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Multiple Editors and Media Management in Smoke?

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Aaron Sherry
Multiple Editors and Media Management in Smoke?
on Jul 1, 2013 at 6:02:28 pm

Hey all,

This is kind of a two part question:

1.) Specifically, how well does Smoke integrate multiple users on a project? Is it more FCP7/Adobe PPro or can it really support and handle a TV workflow like Avid?

...for example: FCP7 & PPro are built around a single, large "project file" which contains pointers to media- but when you import a sequence from another user's project (which is working with the same media), any media used in that imported sequence is treated as separate, unconnected media from the identical media which may already exists in your current project... That makes things clunky for shows that require multiple editors... wheras Avid is built around many smaller "bin files" which allow for the very rapid and easy sharing of edits and media- which all remains unified.

2.) Dovetailing off the first, specific question: I'm looking for more general input on Smoke 2013 working in a heavy duty professional environment with multiple editors on a show (not looking for fanboy flame wars, just honest, professional input on whether the tool can most efficiently do the job I need it to do). I'm managing multiple shows right now (mostly Avid, testing PPro on a documentary) and we're seriously considering expanding into a new facility- which means we can build from the ground up around one or multiple pipelines. I have an exec producer and post sup who are very forward thinking and we want to seriously consider either replacing Avid with Smoke or just adding a Smoke pipeline (As much as I might stump for Avid, it is the tool for right now that is often slow to adapt, as opposed to the tool for what the industry is becoming).

...Trick is that it's hard to justify "testing" a new product when you're on a budget and deadline, especially with a pricetag of over $3k per seat vs the tried and true Avid MC @ $1k. Smoke _looks_ very pretty & is very forward thinking- but I have no idea about how Smoke facilitates a real-world, fast paced environment with 10+ editors on 3 different shows. Obviously, no two programs are going to be identical & will require different workflows, so I'm open to new ways of working- but, again, am looking for input about the best tool for achieving the end result... that is, in my case, broadcast TV & Features which require multiple users to simultaneously contribute and deliver high end content quickly.

For example: I've found, with PPro, it doesn't have a real way of supporting multiple editors... and, additionally, we regularly find little features, normally common to every other Linear or NLE, that are missing or poorly implemented. This requires us to waste time and brainpower finding work-arounds or workflow changes... time and brainpower which would be better spent editing/working creatively to make a better product. My conclusion about PPro is not "it sucks", rather, that PPro is not the best tool for a multi-editor TV show, but is fine for smaller, single, one-off or AE integrated projects like commercials or music videos)... so, posted against that example- I suppose my question might be better posed as: What is Smoke's most efficient use and how does that fit in with my needs?

(oh, also, if someone else posted a thread about this already, please point me in that direction...)

Thanks everybody!

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David Jahns
Re: Multiple Editors and Media Management in Smoke?
on Jul 8, 2013 at 10:46:39 pm

Hi Aaron.

I've been using Smoke as a finishing system for about a year and a half now. We've just expanded from one Smoke to 3, so I'm also keen to figure out this project sharing workflow. In our case, we have 8 offline edit systems, using either Avid or FCP 7, (also testing PPro as an FCP replacement), and we'll move projects from offline editing into online with Smoke.

I've been using 2013 for a couple of months now, and while I will say it is more editor-friendly than the previous versions, I still would not call it a best-in-class editing system.

For the kind of editing and project sharing you are doing, I think it would be very painful to try to use Smoke as your primary editing tool. It's kind of comparable to FCP 3 or so, as an editing tool. I find it very challenging (slow & clunky) to work with large projects with TONS of media - something that Avid (and FCP) is quite good at.

That being said, here's an article showing a technique for doing project sharing in Smoke.

It's nowhere near as elegant as Avid's project sharing, and I'm not sure that it would even work unless all of your systems were fibre channel networked. (It explains how you can open projects from another system's storage - but if you're connected via GigaBit Ethernet, I'm not sure how well that's going to work.)

So - not saying it can't be done, only that Avid is YEARS ahead in shared projects & workflow.

I can highly recommend Smoke as a finishing tool, but it does have a bit of a learning curve to really tap its full potential. If I were in your situation, I'd seriously consider sticking with Avid, maybe adding a Symphony for finishing...? It depends on the kind of work you're doing whether Smoke would be better than Symphony. Obviously, the Symphony is going to be an easier workflow than moving projects from Avid to Smoke....

I may try out this workspaces technique from the article. If so, I'll post my findings here in a few weeks...

Good luck!

David Jahns
Joint Editorial
Portland, OR

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Aaron Sherry
Re: Multiple Editors and Media Management in Smoke?
on Jul 16, 2013 at 8:04:36 pm

Thanks David!

Also, thanks very much for the article link, it was very helpful.

Yeah, we currently have a fibre channel SAN that we network off of (not ISIS or Unity, but our own setup), so all of our machines actually & play nicely (Avid, Adobe PPro, AE, CC, FCP7, Maya, etc).

Definitely still really excited to see where smoke goes, but, it seems, as I had surmised, Avid still seems to be the go-to for heavy duty work. I like some of the things Adobe is doing and am excited to look at their new "Anywhere" setup- but it kinda seems like the beta version of Avid's Interplay, which has been around a while... and I'm excited about the VFX and color integration of Smoke but it seems like something that only really works for a single user environment.

That said, You mentioned testing out the workspaces techniques from the article... If you're willing to look into it, I'd really appreciate if you can get an idea, specifically, about media management. In my experience FCP & Adobe both "handle media" similarly (very different from Avid), and I fear Smoke does it the FCP/Adobe way:

Example Scenario of what I'm trying to determine (hopefully this isn't too convoluted)...
Project A is our main project for the show. It has Acts 1-4 which will go out to network.
Project B is re-cutting Act 2 while the rest of the show gets massaged.

Project B finishes Act 2 & says: hey, here's my sequence.

Project A grabs Act 2 from Project B and brings that sequence into Project A.

SIDEBAR: from a project level perspective, Project A and Project B are identical in folder structure and source media. Looking at the "Project window" we see clips that represent media back on the SAN, right? Here's the difficult thing I run into with "Project file" based Editors (Adobe, FCP and possibly Smoke)...

The Act 2 sequence, now in Project A, contains the exact same media as the other sequences in Project A... but, from a Project window perspective, the media in the Act 2 sequence needs new master clips in the project window... meaning there are duplicate master clips in the project window which might point to the exact same media on the SAN.

To further illustrate: If you open the Act 2 sequence and pick "Shot X at TC 1:03" and match frame all the way back to the source media in the Project window, no matter what you do, the Act 2 sequence from Project B will have to match back to one master clip of "Shot X"... but, let's say Act 1 used the exact same "Shot X at TC 1:03" and you match frame back to the Project Window, you'll end up with a completely separate master clip of "Shot X" - this leaves you with duplicate master clips in the project window.

This is bad. There are many many many reasons for me to need all of my source media as unified as possible, and few, if any reasons to have duplicate master clips of source media in my project window.

So, the main question is: Does Smoke do this with media, or is the program smart enough to say: "hey, this new Act 2 sequence uses media ("Shot X" for example) with the exact same durations, TCs, data rates, SAN locations, etc as master clips which already exist in Project A, so I'll point the Act 2 sequence media to the existing master clips instead of creating new ones"?

Whew... again, hopefully that question and explanation makes sense!

Finally, If you have an opinion on smoke's integration with Avid, I'd be curious to hear it. Symphony obviously has superior integration capabilities with MC, but Autodesk has such a history of making rock solid product (in my experience) I am always willing to consider something that I don't have to accept crashing as a way of life (*coughcoughavidcough*).

In general, yeah, as with many things, Avid has the experience and years of support under its belt and I may have to stick with that on the high level TV/Film projects. Though I do hope that Smoke and Adobe CC/Anywhere keep racing toward handling heavy duty projects. At the very least it might spur Avid to keep pushing advances in technology and integration... at most, we'll have a genuine competition between multiple heavy duty products at similar price points instead of only one dominant product followed by a few that can be forced to work on that higher level but require a lot of workarounds.


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dermot shane
Re: Multiple Editors and Media Management in Smoke?
on Jul 17, 2013 at 4:30:16 am

you really should look at DS for finishing from MC, it reads more effects esp speed ramps cleanly with the "send to DS" button in MC

Rock solid day in / day out, i freelance at a facility with a dozen MC's and 3 x DS's. two reality series and 3 or 4 MoW's on the go at any one point in time.

We did give Smack a spin, but it was very unstable, and dead slow - rendering anything and everything...

If it was a real Smoke you were talking about then that's a diffrent tool, smack is pretty slow in the real world..

Slow enough that the smoke demo artist gave up replacateing what we do in DS long before half time.. the changes that we comformed so easly in DS were a nightmare in Smoke, we started at about 11am with both machines in the suite - he was still at the first thing that we did in DS (took maybe 2 min in DS) at 2pm...

At 2pm with the show conformed with changes in DS, speedramps, layers, keys, titles & flash transitions conformed correctly, and RT splitscreen was completed

Smack was still trying to get the conform together, and had to render everything just to see what else was wrong...

Another option would be MC + Baselight + Fusion link?


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