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NAB 2012: Autodesk Unveils a New Smoke

COW Library : Autodesk Smoke : Debra Kaufman : NAB 2012: Autodesk Unveils a New Smoke
CreativeCOW presents NAB 2012: Autodesk Unveils a New Smoke -- Autodesk Smoke Feature


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Marc Hamaker, Sr. Product Marketing Manager Systems, Marketing-M&E Industry, Autodesk
Marc Hamaker, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Creative Finishing Division, Autodesk.
Photo: ©Pierre Arsenault.
Autodesk Smoke is no longer just for visual effects artists. "The new Smoke will change how people edit and tell stories," says Marc Hamaker, Senior Marketing Manager, Creative Finishing Division, Autodesk. "This is a new solution for the professional video market and a solution for people who edit, grade and do visual effects all together."

The last year was a tumultuous one in the editing world, beginning with Apple's debut of FCP X, which unsettled the marketplace and led many editors to abandon Final Cut Pro for Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and others.

"Apple democratized editing with Final Cut Pro, and we felt that post was an area that needed change," says Hamaker. "We brought Smoke to post a few years ago. We saw that, as technology and expectations changed around the editor, the pipelines were getting increasingly complicated."

About 18 months ago, Autodesk started usability testing. "We sat people in front of Smoke, gave them ten shots and said, cut them together and grade them," he says. "It was torturous for us to watch where they got stuck. That became the core of our design philosophy: to make sure those roadblocks weren't there in the future. When we put this version of Smoke in front of people who edit, they could navigate it right away."

The completely redesigned User Interface, says Hamaker, "takes the best of what Apple has to offer and what we at Autodesk do. This Smoke connects the process of editorial with visual effects tighter than ever before."


In the new Autodesk Smoke, editing and effects are connected like never before - in a single application that works the way editors think. Powerful node-based compositing inside the timeline connects high-end effects and advanced compositing inside the editorial environment.
An intuitive all-in-one creative workflow that combines track-based editorial, industrystandard editing conventions and proven Autodesk creative tools. Image courtesy of Les Films Stupéfiants & Buzzimage Group.


In the new Autodesk Smoke, editing and effects are connected like never before - in a single application that works the way editors think. Powerful node-based compositing inside the timeline connects high-end effects and advanced compositing inside the editorial environment.
In the new Autodesk Smoke, editing and effects are connected like never before - in a single application that works the way editors think. Powerful node-based compositing inside the timeline connects high-end effects and advanced compositing inside the editorial environment. Courtesy Autodesk. Click image to zoom.


More specifically, the brand new design is intuitive and gestural or, as Hamaker put it, "Mac-like where it needs to be." "It unifies in a single application all the effects tools that an editor will need," he says. "But it's designed in a way that editors are used to using." That means that common tasks are on the menu bar and the UI is dynamic. ConnectFX enables Smoke users to work in the timeline. "But when you need to go to that next step, we have a full node-based compositing program in the timeline," says Hamaker. "You can build everything from color correction to advanced composites in the timeline, at peoples' fingertips. You manage all your media and metadata and rendering for effects. If VFX changes come in, you can step back into effects and it all comes back live.


A modern approach to working natively with the most common formats that facilitates managing all project media from ingest to edit to effects and archiving.
MediaHub: A modern approach to working natively with the most common formats that facilitates managing all project media from ingest to edit to effects and archiving. Click image to zoom.


The workflow is also simplified in terms of moving footage into the high-resolution footage into the system and managing it in the pipeline, as well as familiar track-based editing tools. The system's new Media Hub, a media browser designed to work with today's camera formats, presents image sequences as a clip that users can add metadata to, and then drag-and-drop into the source area. "People need interactive ways to handle media, and we're giving those tools that were previously only available at the high end," says Hamaker.

Runs on the latest generation of Apple iMac and MacBook Pro systems using highbandwidth
Thunderbolt storage and IO bringing true high-end effects to flexible desktop and
mobile workflows
Smoke runs on the latest generation of Apple iMac and MacBook Pro systems using highbandwidth Thunderbolt storage and IO bringing true high-end effects to flexible desktop and mobile workflows. Image courtesy of Les Films Stupéfiants & Buzzimage Group.
Click on image to zoom.
Which brings us to the price. The new Smoke is priced at $3,495, a major dip from the previous price of approximately $15,000. Additionally, Autodesk also dramatically lowered the system requirements for Smoke, which saves additional money. With Apple's Thunderbolt-enabled technology, the new Smoke can be used on iMacs and even laptops. "The hardware cost of entry has been lowered to platforms costing under $8K," says Hamaker. "There's no need for a significant investment in hardware."

Although the new Smoke will ship in the Fall, Autodesk will offer a pre-released preview of the product in June. Instead of the company's typical 30-day trial download, Smoke will be available for use until the product ships. "We've never done this before," says Hamaker. "We're interested to see how people use it." Any customers under subscription will automatically receive the new version of Smoke when it's released.

The new Autodesk Smoke won't be for everyone. The feature film editor will most likely stick with the editing system he or she already has. But Autodesk has rightly ascertained that there are many, many more editors out there, creating a burgeoning market for the multi-tasker whether found in a boutique, a garage or a post house.

The greatly reduced price and reduced requirements for the hardware platform are almost a necessity in today's market. The new Smoke sounds like a good bet. Like Autodesk, I'll be watching what users do after the June trial download becomes available. Stay tuned for my report.






DEBRA KAUFMAN CHATS WITH ALFONSO CUARÓN AT THE APRIL 15, 2012, AUTODESK EVENT.

When Autodesk asked me to moderate a short Q&A with director Alfonso Cuarón, I was thrilled. I've followed his work through the years and was a big fan of many of the movies he's directed, from Y Tu Mamá También to Children of Men.

Alfonso had just flown in from London, where he's posting Gravity, the night before the event at the Autodesk press conference, and would be flying back to London shortly after the event. Jet-lagged as he must have been, he was the consummate professional and, more importantly, a genuine, warm person. I felt that, despite the unnatural pressures of having a "casual talk" on a stage in front of an audience, we'd have some fun.

And we did. With Autodesk, I'd helped craft the questions a week or so before the event, and Alfonso had the opportunity to read them, so they wouldn't come as a surprise. But he did say to me, "Feel free to ad lib." I was pretty sure I was going to stick to the script -- especially since we only had 15 minutes to talk. As it turned out, we did stick to the script...and I did ad lib as well.


Alfonso Cuaron and Debra Kaufman

The first question was looking at the fact that Alfonso has really reinvented himself with almost every movie he's made -- from comedies and indies to blockbusters and family fare. In that context, we wanted to know, what role did technology play in helping him to reinvent himself as a storyteller?

First, Alfonso made it quite clear that he isn't very technologically savvy and, in fact, has only learned to use email in recent years (much to the relief of his assistant, he told us). But, he said, he knows exactly what he wants even if he doesn't know the exact steps of how to get there. For someone who has made some visually very sophisticated films --Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone -- it was clear to me that he was being a little self-deprecating, certainly a charming quality. But here was a guy who really did understand on a deep level what he was seeing. Which is one of the qualities that makes him a great director. He didn't care how the people handling the equipment arrive at it...but he knows exactly, down to the frame, what he wants to see.

Before the Q&A had started, he told me how thrilled he had been in his early filmmaking days to learn how to use cranes. Then he switched -- in Children of Men -- to a handheld style. But he was happy to know and understand the use of cranes as part of his visual toolkit. That was how he saw all the new technologies he learned -- as part of his ever-growing toolkit.

We also spoke about the fact that he is making Gravity in conjunction with his 20-something son. This sci-fi film is 60 percent CGI and is also shot digitally (he told the story that his cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki sent him some images captured digitally, and he saw that digital cameras produced beautiful imagery). Working on Gravity, says Cuarón, he came face to face with his own thinking about digital. Whereas his son was "fearless" in the digital realm, he saw the ways that he still hung back (we're talking about someone who just learned to email). The next generation, said Cuarón, is completely accepting of digital technology having grown up with it. Meanwhile, he -- and, by extension, us -- is still learning to adapt.


Alfonso Cuaron and Debra Kaufman

At the same time, I pointed out to Cuarón that he is no stranger to digital technology. He learned to embrace nonlinear editing early on in his career. Next, he embraced digital visual effects. And most recently, he's added digital cameras to the mix.

He agreed. "The future is digital," he said. Although he grew up in film and loves it, Cuarón pointed out that the future is digital and we all must embrace it, for all its possibilities and opportunities.

The 15 minutes we had on the stage went very quickly. Afterwards, we sat next to each other as, first, Autodesk's Marc Hamaker and then @radical.media's Evan Schechtman gave presentations on the new Smoke. I saw Alfonso lean forward, quite literally. He may not know how to actually use digital technology, but he quite clearly saw the possibilities of using Smoke, integrating visual effects and editing. He saw what he wanted.

After the presentation was completed, he got into his own conversation with Evan and others who had gathered. I understand he's asked about learning to use the new Smoke.

That, to me, says pretty much all you need to know about the new Smoke and the users that Autodesk is going after. If Alfonso Cuarón is inspired enough to actually learn to use Smoke -- or even simply learn more about it -- Autodesk has done its job. At the crazy-low price point of $3,495, the new Smoke is a no-brainer, especially for anyone familiar with the familiar user interface.

From what I could gather from the conversations after the presentation, the other attendees felt pretty much the same way. This isn't the last you'll hear about the new Smoke.

This also isn't the last you'll see in Creative COW about Alfonso Cuarón and Gravity. Stay tuned for more.


Alfonso Cuaron and Debra Kaufman at the Autodesk Smoke 2013 presentation, pre-NAB 2012




Comments

Re: Article: NAB 2012: Autodesk Unveils a New Smoke
by Garrett Gibbons
Isn't the MSRP $3499? Still pretty pricey, but an improvement.

http://www.garrettgibbons.com
Autodesk Smoke price
by Debra Kaufman
Yes, the price is $3499 -- pretty decent drop in price considering it was formerly $15,000! Also note that Autodesk has lowered the requirements for the platform used to run it, another cost savings.


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