After six beta versions, whole forums full of user feedback and more obsessive demo re-watching than we’d care to admit to, it’s finally here: the release version of Autodesk Smoke for Mac 2013. Available for download from today, 2013 takes Smoke for Mac in a radical new direction: different price point, different GUI, same powerful effects and interoperability with Autodesk’s other M&E tools. But how impressive is the workflow?
Why all the hype around Smoke for Mac 2013?
Autodesk ported Smoke over to Mac a few years ago now, and ended up getting a pretty lukewarm response – the high-end post houses that were already using Smoke Advanced on Linux machines snapped it up, but those of us from a Final Cut or Adobe background probably didn’t know what it was and, given that it cost north of ten grand, didn’t really want to find out.
But Autodesk have played the long game. They’ve invested a huge amount of time and money in Smoke for Mac 2013, and ran a public beta programme that lasted months and spanned six versions – something I think was a great move. And based on what we’ve seen so far, there are plenty of reasons to think that they’ve got Smoke for Mac 2013 just right…
1. The completely re-designed GUI
The editor now actually looks like an editor. Anyone who’s cut in Final Cut, Premiere Pro or even Media Composer will know the setup – the FCP 7’s keyboard shortcuts are even available as a preset. However, Smoke for Mac isn’t just an editor or even a dynamically connected software suite like Adobe Production Premium – it’s everything in one programme. So with a couple of clicks on a clip, clips or sequence, you’re in a full 3D compositing environment, or you’ve got your colour grading tools onscreen, all without having to waste time switching apps.
The traditional Smoke interface was somewhat unique, but it was always really dynamic. In Smoke for Mac 2013, we can look forward to swipes/gestures, instant switching between Edit/Action/Colour and instantly-changing palette options.
2. It’s been optimised for Thunderbolt, iMacs and MacBook Pros
First things first: Smoke for Mac 2013 will happily run on pretty much any Mac, although obviously high-end users will always want to go for the best specs. Top end iMacs are on a par with mid-range Mac Pros these days, and have the native Thunderbolt connectivity you need to connect to fast local storage and I/O devices. Plus, the new 27” iMac coming with a 75% less reflective screen than any other Mac. If you fancy putting together a high-powered iMac workstation, you’ve got a few options, but it’ll still work on a standard config:
– Upgrade the CPU to a 3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, which’ll get up to 3.9GHz with Turbo Boost.
– Upgrade the RAM to 32GB of 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM.
– Upgrade the internal storage to a 3TB Fusion Drive (a 3TB HDD with 128GB Flash storage).
– Upgrade the GPU to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB GDDR5.
3. The ultimate 3D finisher/compositor for the most efficient 3D production pipeline
Unlike most other post applications, which fake 3D modelling by letting you move 2D objects in 3D space, Autodesk’s 3D expertise means that Smoke for Mac users can work in a true 3D compositing environment. This means you can carry out very realistic composites quickly, as you can tweak and polish lights and effects without having to re-render.
The majority of Connect FX effects and tools are aware of this, which will save you a load of time – your lights will cast real shadows and do other helpful things like shine through windows and gaps correctly. You can also import full 3D scenes as FBX files, which can be created by most pro 3D applications, so it’s likely that your existing 3D software will mesh happily with your Smoke for Mac pipeline.
4. Connect FX, Flame FX, node-based compositing and one of the best keyers in the business
Flame FX is a palette of high-end plugins that was originally only part of Autodesk Flame. However, Autodesk have been in a generous mood and have decided to share the joys of Flame FX with Smoke Advanced and Smoke for Mac users. Connect FX – better known as Batch – is another import from the bigger systems. It lets you create complicated, bespoke effects, save them and apply them to any clips.
Unlike applications such as After Effects, which use a layer-based workflow, Connect FX and Flame FX use nodes to add effects to your work. This means that you can see every stage of your clip’s evolution at a glance, and pick up on any mistakes far faster. Complex projects will begin to look much easier once you get into a node-based environment, especially any older projects you need to rework.
5. Smoke for Mac 2013 workstations can now assist your Smoke Advanced ones
If you’ve currently got a Smoke Advanced Linux setup, you can now open any of your projects in Smoke for Mac 2013. Any effects that aren’t available in Smoke for Mac will still be visible, but you won’t be able to edit them. However, pretty much anything you’d want for basic assist work is in Smoke for Mac 2013 anyway, so you can crack on with that busywork on your iMac rather than tying up your main suite.
6. It costs £3200 now
Autodesk Smoke for Mac 2013 will ship from a mere £3,200. This is still a big price, but it’s now in line with their 3D apps, which should hopefully help encourage people to take the jump and pick up this amazing application.
7. Autodesk Subscriptions
If you’re new to Smoke for Mac, you definitely want to buy it with an Autodesk Subscription. Autodesk subs guarantee you top notch tech support from your supplier (that’s us), free upgrades to the latest versions of Smoke for Mac and, in some cases, mean that you get access to new features in advance of non-subs customers. This used to cost £1,500– now its only £480. What’s not to love?
If you’re interested in Smoke for Mac 2013, get in touch – as an authorised Autodesk partner and one of the UK’s longest-serving suppliers of Apple kit, you’re going to be hard pressed to find someone more qualified then us to advise on your setup (or support it).