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Autodesk Reimagines Smoke as Bold New VFX/Editorial Hybrid

At $3500, with Lower System Requirements, it Runs on an iMac

Taking direct aim at the pro video editorial and effects market, Autodesk today announced a new version of Smoke that combines track-based editorial and other standard editing conventions with its trademark compositing tools, letting both editors and compositors create high-level visual effects within a single application. The new version features a boldly redesigned user interface that will fit more easily into editorial facilities running Smoke but also Final Cut Pro and/or Avid Media Composer.

In addition to the new UI, Autodesk has slashed Smoke's price from just under $15,000 to $3,495—the same price as current 2013 versions of 3ds Max and Maya—and lowered the system requirements necessary to run the software on a Mac. Smoke will now be able to run on laptops and iMacs as well as on a 12-core Mac Pro for more effects-intensive work.

"I think it's easy for manufacturers to simply drop the price on technology and hope it sells to a new market," said Autodesk's Marc Hamaker, senior marketing manager, who spoke to StudioDaily prior to the announcement today. "But we really tried to go back and rethink everything, from the way editors interact with the UI to the way the tools are integrated into the editorial workflow, on down to the price. We think the result is going to be pretty revolutionary because it connects the process of editorial with FX in a way that's never been connected as tightly before. It's really an all-in-one solution."

Hamaker said that combining editorial and effects features into a single, task-based creative workflow will help editors more easily navigate Smoke because the software now "works the way editors think." During early and often "tumultuous" research with editors in the field, he said, it soon became clear that the familiar track-based editing interface needed to become an essential part of a reimagined application. "We know how to make great keys and color-correctors and compositing tools," he said. "What's the secret of making them easily accessible to the broadest number of people? Editorial was at the core of that." Hamaker also explained that coming to the Mac and iOS in general was a "big company initiative" for the past 12 months.

Taking a page from Flame and its other visual effects competitors, Autodesk has added robust node-based compositing, called "ConnectFX," inside the timeline to bring high-end effects and advanced compositing more seamlessly into the editorial environment. Hamaker said Autodesk has been very interested in what Thunderbolt can do on the Mac and how it will expand the number of available workstations in a typical compositing environment. The new version can also now render compressed media, as well as go through RGB, opening the way to systems like an iMac running on Thunderbolt-enabled Pegasus RAID from PROMISE Technology.

Files and projects are managed in a new Media Hub that lets users work natively in common formats from ingest to edit, through effects and on out to archiving."If you pull in a RED Raw file, for example, you will be able to see all the color science immediately," said Hamaker.

Smoke is scheduled to begin shipping this fall, but Hamaker said a pre-release trial will be available as early as June. Unlike the standard 30-day trial, this version will be operable for the full three months prior to the official release.

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