101 Burning Questions Answered about Smoke 2013
Posted by Brian Mulligan on June 19, 2012
Posted in: Editing, Smoke. Tagged: Smoke. Leave a Comment
Autodesk Smoke is now available in its first Pre-Release Trial. I am sure you have many questions, so here are a few answers. I have been a beta tester for Smoke 2013, and have been a long time user.
So beyond that, I have no inside knowledge of the development decisions.
Since this is PreRelease1 and Smoke 2013 is still in development many of these answers might change. There are plans to update the trial versions throughout the next few months as more and more features are developed for the final release. If you want to download a copy click here for the Pre-Release trial. Now, on to the questions…
1. Does Smoke support a dual-monitor setup?
Smoke 2013, like the legacy versions have always been designed for a single monitor. The buttons and actions in the UI are contextual and will change depending on the tool you are using.
2. Does it support broadcast monitors?
Yes. Smoke supports a broadcast output via AJA Kona3 and 3G cards as well as Thunderbolt via the AJA ioXT. You can also use DVI output via your graphics card.
3. What broadcast I/O cards does Smoke support?
Smoke currently use the AJA Kona 3 and 3G cards, and the AJA Thunderbolt IO XT. Smoke currently does not support Blackmagic or Matrox IO devices.
4. Since you support AJA is the AJA T-Tap supported?
It’s a good bet that eventually the T-Tap would be supported. That’s just a guess from me – and it makes sense. But since it is a new product as well, it remains to be seen if it will be supported in the final release of Smoke 2013.
5. Can Smoke use FireWire or eSata storage?
Actually almost any storage device can be used even USB. The speed of which will determine the real-time speed of clip playback. Via Firewire or eSata you should set your storage up to use Prores intermediates to get the most out of your bandwidth.
6. Is it compatible with Thunderbolt storage?
Yes. The Promise Pegasus arrays work quite well with Smoke 2013 and were used at NAB during the demos. Any other Thunderbolt storage like G-Raids would also work.
7. How does Smoke integrate in a post facility with shared storage?
Smoke uses a Standard File system (StandardFS) so it will integrate well with shared storage devices. Smoke will create it own Media Storage folder and it is here that Smoke will render frames and manage the media. But it is an open file system that is accessible by any other system.
8. Is Smoke compatible with XSAN, Unity or EditShare?
Yes. Smoke is built on Mac OSX, so if the mac can network to the storage then Smoke can use it to read and write.
9. Can Smoke run on a Macbook Pro, Macbook Air or iMac?
You can install Smoke on MacPro early 2008, early 2009, and mid 2010.
And on MacBookPro Early 2010 and early/late 2011, and on iMacs Late 2009, and Mid 2010, 2011. A Macbook Air should also be supported.
10. What OSX versions are supported?
Smoke is supported under OSX 10.6.7, 10.6.8 and Lion.
11. What graphics card does Smoke work with ATI or Nvidia?
Smoke works with both ATI and Nvidia cards. Currently CUDA cards are not required. Even though Smoke uses GPU processing, it uses Open GL.. Hardware AA levels are very much dependent on the card.
12. Do I need to use a Wacom pen and tablet to run Smoke?
It is no longer a “best practice” to use Smoke with a Wacom Intuos tablet, but you are still welcome to do so as it is still supported. Many functions in the UI use Right-Click contextual menus, which work well with both a mouse or pen.
13. Do you support external control services?
Smoke supports the Avid Artist Series control panel for editing and color.
14. Can you import timelines from Avid/FCP/Premiere?
You can import AVID .AAF, FCP XML, FCPXML from FCPX, and .AAF from Premiere. In PreRelease1 XML from PremierePro is messy, so it’s best to use .AAF. Grant explains the timeline importing features in this video. EDL is also supported.
15. Can you import footage captured in another software?
Yes, if Smoke supports the codec it was captured in. Prores, DNxHD, and .MXF are all supported formats. As well as many other Quicktime and .MXF codecs.
16. Does it replace Avid/FCP/Premiere?
In my opinion it can. But these programs can work together. The editing workflows have been completely reworked in Smoke 2013, so it can be used to work on a project from Import, to Editing, through Grading, and to Export. But you can also use Smoke to import XML and AAF files and conform from an NLEs to perform Finishing, Color and Effects work.
17. Does Smoke support DSLR footage?
Yes. h.264 from Canon and Nikon in Quicktime format are supported. Although in the first prerelease of Smoke there’s a bug may prevent playing H.264 clips backwards.
18. Can you import layered Photoshop files?
Yes. PSD files can be imported through Action (Smoke’s compositing environment) and ConnectFX as complete composites, and ready for animations. Or you can import all layers separately, with alphas via the MediaHub and used on the timeline via Axis effects. Action supports all of the Photoshop blend modes for compatibility.
The Action Import workflow is very slick as seen here.
19. Does Smoke work for on-set editing?
Smoke can be used on a MacBookPro, with portable storage. In worst cases you can use the system drive as media storage. Depending on needs, Smoke can be used with proxy files to quickly cut clips, or do Keying tests on-set.
20. Can you capture video from a VTR?
Yes via the KONA 3 or 3G cards or Thunderbolt via AJA ioXT Currently IO is still under development and not available in Pre-Release 1
21. Can you output to a VTR?
Yes, using the same options as above.
22. Does Smoke support up/down/cross conversion?
Smoke supports many tools for file conversion. Pulldown options are available in the Legacy 2012 version of Smoke for tape capture. There are other resize tools via the timeline and ConnectFX.
23. Can I export finished edits to the web?
The is no direct export to the web, but Smoke does export in a wide variety of Quicktime codecs for web delivery, as well as a web browser export function called WiretapCentral(WTC). WiretapCentral uses a web browser interface to browse, play, and export clips from any Smoke project. WTC has more web friendly formats available for export.
24. Is ConnectFX compatible with Flame?
Yes. Nodes that are Flame specific will be read-only in Smoke. Note that for the first prerelease trial, there is limited compatibility between the new Smoke and current/previous versions of Autodesk Flame and Smoke software.
25. Can you modify keyboard shortcuts?
Smoke has 3 keyboard shortcut configurations to choose from when you create a new user: Smoke (FCP) will use FCP7 editorial shortcuts. Smoke Classic uses the Smoke 2012 hotkeys, and Flame for those familiar with Autodesk Flame or Flame Premium. There is also a Shortcut editor to modify or create your own shortcuts.
26. Can you modify the interface?
Yes and No. You can’t add or replace buttons or menus, but the interface is very flexible in it’s layout. Panels are easily resizable and moveable.
27. What resolutions can I work with in Smoke?
Smoke supports standard resolutions from 4K to SD. Non-standard frame sizes are also supported up to 8K in clip generation and Action resolution, but I was able to import a 10,000 pixel x 10,000 pixel .psd file.
28. Can I run other apps at the same time as Smoke? Like Photoshop?
Smoke can use a lot of your systems resources, but you can Hide and minimize Smoke and open up other programs. It works the same as any other program in OSX.
29. How video streams can Smoke playback in real-time?
Smoke can playback multiple streams of video, but this is really dependent on storage speed and file size. Many effects on the Smoke timeline like Color Correct, and Transitions can playback in real-time.
30. Where are Smoke Project files stored?
Smoke project files are stored on the system drive in /usr/discreet/project… but there isn’t a single project file like Premiere Pro, or FCP. There is a complex database that controls clip metadata and saved setups. Even though the project file is on the system drive, there is no loss in performance as it’s just a database.
Project metadata is stored on the system drive in /usr/discreet/project and the clip metadata is stored in /usr/discreet/clip. There is a high speed database that associates clip metadata to the actual media located on the media drive.
31. Can 2 editors work on the same project with the same clips?
Previous versions of Smoke allowed editors to share projects across a network connection when working on the same release version of Smoke. When on the same network, editors could share a project by a feature known as “remote access”. Images and metadata were delivered to remote computers over the network connection, so performance was highly dependent on network. The only limitation was that access was provided on a first come/first serve basis and editors would be put into read-only mode for individual clip collections that were in use by another editor. The remote access feature hasn’t been added to the Smoke pre-release trial version #1, and there’s been a lot of work to video I/O and clip management, but let’s hope there’s a similar workflow in the final version of Smoke 2013.
32. What actually IS a project?
A project is a job based working environment, where users can import material, perform editorial operations, clip playback, and media management.
Projects contain setup and effects information and clip metadata. The media is separate from the project as it can be managed or linked media. The only way to copy or save a project to move it from one system to another is to Archive it, although individual source clips and entire sequences including layers and rendered effects can be moved over a network connection between two computers using a networking protocol named ‘Wire’. Archive and Wire are not currently available in Pre-Release1
33. What happens if your media doesn’t match the Project settings?
The project settings are really just a starting point, and will create default resolutions for effects nodes in ConnectFX. You can create new sequences of any resolutions, even if they differ from your project. Clips that different from the project settings may need different sync, actual or free, to output properly to broadcast.
34. What happens if you try to capture media that doesn’t match Project settings?
All media setting are independent of the project settings or even the sequence settings. Imported or captured media will remain unchanged.
35. Unlike FCP where a single project file is created, Smoke creates a bevy of project-related files. What’s the advantage of your system of multiple files?
Although it may seem as a disadvantage to create multiple folders as part of the project folder structure, it is advantageous in that saved effects setups are easily located as they will be saved in their named folder by default. For example, Color Warper effects will be saved in a Color Warper folder. So that when you go to load a saved effect, the node goes to it’s default location and only shows you the Color Warper saved effects. This folder structure also makes it easy for you to find saved effects in another project to use it in your current project.
36. Do you recommend ProRes for Smoke, or a different codec for high-quality editing?
Personally, if you have the bandwidth and a fast storage array, I would work in DPX frames for maximum quality. Smoke has traditionally always worked in DPX frames. Smoke 2013 brings Prores as an intermediate codec format to allow users who want to stay prores throughout the project to do so. They can transcode to prores upon import, edit, render, and export. Prores is a compressed file format, and a good one. So Smoke is flexible to allow you to work in as much quality as your system will allow.
37. Does Smoke support Stereoscopic 3D?
Using the Smoke stereoscopic workflow, you can edit, conform, visualize, and composite stereo material. Clips that you use in the Smoke stereoscopic workflow can contain stereo tracks or both stereo tracks and monoscopic tracks.
A stereo track contains one left eye layer and one right eye layer. Editorial rules specific to stereo tracks help you treat the left and right eye layers as one entity.
Monitoring can be Anaglyph, Interlaced, or Dual-Output.
38. Do you use the GPU on non-Mac Pro Macs?
GPU usage is obviously dependent on your hardware. Integrated video cards in Macbook Pros are limited, and therefore GPU usage is limited. I noticed no difference in rendering speed between CPU and GPU rendering on my MacbookPro with an ATI 6750M. Therefore, I can assume that when GPU processing is unavailable, it switched over to CPU. GPU is also used in nodes to allow for more interactive performance.
39. What New Project settings CAN’T be changed after the project is created?
You can’t change the projects name or media volume if you have multiple storage devices. You also can’t change the proxy status on/off or proxy quality. However, you can do this in Legacy 2012, so it may return. You can change the default frame size, and intermediate render format. So you can render in Prores Proxy while editing, and then re-render everything as Prores 4444 for a final render.
40. What purpose is served by the Config template?
The config template sets up the required sync and broadcast timings and framerate for the project to display proper outputs. If you aren’t using video I/O, you can consider the config template to be a default setting for new sequences, video generators (noise, color bars) and timecode.
41. What if we are not using a video monitor?
You are not required to have a broadcast monitor or sync for Smoke. I would use the _free.cfg templates for the video format you are matching your project resolution to. The broadcast output options in Preferences will be disabled.
42. If Projects are accessible using the Project popup button on the startup screen – what happens if you want to remove a project from the list – can you? How?
Projects can be removed, with options for removing effects setups, and media by going in to the EDIT option for the project. From there you can delete projects.
43. How many Video tracks can you have in the timeline?
You can have unlimited layers. But with the usage of ConnectFX for compositing, the need to use the timeline for vertical compositing isn’t needed as much as it is in other NLEs. With ConnectFX I can ‘layer’ 100 clips in Action, which will show up as one layer on my timeline.
44. What does the User Profile do?
The user profile will allow you to save your own personal Preferences settings, and shortcuts. There are also options for saving ConnectFX setups with the user, so that they regularly used effects can be used form project to project. The user profile also saves file navigation bookmarks in the MediaHub.
45. Can you open more than one project at a time?
No. But you can switch to another project in the FILE>Project & Users Settings. Also in the MediaHub, you will be able to browse another projects media library and copy clips and sequences into your current project. (This is currently unavailable in Pre-Release1)
46. When did we set the “Managed Media” folder? I don’t remember that as part of the New Project screen.
The Managed Media folder is created during the Smoke Install. This is the central location for all Smoke Projects to organize the Managed Media. In normal operation, you would never need to look in to this folder. You should just let Smoke manage the media. In the future, I would expect Smoke to have multiple Managed Media folders. This will enable you use different storage locations as needed. These would then be setup and selected during the creation of a Project. This feature is available in 2012, so I would think it would return by the Final Smoke Release.
47. In the Media Browser, I can review the media in a clip – can I set an In/Out to import a range?
Yes. You can play clips in the browser in the MediaHub, and import just sections of any .r3d, .mxf or .mov file for example.
48. Where is metadata stored?
All of the clip metadata or effects metadata is saved in /usr/discreet/clip… in this folder is a matching project folder that contains the metadata for Managed and Linked clips as well as render clips.
49. How do you save a complete project, effects, and media once you are finished?
Smoke has a very easy archive solution. (Not currently available in Pre-Release1)
You have options to do a compressed file archive, which can include all your managed and linked media and effects. Or you can choose to just archive the clip and effects metadata and copy the linked media to store it along with the archive.
50. Can you import clips directly from OSX Finder?
Yes, in a pinch you can drag and drop from finder into your media library. This media will always be linked media and you won’t have to option to create project media or adjust import metadata. But for a quick import, it works great.
51. I would like to use Resolve for color grading, can I export out an XML from Smoke to conform in Resolve?
The 2012 version of Smoke has a function called Publish. With Publish your timeline would be exported out as a file sequence, which you can import into Resolve. Many people have asked about XML outputs from Smoke. SO I am sure Autodesk is considering the best options during development. Publish as an option is not currently available in Pre-Release1
52. What are the trim tools in Smoke?
Smoke has all of the standard clip trimming tools on the timeline.
Slip, Slide, Ripple, Slide Cuts, Slide Keyframes, Ripple Replace, Align, Fit to Fill, etc.
53. Can you move Timelines across projects?
Yes. Through the MediaHub you will be able to browse sequences in other projects and copy them to the current project. (Currently unavailable in Pre-Release1)
54. Can I Copy/Paste clips from one Timeline to another?
Yes. Along with Copy/Paste you can also drag and drop clips in the Thumbnail viewer and copy them to new timelines.
55. Can I Copy/Paste clips from one project to another?
Project to Project workflows are still being developed. You will be able to move/copy clips between projects. It may be drag and drop vs copy/paste. But time will tell.
56. Can you jump to a specific TimeCode with the keypad, like in Avid or FCP?
Yes. Just enter the timecode in the TC field on the Viewer or in the sequence timeline.
57. Can you put markers in the timeline?
Yes. Markers can be color coded and labeled.
58. Is there a gap-detection tool, à la FCP?
Smoke 2012 has a timeline filter option, with it you can detect various parts of the timeline from effects, to clips, to transitions. I suspect that this tool is being redeveloped for 2013, so it remains to be seen.
59. How many undos does Smoke have?
Smoke can have up to 50 levels of undo. Some nodes are unique and only allow 1 level of undo.
60. Is there a History tool, à la Photoshop?
Undo has a history display so that you can jump back to a certain level.
Smoke 2012 had a function called Clip History that would keep track of process done to a clip. This functionality is no longer needed in Smoke 2013 since the redesign provided a timeline centric workflow. All effects are always live and editable. Nothing is committed, even after rendering. Effects metadata ravels with the clip, so a change can always been made to effects. History as it was known, is no longer needed.
61. Is there a multicam tool?
There is no Multicam function in Smoke. I would use another NLE to do the multicam and then import an XML or .AAF.
62. Does Smoke support closed captioning?
Not that I am aware of. HD closed captioning is metadata embedded into the file. Smoke doesn’t read this data on import nor embed it on export.
63. Does Smoke have a trim view?
Currently there is no trim view in Smoke. In the 2012 version there was a trim view mode, but it wasn’t very good. So I hope that it will reappear eventually as part of the editing redesign. Slip & Slide trimming can be seen in the Record viewer as you trim. The display is based on the positioner bar.
64. Can you collapse or nest layers in the timeline?
Yes. In Smoke it’s called a Container. You can take several clips on multiple layers and collapse them down. It’s also easy to uncontain them and edit within a container. Clips in the container can have effects on them as well as on the container itself.
65. What is New Version in the add tracks menu?
With Smoke you can have independent video tracks (multiple tracks) and you can select which version appears on output. So you can add a New Version track and copy your existing timeline to it, make a change, and then choose which one will be the output. So, you can have 2 versions of a spot, within 1 timeline sequence. It is also useful for conforming and matching a reference clip of a spot with the conform. You can also to split views and difference comparing between 2 Version tracks.
66. Can you copy/paste effects in the Timeline?
Yes. Effects can be moved to multiple clips in the timeline via copy/paste, and drag and drop. Effects can also be saved in folders in the Media Library.
67. Can you save comp setups and reuse them on other shots, in other projects?
Yes. ConnectFX setups can be saved with the user profile, which is available in any project or effects can be saved to a user created folder and recalled.
68. Are there Photoshop-like blending modes?
ConnectFX nodes support all of the Photoshop blending modes.
69. Can I burn-in TimeCode?
There is a BITC node in ConnectFX that you can add to your sequence or source clips.
70. Can I keyframe effects?
Yes. Smoke has a very robust way to move/edit/ keyframes via the channel editor. The channel editor contains both a tracks view and a curve view of your keyframes.
71. Do keyframes have bezier handles?
Yes. Handles can also be adjusted to Hermite, Smooth, Linear, & Constant.
72. Can you apply feather to masks and shapes?
Smoke has a very nice masking function called GMask. Hand-drawn as well as preset shapes are available, with variable feathering of the vertices.
73. Does Smoke support plug-ins?
Plugins for Smoke are called Sparks. Sparks are usable on the timeline as well as in ConnectFX. Genarts is the main and I think only developer of plugins for Smoke on the Mac. Genarts makes Sapphire plugins for Smoke. Smoke has many built in effects that may lessen the need for 3rd party plugins.
74. What are some of the plugin-type effects in Smoke?
ConnectFX is where you will find most of the cool effect nodes. The Damage Node is great for film looks, bad TV, and digital effects. Action contains a true 3D procedural lens flare tool. The Stylize node is a very powerful tool to turn you video into a sketch or paint style look. The usual Blurs, Glows, and Deform tools exist. The beauty about ConnectFX is that the node based compositor allows you to mix and match all of the nodes to create new and unique effects.
75. Can I save my timeline effects like presets?
Yes. Many nodes like Stylize and Action Lens Flares come with presets. You can easily create and save your own.
76. Can you import 3D models from 3DS Max, Maya, or Cinema 4D?
Yes. Smoke is a true 3D compositor and through Action, you can import FBX, 3DS, OBJ and Alembic 3D models. You can also texture and relight these models within your Action composite.
77. Is there an Auto Stabilize function to improve shaky shots?
Yes. There is a node in ConnectFX that you can use that will track and stabilize your footage.
78. Is there a 3D camera tracker?
Currently there is not a 3D camera tracker in Smoke. You can use other 3D trackers like Syntheyes and PFTrack, which can export out Action Camera data.
You can also use Matchmover in Maya to camera track as well.
79. What Chroma-Key tools does Smoke use?
Smoke has a very powerful and flexible keyer, which is accessible from almost anywhere in the software. Smoke has not just 1 keyer, but 8 keyers. The main keyer is the Master Keyer, it can handle almost any key with just a few clicks.
And when you need more refinement to a key, you can use the Modular Keyer in ConnectFX. This is a mini node based keyer with all the tools you need to isolate mattes and edges to get the best key on the hardest shots.
80. If I layer clips on the timeline with effects, can I move these clips in to ConnectFX and will it keep the effects I have or do I have to start over?
If you start doing some vertical compositing on the timeline and feel you need more… then you can simply select all of your clips and then add a ConnectFX and check the Generate Composite button. All of the effects you built on the timeline will become nodes linked to your clips.
81. Does Smoke have adjustment layers?
Yes. You can use any of the timeline effects on empty spaces in your timeline called GAPS. You can add effects, including ConnectFX to Gaps which will act like adjustment layers on the tracks below.
82. Can you save a title’s setup and apply it to other titles?
The TEXT title tool is both simple and complex. Yes, you can save the attributes of a text effect and apply both the look and animation to other text layers.
83. Can you share title setups with other users?
Yes. The fonts are pulled from the Mac system, so any user on the same system can easily load the font and setup. If you need to share setups across systems, you can setup a central network location for fonts so that all systems see the same directory. If a font is not found it will be replace with the default font.
84. Does Smoke use regular fonts?
Smoke can use Type-1, .ttf , and .otf fonts.
85. Is there a safe action/safe title overlay?
Yes. Smoke has many options for grids and guides. There are preset overlays for 16×9 and 4×3 as well as 16×9 with center-cut 4×3 frames. You can also create your own guides.
86. Can I open text files from Word or other text documents in the title tool?
You can open standard .txt files from inside the Text node. You can also use standard copy/paste from open files in OSX, and then paste them into an empty layer in the Text node.
87. Does Smoke have 3D text abilities?
Yes. 3D Text is created in the Action node, and you can extrude and create custom bevel profiles. 3D text can also be textured with any video clip. The Front, Bevel, and Back of a text can all be textured with separate elements. Smoke has many 3D text presets that are adjustable.
88. Can you animate text along a path?
Yes. You can animate and place text on a path with 2D text, and you can even have a path in 3D space within Action with 3D text. So you can animate text going around a subject shot in Chroma-key with ease.
89. Can you do a 5.1 or 7.1 mix?
Currently you can only do Stereo and Mono Mixes in Smoke.
90. Can you assign output channels to audio tracks?
Yes. Each audio track in Smoke can be routed to a specific audio output.
Smoke has 32 usable tracks mixed down to 16 channels output.
91. What kind of audio files can you import?
Smoke can handle all of the standard Audio files. .mp3, .wav (broadcast), .aiff. In 16,24,& 32 bit samples. All audio regardless of sample rate is converted to 48khz.
92. Does Smoke support audio plug-ins (VST, AU, AudioSuite)?
Smoke does not support audio plugins but does have many built in Audio tools for EQ, Compression, Modulation, and Reverb effects.
93. Can you export an OMF or AAF?
Previous versions of Smoke can export OMF files. In the 2013 Pre-Release1 this function is not available.
94. Can you sync double system sound with video clips?
Smoke doesn’t have an auto sync sound function built-in. You can use a 3rd party program like Singular software’s Dual-Eyes to sync your double system sound.
95. Is there a user manual?
Autodesk does not currently provide a printed user manual, but a pdf for 2013 is still in development. You can view the work-in-progress document.
96. Is there online help available?
There is online help available at the Autodesk Wiki for Smoke 2013.
97. Is it hard to learn Smoke?
Smoke 2013 has been redesigned to allow existing NLE users form FCP or Avid or Adobe to get started editing right away. Many editorial and workflow functions will be familiar concepts. For most users coming from other NLE’s, ConnectFX and the node based compositing will be the biggest learning curve.
98. Where can I find tutorials?
Grant Kay has been very busy making new tutorials for Smoke 2013. You can find these video tutorials on The Smoke Learning Channel on YouTube.
There are also some video tutorials at Smoke-Training.com
99. Can I enroll in a Smoke class?
Since Smoke 2013 is still under development and not officially released, there aren’t any official training classes available. Check the Autodesk training site for future class offerings. Also check FXPhd.com as they provide a wide variety of online classes including Smoke & Flame.
100. Is there Smoke community on-line?
There is a growing and active community for Smoke on The-Area, and on the Creative Cow forums. There is also a popular Facebook page.
101. Where can I download the Pre-Release Trial?
Click here to download your free copy of Smoke2013 to test out. The pre-release will valid to September 2013.