Last year at NAB, I had the opportunity to take a look at the pre-trial version of Autodesk Smoke. The post-production community was largely excited for the new release. There were some caveats that appeared, but I remained optimistic. Fast Forward to today, and Smoke 2013 has now been released with many of the features updated. Does Smoke 2013 have what it takes to make it? Let’s take a look.
When I got my hands on a copy of Smoke I was excited to jump into a program made by Autodesk that also happens to make one of my favourite design programs, AutoCAD. Being a pseudo gamer, I couldn’t help thinking about Smoke from Mortal Kombat. This further made me excited, as I waited for the program to install. My anticipation was building like a kid in a candy store.
Autodesk has clearly spent a lot of time developing Smoke 2013. It seems they have must have reached out to the community, and spoke with various editors using FCP to Avid, and even compositors and colorists. This is not your average professional editor. Smoke takes elements from various programs and integrates them all together in fluid professional editing software.
After initially setting up my project, I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of formats supported by Smoke 2013. There is support for SD to Red 4K and includes other formats that include Super 35, Sony F65, and Academy 2K and 4K.
Importing your footage is easily done, and it can be transcoded to ProRes HQ if needed or retain the original clip. Cache Source Media will transcode your original file to ProRes HQ or which ever flavor of ProRes you choose. This feature is fantastic as it makes a copy of your original file. This way any changes made are done to the transcoded ProRes copy and not the original file. It also allows me to get out of less friendly NLE codecs like H.264 immediately. Smoke will also scan your folders that you select, and pull up thumbnails, Smoke 2013 will provide you with the ability to preview these files with typical playback head before importing them into your project.
Autodesk has also thought about those people moving from FCP, as Smoke 2013 can import FCP XML / AAF, and EDL’s.
Once you’re inside the editor, everything aspect looks completely familiar. Editors from FCP or Avid should have no problem here. However, if you have worked with both FCP and Avid, you will find picking up Smoke 2013 ‘s interface a breeze. All of your typical layouts are available and the basic buttons are all there from Insert to Overwrite.
I wanted to see how Smoke 2013 deals with different frame rates and resolutions. My timeline was set up for 1080p and I tried to place a 720p 60fps into the timeline. I was immediately stopped by a warning notification. Smoke will ask you, do wish to conform your clips to the timeline? I find this to be a great feature, as it saves you plenty of headaches later on. This comes in really handy especially when trying to perform an online edit. It really helps to streamline the process.
When color correcting your footage for broadcast, all of your scopes are readily available to you. Everything from waveforms for Red, Green, and Blue, to VectorScopes are all easily accessible. This was incredibly useful for me or anyone working within broadcast or film. These tools are invaluable as they help make sure you meet the standards of your broadcaster.
Autodesk Smoke 2013 also supports node based compositing. If you have ever worked with any node based compositor like the now defunct Apple Shake, you will feel right at home. Other users may find it a little bit of a learning curve, but I assure you, once you wrap you head around it, you will enjoy this workflow.
Color correction and effects are all done within the “FX Nodes”. Here you can find nodes for Burn-In Timecode for delivering dailies, to Color Correction, Keys, Composting, and various effects. There is simply a plethora of nodes for you to work with, freeing up your mind’s creative ability.
Working within the nodes, or changing their parameters is as simple as double clicking the node to bring up the options available to you. For Instance, double clicking on the color correction node will bring up options for Gamma, Gain, Offset, Contrast. It will also bring up the Histogram, Color Wheel, Curves and Ranges. It’s all there for you create with. I truly enjoy this aspect of Smoke 2013 as it feels very natural to me.
Smoke 2013 also has an advanced 3D Visual Effects system within the program. If you have ever worked with Maya, Cinema 4D, or even After Effects, you will have good grasp of how the 3D effects system works. There are plenty of effects that can be applied to your footage here. These can be as simple as 3D Text effects to advanced tracking. Either way, Autodesk has got you covered within Smoke 2013. Using the node system with their “Action” node made working with advanced 3D effects very intuitive.
Once you have your effects done. Simply hit render on a single clip or multiple clips, and you will notice the render bar in the bottom left hand corner. I have gotten so used to seeing the render bar in the middle of my screen, I almost didn’t notice this subtle look to the UI.
Exporting from Smoke 2013 provides you with plenty of choices from QuickTime, to Apple ProRes, to Avid DNxHD, and even MXF files. This means moving, or even changing to another editor is very easy. Smoke 2013 simple fits right into almost any current workflow.
Autodesk seems to have improved on Smoke by leaps and bounds over what I witnessed in 2012. I am pleased to see the direction Smoke 2013 is heading, and all of the improvements made. There is so much within Smoke 2013, that it is impossible to cover all of it in one review. I have hardly scratched the surface, and I like what I see thus far. Autodesk has released a very competitive and advanced professional editing program.