NAB Show 2014 WrapUp #1 – Autodesk vs. The Foundry

NAB Show 2014 ist ON and although i’m currently in the US i had no luck participating the worlds biggest broadcasting convention in Las Vegas. So i watched hours of youtube summaries, browsed through tons of webpages to get a small overview about the topics i was eager to see. Let me share this copied information, this is my NAB Show 2014 WrapUp #1:

Autodesk shakes up effects and finishing tools line-up

Autodesk has unveiled Smoke 2015 and Flame 2015 as part of a rationalisation of its finishing tools that retires several old products, introduces a new one.

I can’t deny it, i’m NOT a big fan of Autodesk Compositing/Finishing or what ever they wanna call it tools anymore. Flame’s instability since the anniversary edition was a pain in the ass an cost a lot of time and nerves in the past 1 1/2 years. It’s still completely overpriced only runs on its own operating system with its own picked hardware and “it’s production ready” seems to mean in Autodesk-Language: “Please wait at least for the second service pack”.

But i do like the step of merging Smoke on Mac and Smoke together. Making the first step with Flame Assist bringing Flame to MAC is a very interesting step too. You got my attention Autodesk, but i’m still pissed. Although i’ll keep an eye on you. But judge yourself

Smoke 2015 – new integrated 3D tracker, new hardware support:

Smoke 2015 is the first major update to Smoke since the milestone 2013 release, which dropped the price of the Mac-based editing, effects and finishing tool from $14,995 to $3,495.

The 2015 release isn’t quite as disruptive – although it does bring in a new pricing model of its own.

New features include a 3D tracker integrated in the Action 3D compositor; and an overhaul of Timeline FX that enables editors to rearrange effects directly in the timeline, and makes Action a Timeline effect.

Other than that, it’s mainly about the way Smoke integrates with other hardware and software.

Autodesk has optimised Smoke for the new Mac Pro and OS X 10.9, although it doesn’t quantify the performance boost; and improved support for Blackmagic DeckLink cards and UltraStudio Thunderbolt devices.

Integration with Final Cut Pro X now “supports more timeline and effects metadata”; and Smoke sequences can be exported as XML with accompanying QuickTime files.

How much will you pay on subscription?

The recommended rates are $195/month, $545/quarter and $1,750/year, which includes updates and support – but even on the cheapest plan, you’ll still end up paying the cost of an old perpetual licence every two years.

In its press release, Autodesk notes that it “polled a sample across the professional video market and 68 percent responded that term-based software licensing is a great option” – although it doesn’t say whether the users were asked whether they wanted it to be the only option.

Smoke 2015 desktop subscriptions will become available to purchase on 8 May 2014.

Rationalising the product line

The 2015 releases also mark the official end of the line for several older tools, including Smoke Advanced, Flint and Inferno, according to [link: this blog post by Autodesk Expert Elite editor Brian Mulligan].

Anyone with a current subscription to those tools gets a free upgrade to Flame.

That refocuses the product line-up far more tightly around Flame 2015 and the attendant tools in Flame Premium, which now include Lustre, Flare and the new Flame Assist, also unveiled at NAB.

Flame 2015: new 4K workflows, new tools, new second GPU

Flame 2015 introduces a number of features designed to enable artists to work interactively at 4K resolution.

In Autodesk’s summary, these include: “4K/UHD color management supporting ACES and REC-2020 color spaces; real-time monitoring and playback via SDI of 4K/UHD material at 50P and 60P; timeline effects and batch nodes performance optimization & 4K capable substance textures; and 16 Gb fiber channel controllers in high-performance storage.”

Flame 2015 also now supports the addition of a second GPU card in the Flame workstation.

Artists can send a job to the second GPU for rendering via Background Reactor while continuing to work interactively on “certain other tasks” in the foreground.

It requires two Quadro 6000 GPUs on HP Z800 or Z820 workstations; or two Quadro K6000s on the Z820.

The update also adds a 3D Shape tool for rapid modelling and projection mapping work, described as “as easy to use as GMask”; and Replica, a new tool in Action for creating cascading effects using a single cloned object.

Matchbox shaders can also now be added directly to shots and transitions in the timeline.

Flame 2015 also introduces a new Dual Library view; and artists can now perform editorial and effects work on Batch sources in the timeline and see the results in a new Batch context view in the Batch compositing tree.

[link: Find ojut more about Smoke 2015]

Flame Premium 2015: includes Lustre, Flare and Flame Assist

As before, Flame Premium 2015 comes with Lustre, Autodesk’s colour grading software – and now licences of Flare, its VFX software, and Flame Assist, a new “Mac-based, timeline-centric assistant station”.

We can’t find any more official information on Flame Assist, beyond the fact that it’s intended to enable users to “take on a variety of tasks related to starting and completing Flame Premium projects”.

However, in his blog post, Mulligan says that it “contain[s] the exact same feature set” as Smoke, and is meant to address post houses’ tendency to use Smoke as a “mini-Flame” unit for conforming and basic FX work.

Autodesk also mentioned that Flame Assist is designed to address the needs of two distinct groups of Smoke users: existing Flame customers, who need compatibility with Flame itself; and a new audience of non-Flame-using video editors, who don’t.

“Having to support those 25% of customers who used Flame was going to be a constraint to what we want to do with Smoke,” said Autodesk industry manager Maurice Patel. “[In future versions] we want to break compatibility and take [Smoke] in a new direction.”

Existing users of both Flame and Smoke will have the option to migrate for free from Smoke to Flame Assist; users of Smoke alone can remain on their current software, or move to the new rental version.

The new versions of Flame, Flame Premium and the related tools ship later this month.

[link: Find out more about the Flame Premuim 2015 Package]

The Foundry announces Nuke Studio

The Foundry has unveiled Nuke Studio: an upcoming addition to the Nuke product family intended to provide a complete node-based “VFX, editorial and finishing studio” in a single application.

A new ‘super Nuke’

The new product combines all of the features from NukeX, the current top-of-the-range edition of The Foundry’s 3D compositor, with features from Hiero, its conform, shot-management and review tool.

In the NAB announcement, Nuke product manager Jon Wadelton described Nuke Studio as “full NukeX with the capabilities of Hiero [plus] lots of secret-sauce tech that makes [it] more than the sum of its parts”.

Key features include a full online editing toolset, real-time timeline effects, and integrated workflow between the timeline and NukeX’s node graph, including the option to copy and paste between the two.

Real-time 4K playback, pipeline integration

Nuke Studio will also provide real-time 4K playback, both in-application and through SDI-out hardware: something that Autodesk has also just announced for Flame 2015.

Playback will be GPU-accelerated, with Wadelton noting that The Foundry will be announcing a list of recommended “Quadro-class Nvidia” cards, although Nuke Studio “will run on other hardware as well”.

Like Nuke itself, the software will run on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and unlike turnkey solutions like Flame, there will be “no hardware locks”.

The Foundry also says that Nuke Studio will have “built-in renderfarm functionality” – “if you want to go faster, you just add extra machines and it will use those as well,” said Wadelton – and will be Python-scriptable.

So how much will this cost?

The Foundry hasn’t announced pricing for Nuke Studio yet, although it describes it as sitting “at the top of our current Nuke range” and being “a reasonable upgrade from NukeX”.

Given NukeX’s current list price of $8,144, excluding tax, that suggests Nuke Studio will be more expensive than Autodesk’s Smoke – the 2013 release of which is priced at $3,495 – but significantly less than Flame.

Asked where The Foundry was pitching Nuke Studio in the market, Nuke product marketing manager Philippa Carroll commented that it “was not designed to offer a like-for-like replacement” for any existing product.

Instead, she noted that The Foundry had “designed an application that meets the new requirements of fast-turnaround post-production, where Nuke is the primary compositor used.”

Slotting into standard pipelines

The Foundry sees the fact that Nuke Studio is being built around an already industry-standard tool as a key selling point for the new product.

“With Studio, you’re getting access to the power of Nuke and all its benefits,”

said Carroll.

“All the tech in this product is battle-tested.”

“Nuke Studio gives an artist a whole lot of control – they can conform, edit, colour-correct, add effects, play back at 4K – basically, they can run a whole project and even sit with a client while doing it.”

However, Carroll noted that the software is designed for team, as well as solo, work.

“Because it’s built on an architecture that was designed to be highly collaborative, [artists] can take a particular part of the project on the timeline and get other members of their team to independently work on it, in the way a Nuke team always has.”

Still details to be finalised

Given that many of the capabilities of Nuke Studio are already present in NukeX and Hiero, the only major unknown would seem to be the editing toolset.

Carroll commented that The Foundry has “made a huge number of advances with our editorial capabilities”, although it isn’t yet clear exactly how fully featured an editor Nuke Studio will be.

In the NAB presentation, Wadelton noted that it would be able to cut audio, but not apply effects like compression, for example.

It also isn’t clear yet exactly which features of NukeX will be accessible from the timeline.

In the NAB session, Wadelton identified NukeX’s colour-matching tool, masks and retiming as features that would be “cool to have”, but noted that the intention was not to bypass the node graph entirely.

“We don’t want to move everything to the timeline because we really believe that the node graph environment is the best [place] to do compositing, because it’s much more fluid,” he said.

Release dates and further updates

However, even from the current outline description, Nuke Studio sounds a powerful – and potentially disruptive – new product.

The Foundry says that it will be sharing more information in the run-up to its release, currently scheduled for “late 2014″. You can sign up for news updates on The Foundry’s website via [link: this link].

And the winner is…

…we will see. I admit i’m a little foundry fanboy myself and i waited so long for this announcement, i’m really really excited by now. On the other side, i’m not convinced the 4k Playback will work out as promised. The humongous HDD FibreChannel Raid Set in the back of a Flame system is hard to compete with, no matter how fast the GPU is. I also admit that i looked forward to see flame coming to other platforms than only the stupid redhead OS.

Summarizing all information, my personal winner is still The Foundry. Its a bigger leap for them announcing a complete new Solution that actually WILL COMPETE with Autodesk Flame within acceptable pricing and without system boundaries. I love it, i want it, now!

Thank you for reading.

Comments (0)

Be the first to leave a reply!

Add Your Comment

* required

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!