different algorithms, and coming up with the math needed to produce the final renders.
  • Since all the renders are basically doing the same steps / calculations, you just have to get used to what that renderer chooses to name these AOVs or lighting passes. All the passes will combine together and add up to the final Beauty output.
  • There are certain similarities or patterns between all the renderers.
  • Sometimes we’ll be looking at 1 renderer while explaining concepts, but they often translate over to the other renderers in some way. So keep an eye out for the patterns described and apply what is being taught to your renderer’s output.
  • Our renders have differences in amount of AOVs exported and differences in naming conventions for the AOVs

Rebuild Equations per Renderer

  1. Arnold AOV Rebuild:
Beauty = diffuse_direct, diffuse_indirect, specular_direct, specular_indirect, coat, sheen, sss, transmission, emission

https://docs.arnoldrenderer.com/display/A5AFMUG/AOVs#AOVs-AOVs

  1. Redshift AOV Rebuild:
Beauty = DiffuseLighting, GI, SpecularLighting, Reflections, SSS, Refractions, Emission

https://docs.redshift3d.com/display/RSDOCS/AOV+Tutorial?product=cinema4d#AOVTutorial-HowtheAOVsshouldberecombined

  1. Octane AOV Rebuild:
Beauty = Diffuse_direct, Diffuse_indirect, Reflection_direct, Reflection_indirect, Subsurface_scattering, Refraction, Emitters

CG Compositing Series – 1.0 Introduction

For a long time I wanted to release a CG compositing series. Many things stopped me in the past:

  1. Time constraints
  2. Access to good Render examples to work with
  3. Not thinking I had too much to contribute to the subject matter

This series will be focused on answering the following question

How do I best rebuild my CG passes, for the most flexibility as a Compositor?


Download the FruitBowl Renders for the Series

My Friend and fellow artist, Chase Bickel, has kindly provided us with some high quality renders of a FruitBowl to download for free and play around with.


Download the FruitBowl renders now, or I will always post the links at the top of each video and blog post for you to download later:

You can Choose to either download all 3 FruitBowls at once:
FruitBowl_All_Renders_Redshift_Arnold_Octane.zip (1.61 GB)

Or Each FruitBowl Render Individually for faster downloads:

FruitBowl_Redshift_Render.zip (569.1 MB)

FruitBowl_Arnold_Render.zip (562.8 MB)

FruitBowl_Octane_Render.zip (515.4 MB)

You can place the FruitBowl renders files into the /SourceImages/ folder of the project files folder accompanying each video and nuke will reconnect the read nodes.

For Example:


These Renders are full of common passes you would find in production, including:

  1. AOVs
  2. Lightgroups
  3. IDs
  4. Utility

Gameplan

Start with the Basics –> Build our way to more advanced topics –> End with a proposed template for your CG Rebuild


I will go through different types of AOV passes you would typically find at a studio, what they are, how they are used, and how should think about them in relationship to one another. We will categorise and group different AOVs in order to define them better, and help us find the commonality and patterns between renderers.

This series aims to be useful no matter what renderer your CG comes from, as the principles are the same.

Topics Covered

  1. Differences between Additive and Subtractive Workflows, and the pros and cons of both
  2. Explaining the difference between Material AOVs and LightGroups and how to work with them together seamlessly
  3. This includes an elegant solution to the infamous AOV – Lightgroup paradox
  4. I will cover the importance of making Mattes and alphas, to help us isolate, and automate our CG manipulation. We will go over common utility passes and IDs and show how to do some cool things with them

Using Full CG Render

  • Will not cover how to integrate CG renders into a live-action plate
  • Will focus on the CG rebuild and various methods of manipulation to get the most out of your CG renders

Something for everyone

  • Juniors, Mids, Seniors, TDs, Comp Supervisors
  • There will be knowledge to be learned across all levels
  • Perhaps this will one day be a pre-requisite for a full CG Compositing into live-action plate course

This series will take some time to release all episodes, so please have patience

Thank you!

Tony

Advanced Keying Breakdown – ALPHA 1.1: pre-processing the GS


Here is the first part in the advanced keying series.  I’ve started with the ALPHA section, and made a custom slide for just ALPHA, where you can see the many topics I plan on covering in future videos, but for now I am just covering 1.1 Pre-processing the Green Screen.  Here is the slide for ALPHA:

Advanced Keying Breakdown_ALPHA_detail_v01

It’s a long video, but it’s full of useful tips and techniques.  I recommend watching the whole thing if you get a chance, but if you’re in a rush and want to skip to certain sections here are the Timecodes for you:

0:00 Intro

1:12   Denoising

5:56  Colorspaces

13:11 White Balancing

21:28 Saturation

25:33 Evening out the GS

35:21 Outro Recap

here is the Neat Video plugin website I mentioned for reducing noise on an image:

http://neatvideo.com/

here is the link to some keying tutorials from nuke station for you guys to look through if you need them, most all of them are excellent:

http://nukestation.com/category/keying/

Please guys, I know I covered a lot but if you have any questions, or if you would like me to do a written recap on all the sections here in this blog post, please just let me know and I’d be happy to write it up for you.   Leave a comment with any questions, or if you think I messed something up, or if you’d like to contribute to the conversation and have anything to add to this tutorial.  I enjoyed putting this together and look forward to the rest of the keying tutorials I plan on putting together.  Please share if you learned something =)

Cheers,

Tony