There have been rumors and speculation floating around for a while that Autodesk was going to port their “effects-centric finishing” system Smoke over to the Macintosh platform. The rumors are true and the ever informative fxguide broke the story a few days ago. Yesterday they posted a new episode of fxguide tv, episode 72: An exclusive, in-depth look at the new Smoke on Mac from Autodesk. (iTunes link to subscribe to the podcast or watch their low bandwidth version here).This is the program to watch if you want a more broad overview of what Smoke is all about and the process of bringing the application to the Macintosh platform. There’s interviews with developers and executives from Autodesk as well as discussion of exactly what Smoke is and what some of the differences will be between the near $15,000 version of Smoke on Mac and the higher-end Linux version.

I don’t know a lot about Smoke but I have been in a number of online sessions using the platform over the years so I do know it as a very competent finishing system that can achieve great results in the hands of a good artist. Moving to the Macintosh can only open up some new spaces for Autodesk, be it supporting existing Smoke systems or or placing the platform into shops that haven’t traditionally had a dedicated effects and finishing system. There seems to be some discussion about how Smoke on Mac (or smack as some are calling it) will affect the Final Cut Pro market. I doubt there will be very many Final Cut Pro only owners who will pony up that kind of money for Smoke on Mac since there are so many FCP installs in one-man-band type of shops or low-end video production houses or corporate environments. But often you hear complaints about the Final Cut Studio suite itself in higher-end shops who do effects, color grading and finishing work. While the Final Cut Studio is perfectly capable of doing a lot of high-end finishing when coupled with the right hardware it’s still a very modular system with lots of sending to and from the different applications which can be ripe with problems. Smoke integrates most all of the finishing tools one might need right in one application. Think an Avid DS but with this new Mac version, more affordable. The fxguide video mentioned Smoke on Mac’s ability to work with the ProRes codec. That may be the magic bullet for Smoke on Mac that gets it into a number of production and post houses. As more Canon 5Ds, 7Ds, RED ONEs (and Scarlets, maybe someday) and that level of affordable camera moves into the world the more people will standardize on the ProRes codec. Being able to natively working with ProRes, without the need to transcode to uncompressed or to another proprietary codec, will be a very good selling point for the production/post company who wants to keep all the work in-house. It’s also a great selling point for a dedicated post house to be able to take an XML from a Final Cut Pro project and a hard drive full of files and be able to efficiently and properly do high-end finishing work for clients who can’t or don’t desire to do their own. That happens all the time with FCP and the Final Cut Studio right now. The post house buys and maintains Final Cut Studio with Blackmagic and AJA cards, properly hi-def monitoring and HDCAM decks and employs the talent to properly use it so others don’t have to. The director or production company shoots their job on RED or 5D, does the offline edit and rough graphics on their own FCP system and then brings it to the post house for final and proper finishing … to use a print industry term, the service bureau for the modern digital video age. Adding Smoke on Mac might save a lot time and stress. And $15,000 isn’t that expensive when compared to other finishing systems like an Avid DS, Quantel or even Autodesk’s own offerings. Autodesk is going to get a lot of interest in this product. I bet it will be all over their next NAB booth.

I wonder if Autodesk will offer a free trial of Smoke, like they do for a number of their other products? That would be a great way to get people playing with Smoke on their Macintosh. Click over to Autodesk’s Smoke website for more on Smoke’s features as well as demonstration and training videos.