Advantages of Natron


#1

Hi

New user here and Natron looks great.

One thing that’s bugging me, what are the advantages over using Blender that Natron has? Live preview of effects may be one. I’ve done some basic tracking and roto in Blender a while ago and it was useable.

N


#2
  • Yes live preview is one of the main advantages, because Blender does not have caching in its compositor, and Natron has options like a bounding box and proxy rendering.
  • Also, the viewer gives more options, for zooming, wiping, comparing images, which is so important in compositing.
  • You can also more easily manage the different channels: you dont have to put in a node to split channels because each node has its own channel selectors.
  • Natrons tracker implements Blenders tracking engine but lacks the complete user interface, 3D space integration.
  • Natron has a world class suite of keyers: PIK (built in), INK (free plugin), Primatte (paid-for plugin)
  • Natron has a basic denoiser and you can add high quality denoisers like Neat as paid plugins.
  • Natron lets you retime clips. You can change the frame rate
  • Natron has math nodes. In blender each arithmetic operation is a node, so you have to make a whole node tree or group to enter a math expression. Natron lets you type the expression in a text field in a single node. This can be a multi line script with IF statements and loops.
  • Natron supports the Red Giant and Boris suites of plugins which give alot of premade effects.

So for those reasons at least, Natron has the advantage. And you can expect that to continue, because unlike the Blender project, the Natron project is focused on compositing. What Natron lacks and you should be careful about, is that it does not have a 3D environment so you cant animate 2D live footage cards in the 3D space. And no particle system.

Regarding roto I am not sure which is better?


#3

Just to add to Nick’s excellent summary is that they are horses for course. I’ve always felt Blender was pretty weak as a compositor - it’s obviously better than nothing but beyond compositing your 3D models into a live action scene, it’s better to use a dedicated compositor. Blender is absolutely superb at 3D (particularly the new Cycles engine) and pretty decent at animation in both 2 and 3D.

The particle generator is fully 3D aware but it has some serious limitations that have been festering for a while. The problem with open source software like this is the driving factors are not commercial, so unless someone is prepared to pay (or do the work) the existing particle system is going to stay that way.

Limitations! I hear them cry… well yes. Two that spring to mind (that are quite serious) is that you can’t easily have particles emit particles - think of a firework effect; far worse though is that you can’t change the texture on individual particles during a animation: including the newly generated ones. This makes things like the generation of smoke (not using smoke sim) pretty difficult. A terrific way to do this is employed by Fusion which creates each particle with a randomised plasma cloud as its generated. It’s not very sexy, but it’s fast and hugely effective.


#4

@hyperfx is expert in blender vfx and has used natron, he could make valuable input on this topic.


#5

While I wouldn’t call blender’s compositor “weak”, I can see a few notable differences that would make me choose one app over the other for certain tasks.

The Color Management in blender is limited to the final output with not a lot of options for changing color spaces or other LUTs unless they are part of the config.ocio. Having Ocio operations as nodes in natron adds a lot of flexibility to deal with sources from different sources.

Blender excels at 3D (obviously) physics simulations, etc. Exporting EXR files from blender and back is the best way to make elements work on both platforms.

Tracking is way more responsive and faster in blender. The tracking interface is very well designed making it very easy to see if the trackers are sticking or slipping with a preview window. Rotoscoping using trackers is quite effective in blender.

Making masks in blender is a breeze and way more stable at the moment than natron’s bezier curve editing. Getting soft edges on masks in blender is quite easy.

Natron has a lot of options when it comes to encoding, while blender’s are quite limited.


#6

Yeah, “weak” was a poor choice on my part - limited would be better.

It really is a case of horses for courses. I use both an swap around to see which serves me better. Neither Natron nor Blender are particularly good as NL editors but then, they’re not intended to be.

I’ll be honest that I really really need to pull my finger out of my fundament and start using EXR. It’s been around for ever and I’ve just put off learning how to use it.

I think what Blender (and Natron) lacks in tracking still is a planar tracker like Mocha which is a shame. I’d really like to see one in a FOSS app but we can only wait and hope (I don’t have the money to pay someone to develop one) and I can’t afford to upgrade to the latest version either.

Mocha can track awkward areas particularly where this a lot of motion blur without all the tedious mucking about trying to roto everything: particularly when your DP forgets to set the shutter speed to for the FX shot… (cough, mentioning no names cough) :innocent:


#7

All good points made by everyone. Blender I’ve found is a bit more polished and stable, but Natron, being developed from the ground up as a compositor, is obviously much better designed for compositing tasks, specifically the nice list Nick created above.

Regarding the planar tracker, actually Blender does calculate/solve plane tracks in much the same way Mocha does. What it doesn’t have, however, is the ability to simple draw a rough spline and be able to auto-track whatever is in that area while disregarding things moving through the area. I’ve discussed this in great detail with Sergey, and he says it’s definitely possible, he just hasn’t done it yet.


#8

@hyperfx - Yeah I was aware of the solve and you’re right that it’s the splines that I miss. (Sounds like there is a song in there somewhere.)

Point tracking can be a real drag so just rotoing an area and letting the tracker do the work is a breeze.

Just for anyone not familar, this is particularly useful when your DP forgot to set the shutter speed sufficiently high enough to reduce/eliminate motion blur during the shot. Blur is a nightmare for accurate tracks (even planar tracks obtained with a 4-point plane) becaue it’s not just hard for the software to find the point, it’s hard for a human to infer it too! I hope Sergey gets around to popping that in soon. I just don’t have the dough to pay for Mocha AGAIN! :cold_sweat:

Marc


#9

I think comparing Natron and Blender in terms of compositing isn’t really a solid comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Blender has a decent compositor and that’s cool, but it’s not really a compositing program. It’s a program that can do it, but I wouldn’t choose to use it over After Effects or Natron for most tasks. For 3D, it excels - after learning Cinema 4D and Maya, I came back to Blender every time, but for actual compositing Natron’s biggest advantage is that that’s what it’s purposely designed to do. It has support for most OpenFX plugins, and does an excellent job with the tools it has. It’s surprisingly stable for what it is, although there’s room for improvement, and it has a reasonably intuitive workflow for compositing. I personally find the best way to work is do your 3D components in Blender, render out, and then bring it all together in Natron - use the tools for what they were built for, and you’ll get the best results.

That said, when it comes to tracking, IIRC Natron uses Blender’s tracking algorithms doesn’t it? I’m not super experienced in Natron yet, tbh, but from my experience so far, I’d use Blender’s tracker for 3D camera solves and for tracking elements into the scene before render, but Natron’s tracking tools seem really solid for planar tracks and basic transforms. Not as fast as what I’m used to in After Effects, perhaps, but very good. Worth the slight tracking speed reduction to switch from a layer-based to a node-based workflow.

On a side note, gotta give props to Natron for EXRs - they seem to work effortlessly and with less mucking about than AE.