AE or Natron


Returning to the US I’ve been thrown back into the world of timeline-based compositing packages – they’re great! Well, I say that while biting my cheek of course, I don’t like the hidden compositions or scrolling down 400+ layers to find the one layer that needs tweaking. Then someone will tell you to turn on ‘shy’ layers*, but no one remembers shy layers, and then you’ve got crap on all over the show and absolutely no idea why things are on when your entire comp is turned off…

Then there’s Natron… and, believe it or not, it’s free. Control, speed and flexibility are the power behind node-based compositors, and Natron is a completely 32bit floating point linear color space, supported for Windows, Mac and Linux. The scary thing is that it’s Nuke in a nutshell, just have a look through the nodes – some are spot on the same. Of course this made it super easy to pick up and go, and if you’re a student who can’t shell out the 5k for a Nuke license this is a perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. Only two developers run the show so the builds aren’t always frequent, but you can always check GitHub to see what they’re up to. I take my hat off to these guys for putting together something this stable and quick in such a short amount of time.

This is a quick test to R&D whether or not Natron might be useful at my studio, and as we only do simple compositing I’m leaning towards yes. If at some point we require the 3D capabilities of Nuke I might make the push but for now I’m really happy with how this tool works.

*For those who don’t know, shy layers are a great tool in After Effects for hiding layers that you probably aren’t going to change again. You might have 50 layers that make up the background, once it’s all set and your happy you can flick shy layers on and AE will collapse those 50 layers to give you more screen real-estate.

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