Minggu, 26 Februari 2012

Why I Think Node-Based Graphics Systems Are Over-Complicated

If you've ever used a node system (they seem to be appearing everywhere now) you'll either: A) swear by their use, and wonder what I'm complaining about, probably thinking I just need to spend more time with it, or B) Think they're over-complicated and created that way to alienate the masses from their use.
I shall explain my argument with a simple test I performed with both Adobe's After Effects, and The Foundry's Nuke. Now I will say first of all that I'm biased towards After Effects, having used it for several years, but I didn't find it as frustrating to start off with as I did when I tried Nuke. The test was easy: Import a small video clip, turn it black and white, look at it.
Seems easy enough...Lets start with After Effects (hereafter AE) In AE, I went to File > Import > clicked on my video clip > OK. Now the clip was inside AE's project browser. I clicked and dragged it to the logical looking place for clips, the large rectangle area at the bottom and *TA DA* AE creates a new composition to the exact length of my clip. So far so good. Next I looked for the effects, which are cleverly labeled "Effects". Searched for 'black and white', got a preset called 'black and white', clicked and dragged that onto my clip, and instantly it turned black and white. I then pressed the play button and was nicely treated to my clip playing in black and white.
Okay, let's try Nuke. Opened Nuke, had a look for an import function. After about 5 minutes of trying to find it I gave up (I'm sure if there are some dedicated Nuke users reading this, you're probably thinking I'm a fool and screaming out how obvious the import function is, however, it didn't present itself to me after looking for it) So I went for the next option of opening Window's explorer, and dragging the clip across the screen so I could directly drop it into Nuke. This worked, but seemed an odd way of getting footage in there. Now finding the black and white (B&W) present wasn't too hard, I'll let Nuke off there, so I dropped the B&W node into my endless sea of node space. Had a think for a moment, logic would suggest connecting the B&W node to the clip, but it isn't, it's the other way around. Fair enough, I guess if you're running a chain of events it will go Clip > Make it black and white > Preview.
So now I'm at the stage of trying to look at my clip, only nothing happens. After searching on Google for a while, I discover I have to connect my clip to a viewing node (or something). I'm sorry, but this just seems utterly pointless to me. If I'm working with something visual, I'd expect to be able to see it as a default setting. You wouldn't buy a TV with everything but the screen in it, then go and buy the screen later. Apple ship their iPods with headphones (though I'm sure they've been tempted to make you buy them separately), but they point is, if you're going to do something, you want the end result as part of the process, not something that should be an option. So now I've got my clip, black and white, and I can see it, so I want to play it back. However I find that upon pressing the play button that it is very jumpy, distorted and broken. I've got a good spec PC, AE has no trouble playing back 50 layers of video and effects, but Nuke is struggling to play a 10 second B&W clip. "WHY?!" I scream while slowly pulling out my eyelashes to ease the pain and frustration.
After yet more Googling I discovered that Nuke is based upon the speed of your hard drive transfer rate, and likes to think about files in terms of frames, rather than whole films. So that 16Gb of Ram I've got is sitting their quietly, probably drinking a cheap whiskey and waiting for something to do, while my hard drive is frantically jumping back and forth between video frames.
After this I just gave up, I am fully aware of some of the fantastic film effects that have been composited using Nuke, but when I see a mass tangle of node wires crossing over and inserting themselves into colourful boxes with little meaning, looking like spaghetti and meatballs without the sauce, I can't help but think this program is intentionally hard to understand, just so only the most dedicated of people will ever get to understand its secrets. And I guess that's why only the best at it get the best jobs.