Smoke No Longer on the Horizon
There are many good reasons why lots of folks have been waiting for the release of Smoke 2013 for Mac, and now the wait is finally over. On December 17, Autodesk started shipping Smoke to professionals eager for an single creative environment that promises to free them from having to switch or round trip between different various applications.
In Smoke 2013, Autodesk has combined previously separate disciplines such as editing, effects, motion graphics and 3D into one unified application. Last week I attended a demo of the product at Autodesk’s New York offices and, in my opinion, Smoke 2013 looks truly impressive.
Smoke 2013 for Mac contains an advanced and professional NLE that is designed to meet the needs of professional editors. But, of course, Smoke is much more than an editing system. Want to add high-end effects, chroma keying, color correction, rotoscoping and 3D motion graphics to your production? Right from the timeline you can go into Smoke’s various component areas, get creative and move on.
One of the first things you’ll remark about Smoke 2013 is its intuitive and sleek-looking interface. According to Autodesk, extensive customer research and feedback received during the pre-release trial was critical during the development of the product. This has resulted in things like drag and drop functionality, the ability to expand and collapse various sections such as the timeline FX pipeline area, and a major redesigning and streamlining of the user interface.
If you’re doing effects, you’ll be impressed with ConnectFX, Smoke’s node based compositor which allows you to create high-end effects and advanced compositing without leaving the editorial environment. A nice touch is that the nodes’ inputs and outputs are color coded which helps make things quite intuitive (and I might add attractive).
Other key features of Smoke 2013 include Creative Tools, a robust toolset with high end finishing tools, Action which allows you to do true 3D compositing, the Color Warper for professional grading and color matching, the Master Keyer for chroma keying and a host of stereoscopic 3D editing features and effects.
While Smoke 2013 does not have the power of a dedicated 3D program like Maya or Cinema 4D, it has an advanced range of 3D features. Besides making 3D text, you can import 3D models, light them, texture them and merge them with footage.
Aaron Vasquez is a senior VFX artist at Poetica, a creative house in New York whose recent work includes this music video for the Rolling Stones. Aside from being a Flame artist, Vasquez uses Smoke for Mac and recently posted the following video on Vimeo where he explored some of Smoke’s advanced 3D and compositing abilities.
To make the video, Vasquez brought a pre-made model of a car into Maxon’s CINEMA 4D and rendered out some base color renders, specular passes, depth maps, buffers and an occlusion pass. Note that Smoke 2013 also has the ability to render out occlusion passes. He then exported an FBX file which contained the polygonal geometry, camera and lights and imported it into Smoke 2013.
Vasquez then generated additional specular and reflection maps inside of Smoke and mixed it with the CINEMA 4D renders into the master composite. He also used the depth maps that were generated by the 3D program to pull selective focus using Smoke’s Depth node, part of ConnectFX.
One thing that Vasquez is enthusiastic about is Smoke’s 3D lens flare options which he says are more than simple 2D post effects. Regarding Smoke’s lens flares, he said, “Using the imported FBX model I was able to attach 3D lens flares to areas of the model. One really great aspect of 3D lens flares in the action compositing environment was the fact that they exist in true 3D space. This gave me the flexibility to rotate around the model visually seeing, and making sure the lens flares were behaving how I would imagine they should be”.
In addition, Vasquez points out “I believe the new version of Smoke Mac gives users access to an amazing toolset that were previously only available to the high end. To me it’s amazing how Autodesk is providing users an amazing editorial experience as well as a solid compositing environment. As an experienced Flame artist I love the fact that I can have the ability to not only do a conform but also perform complex effects all in one place.”
There is no question that Smoke 2013 is a serious contender in the world of integrated editing and effects solutions. Not only can you do high end effects and finishing, but you can use it to edit together entire productions.
Smoke 2013 runs on Mac OS and is shipping at a price of $3,495 SRP per license. For more detail, visit http://www.autodesk.com/smoke.