Smoke 2015: New Features, Pricing, and Products unveiled at NAB
At NAB this year, Autodesk revealed new features and a new pricing model for Smoke 2015. Here’s the quick scoop on what’s new for Smoke users.
- 3D Tracker inside Connect FX
- Direct access to Action from the Timeline, and other timeline effects improvements
- Improved integration with Final Cut Pro
- Better hardware support for graphics and I/O cards
- A new subscription and pricing model
Here are the features a bit more in depth.
New 3D Tracker
For the first time, Smoke users get the 3D Tracker feature that has been present on the higher end Flame and Inferno systems. This is a decent 3D tracking solution that you don’t have to go out of the box for. While it doesn’t work for everything, it does add to the toolset you have available with smoke, and not having to switch to another app for tracking saves you some time.
With this tracker in the app, you can generate a 3d Tracked camera and tracked points for your scene. Not only will you have the camera motion, but you can also use these points to pinpoint areas of your scene that you would like to lock an object to.
This is a nice feature certainly… it does feel like they’re playing “catch up with the competition”. They could have really set Smoke 2015 apart from After Effects (which has had a 3d Tracker for a couple of versions now), by including Projectors as an option, which is one thing AE doesn’t do really at all. Having the ability to do camera projections would have been a nice addition to the 3D Tracker function, as artists can do a lot more with set replacements and quick scene fixes. I’m finding more and more that as clients get more familiar with what Smoke and other shortform tools can do, they are asking for more things like this.
Here’s a rundown by Ken LaRue of some compositing inside Connect FX using the new 3D Tracker:
He also profiles an interesting free online tool by Autodesk called 123D Catch, found here: http://www.123dapp.com/catch
Rendering has improved in the Smoke timeline. You also have more features that you can access directly from the timeline, which adds to the things you can do in the top level of your edit without having to dive into Connect FX. These include blur and 2D Transform.
This is nice, especially the workflow and render improvements. Even in the higher-end tools, which have an even larger toolset that you can use in the timeline, I find that I go ahead and create a Connect FX pretty quickly and do the effects for the shot that way, since it gives you so much more flexiblity. If you have more than a few effects at a time on a segment, they are still isolated from each other and you don’t have the ability to pipe a matte from one to the other one, like I do all the time, and which Connect FX allows you to do.
Improved Integration with Final Cut Pro
This is a very nice step that I like to see. There is more ability to transfer timeline effects and metadata with Apple’s Final Cut Pro. You can now export a Smoke timeline as an XML file, with an option to include quicktime files. Smoke being on the mac platform certainly has helped with the integration of this, and we can probably expect more of this kind of thing in the future.
While I myself don’t use Final Cut, I give brownie points to developers that “play nice with others”. We live in a multi-platform, multi-app world, and we desperately need more handshaking between apps. While Autodesk has not done as well with this in the past (including their own FBX spec), it is very good that they put some effort into this. Our facility uses Avid to offline, and I would have liked to see more integration with that platform. This has sadly been very anemic for a number of years. (Case in point: we still use the ancient EDL as our consistent, go-to solution…. which is sad, considering it was created for an entirely different set of hardware than what we use now, hardware based consoles).
Improved Hardware Support
There is now support for Blackmagic DesignLink and UltraStudio cards, which opens up a lot more possibilities for using Thunderbolt devices.
There is also extended I/O functionality with AJA cards, so you can now do dual-stream stereoscopic output.
In addition, the software has been tweaked and optimized to run well on the new Mac Pro and with the Mavericks update for OS X.
New Pricing and Subscription Models
As the way we pay for and license software evolves, Autodesk is moving towards a selection of pricing options for Smoke, including monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription plans. This is the ONLY way to get Smoke now, as they are doing away with the “pay once, have it forever” perpetual license mode. There is a savings of more than $500 to customers who commit to Smoke for more than a year. Subscription pricing will be available starting May 8 on the Autodesk eStore for $195 SRP/month, $545 SRP/quarter, and $1,750 SRP/year.
While Autodesk says users like having a subscription option, I’m not sure whether they are on board with having no option for a permanent license at all… this seems a little like forcing the issue. However, due to the ever-changing landscape we find ourselves in, where we have to stay current to stay competitive, it may be the best option. I think Adobe’s Creative Cloud has proven that this can work for a lot of people, as they bring a great value and people get to benefit from current software when they need it.
What Do You Think?
How do you feel about the features, the new subscription model, and the price? Do you feel like it’s enough to justify going on subscription for this product, or are you planning on staying with Smoke 2013 a bit longer? Please feel free to voice your comments below.