Smoking Baby

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 at 13:08

Here in the G Media Post Production department – or “the bunker” as it’s affectionately known – we don’t get excited over much. It’s not because we’re boring, we just like to think we have high standards. And it was certainly an exciting week when Garion Hall deployed a couple of his G Media Post Production Ninjas into the field. To where, you ask? To the Autodesk Smoke for Mac launch in Melbourne. Some of you will already know all about Smoke, but for those that don’t, Smoke is a high-end editorial and finishing solution. With attitude.

Smoke has been around for a while, often used in high-profile television programs such as “House”, “NCIS”, CSI: NY” and “Entourage”, Super Bowl commercials and even the packaging, promotions and content for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. All in all, Smoke is in its own field as an all-in-one toolset. Editing, titles, high-end colour correction, image stabilisation, tracking, keying, compositing (both 2D and 3D), paint, rotoscoping, retouching ­— whatever you can think of, Smoke can do it. No more bouncing around between Final Cut “not quite” Pro and Color or Motion or After Effects. Sure, you can do your fancy tricks in After Effects in a few hours, or you could do it in Smoke in five minutes. And now, you can do it on a shiny, sexy Mac.

And so, a pair of Post Production Ninjas wandered down to the venue/pub for the launch/free beer. It was clear from the get go that Autodesk knew how to put on a product launch (take that, Apple). With our hands clutching generous helpings of Smoke for Mac brochures and finger food stolen from the buffet, we sat down for what would an extended yet highly entertaining run-through of just how Smoke works, on a Mac no less. Using real footage from a real television program, we were led through some of the very cool things Smoke can do. And we were certainly impressed. Not only can Smoke rotoscope and key as fast as it takes us to devour a tray of savoury pastries, it’s colour correction cube (in 10-bit no less) is freaking awesome and made us pee our pants a little. All in all, Smoke is intuitive, efficient and a pleasure to use.

After the launch, we were eager to get back to the bunker to download ourselves a trial version of Smoke and take it for a spin. The trial version does not check for specific hardware requirements; you can even run it on a Macbook Pro if you were that way inclined — although you’ll need a resolution of 1920 otherwise you’ll lose a few buttons on the sides. The full version of Smoke will require a Mac Pro that meets Autodesk’s requirements. Oh, and did we mention Sparks? The third-party plugins for Smoke? A lot of people have been asking about Sparks on the Mac, and it seems that Sparks are tentatively delayed for now. This, we were told, all depends on how warmly Smoke for Mac is received by the industry.

(Read: how many copies of Smoke for Mac are sold.) So there’s a fair chance we might see Sparks sometime this year. One can hope, right?

Of course, there is a price. $US14,995 to be exact. And that’s not including the annual subscription for $US1,995. Sounds pricey, yes, but not when you consider it used to cost upwards of $80,000 for one of these bad boys, you can hardly complain. And also consider Smoke could replace your Avid or Final Cut Studio, along with After Effects and possibly others, all on your existing Mac Pro, it’s not too unreasonable after all. Bringing Smoke into this mid-range price bracket is big news, and allows small to medium-sized post production houses the possibility of adding a Smoke in their arsenal; something that will surely pay for itself very quickly. Now if only we can convince Garion Hall the same thing!

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