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Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead

CreativeCOW presents Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead -- Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate Editorial


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As a person who recently made the switch from Final Cut Studio to Autodesk Smoke on Mac, I thought I'd share some of my recent experiences.

I learned Avid editing in the 90's at film school, and I've been an FCP user and enthusiast since version 1.0. I am currently the in-house colorist and online editor at a post facility housed within a well known ad agency in the NW. Most of our work is top-tier national campaign TV ads, which is mostly offlined in house, and finished in LA with some of the best colorists and VFX artists in the world. But for the medium and lower-tiered work, we try to finish as much in-house as we can, including some national spots for prime time broadcast.

Six or seven years ago, that meant "Broadcast TV = shot in film, and finished in LA", and "non-broadcast pieces = shot on camcorders, finished in the NLE" - whatever you could do in your Avid or FCP. But as Final Cut added more tools to the suite, we expanded our capabilities as well - and by 2009 I was finishing HDTV spots from my Mac & Kona 3 card directly to HDCAM-SR tape and off to the TV stations. The HD digital camera revolution also blurred these lines between broadcast & non-broadcast projects, and soon enough, everything we did was being finished in 1080p.

During this time, my finishing workflow was always a mish-mash of FCP, Color, Motion, Cinema Tools, various plug-ins, (I even learned a bit of Shake!), etc... I was always hopping around apps for various tasks, as I'm sure many of you do, and I quickly found the limitations of the FCS as a finishing tool. (We also still had Avid in house as well, but FCP was so much easier to work with for HD & finishing, that Avid was relegated to those "old school" film projects, offline in SD, with an HD finish in LA.)

You're probably wondering... Umm, After Effects? No, I don't know After Effects. For this, I blame Yan Schvalb, a brilliant VFX artist in NYC. I took a workshop from him at NAB years ago, and he said something to effect of, "I have 3 tools I use - Shake, when I need to do photo-realistic compositing; Motion, when I need to do flashy graphics quickly; and After Effects, when I can't get something done it in those other 2 programs, but I absolutely hate the interface and it takes me three times longer, so I avoid it unless absolutely necessary." I, too, in my limited experience with it, hated the interface, and since we have people on staff that know After Effects, I focused on learning Color & Motion instead.

After hearing the rumors of the wildebeest FCP-Extreme, I had longed for that more elegant, integrated finishing solution - the power of Color, Motion, Shake, Cinema Tools - all based on an FCP workflow? Hell yes!!!! The idea of FCP-Extreme sounded amazing. When FCP 7, came out - I was quite disappointed. I thought that should have been 6.1. ProRes LT and 4444 are great, but colored tabs and a timecode window? Bug fixes for Color? That's what we're calling a new Studio version? That kind of made me wonder what was going on with FCP. I told myself it was the 64-bit re-write that was taking most of their time, and that FCS 4 would be freaking awesome. Alas, it was not to be.





In recent years, Avid has made quite a come back, and we are currently about 50/50 in the shop. When FCP-X dropped, I obviously finally gave up hope for the FCP Extreme, and started looking elsewhere for a finishing solution that wouldn't break the bank - the all-in-one tool, capable of taking projects from Avid, FCP 7, and whatever came next. New tools started to emerge... Scratch seemed interesting, and of course, Smoke on Mac had been released - both in the $15k range. Not cheap, but a far cry from a 6 figure Flame or Pablo system.

As most of our high-end finishing work ended up in a Flame, I was hearing about workflows where those facilities would use Smoke-Mac (Smac) for conforming projects before sending to Flame for finishing. This was a big plus for us, and while SCRATCH looked very strong in grading, Smac seemed to have better compositing and finishing tools, and the Mac/Kona compatibility sealed the deal.

I downloaded the 30 day demo of Smac, and spend every free minute I could with it. The learning curve was quite steep, so 30 days of banging my head against the desk only scratched the surface. Sure, I could follow along the tutorials, and "Click this button now", but even after doing all of the available tutorials, I still had no clue how to actually operate the application. The workflow was SO DIFFERENT, not just from other editors, but from every computer I've used for 20 years. File -> Open/Save/Save As... Copy/Paste, highlight something, then modify it - Smoke used none of these Mac/Windows protocols - it was an entirely different beast.


"Ok. Found some clips. Now what?"


Once I got footage in, and found my way to a timeline, the FCP keyboard layout helped a bit, but my jaw about fell off when I moved a clip from the "source area" to the timeline - and then it wasn't in the source area anymore! WTF?? Where's my clip? Oh, silly me! Smoke's attitude was, "If you want it to stay in the source area as well, then you really want 2 instances of that clip, right? So you need to COPY the clip before putting it on the timeline, dumbass!" Have you ever wanted to slap a piece of software? WTF?? Are we working with film prints here? Of course I want to keep a copy of the source material in the bin/reel/browser, right?? I love this one.... Where is the QUIT button? In the Preferences, as in "I'd PREFER to quit now, Smoke." I could go on an on about various things that drove me crazy...


Check out "Exit Smoke". Silly me - how could I have missed that? Or Alt-F12 for the Smoke Keyboard command?


But wow - once you actually got into the modules with the footage you wanted, it was amazing!


A pretty simple composite, done in the "Action" Module.


So, I was very impressed with the toolset, but not AT ALL comfortable with the workflow. Even basic project management and organization was a completely different animal. Smoke & Flame worked on a different project metaphor - there was a Library, with your footage, and you'd load footage to a Desktop, where you did most of the work. You'd work on sequences from the desktop, but then save them back to the library. And it was a very tricky relationship. Certain tasks had to accomplished from the Library, and others could only be handled from the Desktop. And you could save things from one to the other, but I'd often end up with duplicate versions with the exact same names, and I had to develop strange habits such as saving a clip from the desktop to the library, and then deleting the clips from my desktop, so I would not wind up with duplicates. Every time I jumped back and forth, I had to think about what I was doing, it never became automatic.



Examples of Smoke's toolsets -- the Desktop tools...



...and Library Tools.


And the rest of the learning curve was pretty steep as well. I wound up taking a 3 day Autodesk training course that came with a 90 day trial license, and that was great. After the training and 90 days of trial (using it in my free time), I started to feel comfortable with the interface and workflow. (Of course, I'm still doing my paid work in FC Studio, and trying to learn Smoke on the side.)

I'm also very interested in DaVinci Resolve for $1000 at this point, but color grading is just one piece of the puzzle - what's the big picture solution? Trade my KONA for a Blackmagic, and use FCP & Resolve instead of FCP & Color? I certainly didn't want to plan a finish pipeline around FCP 7. I started hearing good things about CS6, and when Adobe purchased Speed Grade and brought on Wes Plate from Automatic Duck - hmm, now this is getting interesting! But more of our editors are choosing to work in Avid now, so I really want something that can work in both worlds. No easy answers...

So... a job comes up that is beyond our normal scope of work for in house finishing. A client wants to update 2 old SD spots, retransfer the 35mm film to HD, and replace the old product packaging with new packaging. With FCS or Avid as our toolset, we would always send this out to a VFX house using Flame. But could Smoke (with me as the operator) get the job done?

We decided to pull the trigger and buy the license for $15K. (18k with "subscription", re-seller support, etc...)

One of the new spots is quite complicated for the VFX to replace the packaging, so I decided on a shared workflow. I would handle all of the prep/transfer/conform, and one spot's worth of VFX (the easy one!), and simply farm out the other complicated VFX shots to an experienced Flame artist in town. He estimates it's about 30- 40 hours of VFX work. I was also eager to explore the Flame/Smoke collaboration. The whole process went perfectly. I handled all of the setup/conform/output, and we simply sent each other DPX files for the FX shots, and it went smooth as glass. No color or gamma shifts - pixel for pixel, exactly as it should be. I'm starting to like this Autodesk world!


Tools for Pros - with the Smoke 2012 Viewer, you can easily see all sorts of useful info - compare against the offline cut, add letterboxing or Center Cut & Title safe guides, even know which frame and pulldown pattern you are on in both 24p and 29.97 outputs.


I did my portion of the VFX work unsupervised, and things that would have taken an experienced artist one hour took me 4 or 5 hours, but that's ok, I worked nights and on the weekends at my own pace, and showed our Creative Director on Monday, and everything was ready for delivery to a national show's Thursday night season premiere. Boom! First real job done in Smoke!!!

Over the next few months, I used Smoke for every possible job that I could, even simple color grading jobs - I wanted to spend as much time as possible building muscle memory and habits based on Smoke's workflow. I kept learning the tools, getting more comfortable with each project. And I started offering VFX work that we wouldn't normally have tried to tackle.
  • That actor is outside of 4:3 safe? Maybe I can move him for you?
  • Uncleared logo on that guy's hat? Sure, I can paint that out.
  • Need a set extended? Let me see what I can do...


Sometimes I would say, "Give me your footage and come back tomorrow." And every time, I was able to make it work. I may have stayed until midnight reading the online manual (not helpful) and watching Grant Kay's tutorials (very helpful), but I got it done, generating quite a few "Wow! That's amazing! You can do that here?" from my clients.



My rig, with Avid Color Panel, Blackmagic Ultrascopes, Tablet, and iPad to keep up on emails. (Smoke 2012 is always a full-screen app.)


Then, literally, just a few weeks ago, I did my first "real" finish session, where I felt comfortable enough to have clients sitting on the couch, a firm deadline, and I could execute the basic tasks of broadcast finishing - compositing/cleanup/color, etc... And it went great. We delivered a spot for a national client that otherwise would have been done at a dedicated VFX/Finishing facility in LA. I was pretty damn proud of myself, I must admit. I felt like I had joined the club of Flame/Smoke artists that knew the secret dark art of Autodesk VFX (a freshman member of the club, but still). And I learned it without the benefit of learning from a senior artist in an established facility, with help from the magic interwebs. Then, literally just a few days later, I read that... "Smoke is Changing. Everything."

Smoke 2013 was one of the biggest stories of NAB this year. A completely new interface that editors can understand, expanded toolset, and 1/4 of the price. Wow - is this The SuperApp to rule them all?

So, what do I think about the new version? Quite honestly, this is not the version I was hoping for. I wanted some Lustre integration (Autodesk's flagship color grading program - sold only now as part of Flame Premium), planar and 3D tracking, a million little fixes to things that still drove me nuts, and in my wildest dreams, I wanted Batch FX - the nodal compositing environment that was the main difference between the $75k Smoke Advanced on Linux, and the $15k Mac version.


A small example of the nodal pipeline in the Linux version of Smoke 2012.


That being said, Smoke 2013 is EXACTLY the product I was looking for 6 months ago - after banging my head against the desk for 30 days of the trial. Which means this is exactly the product that thousands of other users out there are looking for! How many of you downloaded the demo, did the gladiators tutorial, and bailed when your 30 days ran out? Or never even got past the start screen? I don't blame you - it was HARD to learn!! (It would be interesting to know with the old version, how many people downloaded the trial vs. how many seats they sold. I would not be surprised if that's 1000:1 or more.) And Autodesk finally understood this.[euro] After learning the old interface, I can say that is a different way of working - not better, not worse, but EXTREMELY different.[euro] But if Avid had worked this way back in the 90s, then FCP and Premiere & Vegas and all of those would have worked this way, and everyone would be able to launch the old Smoke and know how to operate it.

But that's not the world we live in. The reality is that EVERYONE who learns editing learns the Avid/FCP/Premiere way of working, and it's a brilliant move for Autodesk to concede that they lost that battle, and make their app work according to the standard conventions. It's almost like Autodesk had a car that you drove with levers and buttons, and now they have re-designed the UI with a steering wheel and pedals...



Smoke 2013 - much more editor friendly.


This new version makes Smoke INFINITELY more approachable for a new user.

But what about us "experienced" users? I haven't been using it long enough for the old way to become ingrained in me yet, so I think it will be fantastic for me as well. I'm a little concerned that being more "timeline centric" might make for some clunkier workflows for certain tasks, but adding the power of Connect FX (the nodal compositing environment) more than makes up for anything we may lose by not having the Desktop Tools in the new interface. (At least, that's my hope...)

So - more powerful, easier to learn, and cheaper. Wow - the Holy Freaking Grail of video applications is here for the cost of a decent DSLR camera! $3500 certainly isn't cheap, but for anyone in the video finishing world, and currently bouncing between between 6 apps to do their work, this is, in my opinion, an absolute no-brainer.

Some questions you may have for the SuperApp:
  • So, now that we have Connect FX - Is it as powerful as a Flame? Not quite. Flame still has the most advanced toolset.
  • Is the Color Grading as good as a dedicated grading app like DaVinci Resolve? No, which is why they have Lustre, a dedicated grading app. The image quality is just as good, and there's really not much you can't accomplish with Smoke's Grading tools, but you can generally work faster, and achieve complicated grades with lots of secondaries, and do things like versioning much easier in Resolve, or Lustre. (more on this later.)
  • Are there things that After Effects is better at? Absolutely. Rolling shutter correction? 3D tracking? Particle generators? Not available in Smoke. (At least, not without Sapphire Sparks (plug-ins) which are $4000 for Smoke/Flame.)
  • Etc...


So, ok - even the SuperApp isn't perfect - but all of the buzz and excitement about this product is well deserved, and you should be drooling to get your hands on the trial version. I certainly am!

But, don't expect it to be easy. It's easy to get on the playing field and the new interface gives you the first 20 yards for free, so you won't have that frustration of not even being able to get started. But once you get into the FX modules, the learning curve is just as steep as it was. It will still take a substantial amount of time to get comfortable with Action, adding secondary color corrections, etc. You'll ask yourself things like, "why is the mask tool buried 2 levels deep in the Axis tool? Wait, here's a mask in the Wipe tool? - which one should I use when? How does this all work together?, Who the hell still uses WIPES anyway? etc..."



Connect FX: Nodal compositing pipeline is now in the Mac version.


And, boy, is it deep! After using it six months, I can certainly find my around the application pretty well, and I know how to do what I need to do, but I still feel like I'm only using 40-50% of it's capabilities. I've even heard some of the top Smoke artists in NY say things like, "Yeah, I have no idea what that module does." So, don't expect to be an expert any time soon!

It also remains to be seen how great of an "editor" it is. They've shown the basics at NAB and on their website, but let's be real, it's easy to show drag & drop editing and a source/record/timeline/file browser layout. (Premiere Pro CS3 could have looked ok in a 5 minute demo, right?) Avid/FCP 7/Premiere - these are all basically the same, but the details make a world a difference, right? How are the trim tools in Smoke? There does not appear to be any multi-cam support. Could it be used as offline editor? How does it work with camera native codecs? (Smoke 2012 crawls using Canon 5D footage.) What about project sharing over a SAN? Etc...

I'm awfully curious to know how well it plays with others - namely XML output? I'm 95% sure this will not be in the Beta release (although different sources have been saying different things on this), but I do recall people at the booth saying the were well aware of its' importance in the pro video world. Will it make it into the fall release? We don't know yet.

I could see a workflow of editing in Smoke in ProRes, setting up your FX work, but wanting to send out the footage to Resolve for grading, and then relink to the new colored frames and re-render FX in DPX for finish & output. I do like the Color Warper, but sometimes a dedicated grading tool can be a better choice, especially for client driven session - and not everyone is a talented colorist, either! We still do most of top-tier national broadcast spots in 4 steps, FCP-Avid creative cut / Resolve (or Baselight) / ProTools / Flame. Could that become Smoke / Resolve / ProTools / and back to Smoke for finishing? Maybe...

It certainly goes against their positioning as the "end of round tripping", but they have to know (or will soon find out) that many people will still want to use a dedicated grading app.

So, why not add in XML output? Easier said than done!

Current Smoke does support EDL output for individual tracks in your timeline, but the problem starts once you build a complicated effect in the compositor, and then put it in the timeline. In the current version, there is no way to maintain those timecodes from all of your sources. You certainly could if you only worked in the timeline and did layer-based compositing, but that's like working with one hand tied behind your back - ignoring Smoke's real potential.



Smoke2012 - Limited metadata output options.


And lastly, I'm quite curious how they "dramatically lowered the system requirements" without losing any of the power of Smoke. I have a 12-core MacPro with 32 GB of Ram, a CalDigit Raid, and an NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 - and I'm quite surprised how much rendering is still necessary in my workflow. But they were showing Smoke on iMacs and laptops at NAB. Can working with ProRes media be that much easier on the system? Were they able to throw out thousands of lines of legacy code to make the software more efficient? How exactly are they boosting performance so far past the 2012 version? Or was that NAB footage optimized for demo use, and your mileage will vary in the real world?

A few more thoughts on the color grading capabilities within Smoke.

This seems to dominate the discussion I've been hearing about Smoke, so I want to expand a little bit on that topic.

Smoke has 2 different grading tools readily available, the Color Corrector (which Smoke/Flame has had for many years), and the Color Warper, which is a newer tool that works more like a grading application, with 3 trackballs, etc... I can say without a doubt that the Color tools inside Smoke are far and away better than any other color tool you will find in any other editing program.



Smoke's 2 color tools - different ways of working. This is the Color Corrector.



...and the newer Color Warper (designed more like a color grading app)


And in a world without an affordable Resolve, that might be saying something. But in our current world, Resolve is the new standard, right? If you can't be as good as Resolve, then we may have a problem.

So - how does the Color Warper stack up against Resolve?

As mentioned earlier, there's very little (if anything) that you could not do with Smoke's grading tools, but with a dedicated app, I think it's fair to say you can do grading more efficiently and more elegantly, especially when using secondary corrections.

The biggest limitation with the Color Warper, in my opinion, is that its' secondaries are qualifier secondaries only - no built in masks. So adding a vignette, or highlighting a face, or any region, etc... - this always requires a duplicate media layer or adjustment layer.

For example: You do a primary grade, then want to highlight an actors face as he moves through the shot. In Resolve, that's like 3 clicks of the mouse & sliders (or knobs/buttons on your control surface) - I've literally seen it done in 10-15 seconds. In Smoke, that means doing the primary grade, then stepping out of the grading module, duplicating media (or adding an adjustment layer) on the layer above it, drawing a mask (no quick & easy soft oval preset), tracking the mask (hoping it tracks well on a face, not a given), and then rendering. So, maybe it's a 2 minute process. Does it look just as good? Sure.

But by now, your client on the couch has started checking her e-mail, and then when she re-engages, she says client says, "Ok, that's good - save that and let's try a different look..." Here's where even Apple Color is more flexible. In Color, you could Click Add New Grade - try out new things, easily switch between Grade 1, 2, 3, or 4.



An old friend - Apple's Color easily recalls 4 different grades per shot.


Smoke would require a lot more management to be able to quickly show a client 4 different looks. You can save "setups" and even "sub-setups", but doing all of this quickly and maintaining your organization is challenging.

Having Connect FX might make some of this quicker and easier - but again, you're stepping in and out of Color Warper mode to jump into compositing mode just to add a secondary mask effect. I would much prefer to work in "grading mode" and go through my whole piece, adding masks as needed, and then go back and start doing compositing work. And using Smoke's qualifier module - the Diamond Keyer - I don't find as intuitive as the traditional HSL keyers. I can usually get it to work, but I've not developed the intuition and muscle memory that I had with Apple Color's HSL keyer.


Smoke's "Diamond Keyer" showing a qualifier of pure green. The inner diamond is the chroma selection, the outer one is falloff, and grayscale and sliders at the bottom control the luma selection.



So - what's the takeaway? Will I be grading in Smoke, or Resolve?


I usually work on 30-120 second pieces, and for this kind of short form work, I still find it much faster to work entirely in Smoke, rather than round tripping. That being said, for something longer - a 10 minute film that primarily needs grading, not FX & compositing - for that, I might still use Color, and either finish directly in FCP, or grade in Color, then send to Smoke for finishing - or maybe just send a few shots to Smoke if that's all that's needed.

You're thinking, "Apple Color? What about Resolve?", right? Seeing as my system is built around AJA hardware, I can only run Resolve as a software only app, meaning I can't output to a broadcast monitor. (Remember when Blackmagic announced Resolve on Mac said they'd work on AJA compatibility? I guess they gave that up when starting giving it away for free.) I'm currently experimenting with running Resolve from a remote computer - my MC Color control panel can connect to any system on the network, and I can see the GUI through the Mac screen sharing, so if I can just route the Resolve/BlackMagic system to my broadcast grading monitor, I'm good to go, right? (If this works, that will be a follow up article!)

And how does this compare to the CS6 suite, which is not quite all-in-one, but with tight integration - is that just as good? Honestly, I haven't had time to check out CS6 very thoroughly yet. My initial impressions are that Adobe is certainly on the right track, and once SpeedGrade gets better integrated (and solid AJA Video Output!), then it might be approaching the same ballpark as Smoke 2013, but it still has a ways to go...

Another thing to consider is that Autodesk has a rich heritage in pro video - and dealing with all of the pro video complexities like frame rate & color space conversions, proper pulldown, downconversions, etc. In 11 years of FCP, Apple never got this right, but Autodesk has always gotten this right. Like I said, CS6 is a step in the right direction, but currently not even close to Autodesk's support for the needs of high-end video professionals. Will Adobe put the energy & development resources into those aspects? Who knows...

What about the Mac?

With many people (myself included) questioning the future of the MacPro and Apple commitment to high-end machines, is Autodesk crazy to be putting all of their eggs in the Mac basket? I certainly do not know. But I find it hard to believe they would make such a commitment without knowing some insider info about Apple's future plans.


Is this your next workstation?


At NAB, they publicly said something like, "at this time, Smoke 2013 works on Macs, and with AJA hardware, but we will continue to monitor customer interest in other platforms and devices." Translation: Windows & Blackmagic compatibility: Not any time soon, but if that's what we have to do, we'll do it. I wouldn't expect either of those before the 2014 version at the earliest, and even then, only if Apple officially kills the MacPro without a replacement, and high-end users start to abandon the platform. WWDC starts June 11 - hopefully we'll know more after that.

Is Smoke for you?

Smoke certainly generated a lot of interest at NAB, and they're doing a fantastic job of promoting the new release.

The price points of Smoke/Flame mean that 99% of potential users out there have never used either one, but they have certainly heard about it and its reputation, and maybe seen it in action. And 5-6 years ago, making this high-end tool affordable would have been an absolute Gift from the Gods. But in today's world, many of the users out there have used fantastic high-end tools like Resolve, Mocha, Nuke, etc...

Those high-end tools do one their one specific thing very well, and while Smoke is one app that can do all of these things, I think people may be disappointed if Smoke doesn't do ALL of them better than everybody else.

In my opinion that's a completely unrealistic expectation - the "everything tool" can't be the absolute best at everything - but it can be pretty damn good at most things, and I think Smoke is.

Is it a better compositing tool than Nuke? Is it a better tracker than Mocha? Is it better at Grading than Resolve? Is it a better editor than Media Composer?

The answer is no to all of these things. And if you have all of the time in the world, why not use the best tool for each task? When you have a timeline and a budget that allows for specialists and specialty tools for each step of the process, then sure - that workflow makes sense.

But when I have a 4 hour client supervised session for a TV finish that has to do all of these things and create HD & SD tape masters before the Fedex pickup - Smoke is absolutely the tool that I want to be using - even when it was $15k.

But let's remember, everything I have been discussing has been in terms of Smoke being a Finishing Tool - can this really be an editor, too? A complete all-in-one solution? Maybe. What I saw at NAB was quite impressive, but there are still many questions that can only be answered with real world trials and real-world workflows. (I am quite curious to see how Project Sharing among 2 editors and an assistant might work, for example.)

The fantastic news is that we'll soon be able to find out for ourselves, as they will be offering a public Beta on June 4th, and we'll all have 90 days or so before the real release to experiment and see if this fits our workflow. And Autodesk appears to be genuinely interested in hearing what we want out of the application.

(I will guess that XML output will be one of the top requests. Personally - I would rather they embrace the all-in-one idea, and they put their energy into improving the Color Warper to make Resolve unnecessary. There are very simple fixes they could do quite easily before the fall launch that would help tremendously (adding masks to the built in secondaries), and then maybe for 2014, add in some Lustre features that could truly make round tripping unnecessary. If you're going to be using multiple apps, why not start in Avid, then bump to Resolve, then to Smoke as a finishing tool?)

Starting in just a few days, I'll predict they will get many thousands of users downloading the app. Tahere will be much frustration at first. The forums boards will explode with posts, asking "How do I ...?", Grant Kay's new tutorials will get many thousands of hits, and after a couple of months, many, many people will be absolutely hooked on Smoke.

Then, sometime in the near future, you'll launch the app and it will say, "License expired. Please insert $3500 to continue... or go back to round tripping with 5 different apps. Your call."

Brilliant move, Autodesk. Bring on the Super-App!






Images from "The Mansion", courtesy of Passerby Films.

Comments

Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by David Jahns
I wouldn't give up on it just yet - at least watch some tutorial movies and see if it looks like something you'd be interested in. The learning curve I refer to really comes into play when doing the more complicated FX and compositing - for straight forward editing, simple grading, basic FX - it's not hard at all.

It's fairly limited in it's "editing" - no multi-cam, no 2nd screen display (which I used to use for all my bins/footage) - but the idea of staying in one app the whole time is pretty sweet.

It has a 30 day trial, so if you have the time, I'd say give it a go before resigning yourself to the fact that it's too hard to learn.

It is deep - I've been using it for 2 years, and still haven't utilized all of it's capabilities (some Flame users say they've been on it ten years and still learn new things!) - but you can always use it to your comfort level, and gradually increase your capabilities as you learn more.

And supposedly, a new 2014 is on the way - so maybe some of the editing capabilities will be increased as well...

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Lillian Young
This article changed my mind. I was excited about Smoke 2013 as an NLE, read your article, went back to my FCP X project and decided against anything complicated. I already know Maya, After Effects, FCP 7 and some variation of multiple high end 3D, tracking and composting apps. I really don't need another learning curve unless it's worth it.
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by soufian ratib
Question guys,

Does anyone know why I cant expand smoke UI into a second computer screen ? I am using the smoke free trial 2013. Also, the audio of my clips are broken up. Is that because of use restcriction ? Thanks
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by dermot shane
Err.... wearing blinders are we?

I can say without a doubt that the Color tools inside Smoke are far and away better than any other color tool you will find in any other editing program.


maybe you don't get out much, but DS is mile ahead in both editing and esp gradeing...
-and-
usually work on 30-120 second pieces, and for this kind of short form work, I still find it much faster to work entirely in Smoke, rather than round tripping. That being said, for something longer - a 10 minute film that primarily needs grading, not FX & compositing - for that, I might still use Color,

I finish & grade longform, features and MOW's + i do some 30 sec spots...

DS conforms /grades / tweaks / versions these longform shows all day long , and all in the box directly... and it cuts promo's and commericals all day long as well, all in the box.... color is RT on the cuda cores (and has been for years and years now), has real world grade managemnt tools (easly deals with the "lets try the earler version" story) and lets me work with node based grades while in the CC ui with context for any place in the show... so far ahead of Smoke that it's somewhat ridonkulous to even both, other than the smoke being blown up one's kilt in this bit-0-PR

makeing a statment like your first one only serves to show how blind one can be when sucking on the koolaide
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by David Jahns
Hi Shane - thanks for your comments.

Sure, I like Smoke and am excited about the version, but a Smoke-PR-Koolaid piece? My whole piece was pretty much, "it's very good, but it still has its' challenges." Have you seen any of the other recent Smoke articles on the web? ;-)

Yes, I meant to mention Avid DS in the early stages of consideration when I was also looking at Scratch, etc. To be perfectly honest, I was quite curious about it, but in the hundreds of finish sessions we have done at facilities in LA & NY, I've never actually come across one. Maybe that's "not getting out much" - but it does seem kind of invisible in the circles I roll in.

Without a Mac version, there was no way to try it in our shop or "ease into it" the way I did with Smoke/Mac/Kona. And the reviews of DS that I did find were a pretty mixed bag. If we were an all-Avid shop, it might have been easier to give it serious consideration.

And my "better Color Corrector than any NLE" statement was obviously meant to compare to the standard packages of FCP, Avid, Premiere, etc... I doubt most people consider Avid DS in that category.

But you've been a vocal DS supporter here at the Cow, so I'm curious to hear your take:

Why has Avid never ported it to the Mac?
Why isn't Avid offering crossgrades to DS instead of Symphony?
If it's as awesome as you say, and it's not terribly expensive, why has DS never really taken off?

I don't mean these to be snarky comments - I'm genuinely interested in your take, and why DS isn't more widespread in the pro video world.

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by dermot shane
Thanks for the kind reply..

Why has Avid never ported it to the Mac?
[d2] can't answer for Avid.. still a mystery to me

Why isn't Avid offering crossgrades to DS instead of Symphony?
[d2] yea... like i said...

If it's as awesome as you say, and it's not terribly expensive, why has DS never really taken off?
[d2] DS out numbers Smoke of all flavors about 4:1 up here.. but Vancouver is a long form town, and a RED town too.. both are notable weak links in Smoke, and DS just flies through finishing & gradeing MOW's and Features from RED camera's on a daily basis up here.

I would say that it has taken off big time on loads of markets, there's a ton and half of DS's in NYC, not as many in LA for sure, loads in the SE & Chi/Detroit as well, so i guess it's where you are and who you hang with?

One facility has 6 of them running on MacPro's hooked up to a huge terrablock....
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by David Jahns
[dermot shane] "One facility has 6 of them running on MacPro's hooked up to a huge terrablock....
"


using Boot Camp? w/ Nitris DX?

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by dermot shane
Yea it runs sweetly under BootCamp

DS has used Aja I/O for years now, and the Nvidia 4000/4800/5800 for the RT effects (and that's most of them), with the cuda cores it goes far past what the Nitris box could ever do, i t can feed I/O straight from the Nvida, or through the Aja, performance is far better with the Nvidia only, but laying off to tape and external scopes need the Aja.

DS last used the Nitris box in v8, almost five years ago.. concurrent from when Smoke was running on Irix on the dear departed Octane, yea it's been that long..
DS was one of the first to code color/scaleing/blurs/Math op's to the GPU i think Iridas was the only other folks at the time using the GPU, now everyone does - Luster does for sure, not sure why smack's RT performance is so bad when on the same machine as DS... could it be that it does not use the GPU? Or does not use it well? Or is kneecapped to protect fluster?

Who knows... anyone who does is not talking ;-)

It seems to be a cool tool.. but more than a few bricks short of a full load.. and yea, i do think DS takes it to the cleaners in both editing and gradeing
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by David Jahns
Oops- mean to say "Hi Dermont" - sorry!

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Adam Corey
I worked on DS starting at version 1.0 (yes prior to microsoft and avid). A few years later I worked at a facility that had 6 DS Systems. A comparison of Smoke and DS is certainly fair, they're the only two systems that offer similar tool sets without having to round trip to other applications. After nearly 10 years of working on DS, here's why I chose Smoke on Mac over DS when opening my facility a couple of years ago, despite never having used smoke in a session and having had over 10 year of DS experience.

Editing Interface: DS is comfortable for any Avid/Symphony/FCP or anything but Media 100 user. The Smoke editing interface can seem intimidating or confusing to a someone used to a source/record GUI, but once you've used it for awhile it's faster and more intuitive. This is not just my opinion but also that of the 3 other former DS&FCP editors at my shop. So I prefer smoke but I'd say this is more of personal preference, either will edit just fine. Advantage Editor

Compositing: With both the container and tree/node compositing options DS has a leg up. I don't like messy time lines so the timeline compositing in Smoke pre-2013 was annyoning. That being said, the node based connect fx should solve that problem for me. The ability to combine container and node composites give DS the advantage.

3D compositing: Don't even bother to open the bastardized 3D/Marquee DVE in DS. Action is very complex and can seem impossible to learn at times. I've barely scratched the surface but it works and almost makes sense...something I can't say for the 3D DVE in DS which hasn't made any real world improvements since v4.0. Advantage Smoke

Audio: The overwhelming majority of the spots I work on go to an audio engineer for mix and sound design so i don't have any extensive experience or ambition to know compare the audio tools. Advantage N/A

Color Correction: Both systems have nice intermediate CC abilities. I call it intermediate because they are both well above Media Composer, FCP, Adob Prem., Gen Arts and other various plugins. The DS has always had a nice color corrector but after some time with smoke I'll take the color warper over any built or plug in cc tool I've used (I'm not talking about dedicated Color Grading apps like Baselight or Davinci). Advantage Smoke

Total Conform: I've had a as many issues going FCP to Smoke as I've had Media Composer to DS over the years. The biggest issue in my mind is that neither exports an XML file that's usable should you need to regress back to the offiline stage. I'd love to start/revise/finish/revise/mix/revise again/re-mix/finish & finally delivery in the same box/room be it a DS or Smoke. However, the realities of real world project work flow and scheduling often create times when we need to move a project to another room and platform (to accommodate a schedule or freelance editors skill set), it would be great if either or both could export an XML. Advantage Client.

DS was and still is a great tool for a lot of projects, I've always been a big fan of what the product could have been. However, Smoke has the huge advantage over DS, Autodesk is a company that is putting talent, resources and money behind the product. DS has withered on the vine since Avid bought it microsoft over 10 years ago. This is the primary reason we chose Smoke On Mac over the dead street known as DS. Support from corporate gives Smoke the overwhelming adavtage.

Adam Corey
DC Collective
Design - Edit - Create
http://www.dccollective.tv
@Adam Corey
by David Jahns
Thanks, Adam - great to hear from someone who has used both extensively.

...A comparison of Smoke and DS is certainly fair, they're the only two systems that offer similar tool sets without having to round trip to other applications.

This is what I don't get - with all of the hype that Smoke is getting, shouldn't Avid be touting DS, saying, "Yeah, we've had editing & node based compositing in one app for years. Welcome to the party - and our product is already tested & stable!"

Instead, they're pushing a Symphony promo, and DS was invisible at NAB. I just don't get it...

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: @Adam Corey
by Adam Corey
This is what I don't get - with all of the hype that Smoke is getting, shouldn't Avid be touting DS, saying, "Yeah, we've had editing & node based compositing in one app for years. Welcome to the party - and our product is already tested & stable!"

It would have been great to see something like that. I realize that Avid has a large user base that's familiar with the Symphony interface. When they were still doing R&D on DS the implementation of the MC/Symphony timeline made it (at least in my mind) easy enough for any Avid editor to jump on a DS and start working. Composting, FX, ect might have taken a bit longer to learn but it's like that with any system, you learn the basics and then you learn the rest "by doing".

However, I can't complain about the cross-grade promo to Symphony from FCP. We just purchased 2 (will possibly get a 3rd before the promo is over) so that our Smoke rooms can be run as a Symphony should we get a freelance editor who's not familiar with Smoke. I'd much prefer that every project be done from start to finish in Smoke but the user base is still a bit small in the DC area. Perhaps Autodesk will start to offering training sessions for qualified freelancers (those with recommendations from current Smoke owners) so we can say, "guess we should've bought a thunderbolt raid instead". It's a $2,000 loss I'd be happy to take.

I've only had a cursory look at Smoke 2013 but I can tell you we don't regret purchasing the current Smoke on Mac over DS 2 years ago (we started with 2 systems and recently added a 3rd). DS was like an old girlfriend, comfortable, steady and we knew what we were gettting. Smoke was the sexy girl down the hall that we thought was out of our league until the Mac version came along. The learning curve for media management and FX was initially steep (both of which seem to be addressed in 2013) but we're very happy with the support and improvements we've seen from Autodesk, especially after getting off to a rocky start with a reseller that didn't have the infrastructure to support Smoke on Mac, Autodesk stepped in and took care of us. I'm not saying other manufacturers might not have done the same, but I think it speaks volumes to the commitment Autodesk has for advancing and supporting Smoke on Mac for small boutiques like ourselves. All that to say we're excited to see the new version and happy we made the switch.

Adam Corey
DC Collective
Design - Edit - Create
http://www.dccollective.tv
Re: @Adam Corey
by dermot shane
Hey Adam.. i watched your promo on your website.. very impressive... for short form work like that smack is a great tool...

It's a world apart once you start working longer than 120 seconds tho, as David mentioned

On MOW's we match Fluster not smack for sched, and creative
On features we have time, and we have more tools than trad grading suites, it works well for us
On commercials your comments seem pretty much bang on.

But really the only point i would disagree with you is in grading... for longform DS is mile ahead of smack.. really... grade management, floating window with nodes while in the CC, and most importantly RT... as in no rendering, as in loop the shot, play it and change the values while it rolls, back up five shots and play the seq... change them? No rendering needed... lets see how it plays...


Tomorrow & Monday i'm screening my final pass on the second feature for film out i've done so far this year...DCP mastering & files to the Arri Lazer next week, and a 709 trim pass from my 2K timeline, and off to SR tape.

Tuesday I'm on a national commercial, cutting, GFX, grade.. all in the same box... i could get that done in smack, but not the MOW's or the features

If you had seen DS at NAB (and loads of folks did) they were using a feature i conformed / graded / finished / versioned entirely in DS top to tail for the demo's, - it was done in Dci2K cinemascope from Epic shooting at 5K..
And that's where smack 2012 falls on it's face.. grading, longform, and red... not to say 2013 won't be better... it really has to be to make even a small dent in that market, so far it seems to have been a failure.

And yea DS's 3D tools sucks beyond sucking, fortunately for us Fusion is getting rolled into it shortly, giving DS a really good 3D environment as a clip effect or as a node, stunning RT performance has been mentioned... makes up for the major league suckage of the current 3D tools..

At the end of the day smack is a great tool for short form.. DS is a great tool for longform, DS can do shortform (remember the promo the AD used for the roll out of smack that turned out to be done completely in DS, and then a local station ident key'd over in smack? it was good enough for AD to claim it as their own...)
BUT
smack can't do longform top to tail.... so do you really want to have the work you can do be limited by your tools? I can't afford to limit myself like that...
Re: @Adam Corey
by Adam Corey
I don't work on long form so I really can't give a fair comparison there, I do know a few shops that use DS for long form and like it. My only experience using Smoke On Mac for a long form online is a couple of 20 min short films that we brought a freelance smoke editor in to online from a FCP 7 Xml.

I agree that the DS does have some great tools and the ability to container and tree composite on the same clip (s) is great. Had I felt Avid was behind the product I most likely would've gone that direction. The fact that they haven't done a new release in almost 2 years and according to the Avid website still ship it with MC 5, makes me wonder how much they plan on putting into the product in future years. There still may be hope for DS, but recent history has seen minor upgrades at long intervals.

"so do you really want to have the work you can do be limited by your tools? I can't afford to limit myself like that"

I agree that you can't limit yourself based on a box, I'm a firm believer in using the tool that is best suited for the project be it AfterFx, Avid, DS, FCP, Motion or Smoke or any combination (which is often the case). When I purchased our initial Smoke systems 2 years ago the price point between a Smoke/FCP and DS/Avid combo was negligible. I knew DS very well and could have jumped on it with out any learning curve, we could still do 80-90% our work on it, but I felt and still feel that Autodesk is committed to not only Smoke but also committed to making Smoke fit into the workflow of small boutiques like ourselves. So happy "DS'ing" it sounds like it fits your needs and workflow perfectly and I hope that Avid continues to keep it a viable solution.

Adam Corey
DC Collective
Design - Edit - Create
http://www.dccollective.tv
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Michael Horton
Great article! Thank you. Been following Grant Kays tuts before I get a copy of 2013. Ready (I think, I hope) to tackle this new "NLE." Got big time stuck in 2012 and was ready to give up, but 2013 is exactly what the doctor ordered. Having the software in my hands will tell the tale.

Michael Horton
lafcpug
http://www.lafcpug.org
@Michael Horton
by David Jahns
Thanks, Michael. Yeah - I was kind of lucky, in that we do some pro-bono work that has flexible deadlines, so I could spend some time "learning on the job". But it was a good 6 months before I was truly comfortable with it, and I still feel like I'm only scratching the surface of what it can really do...

The great thing about the new one is that you can actually work just like you did in FCP - adding color grades and basic layer based compositing, and then dig in to the complicated Connect FX to your comfort level - go a little deeper each time, try out some new things, and eventually you'll get the hang of it. In the old one, it took SO MUCH effort just to get your head around the basics, the first few months were painful.

Kind of like learning to golf - until you can hit the ball without missing, it's not much fun, but when you get over the hump and can actually play the game - then it's much more enjoyable!

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Barry Goch
David,

Yes about adding those tips and tricks. I've uploaded 4 different tutorials to MyBox on my LinkedIn profile. The best two are ones I wrote for the Editors Guild - one on doing split screen shots in Action and one on using Batch (ConnectFX). Just goto my LinkedIn page and look for the MyBox tab and download for free. My complements.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/gochya

Barry

----
Barry Goch
Online Editor, Smoke Instructor, Webinar presenter for Smoke and Resolve
barrygoch.com
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Barry Goch
Nice article. Very comprehensive. One trick that I do is to change the default wipe from "1" to "120" (doing this from memory) which is a smpte oval which gives you a starting point for a vignette or to create a mask for a face for example.

I've always looked at the high-end systems like this - they require more, but they give more back in return. I don't think that any experienced Smoke user ever stops learning and overcoming new boundaries. For me that's the cool thing about the app. - I gives you the opportunity to make great things happen.

----
Barry Goch
Online Editor, Smoke Instructor, Webinar presenter for Smoke and Resolve
barrygoch.com
@Barry Goch
by David Jahns
Thanks, Barry!

Yeah - I discovered the SMPTE 120 wipe trick, too! Helps a bit, but it would be much easier if a static oval was the default "Wipe". I actually wrote to them after NAB and made some suggestions - static oval wipe (with defaults color = 0, Outside), make Auto-Key a preference, not always on by default, add g-masks to the Color Warper Secondaries, change the name Wipe to "MASK", etc...

It's unlikely they'll incorporate them, so I'm planning on writing a "tips & tricks for new users" article. I hope they'll publish it here at the Cow, and I hope you add some of yours as well!

Dave

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Marc Fisher
great Article
I too would like to see the XML export option, even if it doesn't include Composite clips. (really, those should be colored B4 being comped together, or, the entire comp exported as a new clip to be colored as a whole.)

I'd also like to see compatibility with the BMD card. then my Avid/Smoke/Resolve system would be 100% functional, and no work-arounds needed.

that being said, at the studio i used to work for, we switched to smoke for many of the reason you state as questions..

offline editing. well, not so much for reality, but film work, should be just fine, as it can handle tons of clips, and organization. i'd say my typical load was around 1500 clips, (then add in Stereo as well). Smoke performed Awesomely (is that a word?) i can't say enough of the power at your fingertips..

And after 18 months of using Smoke, i still feel like i was only using 10% of the tool.. it's soo deep in what you can do with it.

Conforming from both Avid and FCP was a huge issue as well, smoke made it super easy, and now with PPro exported proper xml files, add in another..

Tracking is steller compared to the Avid finishing tool, and, because Mocha is not a point tracker, will beat it any day for that type of track. As well, Smoke cannot do Planar tracking..

And as for compositing, with Smoke in your Computer, you won't need Nuke or Shake or AE (except for AE plugins, the capabilities are all there. So i'm hoping Connect FX is as powerful as Batch, just renamed for user friendly-ness.

Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Kandis Weiner
Hi David,

I lead the team of folks that works on the user manual.

What do you think is missing from the manual that would have helped you in your journey?

Thanks,
Kandis
Autodesk Smoke Learning Content Developer
@Kandis Weiner - Smoke Online Wiki / Manual
by David Jahns
Hi Kandis.

I found the online & user manual a bit challenging for the following reasons:

I didn't follow the organization of it very well. For example, the chapter right after "Getting Started" is "Stereoscopy". That seems like an advanced topic that should be pretty deep into it, not Chapter 2. I understand it may not be intended to be read linearly, but that's just an example of how I found the organization a bit odd.

Searching the Wiki - this is always a problem. The online search tool sounds great in theory, but in reality, it makes it impossible to find what you are looking for. Example: I remembered seeing that there's a simple way to copy CC effects in Action from one media to another. Something simple, but I couldn't remember if it was a control key, or a drag and hold, or what.

I'd go to the online help and search "copy fx" or "copy effects" - none of these lead to what I was looking for. I just tried it again, and I get page after page of the word copy, and the term FX, or effects - if I put it in quotes, I either get nothing, or just a copy FX in timeline, not in Action. If I add Action to the search terms, I tons of entries that contain Action, but nothing about copying FX.

At this point, I figure I should just dive in and "flip through the manual" like I would an old-school printed manual - but this is where it helps to understand how the manual is structured. So I find the Action part, and open up all of the little subheadings, look through the "Adding Effects to Media" and I still don't find it, so now I just go back to the app and save the color grade, and manually re-apply it to each clip I need to. When I had more time, I went back and did a more through manual browsing, and eventually found the answer under "Copying Media Settings" - but I never would have thought about a Color Correction or Key to be a "Media Setting"- those are always referred to as Effects in the rest of the application.

The other thing I found frustrating is that much of the terminology just didn't make sense to me.
Example: I'm trying to learn how to archive a project. In FCP or Avid, that's simply consolidating media, saving project files, creating a folder to put them in, and copying them to a recordable media. When I look up Archiving in Smoke Manuals, I read this:

"The first entry of an archive is the archive itself. The archive entry is the parent entry for all other entries."

For someone new to the Autodesk universe - I don't understand any of this. I understand files and folders. I want media files, and project files that tell the app how to use the media. What is an archive, an entry, a parent, etc.? I love the Archive capabilities within Smoke, now that I understand it, but I still need a cheat-sheet to refresh my memory for the steps and the terminology.

There are numerous examples of this that make sense to me now, after using the software for 6 months, but as a new user, I was dumbstruck...

And lastly, often times when I would find what i was looking for in the manual, the screenshots were so small, showing one little corner of screen, that I had no idea where to find the button shown - it had no context for which module or submenu I should be in? I often said, "I don't see that button anywhere, I must be on the wrong screen, or wrong submenu, but I have no idea how to figure that out."

So, for a new user, I found the video tutorials more helpful, as I could pause them when necessary, see the entire screen, and visually see the process as well. Of course, that only helps when the video tutorial is doing the same thing you are trying to do, so I still wind up using a combination of tutorials, manuals, and forum postings to figure out what I need to know... And it didn't help when all of the 2012 tutorials were taken down!

Glad to see some new ones coming up - and if the Smoke 2013 for Mac Online Help Wiki is separate from the Flame-Premium Wiki, that should help a bit as well.

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR
@David Jahn
by Kandis Weiner
Thanks so much for taking the time to write all of those recommendations out! Much appreciated, Kandi
Re: @Kandis Weiner - Smoke Online Wiki / Manual
by Jeffrey Levenstone
Hello David,

I agree with you on the size of the thumbnails. I could figure out how deep the were in the software or which part of the app they were showing me.
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Jeffrey Levenstone
Hey Kandis,

What I was missing the most from the manual is the why. The manual explained things in the abstract from my opinion. You have to understand for a new user, it is daunting to figure out the tool and then figur out why and when would that tool be necessary. I am no saying this for all the tools, but there are tool in smoke that I have never heard or seen before.

Does this help to understand the dilemma?
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Kandis Weiner
Yes, thanks for reminding us about the importance of explaining the why.

We would love to know what topics in particular were missing context around Why. You don't have to wrack your brain to think of them now, but please use the commenting on the wiki to let us know when you don't find the information for. That will really help us make the content better.

Thanks!
Kandis
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Robert Brown
Nice post and I have to share the ambivalence. I've been a Smoke user for a number of years now and if this had happened a year or two ago then I'd be blown away. Now it's like yawn. There are just too many ways now of doing the same things. And Smoke has always been sort of an island developed originally 15 years ago or so and despite the re-write it still seems to be showing it's age.

I agree that you can do some serious stuff with this box, but it's like it made sense when they had a monopoly but not so much any more. Premiere although not where it needs to be is the most interesting new thing on the scene because of it's ability to deal with compressed codecs mainly as well as it's integration with AE. And AE is pretty damn good once you get comfortable with it. And despite the hype of MC6 it's basically just the new Avid and not much different from the last one.

As numerous other Smoke artists here have said I don't agree that Smoke 2013 "changes everything". It's a tool that has it's niche but in some worlds it will be a boat anchor. Seems to be a buyer's market at the moment which is good.

Robert Brown
Editor/VFX/Colorist - FCP, Smoke, Quantel Pablo, After Effects, 3DS MAX, Premiere Pro

http://vimeo.com/user3987510/videos
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Ramil Pasibe
Nice Article David.

I'm also considering getting our first license of Smoke 2013. Will try to get a hand of the trial version first and see how well they've optimized the code to run - especially on our aging 12 core 16 gig RAM with quadro 4000 macpro.

Interesting times ahead.
Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Matt Riley
Don't forget that smoke is an extremely strong conform box, especially for offline/online film-like workflows. There are many places already using smoke and resolve together to get the best of each app. :-)

-Matt

Re: Smoke: A Journey and a Look Ahead
by Brian Mulligan
Nice article. Hopefully people will read on and get to the 2013 section and not be scared off by the images and workflow issues with 2012 that you pointed out.

A few things... Smoke 2013 work swell with Prores footage and with proxies on my i7 2.2g MacbookPro with 4 gigs RAM.
Framestore is on an internal drive. You shouldn't run your media like that, so on a FW800 drive or better, I think you will have no issues. With a higher end system, with Thunderbolt or other storage, Smoke will fly with prores intermediates.

You can do a bit more with grading through ConnectFX as you can add GMASKs in to the pipeline to use with the Color Warper. Is it as easy as Resolve? No, because Resolve is a dedicated app for coloring. I'll bet by the final release there will be a workflow to go to/from Resolve.

If anyone want s more info on Smoke2013, some training videos are now up on The Smoke Learning Channel on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/user/SmokeHowTos

Brian Mulligan
Senior Editor - Autodesk Smoke
WTHR-TV Indianapolis,IN, USA
Twitter: @bkmeditor


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For your Bovine Mastication and Consideration: FCPX Can Work

For your Bovine Mastication and Consideration: FCPX Can Work

After coming across and commenting on a post in the forums concerning FCPX and its current popularity and possibility for serious editing use, Charlie Austin was contacted by Tim Wilson to expand his original thoughts for Bovine consumption. Care to chew the cud with us?

Editorial
Charlie Austin
Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate
A Cautionary Tale for the FCP Switcher

A Cautionary Tale for the FCP Switcher

Herein lies the cautionary tale of a long-time user of Final Cut Pro, penned for those who would consider switching NLEs. Are there tools that will positively replace FCP 7? Are there NLEs that are even more powerful than our now evanescent favorite?

Editorial
Walter Biscardi
Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate
Colorgrading Round-Up

Colorgrading Round-Up

Dennis Kutchera went to Vegas with a goal - to be tantalized by the new colour-grading options - in essence, to cheat on his beloved Avid. What happens in Vegas, this time, comes back with some great stories.

Feature
Dennis Kutchera
Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate
Confessions of a Creative Maniac: Unified Theory of Media

Confessions of a Creative Maniac: Unified Theory of Media

Convenience is more important than quality -- I've taught a couple of generations of students that understanding this basic reality is a great way to predict just about any future media trend, and in the case of NAB, it looks like the equation has not lost a molecule of relevance.

Editorial, Feature
David Biedny
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