Blackmagic Design Fusion 8.2 review
- Free version with few limitations
- Available for Windows, Mac & Linux
By Joël LeLièvre, Nov 02, 2016
Fusion has been around a long time but it seems that it has been flying under the radar for the past few years. The software began as an in-house project at Sydney-based NYPD in 1987. Eyeon Software was formed to commercialize it and started selling it with the name Digital Fusion in 1996, and now it resides under the Blackmagic Design (BMD) umbrella of “creative video technology”.
BMD acquired Eyeon in 2014, and a lot of people were questioning at that time why they would absorb a company and software that put them in direct competition with Autodesk Smoke, and Nuke from The Foundry. But if you look at BMD’s history, and where they wanted to be in the industry, it made perfect sense. BMD was known for delivering video technology that primarily dealt with I/O and for allowing editors and producers to work with and deliver the highest quality video, and they had successfully brought the expensive and somewhat cumbersome DaVinci colour grading application to the masses, for free, only after giving it a new interface and sleek workflow. So rethinking Fusion in the same manner only made sense; give their customers a toolset that will allow them to take their content, add motion graphics and/or visual effects, and deliver it.
Now with the release of Fusion 8.2, content creators can build their whole pipeline within the BMD toolset, all the way from filming with the Blackmagic URSA, motion graphics and visual effects in Fusion 8.2, and then final colour grading and onlining with DaVinci.
Fusion 8.2 brings the compositing toolset to Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, and it comes in one of two options; Fusion 8.2 (free) and Fusion 8.2 Studio ($995). In the following review I will look at some of the key features that come with Fusion 8.2 and see what it has to offer. I will also take a look at how it fits into the compositing software’s landscape, when put up against competing software like Nuke, After Effects, and HitFilm.
Fusion is a node-based compositor, offering a very similar workflow to its competitor, Nuke. Fusion has been node-based as far as I can remember, even back in 2002 when I used it just out of school, which pre-dates Nuke as we know it now. The workflow is quite simple, you start with one node, and then connect your operations as you move through your composite. Typically you would import your assets through a Loader Node or 3D import node, and then apply colour corrections, keying, etc. to your assets. When opening Fusion, the default interface gives you two viewports, a node graph down below, and then a settings or attributes panel to the right. Nuke, in comparison, behaves different. You have a viewer node that allows you to select and connect a graph to a node for viewing. In Fusion, you can simply select the node of your choice, then without letting go simply drag it into the viewport.
All tools can be accessed via the menu at the top, or by right-clicking in any of the panels. The tools made available in the right-click menu are context sensitive; meaning you will get access to different tools depending on which panel you are in. Each tool selection will be dropped on the node graph and you can simply connect the nodes together to start building your composite (or script as it is sometimes referred to). You can also hit shift+space bar and it will bring up a list of available tools. It would be nice if this was a simple hotkey instead of a 2 key combination. Not a big deal, but just one of those little details that can save some time when doing repetitive tasks.
One thing I noticed, is Fusion’s workflow for dealing with multichannel EXRs is much different than Nuke’s. In Nuke, you have easy access to channels anywhere in your comp, and splitting up your multichannel EXR into specific elements is fairly straightforward, thanks to various tools that are available for free. In Fusion, you have to create a new loader any time you want to access a different channel within your multichannel EXR. Also, as of right now, there is no easy way to split up your multichannel EXR into specific elements without some scripting experience. There had been a script that worked with previous versions of Fusion, but as of version 8.0, it no longer works. After Effects functions much the same way, but I found it significantly easier to use than the Fusion method of going through a bunch of dropdown lists and selecting the specific channel I needed.
Keying & Roto
Fusion comes with the standard tools available in most compositing software. Keying & Roto tools are no exception. Listed under the ‘Matte’ tools, users will have access to keying tools like Primatte, and Ultra keyer, both of which are very capable keyers. Roto tools can be located under the “Mask” category. Here you will find everything you need for making mattes, tracking roto shapes, and creating any additional channels you might need in a composite.