Become a problem solver with NUKE

January 5, 2017

The power of perseverance, the value of being a problem solver and the importance of always pushing to improve your work are just a few of the vital life lessons Joe Raasch aims to impart to his compositing students.

Joe Raasch details how to be the best at Nuke

Helping others hone their skills and achieve their professional goals is a big focus for this long-time studio compositor, VFX teacher, and certified NUKE trainer. In his new intermediate NUKE tutorial series, Tackling Common Compositing Tasks, Joe explores invaluable techniques for troubleshooting compositing challenges. What makes his lessons unique, however, is the way he ditches the overly sanitized feel of more traditional tutorials.

Real-world compositing tasks are rarely neat and tidy, and that's reflected in his practical approach to teaching.

"It's frustrating when you see a tutorial on a perfect piece of footage where it works perfectly. The reality is that in production, this is rarely the case," he says. "There's always something that complicates things—either the shot is dramatically lit with very dark shadows making it difficult to track or the actor moves too fast—it could really be anything. My goal with this series is to show how I would approach a typical production shot where things can be messy."

In each video lesson in this new series, Joe offers insightful compositing advice while demonstrating how to work through some of the tough shots and situations you might face on a real production.

Learning Nuke from expert Joe Raasch

The Value of Continual Improvement

With over 14 years of experience working as a compositor at several VFX studios—all while teaching compositing at Seneca College in Toronto—Joe knows the value of constantly improving your skills to overcome new challenges. The industry has changed dramatically across his tenure, underscoring the importance of embracing and mastering the advanced tools needed to keep up.

As the VFX program coordinator at the college, he introduced NUKE into Seneca's curriculum back in 2009, making it the first college program in Canada to incorporate NUKE. Teaching NUKE and seeing the incredible things his students have accomplished with it over the years has been very rewarding, says Joe, whose students have gone on to work on a range of hit films, including Life of Pi, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, The Dark Knight Returns, Man of Steel, Hugo, X-Men: Days of Future Past and more.

"Seeing my students grow as artists is probably the greatest reward," he says, of his experiences teaching the next generation of VFX compositors. "Sometimes I'll look at the portfolio they submitted to get entry into the program and compare it to what they have when they leave, and I can't believe the improvement. Knowing I played a small role in helping them develop their skills and seeing them go on to have successful careers in the industry is incredibly satisfying."

Teaching NUKE while also working as a compositor has a special synergy to it, too, he adds. Having to explain the ins-and-outs of NUKE means he has to really take the time to understand how all the tools work himself, which is incredibly helpful in his other professional role at a VFX studio. In turn, adopting new techniques in his compositing work also helps him form his classroom curriculum.

Beyond the beneficial ways teaching NUKE dovetails with his compositing work, Joe feels it's especially inspiring to see the artistic energy and dedication that his students pour into their own compositions.

"Their work ethic and their ability to learn is incredible," he says. "You often hear negative things about the 'millennial' generation in the news. My experience has been the opposite. I'm so inspired by how dedicated and hard-working my students are."

Overcoming compositing challeneges with help from Joe Raasch

Using NUKE to Overcome Compositing Challenges

In a creative industry driven by big ideas, finding inventive ways to overcome obstacles and execute on them successfully is a vital skill every good compositor needs to master.

"The biggest takeaway I hope people get from my lessons is that you have to be a problem solver," says Joe. "Just continually break down the problem into smaller and smaller pieces until they become more manageable for you to fix. That's really the key to becoming a good artist and an indispensable part of a team."

You can pick up Joe's latest compositing tips and troubleshooting tricks in his new intermediate NUKE tutorial series, Tackling Common Compositing Tasks. Footage for this series is available for free courtesy of


Joe Raasch: guest blogger

Joe is the VFX program coordinator Seneca College in Toronto, a certified NUKE trainer and compositor at Take 5 Productions. Not just a teacher and trainer, he’s worked on lot of film and TV productions over the past 15 years.

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