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EXR Workflow / request for improvement

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MatthiasLinsbauer

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EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostTue Apr 06, 2021 7:45 pm

Hi there,
first of all, let me introduce myself. I'm an 3D artist coming from a film/advertisement background and I recently started a new position at another company. This company mainly works with After Effects / Photoshop and occasionally C4D, but wants take on some more 3D heavy projects as well.
One of my responsibilities is to establish a pipeline which is better suited for this kind of work. AE sucks when working on more complex scenes with separate passes, due to the number of layers to keep track of. So I was looking at Fusion as an alternative and here comes my problem.

I'm sure, as many of you know, the EXR workflow in Fusion is really cumbersome, even with the split and reload scripts which are available.

In Nuke it has always been a breeze to work with EXR files, because you could easily preview all the different channels and split them apart with just one file/loader node. Anyone who ever had the experience to work with both programs surely appreciates the benefits of Nuke's EXR workflow.

I'm trying to argue to use more Fusion instead of AE, but with the current obstacles it's kind of hard to convince people. ​

I would really like to hear some of your opinions on the matter and why there isn't more of an outcry for a better EXR workflow. And yeah, I know there have been the occasional threads on some forums over the years, but maybe a developer takes care of the matter if enough people offer their opinion and this topic gains some traction.

Also, I'm by no means an compositing expert, so if there are reasons, why the current EXR workflow is good the way it is, I would like to hear them as well. (But please don't say to just use Nuke instead, even the none X version is like 4,5k.)


Kind regards,

Matthias
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bentheanimator

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 3:54 am

The upshot of using Fusion to reassemble your 3D is that you don't have to do it very often. Once you have a flow set up for a certain set of AOVs you can just copy and paste the flow into a new comp and change out the File Path with a script. I have two set ups for normal Diffuse, Spec, Reflection, etc. One for Houdini Redshift AOVs and one for Maya Redshift AOVs. I render out as Multipart EXRs to keep things organized a little easier. The ordering of the AOVs are different in the two programs so it can't be one set up. With Cryptomattes I think its about 17 AOVs. There are more for a Diffuse Filter set up.

I suppose it's the same as making a bunch of PreComps for each composite and then replacing the files inside them in Ae. You'd just make a project for each AOV assembly and import it anyways. I don't know how it handles multipart exrs. I stopped using Ae before I went to multiparts. There would just be a bit more clean up work like extending the time to match the new sequence in each Precomp. There are scripts that will let you copy and iterate the precomps if you want to as well.

I've used the individual AOV files as well but it just is more to keep track of so I've used Multiparts for the last couple of projects. Depending on how you set it up it can be really easy to replace elements. One of the biggest helps in making it efficient is to have all your loaders in a single location. Then you can use Wireless links instanced out to your different parts. It keeps you from having to hunt down Loaders later when you update the files paths.

It would be really great to have a better node for this kind of work. Something that allows you to use one Loader and dole it out to a bunch of Booleans. At this point you can't select any subimages from the Boolean so you end up with a Loader for each subimage. So it goes...
Loader__Gamut___Boolean___WirelessLink: :wBoolean(Instanced)___rest of comp

That way I can add what I need to between the Loader and the Bol that is in the Wireless Link. Usually a Scale or something if I'm using half sized roughs while I work things out before the final renders.

This is one of the top twenty in my list of things to tweak in Fusion. There are a bunch of workflow stuff that could be added relatively quickly that would make Fusion a smoother program to use.

I just asked Noah about this a few day ago too.

Also forgot to mention hos_SplitEXR_Ultra on Reactor. It will do the dirty work for you and now works with parts as well as channels. The version on Reactor is 2.2 and you need the 2.3 to work with Multiparts instead of Multichannel.

Here's the relevant thread...
https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckless/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=553&start=60
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MatthiasLinsbauer

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 4:07 am

Thank you very much for the input, this was really helpful!
Especially the part were you described your workflow. Haven't thought about the wireless link node (but then again, I'm more familiar with nuke and quite new to fusion).

Who's Noah? Is he one of the developers?

Also, is there some kind of official feature request form/site, where users can submit or vote for requests?

Thanks again!
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UserNoah

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 8:18 am

Hello, I'm Noah.
No, I'm not one of the devs . I simply made a script that can replace Loader/Saver file names (and a few things more). But we've also talked about working with multilayer/multipart exrs in Fusion just a few days ago.

Regarding your initial question.
I believe there has been an outcry and still is. But I can't blame many of the long time Fusion users that they don't want to keep repeating themselves for 10 years.
Besides Fusions issues with multi pass workflows, I still find it much easier to work with compared to after effects. But that's simply because Fusion is node based.
I work with what I get and that's working fine right now.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see Fusion pass arbitrary channels through like Nuke. This is one of those things why seasoned Nuke users can't switch to Fusion. It's a feature that you don't want to miss.

I always envisioned it to look similar to how the Loader is dealing with channels right now, only that we can create our own channels, too.
Having such a feature would speed up your workflow (and possibly I/O times) immensely.


But again, this has been requested by users even before Fusion was bought by Blackmagicdesign. And the landscape is very different now. Such a feature would be geared more towards Fusion Studio instead of the Fusion Page, and I doubt that this is in any way a priority. In 15 they didn't even include the Loader in the Fusion Page so at least back then they didn't have any plans to change it.

But that's just me being pessimistic. I still write it in the "What features would you like to see" Box when downloading Fusion.
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MatthiasLinsbauer

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 6:47 pm

Hi Noah,
I just watched one of your tutorials the other day :)

Thank you for the insight on the matter and of course your scripts.


UserNoah wrote: I still write it in the "What features would you like to see" Box when downloading Fusion.


That's a good idea. I'll do the same, next time I download Fusion.
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Kel Philm

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 8:04 pm

I think the reason there is not so much complaining is that it is possible to do its just not as easy as it should be. But +1 for improved EXR workflow.
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Travis Schmiesing

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostWed Apr 07, 2021 9:07 pm

While neither AE nor Fusion compares to Nuke's superior handling of layered EXR's, Fusion's handling of layered EXR's is superior to AE's. You can simply work faster and more efficiently with layered EXR's in Fusion compared to AE.
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bentheanimator

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostThu Apr 08, 2021 4:02 am

I would guess the idea is to add full EXR support to the Media In tool and then port it over to Fusion? I don't really see what they are doing with that. It seemed like it would have been easier to modify the Loader tool to handle clips in Resolve vs. making a whole new tool. Hopefully they have a plan for that. Is EXR the only format that the Media In tool doesn't support? At the end of the day it would still be nice to beef up the Boolean tool to accept subimages. Tried looking at the tool code to see if you could add the FUID for subimage to the channel but it didn't work. Maybe somebody who knows what they are doing could try and getting it working?
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Bryan Ray

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostThu Apr 08, 2021 2:50 pm

You'd need a way for the Loader to send additional parts downstream—a modified Booleans node wouldn't do it on its own. I've toyed with the idea of a bespoke EXR Loader that can do that, along with the ability to take expressions in the Clip field but I haven't gotten very far along in that project yet. At the moment, I'm not sure if it's possible to pack the additional parts into a single output. The best I have so far is one that adds more outputs when selecting additional parts, kind of like how MultiMerge does with inputs.

As for the main topic of the thread, yeah, arbitrary channel and layer handling has been something I request frequently. I wonder if there might not be a patent issue, though? If Foundry's holding some kind of software patent for the way they handle channels, it could prevent Fusion from developing in that direction.
Bryan Ray
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Jacob Danell

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostThu Apr 08, 2021 3:39 pm

SecondMan at WeSuckLess talks about channels a bit here: https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckl ... a2d#p30189

Nuke and Fusion are VERY different in many respects, and for one you really need to approach channels differently between the two. Nuke adopted the concept of 'arbitrary channels'. Basically an image stream can contain any combination of channels, all of them in 32 bit float, devoid of meaning - apart from RGBA - and references to them are carried throughout the comp until such time that they are being used, at which point the actual image data is taken into account.

Fusion is different. Channels are much more explicit. An image stream in Fusion is not arbitrary at all, and has 26 (so far) very specifically designated channels. For example, Z Buffer is not just a generic channel that happens to bear the name "Z Buffer", it is used as a channel carrying depth information and tools will use that channel for specific functionality (like Depth Merge in the Merge node).

Channels can have their own bit depth, too. For example, if I would run Optical Flow or Disparity on an 8 bit RGBA stream, the resulting Vector or Disparity channels would still be 32 bit float, all in the same image stream. But all of that is very easy to follow. Unlike Nuke, in Fusion when there is nothing available in a certain node, you won't be able to select the related channels in the viewers at all, because they aren't there.

This is really important. You, the user, decide where any of the image data is needed at all. In other words, when you insert data into your image stream, from that point on it is carried from one tool to the next and will require resources such as RAM. Do that too early, and your performance may suffer (greatly). Do it in the right place, and your performance will be excellent, PLUS your flow will tell you exactly where, when and why it happens*.

While at first that may seem a little cumbersome if you're coming from Nuke (believe me, the other way around is at least as bad), there are no empty, or "dead" channels in Fusion, no ambiguity about what is available or not, and I also have never seen the phenomenon of corrupting comp files because they contain certain specifically named channels that cause weird conflicts and travel from VFX house to VFX house :)

So, just like with colour, in Fusion, it's you - the user - who decides how things are being transformed from one place to another. Nothing is assumed, it's all explicit. Sure, that does mean that you need to actually know what you're doing, too. But as I have said many times before, there really is no substitute for knowing your sh*t.

In short, please do yourself a favour and do NOT try to copy what you were used to in Nuke, to Fusion. Things will break that way, and they will frustrate you, and they will be bad practice and they will make you think that Fusion is slower or more difficult than it should be. There are lots of similarities, but each has their own specific way of doing things. You will start organising your comps differently, build your logic differently, etc.

Consequently, if you've read the manual for Nuke, good for you, but you still need to read the manual for Fusion :mrgreen:

Or just keep coming here, that works too :D

*doesn't mean Fusion's flow view is perfect, in fact there's a lot of room for improvement. You will notice that, too, and when you do, please let BMD know?
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MatthiasLinsbauer

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostFri Apr 09, 2021 3:28 pm

Thanks for all the insight. Please keep it coming and show, that there's a real need for good EXR handling inside of fusion.

Not really the place to argue about what somebody wrote in another forum, but I don't really see the big benefit in the way fusion handles it's channels, except that some tools can access the specified channels directly (if I'm understanding correctly).
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Chad Capeland

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostFri Apr 09, 2021 4:33 pm

MatthiasLinsbauer wrote:I don't really see the big benefit in the way fusion handles it's channels


One of the main benefits is that an image is completed in a single state. So an image is either rendered or not, and there's no issue with an image having only some channels rendered and others pending. This simplifies the scheduling of requests and management of cache.
Chad Capeland
Indicated, LLC
www.floweffects.com
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MatthiasLinsbauer

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Re: EXR Workflow / request for improvement

PostFri Apr 09, 2021 6:57 pm

Chad Capeland wrote:One of the main benefits is that an image is completed in a single state. So an image is either rendered or not, and there's no issue with an image having only some channels rendered and others pending. This simplifies the scheduling of requests and management of cache.


Thanks for the clarification!

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