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GridIron Software: Nucleo Pro

GridIron Software: Nucleo Pro
A Creative COW After Effects Plug-In Review


Creativecow.net Leader Nick Griffin reviews Nucleo Pro plug-in for After Effects from GridIron Software, Inc
Nick Griffin Nick Griffin
Griffin Communications, Inc.
Towson, Maryland USA


©2006 Nick Griffin and Creativecow.net. All rights reserved.
Article Focus:
In this article, Creative Cow Leader Nick Griffin takes a look at Nucleo Pro plug-in for After Effects from GridIron Software, Inc.


Nucleo Pro changes the way After Effects works by letting you continue to use the program when you would otherwise be locked out waiting. It creates previews while you’re working and performs renders in the background so you’re able to keep working. It creates previews and renders faster than AE’s native functions, and there’s more. Simply put, it’s an absolute “must have” for the majority of After Effects users.

Much of the magic of Nulceo Pro comes from the fact that it uses the processing power of your computer when it would otherwise be doing very little. The folks at Gridiron software have clearly figured out some things that no one else has about accessing un-used processor power and they’ve turned this into a clear benefit -- an improved work flow and a tremendous boost to what you can accomplish in After Effects in any given amount of time.

Nucleo, which has been out for a little more than six months, offers the two features of Fast Preview and Fast Render. These are explained below. Regular Nucleo is a worthy addition to any AE workstation, but the real workhorse is the just released Nucleo Pro.

So before we get too deep into it’s features, let me explain where I’m coming from. I’m anything but a power user of After Effects. In my world of corporate work I use AE for a variety of relatively simple tasks like creating moving titles for use in an NLE, for generating custom backgrounds, for adding life to otherwise static logos, and most commonly for animating stills. Guess that make me a “mid to low-power” user. Well after just a few hours with Nucleo Pro, it’s almost impossible for this low-power user to think of working without it. And if I can’t live without it, I can only imagine the impact that it will have on a true high-power AE user.

As I started to discuss earlier, Nucleo Pro gives you back your computer when After Effects would otherwise have you waiting for a preview or a render.

The five features that Nucleo Pro adds to After Effects are:

1.  Fast Preview - Builds a preview of noticeably faster than After Effects by itself.

2.  Fast Render - Renders noticeably faster than After Effects by itself.

3.  Spec Preview - Here’s where the magic starts. While you continue to work, Spec (for “Speculative”) Preview is preparing a RAM preview of the timeline wherever it can. If what you’re working on makes a change where the render was being prepared, it simply starts over. So why is this so cool? Because when you want to see a realtime preview it’s usually almost fully complete.

4.  Spec Render - In the exact words of the documentation, “Spec Render is continuously scanning your composition’s timeline looking for frames that need rendering. When it finds one, that frame gets rendered and written to disk as a single frame.  As you make changes, sections of your composition will become invalidated (meaning the frames need to be re-rendered). Spec Render will automatically detect the modifications and re-render only the necessary frames. Once all frames have created, Spec Render quickly generates the final output using the pre-rendered frame files.” In essence, Spec Render creates an individual still frame for each frame of your timeline. Make a change and it automatically discards the old frames, keeping only the latest ones. When it comes time for output Spec Render uses these individual frames to build the output, saving a great deal of time. Cool? It’s gets better.

5.  Background Render - The phrase “Why wasn’t this available before?” pops to mind. Background Render (the truly clever amongst us can see where this explanation is going) renders in the background while you continue doing other things within After Effects.

6.  Commit to Disk - Talk about magic, with Commit to Disk you select layers of your composition then, while you work on some other composition or part of the timeline, it renders them using the settings you designate. When complete this render is dropped into the timeline while locking and hiding the layers used to create it. Need to make a change? Everything’s still there where you left it. Just throw away the render layer and start again.

Are there limitations? Sure. It’s one-point-ohhh (1.0) software so there are going to be limitations. But nothing that I’ve seen provides any reason for waiting to get on board.

Nucleo Pro gives you so much, what does it ask in return? First and foremost it requires Adobe After Effects 7.0 and above, working on all Windows and Mac OS X operating systems which will run AE7. It’s design is based on using the power of multiple, networked computers and multi-core computers. If you just have a single processor machine, get a new box first.

Nucleo Pro demands that After Effects have as much access to as much RAM as you can provide. While you can run some applications concurrently, it’s best to do so with apps which don’t also want a lot of RAM. Simply put Word or Excel easily co-exist. Photoshop, on the other hand, maybe not. Nucleo Pro will display a warning dialog when it thinks you’re cramping its style.

The maximum benefit will be realized by Nucleo Pro when After Effects is the only application running, or, at the very least, the first application launched after a start-up or re-start. Best practice therefore is to launch it first after cleaning the slate with a re-start.

What’s the downside of Nucleo Pro? The only one I can envision at the moment is that the product is so useful that its features may have to be eventually be included in future releases of AE. GridIron may not want to be acquired by Adobe, but even if that were to happen within the next year (an unlikely event) the amount of time you will have saved by Nucleo Pro would have made the investment well worth it — even for someone like me who only uses AE a few hours a month.

Nucleo Pro is currently priced at US$495 per workstation. Upgrades from Nucleo are US$395. Both can be found at GridIronSoftware.com.

 


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