KeenTools for Nuke are set of plugins including GeoTracker, FaceTracker, FaceBuilder, PinTool and ReadRiggedGeo.
Foundry Nuke is leading post production software which supports multiple third party plugins. The goal is to provide better VFX tools to the artists with increased productivity in less time frame. Keen Tools Plugins Suite is one of the impressive Nuke plugins.
Check out our exclusive interview with Roman Belov, KeenTools teal lead and founder.
Please let us know what is ‘Keen Tools Plugins Suite’ all about.
Hi Amit! Initially we started with a variety of tracking nodes for Nuke. First for rigid geometry: PinTool and GeoTracker. Then our focus was shifted to human tracking, so we created FaceBuilder and currently we’re working on FaceTracker to complement it. By the way we created a number of helper nodes, and released some of them, like ReadRiggedGeo for example. It allows you to import rigged geometry with skeletons into Nuke, and then if you connect it to PinTool or GeoTracker, you can track not only a position of such geometry but also its joints.
What was the need to create KeenTools?
Our main goal is to make the work of VFX artists easier and ultimately to make it pleasurable. Whenever we see that something is being done with too much effort while it could be automated, we want to address it. Of course, we can’t make all possible tools and automate everything, we’re still a small team, but the main part of our vision is that we want to bring state-of-the-art science to modern VFX pipelines.
Who are in the core team? Please share their roles and responsibilities.
Our team is made of our visionary founder Roman, three developers Bogdan, Sergey and Anton and marketing specialist Artyom. Besides that, we have a flat company structure, so we don’t have any strict roles and responsibilities.
Kindly explain in detail regarding all nodes of KeenTools plugins.
- PinTool is a node that can help you with placing rigged and rigid 3D models into the scene. You can even work on simple tracking tasks using it.
- ReadRiggedGeo can import rigged (deformable) geometry into Nuke. Also, sometimes it can be useful for importing models not supported by Nuke’s built-in ReadGeo node.
- GeoTracker can automatically track rigged and rigid 3D models.
- FaceBuilder can easily create human face and head 3D models from a bunch of photos. Then you can just export the model from Nuke to work with it further in any other software, or you can work with it in Nuke, for example using our GeoTracker or FaceTracker.
- FaceTracker is meant to work in tandem with FaceBuilder to track facial gestures and expressions.
Why KeenTools are only made for Foundry Nuke?
Well, currently Nuke is the leading platform for VFX professionals, and it was the platform we were most familiar with. But we’re actively looking into making our plug ins available for other platforms like Fusion, After Effects, Blender, Houdini, etc.
Had you contacted Foundry, before working on KeenTools? If yes, how had been their response during development of your plugins?
No, we hadn’t. But now we’re good friends and we keep being in touch.
During the development phase, there must have been technical challenges. How you tackled them?
There are lot of small technical challenges we face and tackle on everyday basis, and it might be another challenge to describe them. I’d better say that what makes it truly difficult is the amount of these small challenges, because when you look at each of them separately they don’t look scary, but if you zoom out a bit, then you can see another picture.
One of examples is that when you’re working with tracking you have to deal with lots of cases and lots of difficulty levels, and while one algorithm may perfectly work in one case it will work bad in another case, so you’re always looking for a good balance, and that’s what takes a lot of time by the way. Another challenge is to find the right balance between performance and tracking quality. Also, as I mentioned before, we want automate everything, so in the ideal situation the workflow would look like “Press this button and it’s done!”, and while we’re quite far from this, we want to make our plug ins require as little user input as possible, meaning manually set keyframes, or manual refinement for example.
It all leads to long beta testing we have here, and we’re really thankful to our community for providing feedback and support. We’re always happy to see new people telling us about their successes and difficulties they face — knowing it helps a lot with making our products better!
When can we expect commercial licenses of FaceTracker and FaceBuilder?
FaceBuilder was just released a couple of weeks ago, and so we encourage people to start using it in case they haven’t already, since now it’s a stable and reliable production-ready tool. FaceTracker is coming soon — it’s what we’re currently working on. Our main goal here is to make tracking results so good it’d look like magic. And while it looks like we’re close to it, there’s still some work to be done.
What are future plans of KeenTools?
Currently our main task is to release a production-ready version of FaceTracker to complement FaceBuilder. As always, we see some possibilities to make our already released plugins even better, meaning tracking quality in GeoTracker, also modelling quality in FaceBuilder (here we’d like to try to make it almost automatic). Of course we have some plans on expanding to other platforms as well as bringing more amazing tools to the VFX community.
We thanks Roman for the in-depth technical interview and wishes the entire team best luck for their future endevour.