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Review - GridIron Nucleo Pro 2 for Adobe After Effects CS3

September, 2007



GridIron Nucleo Pro 2 for Adobe After Effects CS3
GridIron Software
Nucleo Pro 2- $395.00
Upgrade from Nucleo Pro 1-$99.00




Review by Steve Douglas

It was a year ago that I first became aware of GridIron's Nucleo Pro 1 and was impressed with how much easier it made my workflow when using Adobe After Effects. With the advent of GridIron's Nucleo Pro 2, I thought it was worth the time to take a second look to see what, if any, new features they had come up with.

What Nucle Pro 2 does is enable the editor working in After Effects to have a smartly enhanced workflow providing the ability to continue working in After Effects even though renders are still being made and parameters within existing AE projects are currently being adjusted. Simply put, GridIrons Nucleo Pro is as effective as it is because it uses almost 100% of your computers' CPUs to generate previews and renders without reducing your computer to a sluggishly behaving beast. Don't ask me how they figured this out, I'm not a software designer, but the fact is that it works. While there are several new features, there also appear to be a number of tweaks to many of the old.

One of the more helpful features in Nucleo Pro is the Spec Preview feature, which allows you quick views of your project composition without having to wait an interminable length of time for a normal ram preview. New to Spec Preview is the ability to open the Nucleo Pro settings, go to your composition and set the Spec Preview to 3 different choices. The 'work area' setting will limit the spec preview to just that area on your After Effects timeline. Click on the 'timeline' and the spec preview will preview the entire timeline regardless of your work area, or, if you should have a particularly layered composition and really do not want to wait to preview the entire thing, you can direct the spec preview to focus strictly on a set frame range.

The settings are easy to access and provide individual adjustments for each composition depending upon your project requirements.

Not to be overlooked is the new 'render around current time indicator', which will begin any preview in the vicinity of your timeline indicator. Even if you move the indicator around, the spec preview will continue to follow the indicator without losing the preview frames already completed elsewhere in the timeline. Thus, the first frames to be previewed will be those both immediately before and after your timeline indicator. In addition, should you move a layer, or change a parameter, the spec preview will redo only those frames that were altered. Even though the Nucleo Pro spec preview window lists the entire number of pending frames to be completed, those frames not altered are already completed, and only those changed are redone. A lot of time saved here. Wow!

The Nucleo Pro status windows, whether they be for spec preview, render or other alternative applications of Nucleo Pro serve to keep you informed of what is going on behind the scenes. While the status windows can be turned off, I find them to be both helpful and reassuring that all is going according to plan.

As in Nucleo Pro One, the 'Background Render' continues to allow you to render compositions while you work on other comps in After Effects. For those who do a lot of graphic work in AE, you can submit several projects to Nucleo Pros' Background Render and work on other projects at the same time. Having the opportunity not to be shut down while After Effects is rendering is a massive timesaver in it self. Just to test the speed of Nucleo Pros' background render on my 3GHz, Dual Core Mac Pro, 5.5 gigs ram, I submitted an 11 second composition with 4 layers of animated objects with motion paths, one layer of animated text, and a solid color upon which I applied Digital Anarchy's Psunami plug-in, an excellent but notoriously slow plug-in to render. The entire composition took only 3 minutes, 10 seconds to render. This was only slightly longer than the Spec Render took. Sweet!

Submit a composition to the render queue, adjust your settings the way you want, and click on the Nucleo Pro Background Render. Now you can submit new comps to the queue, make changes to existing comps and continue working in After Effects while your renders are completing.

Another new feature in GridIrons' Nucleo Pro 2 is the ability now to drag and drop 3D comps from Shake, Maya, C4D and other applications into the background render queue. In addition, now you can create Pre Comp Proxies using Nucleo Pro as well. By just labeling a composition to be proxied, Nucleo Pro will render it in the background and use the rendered output as proxy. Should you need to make any changes to the composition, Nucleo Pro will automatically update the frames that were altered applying the changed frames to the proxy for you. The pre composition proxies work by having Nucleo Pro, once a comp is tagged to be proxied, continually scanning frames looking for those which need rendering. As it finds one, it invalidates those sections which were altered, and re-renders just those frames that need it.

While I haven't learned them all yet, additional keyboard short cuts have also been added to the Nucleo Pro arsenal of time savers. And this is what the bottom line for Nucleo Pro is really all about. They have found the way for graphic editors to cut their work efforts significantly while not wasting time waiting to render before they can go on to another project. It all comes down to GridIron Nucleo Pros' ability to access your computer's CPUs to their fullest which they have somehow managed to do. In addition, the GridIron website contains several easy to follow QuickTime tutorials which bring you up to speed in the use of Nucleo Pro faster than any manual will do. I have said it before in many previous reviews that software companies should be more attuned to the buyer's needs and learning curves by providing these type of excellent and informative tutorials. GridIron has certainly been aware of this and it is to their credit that they have gone to the trouble to create and offer these QT movies on their website. I also would like to thank Ben Piercey, GridIron's Product Manager, for being there when I called with a few additional questions. As he said, that is what they are there for and they do come through with both an excellent product in Nucleo Pro and support for its' users.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los AngelesUnderwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and a recent History channel MegaDisaster show. Steve is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Kenya & Lembeh Straits in Indonesia in 2007, the Coco Islands, Costa Rica & Truk Lagoon in 2008 and safari in Africa for 2009. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.


copyright © Steve Douglas 2007

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