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Behind the software that won the Super Bowl

It turns out that the real winner of this year's Super Bowl wasn't the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks, it was The Foundry and its all-conquering video compositing package, Nuke.

The reason? Besides being a game of American football, the Super Bowl also draws attention for the commercials run throughout the game, with advertisers paying big bucks to have their spots shown against America's biggest sporting event of the year. It's a chance for companies to show off, premiere new campaigns and grab the public's attention, and this year's set of slick new commercials was notable because nearly all of them use Nuke at one point or another.

Solid features

With a strong feature set, flexible workflow and rock solid results, it's not hard to see how Nuke has practically become an industry standard, not only for compositing but also for 3D and animation. Its procedural node-based system lets you control every aspect of your composite and get exactly the look you want, and it's fully customisable, enabling you set up your workspace in a way that suits you and making it suitable for everyone, from one-man operations to large-scale studios.

Nuke supports a wide range of 3D file formats, saving you from having to convert before import

Nuke supports a wide range of 3D file formats, saving you from having to convert before import

Open and compatible with most operating systems, Nuke features low hardware requirements, meaning you don't have to splash out on top-end workstations to get results. Its flexibility means that it works well with most 3D software and accepts plenty of file formats, saving you the hassle of converting media before importing. And if the price seems a little out of your range, the good news is that The Foundry plans to release a free non-commercial version of Nuke so that you can experiment with it before investing in the full version.

The bottom line, of course, is its film-quality output, as demonstrated in this selection of the best Super Bowl ads. Can you spot where Nuke's been hard at work? If you can't, that's because it's doing its job particularly well.

Mercedes-Benz – 'Fable'

To unveil the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S sports car, Mercedes-Benz called on Merkley & Partners to give a modern twist to the classic story of the tortoise and the hare in a vivid mix of live action and animation.

MPC stepped up to provide character development, animation and VFX, mixing MPC's proprietary tools with Nuke's compositing wizardry, merging live action and animation to create a fairytale aesthetic that called on matte paintings, particle simulation and practical blue screen elements.

Kia – 'The Perfect Getaway'

Pierce Brosnan stars in what turns out to be not a very James Bond-style getaway in the Kia Sorento; while he's expecting snipers, tanks and explosions, he gets an owl, a moose and some fireworks, all of them provided with the VFX team at The Mill.

While the Colorado mountain locations and the snow are all real, plenty of CG elements were comped in during post-production, including the moose and the cabin that's Brosnan's destination.

Nissan – 'Winter Allies'

To illustrate how winter weather can become a nightmare for drivers, TBWA Toronto and director Leigh Marling brought in MPC to create four CG monsters representing treacherous weather conditions, with Nuke coming into play not only to integrate the CG characters into the action, but also to handle sky replacements, set extensions and environment augmentation.

Snickers – 'The Brady Bunch'

Recreating iconic 70s sitcom The Brady Bunch must be a compositor's dream, and The Mill really went to town in putting this spot together for AMVBBDO, combining original footage from the TV series with a digital recreation of the set and motion captured mouth replacements made in Maya.

To get an idea of the workload, take a look at this fantastic accompanying making-of video:

Carnival Cruise – 'Come Back to the Sea'

It's hard to tell exactly where Nuke comes in on this stirring paean to the joys of the sea, backed by a John F. Kennedy speech. In fact it's all over the 60-second spot, made by BBDO Atlanta and directed by Wally Pfister.

MPC was behind a wealth of VFX, using Nuke to add CG builds of the ship fleet and atmospheric effects, crowd enhancements, live action plate integration and more.

Want to know more? Discover nine things that 3D artists need to know about Nuke.

Words: Jim McCauley

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