Check out complete technical in-depth details of cragl vfx tools by Simon Jokuschies. These productive plugins are for The Foundry NUKE and Autodesk Maya.
cragl vfx tools are the brain child of Simon Jokuschies, Nuke TD. It is a set of VFX plugins that follow the objectives to simplify, accelerate and automate every day compositing tasks. The main focus is on Foundry’s compositing package NUKE.
This is the link to cragl’s official website: www.cragl.com.
Check out technical interview of Simon Jokuschies.
What is your background and where do you currently live and work?
Since I was a child, I had always been fascinated about photography and the magic of films. Having decided very early to live my passion and what I love, at the age of 12 I started to learn everything I could find about working with cameras and editing movies and got in touch with my first programming languages. I learned how to program my first games and websites.
Later I studied media degrees at the University of Applied Sciences in Lübeck, Germany where I got a broad background knowledge about all media disciplines. In 2011 I did a study abroad in digital media at the Auckland University of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2012 I graduated with a bachelor of science in information technology and design. I started my career as a motion graphics artist and worked several years as a NUKE and Flame Compositor and Compositing TD at nhb video GmbH in Germany.
Currently I live in Canada and work as a Nuke TD at PIXOMONDO in Toronto.
You said you worked as a Compositor but currently as a Nuke TD, so you will obviously do more programming than Compositing at the moment. Do you see yourself more in being an artist or a programmer?
Haha, good question. Actually, I see myself directly in between both worlds. And that is probably the reason why I created cragl vfx tools. Without feeling home in both worlds I think I probably wouldn’t have started cragl vfx tools. I knew which plugins I would love to see inside NUKE.
Please tell us a bit more about the beginning process. How did the idea of cragl vfx tools get incepted? Was it a long due?
In the 2015, I started on planning several plugins that I always wanted to see in NUKE. Soon I realised that this will potentially become some big software project. So I spend a lot of time in creating concepts, diagrams and visuals of what I wanted to accomplish in order to have everything in a clean structure from the very beginning.
The development of the first four plugins took several months. I spent a lot of time in testing and doing beta versions to create clean and robust products. At some time I thought I would actually like to create a brand out of this big software project. cragl vfx tools is the result.
Are the tools based on Python?
They are a combination of Python and PHP. Both programming languages are great.
Please tell us about your products.
At the moment there are 8 products which I can briefly describe in the following:
smartLook is a set of tools that enhance look development inside NUKE. It offers the snapshot browser to take infinite snapshots of your work. These snapshots can be categorised, flagged and commented between multiple users. In addition this plugin lets you save, edit, import and export looks for each node. You can save different node versions and even multiple animation versions for your nodes. By using the version slider you can then quickly toggle between your versions. This enhances look development inside Nuke and improves working efficiently with multiple node versions in client sessions.
Furthermore, smartLook offers an import and export window to share node setups among artists and you can create an infinite amount of tool set directories. Additionally, smartLook offers a slider that lets you quickly switch resolution of your viewer. smartLook contains a rich collection of settings that are customisable to your needs – Whether you need to define custom shortcuts or enable or disable hidden features using smartLook’s advanced settings section.
smartRender is a multi-threaded background rendering tool for NUKE. It lets you reduce your rendering times and makes rendering dramatically faster compared to the standard rendering process. It uses all your hardware resources efficiently to speed up the processing.
smartRender supports the ability to speed up preview renderings. While your comp is work in progress where you want to get instant feedback you can use incremental renderings and down scalings to get your previews in seconds instead of waiting for some minutes. smartRender lets you view a detailed log for the job which lets you also detect rendering errors. All job logs can be exported as text files. smartRender works out of the box producing fast renderings but if you have some programming experience you can even edit, change and customise smartRender’s processing commands so you can fully customise it to your needs.
smartMessage is an instant messenger for NUKE and Maya. It can be used as a local network to let all NUKE and Maya artists in your company communicate with each other and let them work more efficiently as a team. If you are connected to the web it can also be used to get connected to a network of digital artists from all over the world.
Besides writing text smartMessage offers the ability to exchange data like node setups, images, 3D data like cameras and even animated geometry. This enhances the collaboration and speeds up the communication among artists.
By using the local chat the computer doesn’t need to be connected to the web. All data like text histories and sent data will be stored on a local path. On the other hand by using the global chat all data that will be generated is stored encrypted on the cragl server.
smartLib is a project and shot management system for NUKE. This tool will become handy for you if you find yourself often switching between multiple projects and shots. You can easily navigate between different projects and shots, set shot status and write notes. Other artists in the team that use smartLib too can see the shots status and comments. They are able to edit them and add new ones. This enhances the collaboration among artists in the team and makes every days compositing work faster and more effective. In addition you can create new shots out of fully customisable shot templates.
smartShelves lets you manage your node shelves in a simple, fast and intuitive way. To create and edit custom node shelves you would normally need some knowledge about python scripting and need to create a custom shelf by manually programming it. smartShelves solves this tedious task in a visual approach. By using smartShelves you can add new custom shelves and assign nodes and gizmos to them. Hotkeys can also be assigned to these elements. All custom shelves are always editable. If you work on a centralised repository you can set up a custom gizmo path so that all gizmos in the specified directory are imported automatically on your machine. Everything is done visually without the need to write even one line of code.
Don’t waste any time searching nuke scripts manually in your explorer. All your recent work is immediately accessible. smartRecents offers a window to quickly access your latest nuke scripts. You can also reveal a script directly in your explorer. You can decide how many scripts you want to see in the smartRecents window and if you like to have the smartRecents window pop up whenever Nuke is launched or simply whenever it is needed.
smartCollect is a multi threaded batch archiving tool which will collect all your Nuke scripts dependencies in a quick and efficient way. So, apart from source footages it also collects plates, geometries, camera files, LUT (Look Up Table) and any other files inside Nuke script. Detailed log information during the archive helps the artist to keep track of all the files used. Moreover, it can work as an standalone application, so you can collect all the data even without running the Nuke software. To give more ease to an artist, it automatically remap footages, through relative or absolute paths, when opening in new location.
Can you tell us about “connect”? What does it do and how does it fit into your cragl products?
Right, so last but not least there is “connect”. My objective is to make downloading and installing products as easy as possible. This is why I created connect. It is a free tool that you can use to browse, download and install any cragl product fully automatically – directly inside NUKE. So connect is all about automatism and having a tool that downloads and installs all cragl tools with just one click and you don’t need to read any manuals to see how a tool gets installed.
What about trials?
Connect lets you also download and install a fully featured trial version of any tool without any restrictions for 14 days. So you will have enough time to test a plugin. To install a trial version the user just needs to open connect, select a tool and click the “trial” button. The trial will be downloaded and installed fully automatically and as mentioned every trial comes without any restrictions.
Which NUKE versions and operating systems are supported by cragl vfx tools?
Nuke8, Nuke9, Nuke10, Nuke10.5 and upcoming versions are maintained of course. All major operating systems Linux, Mac OS X and Windows are supported. So we try to make these plugins available for everyone.
cragl vfx tools are geared towards Foundry’s NUKE and Autodesk Maya. Can it be integrated with Autodesk Flame, Blackmagic Design Fusion and Adobe After Effects as well?
After Effects doesn’t have a Python API, but has its own methods of customization. The other applications you mentioned however support customisation with python, so in theory yes, that would be possible. But at the moment we would like to concentrate on Foundry’s NUKE and push everything to make this great application even better. By concentrating on one application for now I think that this will generate the best results.
On how many machines can a plugin be used?
If you buy one license you can use it on one machine for commercial use plus on a personal computer/laptop or personal use. If you buy more than one license then you can use all of your purchased licenses on your machines for commercial use.
Did you come straight up with the idea of selling your plugins?
I try to make this as fair and transparent as possible. Having decided to sell the tools was more of a process over several months. My objective is not to make a lot of money with cragl but my goal is to make NUKE even more flexible and powerful. But you have to consider that all cragl products took several months developing time including writing multiple thousand lines of code. And I continue working on updates and bug fixes. Once a plugin is purchased it can always be upgraded with no additional costs applied and free customer support is included as well. To my mind that’s a fair deal.
Have you used cragl vfx tools in real production? How did it help to increase productivity?
The tools are used worldwide by single persons, mainly freelancers as well as small, medium and big VFX companies and of course, I myself use them almost every day. It’s just great to automate all aspects of compositing work. There is a lot of repetitive but necessary stuff going on every day which will be automated and simplified now.
One last question. What are your future goals?
Making NUKE even more powerful, of course. There are a lot more tool ideas on the list so time won’t become boring. And I am of course always thankful for anybody’s ideas for some great tools that should be implemented in NUKE and that will simplify all our daily compositing work.