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Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?

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Curtis Schmidt
Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 12:15:37 am

I run a post facility and am trying to figure out where to spend my money. We do a lot of color correction and want to get more serious about it. I love everything that smoke 2013 offers and I love the all-in-one solution. We do some compositing, but want a good final assembly box. But am I shooting myself in the foot on the color correction when I should be investing in Resolve? Is it possible to get the same high level of color correction out of Smoke?


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walter biscardi
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 1:53:55 am

Well considering that Resolve is free up to 1080 workflows, so it's not much to invest in. BUT keep in mind that right now Resolve only runs on BlackMagic and Smoke only runs on AJA products. So that's an issue to consider.

I am really looking forward to the all in one solution myself and for most of our work, I'm thinking the Color Warper will do the job. But at the moment the Warper is limited to three secondaries, Resolve is infinite in this regard.

In reality, Resolve is going to be infinitely more flexible in the creative aspect of color grading. So what I'm thinking is that for probably 80% of our work, Color Warper is going to work just fine, for that other 20%, we're really going to need Resolve.

Depending on how easy / hard the workflow is to get from Smoke to Resolve, that will probably still be our primary color grading tool. I'm hoping the workflow will be pretty easy to make that work.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Juan Salvo
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 2:14:52 am

If its anything like it was in 2012 it'll be pretty tricky. The simplest way is with the "publish" function, which basically exports your media out to a dpx sequence and then links your timeline to it. So changes to that media get updated in your smoke project. But I haven't seen many using this.

Most of the smoke finishing I see gets a grade pass before going to smoke, as it's far easier to grade first in those instances than try to get a project out of smoke to grade elsewhere. The one exception being Lustre which obviously works pretty well.

We shall see soon enough with regards to 2013.

As for quality of grading. In all likelihood it'll be similar, the color warp tool is fine. But if you want to for example apply a mask to a color correction (or a power window) it would require several complicated steps in smoke, but just a couple of clicks in Resolve.

There's a reason people finishing in smoke frequently do a color correction pass in baselight or resolve before going to smoke. Just like you "could" grade in after effect (or even fcp)s, it's not really the right tool for the task, and things tend to go smoother when you use the right tool.

Online Editor | Colorist | Post Super | VFX Artist | BD Author

http://JuanSalvo.com


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Brian Mulligan
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 12:19:58 pm

[walter biscardi] "I am really looking forward to the all in one solution myself and for most of our work, I'm thinking the Color Warper will do the job. But at the moment the Warper is limited to three secondaries, Resolve is infinite in this regard."

With ConnectFX you can have endless secondaries, as well as masks and tracking. Just connect the output of once CW to another, set a context at the output.

Brian Mulligan
Senior Editor - Autodesk Smoke
WTHR-TV Indianapolis,IN, USA
Twitter: @bkmeditor


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walter biscardi
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 12:50:57 pm

[Brian Mulligan] "With ConnectFX you can have endless secondaries, as well as masks and tracking. Just connect the output of once CW to another, set a context at the output.
"


The only difficulty there is when you want to make changes and you have to step back through multiple layers of the tool. If you're already at that three secondary limit on the first of three iterations of the Warper, but you want to insert a change between secondaries 1 and 3, you can't and then you have to figure out how to manage that through three iterations of the tool.

So I would caution against trying to get too crazy with something like this and if you really have to go crazy in depth color grading, stay with a dedicated color app like Resolve. Even the folks at Autodesk have said the color warper, while extremely good, is limited by the secondaries right now. The good news is it seems Smoke 2013 will be really good for exporting XMLs so we should be able to easily get our timelines from Smoke to Resolve for color grade.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Juan Salvo
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 16, 2012 at 3:06:54 pm

[walter biscardi] "The good news is it seems Smoke 2013 will be really good for exporting XMLs"

This is huge news! That's great to hear as it's a big change from what Autodesk has done in the past. More excited than ever to see the 2013 beta go live!

Online Editor | Colorist | Post Super | VFX Artist | BD Author

http://JuanSalvo.com


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Joel Osis
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 12:06:17 am

i'm gonna have to agree with Brian,

using connect fx and using each colour corrector for a specific secondary, and if need be using logic ops to blend the grades together, its really no different than having to manage a node tree in Davinci, but smoke you can add fx and other good stuff,

Of course Davinci will give you more fine control/sensitivity when grading


w: http://www.joelosis.com
e info@joelosis.com


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Alexander Higgins
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 4:41:02 pm

[Brian Mulligan]With ConnectFX you can have endless secondaries, as well as masks and tracking. Just connect the output of once CW to another, set a context at the output.

This workflow is how FLAME becomes a color corrector and a finishing tool. BUT from a Client side, watching a grading session, using the BatchFX or Batch way, now in Smoke called ConnectFX, is slow and cumbersome and somewhat annoying.

If you are just Color Correcting for yourself thats fine, but the way you grade in Resolve is how it should be done. The stacking of nodes as you do in Flames BatchFX, IMHO, is not grading but compositing. EVEN though RESOLVE has nodes, Batch/Connect is a comp tool.

You will also do the same thing in about 10 times more clicks, maybe 100 times more clicks(when pulling keys and bringing in Mattes), than in Resolve.

FRONT, BACK, MATTE. Repeat.
FRONT, BACK, MATTE. Repeat.
FRONT, BACK, MATTE. Repeat.

I don't miss that at all..


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Brian Mulligan
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 7:02:35 pm

So one question I have since everyone is throwing Resolve around. Are people using Resolve Full or Resolve Lite? I see lots of people talking about XMLing in to Resolve from FCPX and Premiere.

So I can assume it's just the lite version. A great move by BlackMagic to toss out this free app that seems very robust. I guess they hope to sell full versions or lots of interface controllers.

Brian Mulligan
Senior Editor - Autodesk Smoke
WTHR-TV Indianapolis,IN, USA
Twitter: @bkmeditor


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Juan Salvo
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 8:07:14 pm

I'm sure there are more lite installations than full installations floating around (on full myself), but I'm not sure what your point is. All versions of resolve are able to accept XML from fcp7, Premiere, and fcpx as well as AAF from avid. In additionan resolve is able to export XML back out. It's a great workflow for round tripping to a dedicated color correction app from any NLE.

I understand that Smoke intends for you to do all your finishing in one app, and that's great for 90% of use cases. But what about that 10% where you'd be better of in a dedicated app? Wouldn't it be helpful if Smoke supported the same level of import/export interchange as all the other NLEs

Online Editor | Colorist | Post Super | VFX Artist | BD Author

http://JuanSalvo.com


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walter biscardi
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 8:26:33 pm

[Brian Mulligan] "So one question I have since everyone is throwing Resolve around. Are people using Resolve Full or Resolve Lite? I see lots of people talking about XMLing in to Resolve from FCPX and Premiere."

It doesn't matter, they're both the same application. The only difference is the full version supports resolutions beyond 1080. Other than that, they're identical. Unlimited nodes, etc...

For our shop here, I have no reason to even purchase the full version any longer since we only do up to 1080. If we need to go beyond that, well that's an easy $1000 purchase to upgrade to the "full version."

Calling it "Resolve Lite" is actually a misnomer, since it's the fully featured app. Download for free, add a Tangent Wave or Element and you have an absolutely AMAZING color grading tool for next to nothing. AND it's cross platform.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Brian Mulligan
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 17, 2012 at 8:30:38 pm

I'm not against Resolve, or Smoke having XML out. And I guess that since Resolve is both FREE and GOOD for 1080 makes it the tool of choice as a dedicated grading app.

Brian Mulligan
Senior Editor - Autodesk Smoke
WTHR-TV Indianapolis,IN, USA
Twitter: @bkmeditor


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David Jahns
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 18, 2012 at 8:44:43 pm

The Color Warper is a very good tool - but it good be a GREAT tool with some minor improvements.

The biggest problem with it, in my opinion, is not that there are only 3 secondaries - I'm fine with that, and adding a 2nd pass on an adjustment layer above, if necessary. The problem I have with the Color Warper secondaries is that they a qualifier secondaries only - no masks. So adding a vignette, or highlighting a face, or any region, etc... - this always requires a duplicate media layer or adjustment layer. It seems like it would be quite simple to add the GMASK tool to the secondaries, and your 3 secondaries could be masks, qualifiers, or a combination of the two.

And if you want to isolate an actresses' red lips, but not the red flower behind her - there's no way to do that from within the CW. You'd add another layer, then mask her face, then do the CW with only the secondaries enabled.

And the qualifier module - the Diamond Keyer - I don't find as intuitive as the traditional HSL keyers. I can usually get it to work, but I've not developed the intuition and muscle memory that I had with Apple Color's HSL keyer.

The other thing that drives me nuts is when I do create a mask on a duplicate or adjustment layer - there's no quick and easy oval or square preset to start from. You can either draw from scratch, or start with a "SMPTE wipe" (which is an animated mask), (I have my default set to be SMPTE 120 Oval shape), but then it's another few clicks to reset the animation parameters. Not a huge deal, but a far cry from Resolve's one-click "Add Node".

One of the first things I will try out with Connect FX is to do a basic grade, add another Gmask and CW node to see if this is an easier workflow.

And then there's the rendering. A proper Resolve system will eat Smoke's lunch for real-time performance. I'm surprised at how often I need to render in Smoke Mac 2012 - with 32 GB of Ram, Quadro 4000 card, Kona 3, RAID - all very properly configured, but once I start adding layers and masks, I see "Preview Unavailable" on my broadcast monitor much more often than I expected to.

Since I'm usually doing TV spot work - the renders are not too time consuming, and I definitely prefer staying in Smoke to do all of the finishing work.

But if I'm doing a longer piece that needs mostly grading, I'll still prefer to use a dedicated grading app and round trip. (And since I'm using a KONA 3, I'm not able to use Resolve, so yes, I'm still using Apple Color for some projects.)

So - here's the takeaway...

Smoke is an "everything" tool - but it's not realistic for anyone to expect it to be THE BEST at everything. Any system dedicated to doing one thing, like Resolve, or Mocha, or Nuke, is going to allocate resources and interface design to doing that one thing, and it's probably going to do it very well.

And if you have all of the time in the world, and multiple systems with matching hardware for each app - why not use the best tool for each task? Sure - I wish I lived in that world!

But if I have a 4 hour client supervised session for a TV finish that has to do color, compositing, tracking, cleanup, etc. - and create HD & SD tape masters before the Fedex pickup - it is absolutely the tool that I want to be using - even when it was $15k.

If Adobe gets their Speed Grade integrated as well as AE/PP Dynamic link (and their SDI & Tape output rock solid), then it might be a contender for an all-in-one system, but right now, Smoke is , in my opinion, the best all-in-one solution available for finishing.

And I'm hoping Smoke 2013 is even better. I'm super psyched about Connect FX and the new Project & Media structures.

Throw in a planar and 3d tracker, and g-masks in the color warper (Smoke 2014?) - and Smoke will be unstoppable.

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR


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Dan Stewart
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 25, 2012 at 2:29:51 pm

David -
Does being restricted to an iMac change that perspective at all?



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walter biscardi
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 25, 2012 at 2:36:58 pm

[Dan Stewart] "Does being restricted to an iMac change that perspective at all?"

What's restricted to an iMac? Mac Pros are still available.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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David Jahns
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on May 25, 2012 at 4:27:59 pm

"[Dan Stewart] "Does being restricted to an iMac change that perspective at all?""

Too soon to say. (WARNING: Pure speculation ahead!)

I haven't given up entirely on a more powerful Mac system. I find it hard it to believe autodesk designed their future pro video strategy without knowing some insider info about Apple's hardware plans.

The WWDC starts June 11 - if they officially kill the MacPro without a replacement, (or if they don't say anything at all), then I might start to worry.

If Apple does abandon the high end market, it will be interesting to see what Autodesk does with Smoke. Supposedly the port from Linux to Mac is much easier than going to Windows, but if there are no powerhouse machines to run Mac (without hacking), then I think they'll be forced to look at a Windows version. But that wouldn't be until 2014 at the earliest, I'm sure. (Maybe BlackMagic had insider info and decided to create the Windows version of Resolve based on that?)

All that being said, Smoke on iMacs with AJA Thunderbolt hardware and RAIDs were running pretty smoothly at NAB, so who knows? Maybe that would work in the real world, too?

David Jahns
---
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR


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Michael Lansdell
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on Aug 30, 2012 at 1:41:38 pm

Hi Brian,

You post came up whilst searching for this - and I'm sure I won't be the only one scratching their heads about it this - but how do you track within the ConnectFX view of Smoke? I can track on the timeline just fine, but for the life of me I'm stuck trying to do it within ConnectFX.

Sorry, I know this is a bit off topic, but hopefully someone will read this and know the answer!

Best wishes,

Michael


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Ken LaRue
Re: Smoke 2013- a good professional color corrector or not?
on Aug 30, 2012 at 2:13:27 pm

The tracking tools in CFX are available in multiple places in CFX depending on what you are trying to achieve. You can use the 2D Transform tool which has the same tracking/stabilization tools as in the Axis tool plus more and in the Action node. Any tool that has transformation parametres will have access to the tracking/stabilization tools.

I recommend you watch the videos Grant Kay has created on his Blog. http://area.autodesk.com/blogs/discreetuk While some of these videos were created with earlier versions of Smoke (prior to 2013) they are still very valuable in learning. They are also available on YouTube.

Ken LaRue
Autodesk Smoke Technical Marketing Manager


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