Smoke VS. Final Cut for HD finishing?
OK, I realize it's not really a fair comparison, as the price difference would indicate, but as a freelance Smoke artist, i'm finding more often companies are using (trying to use?) Final Cut Pro for a HD finishing solution for commercials. I've been using Smoke software since V1.0 on a SGI Octane, and the software has really become powerful over the years. While edit systems have changed greatly in the 20 years i've been doing this (I can still hear 1" machine reels spinning), I have grown super comfortable with Autodesk products (never did like Quantel back in the day... Henry/editbox).
I thought about posting this question on the Final Cut Forum, but I'd rather get my input from any Smoke users that also use Final Cut (rather than visa versa.....make sense?). I have very little time on FCP and firewire capturing some footage from my DVcam is as much as i've played with it (and even that was an old version).
I realize that the power of the Mac, I/O card, Gfx card, and other variables apply to a Final Cut system, but assuming a reasonable investment of dollars, could a Final Cut finishing "suite" compete with a Smoke room (assuming equal broadcast monitoring, decks D5 or HDcam SR)? Just to clarify, I'm talking about commercial finishing (online) and operations like conforming (ingest, deck control, etc), color correction, rig removal, compositing, motion tracking, titling, right up to mastering to tape and files. Both in supervised and unsupervised sessions BTW. It's really the Final Cut software quality I'm asking about, is a suitable professional tool?
Please give me your opinions because I'm unsure if i'm unwilling to change platforms, OR are people just trying to use the cheaper solution to HD (1080P, 1080I, 720P, PAL & NTSC SD) FINISHING*.
*No disrespect to Final Cut as a creative editing tool. My needs are strictly as a high end finishing for broadcast and that's where I'm questioning the softwares limitations (if any).
forgive my rambling, and thanks in advance for any input. -TomT
All editing software has it's limits and quirks.
We have one Smoke room and 3 FCP rooms. All the systems are connected to our XSAN over 2GB fibre. 95% of our work is commercial work.
I love working on the Smoke. There are things that I wish it could do, like depth of field in the Action camera, etc.
Working on the FCP systems is fine for the most part. Certain things you have to go to other programs to do right. Color, motion (or After Effects) are programs you will have to use in conjunction with FCP to do things that are second nature in the Smoke.
Here is the breakdown on some of the points you asked about.
I/O: Overall, the capture and edit to tape modules in FCP feels amateurish. Why can't I see TC when I'm loading in a clip??? Why can't I queue up multiple clips to lay off to tape?
CC: You have to go Color to do any serious color correction. Color is a great program, but we found a bug that is a serious problem. Once you send your sequence to Color, do your CC, and send it back to FCP, you can have problems if you try and send the sequence back to color again for fine tuning. I hope this has been fixed by now.
Rig Removal: Go to After Effects for this. After Effects is a great tool.
Motion Tracking: I recently did a side by side test between FCP, AE and Smoke. After Effects did just a good of job as the Smoke on tracking.
Titling: Motion has some cute canned effects that work in certain situations. AE will give you more depth. I prefer AE to Smoke on certain design jobs.
As far as picture quality goes, visually, uncompressed HD looks the same on both systems. Personally, I would trust the Smoke since it uses YCbCr to RGB 10bit converstion on ingest.
The thing about FCP is that it doesn't really use the GFX card or multiple CPU's. Color and Motion do, but FCP itself doesn't. FCP is really dependent or the speed of your storage.
I heard this line somewhere on the cow...
It's Fianl Cut "not quite" Pro...
I use all that one all the time around here...
Or I say something like "I can show you how to do it Final Cut, or I could just do it in the Smoke in 5 mins"
Thank you very much for the info. I know exactly what you mean, no one system does it all. I wish there was a 3D tracker in the Smoke.
I have admit I'm dreading learning how to do all the things I do without thinking on the Smoke (handling interlace footage, vari-speeds, garbage masking, tracking, keying... love that master keyer, titling, etc.), but I guess I should wrap my head around all the software packages available for HD finishing. FCP, Shake, Color, AE & Motion are on my "to learn" list.
Thanks again. -Tom
Funny you mention 3D tracker... I've spent some time on flame, cause I really wanted a 3D tracker, only to find out most people don't use it. Yeah, it's nice when it works, but most facilities use a 3rd party app for tracking...
Given your familiarity with Autodesk's toolset, I think FCP combined with Combustion or Toxik would make more sense than After Effects. The caveat is that Autodesk hasn't updated Combustion to work properly on OS X Leopard and it's fraught with bugs if you try to do so. Combustion 2008 is only supported on the Mac under OS X v10.4 (Tiger), which was superseded by Leopard more than 18 months ago. After Effects has the edge in motion graphics, but for roto, paint and finishing tools, Combustion/Toxic win hands down.
I know you put this ages ago, and you probably using it already but have you thought of using Autodesk Matchmover (comes with 3ds Max or Maya) you can export the data as FBX then import it into smoke using the action import node.
Alternatively you can use any 3rd party 3d tracking system but make sure the data exported is in FBX and then import it into Autodesk smoke using the action import node.