Get all your Smoke 2013 questions answered! Topics covered include system requirements, compatibility, editing, effects, titling and training.
Autodesk Smoke 2013 is now available in final retail release and can be purchased Online or via an Autodesk reseller. I have been involved as a beta tester and even as an alpha tester before Smoke 2013 was debuted at NAB in April of 2012. A lot has changed with the software through its public pre-release trials from Pre1 through Pre 6. Much of those changes were sparked by feedback from the thousands of people that downloaded the trials. It was great how Autodesk listened to their users. This is nothing new, in my experience as a beta-tester with Smoke on Linux over the years, the developers have always taken the users concerns and input into account.
So now that the final release is here, you might have some questions about what Smoke 2013 has to offer. So here are 101 Questions & Answers about Autodesk Smoke 2013 – the Retail Release.
1. Does Smoke support a dual-monitor setup?
Smoke 2013, like the legacy versions have always been designed for a single monitor. The buttons and actions in the UI are contextual via a right-click on the mouse or Wacom pen button and will change depending on the tool you are using.
3. What broadcast I/O cards does Smoke support?
Smoke currently use the AJA Kona 3 and 3G cards, and the AJA Thunderbolt IO XT. Smoke currently does not support Blackmagic or Matrox IO devices.
Not technically an I/O card but Smoke 2013 does support the Red Rocket Card. Autodesk validated the final release of Smoke 2013 (Mac) on Mac OS 10.8.2 using the latest Red Rocket driver ( 126.96.36.199) and firmware (188.8.131.52) and was able to get single stream Half resolution real-time playback from 4K content. This is equal to what they were able to get in 2012 release.
4. Since you support AJA is the AJA T-Tap supported?
Smoke 2013 does not support the AJA T-Tap. The major problem is that the T-Tap seems to only work with a 422 signal and Smoke only outputs 444. Normally the I/O hardware has a converter and Smoke “passes a command” to have it make a conversion, but the T-Tap doesn’t perform this conversion.
5. Can Smoke use FireWire or eSata storage?
Actually almost any storage device can be used, even USB. The speed of which will determine the real-time speed of clip playback. Via Firewire or eSata you should set your storage up to use ProRes intermediates to get the most out of your bandwidth.
6. Is it compatible with Thunderbolt storage?
Yes. The Promise Pegasus arrays work quite well with Smoke 2013 and were used at NAB during the demos. Any other Thunderbolt storage like G-Raids would also work.
7. How does Smoke integrate in a post facility with shared storage?
Smoke uses a Standard File system (StandardFS) so it will integrate well with shared storage devices. Smoke will create it own Media Storage folder and it is here that Smoke will render frames and manage the media. But it is an open file system that is accessible by any other system.
8. Is Smoke compatible with XSAN, Unity or EditShare?
Yes. Smoke is built on Mac OSX, so if the mac can network to the storage then Smoke can use it to read and write.
9. Can Smoke run on a Macbook Pro, Macbook Air or iMac?
You can install Smoke on MacPro early 2008, early 2009, and mid 2010, as well as MacBookPro Early 2010 ,2011, Retina & Standard MacbookPro 2012. iMacs Late 2009 and Mid 2010, 2011, 2012 Macbook Air’s with the Intel 4000 graphics have also been successful in running Smoke 2013.
10. What OSX versions are supported?
Smoke is supported under OSX 10.6.7, 10.6.8, Lion 10.7.x, and Mountain Lion 10.8.0, 10.8.1 & 10.8.2.
11. What graphics card does Smoke work with ATI or Nvidia?
Smoke works with both ATI and Nvidia cards. Currently CUDA cards are not required. Even though Smoke uses GPU processing, it uses Open GL. Hardware AA levels are very much dependent on the card.
12. Do I need to use a Wacom pen and tablet to run Smoke?
It is no longer a required to use Smoke with a Wacom Intuos tablet, but you are still welcome to do so as it is still supported. Many functions in the UI use Right-Click contextual menus, which work well with both a mouse or pen. With either a Wacom or mouse the classic “swipe bars” common in Smoke and Flame are turned off by default, but can be activated in the Preferences.
13. Do you support external control services?
Smoke supports the Avid Artist Series control panel for editing and color.
14. Can you import timelines from Avid/FCP/Premiere?
You can import AVID .AAF, FCP XML, FCPXML from FCPX, and .AAF or .XML from Premiere Pro. The Conform tools have been completely reworked for Smoke 2013. You can check out how the new Conform workflow operates in this video.
15. Can you import footage captured in another software?
Yes, if Smoke supports the codec it was captured in. Prores, DNxHD, and .MXF are all supported formats. As well as many other Quicktime and .MXF codecs.
16. Does Smoke replace Avid/FCP/Premiere?
In my opinion it can…but these programs can work together. The editing workflows have been completely reworked in Smoke 2013, so it can be used to work on a project from Import, to Editing, through Grading, and to Export. But you can also use Smoke to import XML and AAF files and conform from an NLEs to perform Finishing, Color and Effects work.
17. What file formats does Smoke import?
Click here for a full list of import formats and codecs. Common codecs like Prores, DNxHD, h.264, P2, .r3d, and AVCHD .mts files are supported.
18. Can you import layered Photoshop files?
Yes. PSD files can be imported through Action (Smoke’s compositing environment) and ConnectFX as complete composites, and ready for animations. Or you can import all layers separately, with alphas via the MediaHub and used on the timeline via Axis effects. Action supports all of the Photoshop blend modes for compatibility.
19. Does Smoke work for on-set editing?
Smoke can be used on a MacBookPro, with portable storage. In worst cases you can use the system drive as media storage. Depending on needs, Smoke can be used with proxy files to quickly cut clips, or do keying tests on-set.
20. Can you capture video from a VTR?
Yes via the KONA 3 or 3G cards or Thunderbolt via AJA ioXT.
21. Can you output to a VTR?
Yes, using the same options as above.
22. Does Smoke support up/down/cross conversion?
Smoke supports many tools for file conversion. Pulldown options are available via tape capture. Pulldown, Resize, Deinterlace & other reformatting options can be found in via the Timeline, ConnectFX, and the Tools Tab.
23. Can I export finished edits to the web?
The is no direct export to the web, but Smoke does export in a wide variety of Quicktime codecs for web delivery, as well as a web browser export function called WiretapCentral(WTC). WiretapCentral uses a web browser interface to browse, play, and export clips from any Smoke project. WTC has more web friendly formats available for export.
24. Is Smoke 2013 compatible with Autodesk Flame?
Yes. You need to be working between the same versions of the software. Smoke 2013, Smoke Advanced 2013 Ext 2, and Flame & Flame Premium 2013 Ext 2 are all compatible with clips and setups. Nodes that are Flame specific will be read-only in Smoke.
25. Can you modify keyboard shortcuts?
Smoke has 3 keyboard shortcut configurations to choose from when you create a new user: Smoke (FCP) will use FCP7 editorial shortcuts, Smoke Classic uses the Smoke 2012 hotkeys and updates for 2013 functions, and Flame for those familiar with Autodesk Flame or Flame Premium. There is also a Shortcut editor to modify or create your own shortcuts.
26. Can you modify the interface?
Yes and No. You can’t add or replace buttons or menus, but the interface is very flexible in it’s layout. Panels are easily resizable and adjustable.
27. What resolutions can I work with in Smoke?
Smoke supports standard resolutions from 5K to SD. Non-standard frame sizes are also supported up to 8,192 x 8,192 in clip generation and Action resolution, but I was able to import a 10,000 pixel x 10,000 pixel .psd file.
28. Can I run other apps at the same time as Smoke? Like Photoshop?
Smoke can use a lot of your systems resources, but you can Hide and minimize Smoke and open up other programs. It works the same as any other program in OSX.
29. How many video streams can Smoke playback in real-time?
Smoke can playback multiple streams of video, but this is really dependent on storage speed and file size. Many effects on the Smoke timeline like Color Correct, and Transitions can playback in real-time, others may need to be rendered before real-time playback.
30. Where are Smoke project files stored?
Smoke project files are stored on the system drive in /usr/discreet/project… and the clip metadata is stored in /usr/discreet/clip. There isn’t a single project file like Premiere Pro, or FCP. Smoke 2013 contains a high speed database that associates clip metadata to the actual media located on the media drive. Even though the project file is on the system drive, there is no loss in performance as it’s just a database. More info on Smoke’s Project Files can be found here.
31. Can 2 editors work on the same project with the same clips?
Smoke 2013 has a the ability for users to access other projects on other Smoke/Flame systems and copy that media for use on that system. Smoke 2013 also has a new Shared Library feature for collaboration between editors. When clips are dropped into a Shared Library in your Media Library, they are immediately available to other systems connected to the project.
32. What actually IS a project?
A project is a job based working environment, where users can import material, perform editorial operations, clip playback, and media management.
Projects contain setup and effects information and clip metadata. The media is separate from the project as it can be managed or linked media. The only way to copy or save a project to move it from one system to another is to Archive it, although individual source clips and entire sequences including layers and rendered effects can be moved over a network connection between two computers using a networking protocol named ‘Wire’.
33. What happens if your media doesn’t match the Project settings?
The project settings are really just a starting point, and will create default resolutions for effects nodes in ConnectFX. You can create new sequences of any resolutions, even if they differ from your project. Clips that different from the project settings may need different sync, actual or free, to output properly to broadcast. Clips not matching the Sequence settings will automatically have a Resize or Timewarp effect added to them so that they conform to the Sequence settings.
34. What happens if you try to capture media that doesn’t match Project settings?
All media setting are independent of the project settings or even the sequence settings. Imported or captured media will remain unchanged.
35. Unlike FCP where a single project file is created, Smoke creates a bevy of project-related files. What’s the advantage of your system of multiple files?
Although it may seem as a disadvantage to create multiple folders as part of the project folder structure, it is advantageous in that saved effects setups are easily located as they will be saved in their named folder by default. For example, Color Warper effects will be saved in a Color Warper folder. So that when you go to load a saved effect, the node goes to it’s default location and only shows you the Color Warper saved effects. This folder structure also makes it easy for you to find saved effects in another project to use it in your current project.
36. Do you recommend ProRes for Smoke, or a different codec for high-quality editing?
Personally, if you have the bandwidth and a fast storage array, I would work in DPX (Uncompressed) frames for maximum quality. Smoke has traditionally always worked in DPX frames. Smoke 2013 brings ProRes as an intermediate codec format to allow users who want to stay ProRes throughout the project to do so. They can transcode to ProRes upon import, edit, render, and export. ProRes is a compressed file format, and a good one. So Smoke is flexible to allow you to work in as much quality as your system will allow.
37. Does Smoke support Stereoscopic 3D?
Using the Smoke stereoscopic workflow, you can edit, conform, visualize, and composite stereo material. Clips that you use in the Smoke stereoscopic workflow can contain stereo tracks or both stereo tracks and monoscopic tracks. A stereo track contains one left eye layer and one right eye layer. Editorial rules specific to stereo tracks help you treat the left and right eye layers as one entity. Monitoring can be Anaglyph, Interlaced, or Dual-Output.
38. Do you use the GPU on non-Mac Pro Macs?
GPU usage is obviously dependent on your hardware. Integrated video cards in Macbook Pros are limited, and therefore GPU usage is limited. The nodes in ConnectFX mostly rely on GPU processing and the GPU also allows for more interactive performance in within Acton and other compositing Nodes.
39. What New Project settings CAN’T be changed after the project is created?
You can’t change the projects name or media volume if you have multiple storage devices. You also can’t change the proxy status on/off or proxy quality.. You can change the default frame size, and intermediate render format. So you can render and cache media in Prores Proxy while editing, and then re-render everything as Prores 4444 or DPX for a final render.
40. What purpose is served by the Config template?
The config template sets up the required sync and broadcast timings and framerate for the project to display proper outputs. If you aren’t using video I/O, you can consider the config template to be a default setting for new sequences, video generators (noise, color bars) and timecode.
41. What if we are not using a video monitor?
You are not required to have a broadcast monitor or sync for Smoke. I would use the _free.cfg templates for the video format you are matching your project resolution to. The broadcast output options in Preferences will be disabled.
42. If Projects are accessible using the Project popup button on the startup screen – what happens if you want to remove a project from the list – can you? How?)
Projects can be removed, with options for removing effects setups, and media by going in to the EDIT option for the project. From there you can delete projects.
43. How many video tracks can you have in the timeline?
You can have unlimited video tracks. But with the usage of ConnectFX for compositing, the need to use the timeline for vertical compositing isn’t needed as much as it is in other NLEs. With ConnectFX I can ‘layer’ 100 clips in Action, which will show up as one layer on my timeline.
44. What does the User Profile do?
The user profile will allow you to save your own personal Preferences settings, and shortcuts. There are also options for saving ConnectFX setups with the user, so that they regularly used effects can be used from project to project. The user profile also saves file navigation bookmarks in the MediaHub.
45. Can you open more than one project at a time?
No. But you can switch to another project in the FILE>Project & Users Settings. Also in the MediaHub, you can browse another projects media library and copy clips and sequences into your current project.
46. When did we set the “Managed Media” folder? I don’t remember that as part of the New Project screen.
The Managed Media folder is created during the Smoke Install. This is the central location for all Smoke Projects to organize the Managed Media. In normal operation, you would never need to look in to this folder. You should just let Smoke manage the media. You can add and delete Managed Media folders via the Smoke Setup utility. This will enable you use different storage locations as needed. These would then be selected during the creation of a Project. A project can only use 1 Mananged Media Folder. The Managed Media Folder also contains all of the rendered frames from the project as well as cached media and proxies. Thee are also .mio files in this folder that are hooks or links to the linked source media in your Media Library.
47. In the Media Browser, I can review the media in a clip – can I set an In/Out to import a range?
Yes. You can play clips in the browser in the MediaHub, and import just sections of any .r3d, .mxf or .mov file for example.
48. What is Pre-Processing?
When you import source media, you can import it in it’s native format or alter it’s resolution, bit depth, and in the case of .r3d the debayer settings. But even after you import with these settings you can change them later. When you click on a clip in a sequence you have full access to these Pre-Processing settings and can change them anytime. You can also change clip settings in ConnectFX. For example, if you import a 4K .r3d file at ½ res, you can change that setting in CFX and have access to the full 4K resolution for compositing.
49. How do you save a complete project, effects, and media once you are finished?
Smoke has a very easy archive solution. You have options to do a compressed file archive, which can include all your managed and linked media and effects. Or you can choose to just archive the clip and effects metadata and copy the linked media to store it along with the archive. Note: Even if you are using compressed ProRes Intermediates and Cache media, the archive will be saved with Uncompressed Frames. This will make your file archives much larger than expected.
50. Can you import clips directly from OSX Finder?
Yes, in a pinch you can drag and drop from finder into your media library. This media will always be linked media and you won’t have to option to create project media or adjust import metadata. But for a quick import, it works great.
51. I would like to use Resolve for color grading, can I export out an XML from Smoke to conform in Resolve?
There is no XML output from Smoke 2013. You can perform a Sequence Publish which will create a .EDL and DPX frame sequence of source material that you can then conform into Resolve.
53. Can you Copy & Move Timelines/Sequences across projects?
Yes. Through the MediaHub you will be able to browse sequences and sources in other projects and copy them to the current project.
54. Can I Copy/Paste clips from one Timeline/Sequence to another?
Yes. Along with Copy/Paste you can also drag and drop clips in the Thumbnail viewer and copy them to new timelines.
55. Does Smoke use the traditional Source/Record paradigm?
Smoke does use Source/Record, but it also maintain the classic single viewer workflow. There is also Triple view for use in shot to shot color matching.
56. Can you jump to a specific TimeCode with the keypad, like in Avid or FCP?
Yes. Just enter the timecode in the TC field on the Viewer or in the sequence timeline.
57. Can you put markers in the timeline?
Yes. Markers can be color coded and labeled.
58. Is there a gap-detection tool, à la FCP?
Smoke 2013 has a timeline search option. With it you can find various parts of the timeline from effects, to clips, to transitions.
59. How many undos does Smoke have?
Smoke can have up to 50 levels of undo. Some nodes are unique and only allow 1 level of undo.
60. Is there a History tool, à la Photoshop?
Undo has a history display so that you can jump back to a certain level. Smoke 2012 had a function called Clip History that would keep track of process done to a clip. This functionality is no longer needed in Smoke 2013 since the redesign provided a timeline centric workflow. All effects are always live and editable. Nothing is committed, even after rendering. Effects metadata travels with the clip, so a change can always been made to effects. History as it was known, is no longer needed.
61. Is there a multicam tool?
There is no Multicam function in Smoke. I would use another NLE to do the multicam and then import an XML or .AAF into Smoke.
62. What’s the difference between Libraries, and Folders in the Media Library?
Libraries enhance the organization of your Sources, Effects and Sequences in the Media Library. Libraries can contain folders and subfolders. Folders can not contain Libraries. So Libraries are the top level in the hierarchy. You can think of Libraries as Bins as well. They can be “closed” which will protect the elements inside them. A closed Library will also free up system resources.
63. Does Smoke have a trim view?
Currently there is no trim view in Smoke. In the 2012 version there was a trim view mode, but it wasn’t very good. Slip & Slide trimming can be seen in the Record viewer as you trim. The display is based on the positioner bar. It’s too bad that Trim View never made it into this release of Smoke. I am setting my sights on NAB2013 for this feature.
64. Can you collapse or nest layers in the timeline?
Yes. In Smoke it’s called a Container. You can take several clips on multiple layers and collapse them down. It’s also easy to uncontain them and edit within a container. Clips in the container can have effects on them as well as on the container itself.
65. What is New Version in the add tracks menu?
With Smoke you can have independent video tracks (multiple tracks) and you can select which version appears on output. So you can add a New Version track and copy your existing timeline to it, make a change, and then choose which one will be the output. So, you can have 2 versions of a spot, within 1 timeline sequence. It is also useful for conforming and matching a reference clip of a spot with the conform. You can also use split views and difference comparing between 2 Version tracks.
66. Can you copy/paste effects in the Timeline?
Yes. Effects can be moved to multiple clips in the timeline via copy/paste, and drag and drop. Effects can also be saved in folders in the Media Library.
67. Can you save comp setups and reuse them on other shots, in other projects?
Yes. ConnectFX setups can be saved with the user profile, which is available in any project or effects can be saved to a user created folder and recalled. You can also save ConnectFX setups in a CFX clip which can be copied into another project.
68. Are there Photoshop-like blending modes?
ConnectFX nodes support all of the Photoshop blending modes.
69. Can I burn-in TimeCode?
There is a BITC node in ConnectFX that you can add to your sequence or source clips.
70. Can I keyframe effects?
Yes. Smoke has a very robust way to move/edit/ keyframes via the channel editor. The channel editor contains both a tracks view and a curve view of your keyframes. Smoke contains one of the best keyframe editors of any NLE.
71. Do keyframes have bezier handles?
Yes. Handles can also be adjusted to Hermite, Smooth, Linear, & Constant.
72. Can you apply feather to masks and shapes?
Smoke has a very nice masking function called GMask. Hand-drawn as well as preset shapes are available, with variable feathering of the vertices.
73. Does Smoke support plug-ins?
Plugins for Smoke are called Sparks. Sparks are usable on the timeline as well as in ConnectFX. Genarts is the main and I think only developer of plugins for Smoke on the Mac. Genarts makes Sapphire & Monster plugins for Smoke. However, Smoke has many built in effects that may lessen the need for 3rd party plugins.
74. What are some of the plugin-type effects in Smoke?
ConnectFX is where you will find most of the cool effect nodes. The Damage Node is great for film looks, bad TV, and digital effects. Action contains a true 3D procedural lens flare tool. The Stylize node is a very powerful tool to turn your video into a sketch or paint style look. The usual Blurs, Glows, and Deform tools exist. The beauty about ConnectFX is that the node based compositor allows you to mix and match all of the nodes to create new and unique effects.
75. Can I save my timeline effects like presets?
Yes. Many nodes like Stylize and Action Lens Flares come with presets. You can easily create and save your own. Get some free lens flare presets here.
76. Can you import 3D models from 3DS Max, Maya, or Cinema 4D?
Yes. Smoke is a true 3D compositor and through Action, you can import FBX, 3DS, OBJ and Alembic 3D models. You can also texture and light these models within your Action composite.
77. Is there an Auto Stabilize function to improve shaky shots?
Yes. The AutoStabilize node in ConnectFX will track and stabilize your footage. More info on Smoke’s Autostabilizer can be found here.
78. Is there a 3D camera tracker?
Currently there is not a 3D camera tracker in Smoke. You can use other 3D trackers like Syntheyes and PFTrack or MochaPro, which can export out Action Camera data. You can also use Matchmover in Maya to camera track as well.
79. What Chroma-Key tools does Smoke use?
Smoke has a very powerful and flexible keyer, which is accessible from almost anywhere in the software. Smoke has not just 1 keyer, but 8 keyers. The main keyer is the Modular Keyer in ConnectFX and Action. This is a mini node based keyer with all the tools you need to isolate mattes and edges to get the best key on the hardest shots. One default setup for the Modular is the Master Keyer, which is the best keyer inside of Smoke.
80. If I layer clips on the timeline with effects, can I move these clips in to ConnectFX and will it keep the effects I have or do I have to start over?
If you start doing some vertical compositing on the timeline and feel you need more… then you can simply select all of your clips and then add a ConnectFX and check the Generate Composite button. All of the effects you built on the timeline will become nodes linked to your clips.
81. Does Smoke have adjustment layers?
Yes. You can use any of the timeline effects on empty spaces in your timeline called GAPS. You can add effects, including ConnectFX to Gaps which will act like adjustment layers on the tracks below.
82. Can you save a title’s setup and apply it to other titles?
The TEXT title tool is both simple and complex. Yes, you can save the attributes of a text effect and apply both the look and animation to other text layers.
83. Can you share title setups with other users?
Yes. The fonts are pulled from the Mac system, so any user on the same system can easily load the font and setup. If you need to share setups across systems, you can setup a central network location for fonts so that all systems see the same directory. If a font is not found it will be replaced with the default font.
84. Does Smoke use regular fonts?
Smoke can use Type-1, .ttf , and .otf fonts.
85. Is there a safe action/safe title overlay?
Yes. Smoke has many options for grids and guides. There are preset overlays for 16×9 and 4×3 as well as 16×9 with center-cut 4×3 frames. You can also create your own guides.
86. Can I open text files from Word or other text documents in the title tool?
You can open standard .txt files from inside the Text node. You can also use standard copy/paste from open files in OSX, and then paste them into an empty layer in the Text node.
87. Does Smoke have 3D text abilities?
Yes. 3D Text is created in the Action node, and you can extrude and create custom bevel profiles. 3D text can also be textured with any video clip. The Front, Bevel, and Back of a text can all be textured with separate elements. Smoke has many 3D text presets that are adjustable.
88. Can you animate text along a path?
Yes. You can animate and place text on a path with 2D text, and you can even have a path in 3D space within Action with 3D text. So you can animate text going around a subject shot in Chroma-key with ease.
90. Can you assign output channels to audio tracks?
Yes. Each audio track in Smoke can be routed to a specific audio output.
Smoke has 32 usable tracks mixed down to 16 channels output.
91. What kind of audio files can you import?
Smoke can handle all of the standard Audio files. .mp3, .wav (broadcast), .aiff. In 16,24,& 32 bit samples. All audio regardless of sample rate is converted to 48khz.
92. Does Smoke support audio plug-ins (VST, AU, AudioSuite)?
Smoke does not support audio plugins but does have many built in Audio tools for EQ, Compression, Modulation, and Reverb effects.
94. Can you sync double system sound with video clips?
Smoke doesn’t have an auto sync sound function built-in. You can use a 3rd party program like PluralEyes as a standalone to sync your double system sound and import an .xml into Smoke.
95. Is there a user manual?
Autodesk does not currently provide a printed user manual, but a pdf for 2013 is still in development. You can view the work-in-progress document.
96. Is there online help?
There is online help available from the Smoke interface and which leads you to the Autodesk Support Wiki
97. Is it hard to learn Smoke?
Smoke 2013 has been redesigned to allow existing NLE users form FCP or Avid or Adobe to get started editing right away. Many editorial and workflow functions will be familiar concepts. For most users coming from other NLE’s, ConnectFX and the node based compositing will be the biggest learning curve.
98. Where can I find tutorials?
Grant Kay has been very busy making new tutorials for Smoke 2013. You can find these video tutorials on The Smoke Learning Channel on YouTube. There are also some great video tutorials at Smoke-Training.com and of course some great blog posts right here on Premiumbeat.com.
99. Can I enroll in a Smoke class?
Check the Autodesk training site for future class offerings. Also check FXPhd.com as they provide a wide variety of online classes including Smoke & Flame. It’s always a good idea to check with your local reseller and see if they have any training options available.
101. Can I download a trial version?
Now that Smoke is in retail release, you can download a 30 day trial to try out before buying.