The beat . A blog by premiumbeat

April 7, 2014
SmokeVariousVideo Production

Autodesk Smoke 2015 and Flame Assist on Mac – What does it really mean?

Autodesk made a big announcement on the Sunday before NAB and revealed their new product line up for their creative finishing products.

Along with the big Flame Premium 2015 release, a much anticipated, feature rich version of Smoke 2015, and a new addition to the Flame family, Flame Assist which runs on OSX.

Here is the line up of the current product release:

Autodesk 2014 Releases:

  • Flame Premium (includes Lustre)
  • Flame

  • Flare

  • Smoke Advanced

  • Flint

  • Inferno

  • Lustre

  • Smoke2013 (on Mac)

And here it what is available for the 2015 Product line:

  • Flame Premium (includes Lustre, Flame Assist, Flare)
  • Flame
  • Smoke Advanced
  • Flint
  • Inferno
Smoke 2015

Don’t let those product removals scare you, it’s actually good news.  What this shows is a strong commitment to the Flame product and the Flame brand. People have always complained, and I was one of them, about the feature differentiation between the products.  For example, Smoke Advanced lacked many of the compositing and effects tools inside of Action like 3D Particles and Projectors.  And for Smoke on Mac , it lacked the Desktop Tools and Batch environment that Smoke Advanced has. And both lacked the Flame’s Reels.

Flint and Inferno have not been products you could purchase new for several years now, but were maintained and updated for Subscription customers.
 Smoke Advanced and Lustre we’re still active products, but the last few years the push as been to get people to Flame Premium.  Well, now, they have done that in a pretty impressive move for Autodesk. One that really shows that they listen and care about their customers.

Now current subscription licenses of Flint, Inferno, and Smoke Advanced on Linux are upgraded to Flame. So as a Smoke Advanced user I’m pretty happy about this free upgrade. I now have all the bells and whistles I was missing at my finger tips. It’s a huge feature upgrade and will be quickly seen in the spots I create. So we can now just call Smoke on Mac… just Smoke as it is the only Smoke.

The Flame Premium users also get some goodies too, that really puts the Premium in Flame Premium. Each license gets a free license of Flare. Flare is a stand-alone software product, but you need to have a Flame license to get one. Flare contains the Batch environment of Flame for additional composting support in a multi-user environment. Flame Premium users also get access to a new product for 2015 called Flame Assist which runs on Mac.

Flame Assist vs Smoke on Mac

When Smoke 2013 was released a few NAB’s ago, it was being aimed at the editors who also needed some effects tools like keying and basic compositing, tracking and color work. Smoke 2013 was $3495 and ran on a Mac and contained node based compositing tools in ConnectFX.  It was the closest thing to a Flame that most mortals could get.

This made it attractive to another user base… Flame users, both Post Houses and Freelancers.  Post Production facilities and independent users were using Smoke on Mac as a mini-Flame, and largely as an assist tool for Flame in Post. It was being used to conform, in editing, and basic effects work like tracking and roto.

Unfortunately, these 2 different camps need different things.  The Flame users need something that ties closely with Flame in terms of workflows and library organization. Whereas editors need editing tools.  It was difficult for Autodesk to service both audiences with a feature set that would line up with the price point that Smoke is being offered.  So Flame Assist was born. And now Autodesk has 2 creative finishing products on the Mac 

How different is Flame Assist and Smoke on the Mac?  Well for the 2015 release, right now… almost nothing. In fact Flame Assist and Smoke on the Mac contain the exact same feature set.  The only difference is that Flame Assist has the Linux UI skin. That means blue buttons are back!  I am sure this will make Flame users happy.

Smoke however, has a few changes that may be alarming at first.

If you are a subscription customer of Smoke you will get a perpetual license version of Smoke 2015. But for any new customers looking at pursuing Smoke, the licensing has changed to a rental license. Also, any future versions of Smoke will be part of the new Desktop Subscription. This means that you can rent the usage of Smoke monthly, quarterly, or yearly.  It pretty much works like the Adobe Creative Cloud in that you no longer own the software outright.  The cost however, is quite attractive.

Smoke Desktop is $195/mo, $545/Qtr (4 mo.), or $1750/yr.   Still more expensive than Adobe per month or per year. But cheaper than Smoke was in 2013. If you do the math you will see that yearly is still the best deal.  And obviously no need for Maintenance Subscription anymore.

A side note for current subscription customers. Check with your resellers on migrating to the new Desktop Subscription, I think you’ll find some good deals there.

This is how the industry is moving at the moment, Adobe seems to be successful with it.  Avid has introduced it in their product offerings. Autodesk already does rental licensing for some of their 3D products like Maya, and 3ds Max, so this news shouldn’t be too much of a shock. And you can love it or hate it, just like people do the Creative Cloud leasing. But hopefully it will allow more people easier access at a price point they can accept.

So what happens moving forward? 
I have every reason to believe that things will continue to move forward for Smoke and for Flame Assist and that each will focus features on their individual target audiences. Flame Assist at workflows for, well… assisting Flame, and Smoke at giving the professional video market what they need.

Flame Assist key Features Include:

  • Project Creation

  • Media Management & Wire

  • Advanced Conform

  • Versioning

  • Media I/O
Archive & Restore

These features and future features will focus on freeing Flame from some of the more mundane project tasks, and allow it to focus on compositing shots and finishing of a project. Flame Assist will be able to render all of Flames Batch Effects, but only able to edit some.  These would be the same limitations that Smoke on Mac has had.  So no editing of Particles, Substance Textures, or other Flame only effects.
Flame Assist will be available as a perpetual license and as a rental option. (Quarterly, Yearly) So houses can pick up an extra seat as needed when the workload demands.

Smoke 2015 has some great new features.  3D Camera tracking is available in Action, the Timeline FX have all been improved to match the nodes in ConnectFX.  You now have a single layer of Action on the timeline as well as Blur and 2D Transform.

These tools will allow you to do more on the timeline, and allow you to move into ConnectFX seamlessly with your timeline effects for more advanced effects work. The overall Timeline experience has been improved regarding rendering and you will never see an “Unrendered Frame” again.

Smoke will undergo some other changes along with the rental licensing.  The perpetual license of Smoke 2015 that you will get with your subscription will still be compatible with Flame as far as projects and effect go. But this will change in the near future.  The new Smoke Desktop will be lacking that compatibility.

Desktop Smoke 2015

  • No Flame Project Compatibility

  • No Wire, Archive & Remote Connection workflow (with Flame)  You can work among 2 or more other Smoke systems.
No Burn Remote Rendering

  • No Network Licensing

  • No Remote Gateway for Media Transcoding.
  • No Support for Sparks

Now many of these changes make sense and Autodesk says that many Smoke users never used these features anyway. Most of them I don’t have an issue with accept for the compatibility with Flame.  But this is where Flame Assist would come in. Again, these limitations are not present in the perpetual license you get via subscription.

Now, one last thing to mention, if you are a Creative Finishing customer and are running Flame and you have been using Smoke on the Mac.  You will be able to cross-grade your Smoke 2015 product to a Flame Assist product.  If you are solely a Smoke Desktop user, and you can not get access to Flame Assist, and this is what may cause a problem for freelancers using Smoke who may also share projects with larger post facilities running Flame.

In my opinion, Autodesk has  made a positive move with the Flame upgrades and with Flame Assist. It really shows their commitment to that product. I was skeptical at first with the changes in licensing and compatibility with Smoke, but after talking more with Autodesk my concerns were eased.  I feel that they really want Smoke to succeed as a product, the new licensing and pricing will allow more people to gain access to it.  And being that it can be a monthly, quarter, or yearly license the pressure to deliver new features and improvements to the software to make the user base happy and get them to renew that license will be even greater now.   They realize this and I think are up to the challenge.

I’ll be covering more of the great new Smoke 2015 features in future blog posts.  And plan on doing some video tutorials to showcase the improvements to the workflows and effects. Stay tuned to


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  • andrega

    No support for Sparks in Smoke 2015.
    Does that mean there is no plug-in functionality at all or do they have something new planned for that?

    • Brian Mulligan

      Sparks are in the 2015 release if you are upgrading from 2013 via Subscription. This will be a perpetual license and be forever good. In May, if anyone buys Smoke now, then they will get the Desktop Rental and Sparks will not be available. And honestly, the Sparks on Smoke (Mac) are pricey, outdated, and you can do the same things with Smoke Nodes and Matchbox.

      • PJD

        Will the Burn licensing also work on this version for existing subscribers?

        • Brian Mulligan

          Yes. burn will still work in 2015 if you are getting the update via subscription or perpetual license.

          • VK Shah

            We have Saphire plugins now with SMAC 2013, does that mean they will work for future versions of Smoke?

          • Brian Mulligan

            If you are currently the old maintenance subscription you will get aperpetual license for smoke 2015 and that version has full flame compatibility and you can use sparks. Nothing has changed.
            But any new licenses going further and when you update to 2016 in the future then your sparks will not be functional on the desktop version of Smoke

  • Joe

    Hi Brian, now that SMOKE has 3D tracking will it have projection. If not, will the old hack still work?

    • Brian Mulligan

      Still no projections.. but the old hack should still work. :)

      • Drew

        Wait! Can you let me in on the projection hack for Smac? I’m a newbie to Smoke on Mac but an old time Flame user and could sure do with that work around. Something to do with ‘wrap/uv’s? Thanks! D

        • Brian Mulligan

          There is a downloadable setup on and on the Smoke Area Forums. (do a search) and then you can load this node into Smoke.

          • Drew

            Yes! Thank you kindly sir. I’m sit’n here with 2013 working on the New Mac Pro. Finally got it out of it’s box and onto the desktop. I have no idea about performance yet (too early to tell) and I’m still not sure what to make of all the news re 2015 but regardless, thank you for all your posts, tip and tricks.

          • Brian Mulligan

            Thanks. More to come

  • Gustavo Bermudas

    I think that going subscription only on Smoke for Mac is the dumbest thing they could have done, and it speaks desperation to me. I can’t imagine paying almost 50% of it cost for using it for one year and not keeping it after. Smoke is dead.

    • Brian Mulligan

      to be fair… it seem to be working for Adobe and Avid also has a rental option. ADSK also rents their 3D software in this way.

      • Gustavo Bermudas

        It’s too early to say it’s working for Avid, they announced yesterday. But also they support perpetual licenses, you’ll have to buy a support plan like Smoke used to.
        And Adobe, it may work for now, there’s a lot of discontent, but also they offer more solutions than anybody else, and there’s tons of discounted subscription that will expire sometime these year, we’ll see.
        The thing with subscription software is that people won’t do everything subscription, I mean just Adobe and Smoke is $2300 /yr for rental software, that’s crazy!
        I know many post houses in Hollywood that refuse to pay subscription software, they were waiting on Smoke 2015 as an alternative to Adobe, so that shows that it’s not great for big companies like everybody thinks is it.

  • James

    Not being able to use SMAC as a freelancer and work in with a post-house’s workflow is a pretty dumb move from ADSK. So now all flame freelancers who were hoping to earn a living with SMAC, can no longer do so. ADSK has just killed that business model.

    • Brian Mulligan

      I feel for you. That is an issue that i hope the address.

  • Francesco Rota

    Good morning. I am a senior operator and worked on Flint, Flame, Inferno, Smoke on Mac for about 20 years. In recent years I have realized and appreciated the attempt to rejuvenate the system by Autodesk. Unfortunately, these attempts have always been just enough technically and commercially very confused. With the new proposal were able to make the situation worse. I really hope to change business strategy and prioritize what really matters to us professionals: a software efficient, cross-platform. For inspiration should not do anything but look at the competition (Black Magic)

  • Tim

    James is right. ADSK killed the business model for Flame freelancers with their own SMAC! Maybe not this year, because of the compatibility, but next year for sure. One month ago they did almost the same with Softimage freelancers. ADSK seem to hate freelancers! Time to become friends with Nuke ….

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  • Stewart

    Smoke is dead and Autodesk blew it again so Nuke it is then.

    Yes Autodesk is alienating its whole freelance customer base. Fools.

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  • Jean-Marc Laurin

    Flare on Mac ! Flare on Mac ! Flare on Mac ! —— How many more decades of lead do we have to give nuke before someone wakes up ? Does Autodesk realize The Foundry will start eating away at the online finishing / editing market in a few years ? Platform non-compatibility between smoke and flame/flare is a horrifyingly moronic dead end. Its ridiculous, and I can’t see the profit. I would have purchased a personal smokemac license myself to help me raise my kids as i can do comp at home. (No studios are not hiring more juniors. They are relying on their seniors to do junior work. Or more nukers) Now that possibility is shot….

    I have a feeling Autodesk is planning its own obsolescence.

    • Pietro

      TRUE! like quantel dag his own grave 10 years before now autodesk is digging down down down. I’ve been using flame and smoke for the last 15 years, but looks like I should pick up some nuke here

  • Brad

    Does Flame assit have a timeline? I work Smoke on mac next to a Flame at a TV station and we need to be able to do our own stuff and export all the time?

    I don’t understand why they don’t just sell Flame assist as a desktop on mac on subscription. – like nuke is a standalone? Seems Autodesk need to choose who they love – the post house or the artists?

  • afsnj

    Why does it seem like the Mac is becoming a second rate citizen with AutoDesk? Maybe I’m not understanding here?

    • Brian Mulligan

      Not sure what you mean… they just brought another systems product to the mac to join Smoke. Flame Assist is for the Mac. Seems like Autodesk is embracing the Mac.

  • cjohnw

    Hi Brian, I work in a facility with two smoke on macs and one Linux flame, used as Smoke Advanced. The idea is that projects can be shared between systems if needs be, albeit that not all features of Smoke Advanced are available in smoke on mac. I need to be proficient on both systems. Is it possible to continue with this set up with flame premium? Eg can flame assist be used as a cut down flame, to do grading, tracking, action, 3d text etc as per smoke on mac, and be transfereable to flame premium, or will it only do non-effects tasks like conforming? Thanks

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