How important is the hardware behind your editing rig? The proper configuration is key in making sure you have the right machine to meet your client’s finishing demands.
Since Autodesk launched Smoke on OS X, they’ve been working to expand the range of recommended hardware, and when I do user group events and other speaking engagements, I often compare platform choice to the choice you have at 7-Eleven when selecting soft drinks. Today you can design a Smoke experience to meet your production needs – from a Mobile Warrior laptop option, to a desktop option using an iMac and Thunderbolt storage, to a fully configured MacPro hero suite.
Fig 1: Mobile or Desktop configurations
Figure 1 shows a 2011 MacBook Pro and iMac running Smoke. With an integrated Thunderbolt port and a Promise Thunderbolt RAID (which I’ve written about a few times in the past) these configurations provide the bandwidth needed for full-res HD finishing and fast processing of your effects in beautiful uncompressed 10-bit RGB glory.
Fig 2: Basic Mac Pro configuration
Figure 2 shows a typical MacPro configuration. Equipping your MacPro with an external eSATA RAID, an NVidia Quadro card for maximum GPU horsepower and a Wacom tablet ensures you have a system configured for uncompressed HD and 2K finishing workflows.
Fig 3: Full MacPro configuration
Figure 3 shows a fully pimped out MacPro with an arsenal of tools for finishing just about anything you can throw at Smoke. Adding a Red Rocket card, an AJA Kona 3G for broadcast monitoring, an Avid Color Artist panel and Fibre Channel storage lets you tackle the most demanding projects – like that 4K/IMAX music video you’re secretly working on.
What config for the trial?
If you’re new to Smoke, the first place to start is the 30-day trial download. But what if your current system, like an older MacBook Pro or iMac, lacks a Thunderbolt Port? Although Smoke renders internally at RGB 4:4:4, you can actually change the internal processing to use a lighter weight compression scheme. Smoke Superhero Brian Mulligan just published a great tutorial on how to do this on his blog.
But what if I don’t do compositing or visual effects?
I’ve got two words for you: why not?
During my career, more often than not I’ve found that enhancing the production value of a piece by tweaking the color correction, adding motion graphics or compositing and effects is the secret sauce that kept my clients coming back. Knowing how to go beyond editing not only came in handy, it was a requirement. I recall one series of infomercials I did in the 90’s where I had 4 days to edit a 15 minute piece. The director and I would cut everything on the first day, and then I would spend the next three making it look good. If you’ve never done this kind of work to make ends meet, you can throw the first tomato.
I also spent several years training traditional editors on compositing and effects because directors wanted to see what were essentially final effects in offline. Even if they were going to recreate them at the online stage, it wasn’t good enough to just cut the piece with a few rough comps. These days the line between offline and online is blurry at best – and invisible for most of us. It’s a requirement to know how to go beyond editing and deliver complex shots and effects – even if you still consider yourself a traditional editor. This is why I love Smoke. It offers all the tools I need for traditional storytelling, plus the grading, VFX and compositing tools, such as tracking and masking, required for cleaning up shots, removing logos, stabilizing shots and other invisible effects.
Be a pirate!
In If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland encouraged would-be writers to “Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion, Be a Pirate, When You Write”. I’m going to take this further and encourage you to be a lion and a pirate when you edit. You need to amaze, dazzle and enchant. If you do, your clients will love your work and tweet about it. And what better way to do this than with Smoke – an application that will let you do more.
Smoke is more. Smoke propels you to the next level, gives you an edge to achieve better results, sets you in the major leagues.
Give Smoke a try, learn it, master it and talk about it. After all, everyone likes a good story.