IBC 2012: Autodesk
IBC 2012 is a big year for Autodesk, which is using the occasion to launch Autodesk Flame 2013 20th anniversary edition software. The new software is part of Autodesk Flame Premium 2013, a software toolset that integrates visual effects, editorial and real-time color grading. The new edition streamlines complex tasks and improves speed with a new creative workspace, top-level editorial timeline integration and an enhanced GPU pipeline.
Patel puts the debut of the new Flame edition in context. "A few years ago, we introduced Flame Premium because we saw this trend in the high end of the business where things were more project-based," he says. "VFX artists had to handle more parts of the project, and required a toolset that allowed them to integrate all the high-end services. As part of that process, it became clear that they needed a different way of telling visual stories, which is what Flame was designed for to begin with."
"We needed a more flexible way of working with more complex projects that included editing and visual effects," he adds. "We re-designed and re-architected Flame to be the next generation tool for VFX artists, the advertising community and many others in the industry." Patel focuses on the three core areas that distinguish Flame 20: the Creative Work Space, full integration of the timeline and the GPU model.
The Creative Workspace of Flame 20 is a highly flexible work environment that brings core post-production tools into a unified creative environment where a full editorial timeline is closely linked to Flame Desktop, Batch and Action. The redesigned workflow also features improved access to media and a new task-based workflow with one- click access to the main finishing tasks and creative tools. "This is the new creative hub of the application," says Patel.
Marcus Schioler, Product Manager for Autodesk Creative Finishing Products, enlarged on the concept of the Creative Workspace. "It's a radically different redesign that will make people be more efficient, he says. "We're really talking about a redesign that has brought a lot of functions into the hands of Flame artists, making them more efficient. We're talking about how the media organization, 3D and procedural compositing, timeline editing and even simple tools can co-exist in a way that allows people to take advantage of the tools they need."
New Creative Environment: A new tightly integrated creative environment brings together the Desktop, Timeline and Batch, enabling artists to more easily find and aggregate source material, move between creative toolsets for editing and 3D VFX creation and output finished products. Courtesy of Che Revolution Post. Click image for larger view.
The second important new feature is a redesigned timeline that integrates Flame and Smoke. The new timeline allows artists to more easily work within the context of the timeline, either building timelines from scratch or matching an offline cut without leaving the desktop. "Now, artists can move seamlessly between creative and editorial functions," Patel says.
The timeline is critical to storytelling, Schioler adds. "Although we don't see Flame as an editing application, we do expect Flame artists to need to deal with timelines in a way that's more integrated with the way they work. As schedules get compressed and more people are getting involved in the project, Flame artists are being asked to quickly iterate and aggregate so they can deliver a finished story. So whether it's bringing in graded material, or the new version of a comp or edit, it's all about knowing where they are in the story."
Enhanced Flame Desktop: Now tightly integrated with the timeline and Batch compositing environment, the enhanced Flame Desktop offers greater flexibility. Drag multiple clips directly to the Timeline and Batch, add an unlimited number of reels to the desktop, view clips in the desktop in a new storyboard view, and more. Image courtesy of Che Revolution Post. Click image for larger view.
Newly Integrated Editorial & Effects Timeline: The newly integrated editorial and effects timeline allows artists to oversee entire projects, more easily create consistent looks and correctly match graded and 3D VFX shots to editorial. Image courtesy of Che Revolution Post. Click image for larger view.
The third core feature is a re-engineered GPU/CPU processing pipeline for faster compositing and visual effects development in Batch and Action. This addresses the fact that OpenGL historically drove Flame's performance. "We hadn't really taken a holistic look at the GPU/CPU pipeline," says Patel. "We wanted to take some of the work which had been done initially with color correction in Lustre and optimize that on the Flame side." With this move, the new edition of Flame result offers "significant processing improvement."
Another new area of Flame 20 is a brand new color management engine. "There's no better time than the 20th anniversary of Flame to bring things up to speed with AMPAS' IIF/ACES," says Patel. "This allows the artist to bring in all kinds of input, from RED to Sony F65, into a common ACES frame of reference. It's a modern, very powerful color management engine."
New Color Management Engine: The new color management engine provides optimized floating-point color processing for scene-linear workflows. Visual effects artists can easily mix footage from digital cinema cameras, film scans, and video with new support for ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System 16-bit file format. Image courtesy of Motor VFX. Click image for larger view.
Flame Premium 2013 20th Anniversary Edition and the 2013 Extension releases of Autodesk Flame and Autodesk Flare software are anticipated to ship later this autumn. The 20th Anniversary edition and extension releases will be available exclusively to Autodesk Subscription customers.
Also at IBC 2012, Autodesk will be showing the new Smoke for Mac. Thousands of people have downloaded the public trial for the new version, says Patel, and Autodesk will be issuing a pre-release version at IBC, adding new functionality based on customer response. "The broader editorial market is new for us and not one that we traditionally talked to," says Patel. "We wanted to show that we were serious and we wanted a way to engage with the community and leaders in the community." The free public trial has done just that, says Patel, and IBC 2012 will push that process forward. The full version of Smoke for Mac is expected to ship by the end of the year.
Autodesk's strategy with the new edition of Flame is reflective of today's most potent trends. "The first realization we had three or four years ago was that when we put all the feature requests we were getting for Flame, Smoke and Lustre that there was a huge intersection in terms of the technology that customers needed," says Patel. "That was when we said that the technology is on a convergence path in terms of what people need to do. They want a high quality deliverable at the end, and the artist needs flexibility with the toolset to deliver what the customer needs."
New MediaHub: Designed for faster browsing, easier organization and tighter integration with the creative tools in Flame Premium, the new MediaHub consolidates media management tools into a single area. Click image for larger view.
Optimized Conform Workflow: The new task-based area for conforming features an extensive set of conforming and troubleshooting tools to help artists conform timelines and resolve issues quickly. Image courtesy of Che Revolution Post. Click image for larger view.
That's an apt description of what the industry is looking for, with the addition that the pressure on price is more acute than ever (Autodesk has not released the price for the upcoming Flame 20). Enabling more artists to multi-task reflects the pressures on individuals and facilities to do more and do it faster. The strategy is one that numerous companies have adopted to meet the needs of the market today. Of course they don't all have the legacy and brand recognition of Flame. As always, the users will decide, and Creative COW will cover the stories of those in the industry who use the new Flame.