There has been more than enough talk from editors and post production people about what editing system to use since Apple delivered FCPX roughly 6 months ago. Many FCP faithful are sticking to version 7, some pioneers are braving the new frontier with FCPX, others have moved to Adobe Premiere CS5 and other seeing great things again from Avid with Media Composer 6. The one system that no one is really talking about is Autodesk Smoke. Now sure, Smoke is 15x the cost of Apple, Adobe and Avid. So is it really fair to include it in this group? Well, I say yes. I only want to address Smoke as an editing and post production tool and not what makes sense in a business model. I am an editor and a content creator, not a businessman. I just want focus on Smoke as a tool for editors.
Smoke is still fairly new product on the Mac. It’s was first released for the Mac in December of 2009. And since then has had 5 releases including the Subscription Pack Advantage releases which are also known as “Extension” releases. Basically, they are [.5] additions to the main yearly release. The current cost of Smoke does place it out of the range of most people. But with the Mac releases, it has the potential to grow into all new areas. Many post production facilities that are currently running FCP7, Premiere or Avid can take advantage of the advanced toolsets that Autodesk Smoke has to offer. That, along with the 3 year Free Education Licensing that’s available, student editors/filmmakers can get access and exposure to Smoke as an editor and a post production finishing tool.
So why aren’t people talking about Smoke as an editor of choice? Well, Smoke has never really been positioned as an editor. It is a Finishing product. It’s the product that you take your offline edit that you made in FCP, Premiere, or Avid and via XML, or AAF, conform your cuts and use all of Smokes tools to polish and finesse the edit with keying, tracking, grading, compositing, and effects. You might clean up backgrounds, fix and stabilize shots, replace skies or monitor screens. These are things that you might be able to do in the other system with some plugins or additional software. But Smoke allows you to do it all in one place, in one box, and at uncompressed quality. However, not many people do the creative editorial on Smoke. It’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just that the old school offline/online post house paradigm and the traditional cost of Smoke (approx $60,000+ on Linux as a turnkey system) never placed Smoke in that role. But now, on Mac, it can be more accessible. I am confident that the cost of Smoke for Mac will decrease as time goes by. It wasn’t too long ago that Maya was over $10,000.
The major roadblock now is education about Smoke. I have tweeted with many respected industry editors and post production people about Smoke and how I use it as both an editor and a finishing system. And to my surprise, they are in the dark about the possibilities and workflow of using Smoke as a creative editor and doing offline cutting and online finishing simultaneously. I have been an editor on Smoke for over 6 years. I have used Smoke to edit from scratch promos, commercials, short feature stories, graphics, and long form programming at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, Indiana. Honestly, if I can do it, everyone can do it. Until recently people haven’t had access to Smoke, now they can.
So I thought I would start this blog and post some workflow videos, explanations, tips and tricks for using Smoke for Mac, as well as Smoke Advanced on Linux. I am a bit of a fan boy for Smoke, because it does allow me to edit with speed and quality, and has helped me create a unique career as an editor in local broadcasting. It has opened many doors and exposed me to great people and great things. I hope others that check out this blog and develop a clearer understanding of what Smoke is and what it has to offer.