With its penchant for bright, vibrant hues and timeless 8-bit artistry, entertainment brand Mucho Pixels is aiming to become a benchmark for pixel art products and content for new generations.
Founded by Jesus Garrido and his long-term friend Daniel Benítez, the creations that come out of Mucho Pixels are brought to life by compositing tool Nuke Indie—a relatively recent offering from Foundry that aims to arm artists with the same industry-leading toolset as Nuke, at a more accessible price.
Jesus is no stranger to Nuke, working at ILM London as a senior digital compositor alongside running Mucho Pixels. “Nuke is the most powerful compositing software available and I’ve been using it for the last 14 years,” he tells us. “However, as a small studio, we couldn’t afford Nuke when we started Mucho Pixels and experimented with other packages to create the videos we had in mind. Thankfully a couple of months later we saw the news online—something called Nuke Indie launched and it was exactly what we needed. The power of Nuke Studio for a solo artist—bingo.”
In this exclusive Q&A, Jesus dives into the background and development of Mucho Pixels, how Nuke Indie supports the creative process behind its projects, and what advice he’d offer artists looking to invest in it as their main compositing tool.
Could you tell us a little about Mucho Pixels?
Mucho Pixels was created by my old school friend Daniel Benítez and I and is the result of combining his experience in the development of video games with my own in creating digital effects. Between both of us, we can bring a particularly unique style to our productions.
Our company started as a hobby. A way to, in our free time, experiment with the crazy idea of mixing pixel art over real images. After a few posts on Instagram, the response from the community was amazing and it has managed, in just two years, to go from being a small profile on networks to a brand with more than 40 thousand followers on Instagram.
The development of independent video games is an essential part of the brand and our contact with developer communities is crucial to understanding entertainment in a special way. Mucho Pixels produces not only games but the assets for creating them, making this connection with the gaming industry more direct.
The spearhead of the brand, however, is purely audiovisual. For the first time, a pixel art profile turns to the production of audiovisual clips. By using advanced digital compositing techniques our viewers will be surprised by a myriad of pixelated elements that coexist with reality.
We have now started to create projects for companies like Netflix or WhatsApp and we are releasing all kinds of content, especially posters and short videos.
What projects are you most proud of, and why?
I really like our first poster: RocketCoaster. I think it really represents Mucho Pixels. The mixing of Pixel Art with real elements and a touch of madness.
I also really love our clip Jazz Life. It was one of our viral videos. It’s difficult to show a story in 15 seconds but I think we really nailed it there. It got more than 200k views in a very short time and how the community was talking about it was so lovely to see.
Can you give some insight into the creative process behind these projects—from conception through to delivery?
We start by choosing the genre and theme. We have many genres in mind: western, musical, sci-fi, etc. Most of the time we follow our instincts but on other occasions we browse through Unsplash, saving environments where we easily imagine a story happening.
Then we try to conceptualize an overall idea of the shot we’d like to create, planning the camera movements, the characters involved, the storytelling, and so on.
After that, we start looking for references and pictures that we can use for our background. At this point, we can work in parallel. I start dealing with vfx/compositing using Nuke Indie while Daniel Benítez takes care of the Pixel Art using PyxelEdit and Photoshop. I think it’s important to mention that we work remotely. Daniel works from Seville, Spain, and myself from London, United Kingdom, so it’s key that we share progress with each other at every step, to keep us working in the same direction.
We now do what we call "block the acting": drawing the poses the characters need to communicate the message. No animation involved yet! We even render a rough version of the shot to see if the storytelling is clear.
Then we animate the main characters. To optimize the development from one video to another, we try to always use the same character dimensions. It’s also important to make the characters expressive enough. In Pixel Art, that means to exaggerate the gestures. Once we have all the characters' animation, we finally place them in our 3d environment on cards and populate the BG.
At this point, we do the final color correction and by adding lens distortion, grain and making other integration adjustments, we bring it all together into the same world.
Christmas 2020 in Nuke Indie
How do you use Nuke Indie on these projects — can you walk through your workflow?
I use Nuke Indie for all the integration and final rendering. If it’s an animated video, I start to create the environment, projecting the different parts of the image onto geometry and extending the areas where we need a bit more information, so when we move the camera we have the correct parallax and the image will behave as it should.
Once I have the Pixelated assets I color correct and relight them just using roto shapes, so they stick to the bg correctly. One last pass with the different filters, opticals, chromatic aberration, lens distortion, or grain is always necessary for that final integration, to make sure all the different elements blend together.
Nuke Indie is also great for the final assembling of the image, adding the audio we want, or cutting the shot If it needs some editing.
How does Nuke Indie support your post-production and compositing process compared to other tools in the Nuke Family, such as Nuke and NukeX?
For me using Nuke Indie for Mucho Pixels is like using NukeX. I am not missing any of the tools that I would use with NukeX. We can still use the same grading tools, filters, particles, 3D environment and render up to 4k.
What benefits does Nuke Indie bring to your projects?
With Nuke Indie, I have everything I need in one package: I can do the comp, editing, and add the audio track. This helps me to follow the music much better and if we want, we can add sound effects, which is key to the way we produce some of our videos.
Do you have a favorite Nuke Indie feature?
Coming from an editorial background, for me being able to see a timeline, where I can finally edit and play with the audio is an excellent addition that I didn’t have before as I just had access to NukeX and not Nuke Studio.
What advice would you give other artists and studios looking to invest in Nuke Indie as their main compositing tool?
If you are a solo artist and you want to have the most powerful compositing software in the industry, it is definitely a must—you have access to pretty much all the tools you need for your comps.