Market differentiation is a challenge for professional content creators and post facilities, especially as budgets wane and client expectations for high-quality content rise.
Over the last two decades, the business has changed dramatically with the transition to digital workflows. A few years ago you’d have to invest in tape decks, build a large infrastructure, set up high performance networking, etc. to deliver film-quality video. Today, technology has progressed so far, so quickly that artists can deliver film-quality finishing with significantly less hardware, investment and time involved than before.
This transition has definitely made professional video more accessible to a broader range of users and empowered artists to deliver groundbreaking new work, but it’s also introduced a host of new complexities into the post production workflow.
Those complexities were top of mind when we introduced Smoke for Max OS X, our all-in-one creative finishing solution at the end of 2009. By combining the familiar workflow of a non-linear editor with high-end post and finishing tools, we built the first all-in-one solution for professional editorial finishing on the Mac. And with each release, we’ve continued to advance the software with additional tools to enhance the creative finishing workflow -- minimizing complexity and increasing production efficiency from edit to compositing through to final color correction.
The Workflow Challenge
Success in post production requires the right technology to meet the demands of increasingly complex digital workflows. Complexity grows as new formats and new acquisition technologies are introduced into the marketplace.
Finishing often involves the use of multiple applications, processes and formats—often on multiple workstations and even at multiple facilities— that can significantly hamper workflow efficiency. Every click and trip to a new menu or application interface slows an artist down, especially those repeated throughout the day. Scene retouching, for example, requires dedicated tools for compositing, color correction, keying and more. Juggling multiple applications to finish these different tasks can jeopardize a project’s timeline.
Working in multiple applications can also be a challenge when changes come late into the post production process. This can lead to backtracking to original source files and re-rendering in other applications and plug-ins – wasting time and increasing the risk of compromised or lost data.
Artists also have to factor in changing formats across a project. Each step of finishing may introduce new challenges brought on by reformatting or generating additional media, which must be re-integrated into the master timeline. This runs the risk of degrading media and metadata.
Despite these issues, project budgets and timelines continue to be constrained and clients aren’t willing to pay for extra time added to a project resulting from workflow inefficiencies. Facilities can no longer rely on pipelines built from incongruent creative solutions to deliver a final finish on par with the public’s Hollywood-caliber expectations.
Creative Finishing Payoff
We recently spoke with the in-house production departments at performance eyewear, apparel and accessories company, Oakley and advertising agency Hogarth Worldwide about how consolidating their post production into a single application is improving their business and throughput capability.
For Oakley, keeping every aspect of creative work in-house is essential -- from corporate videos to short films and advertising projects. Delivering quality results that meet the company’s style and expectations calls for complete collaboration and creative control over both production and post. For this, Oakley relies on a solid in-house production and post pipeline built on RED digital cameras for acquisition and Smoke for finishing.
“Smoke gives us everything we need: editing, compositing and retouching tools all in one,” said Oakley Smoke Editor Sharon Diaz. “We also enjoy working collaboratively, and the ability to work seamlessly across cut, b-roll and color with Smoke for Mac eliminates the duplication of media and enhances the flow. That’s a huge benefit for us."
“At Oakley we have four Smoke bays that can talk with one another and share projects. Users can jump from bay to bay and still have access to everything that they need, and it’s all stored centrally,” James Masters, global video manager, Oakley, added. “Smoke is quick, elegant and smooth. We’ve been able to bring another level to our expertise and have greatly expanded our offerings.”
London-based Hogarth Worldwide, the advertising agency behind a number of notable TV, print and digital ads, depends on the centralized production of versioning to provide more value for its clients. Upon the release of Smoke for the Mac, Hogarth, who already had more than 70 Mac-based creative seats for non-linear editorial, integrated the solution to help streamline post production and extend artists’ creative capabilities.
“As soon as I heard about Smoke, I was very excited to try it out. At the time we had an existing XML workflow, and Smoke integrates very well with that,” commented Werner Huber, head of post production, Hogarth Worldwide. “Smoke is now on a platform that we work with day in and day out. It’s a formidable tool that we’re very excited about here.”
“With a good tracker, keyer and color corrector it allows us to finish material at the same quality of a traditional post house,” concluded Huber.
Simplifying the Complexity
Autodesk Smoke was designed to address the complexities posed by today’s modern digital production workflow with a streamlined solution and proven creative finishing toolset for almost every post production job, from color correction, keying and retouch to rotoscoping, titling and 3D VFX. It helps companies meet the needs of their clients by re-organizing finishing tasks into a single application that is specifically designed to work through complexity, throughput and time challenges.
An independent research report by Pfeiffer Consulting recently revealed a 35% productivity gain when using Smoke over multi-product workflows. Smoke excelled in overall user interface and tasks involving complex compositing, tracking and stabilization, and coloring.
Complex compositing, for example, is made easier by Smoke’s integrated keying and tracking modules, and the 3D compositing and effects environment. The tools provide tighter integration with fewer steps for task completion and reduce time-consuming moves between different applications to achieve a smooth creative process. Smoke’s native support for a wide range of common media formats also saves artists time by helping tackle challenges typically brought on by reformatting or generating additional media.
We continue to add new features to Smoke that will help streamline our customers’ workflows such as the redesigned 3D lighting system, comprehensive stereo 3D toolset and integrated tools for color correction, keying and 3D compositing in Smoke 2012.
Autodesk realizes and values editorial as core to modern storytelling, and developed Smoke to respect the nature of the cut. Smoke embraces traditional track-based editorial conventions, meaning artists and editors will feel at home right away with Smoke. It brings powerful and proven high-end tools to Mac-based post pipelines in a complementary workflow to editorial. Smoke enables creative post facilities to keep more work in house with the ability to tackle more facets of a project. As creative finishing workflows gain momentum, Autodesk will continue to support professional editors and artists with optimized toolsets to make their jobs easier and their projects even better.