Smoke 4k Workflow

Ari Brown Feb 2, 2015

  1. I had read somewhere that Encore Hollywood was doing the post for the Netflix show Marco Polo, which had UHD deliverables. It mentioned that they used Smoke & Lustre for the conform and grade.

    I kept trying to see if there were any additional write-ups about the process, as I am curious how they were monitoring and conforming UHD in both Smoke (and also Lustre, if it isn't part of Flame).

    Anyone here perhaps have any insight? I know Smoke has just started adding the UHD and 4K resolutions, but there is still no way to monitor out 4k from SDI. Just wondering about this, as I use Smoke frequently as my conform tool.
  2. Jason Myres

    Jason Myres Moderator

    Are you referring to Smoke on Linux or Mac? They are very different stories. On Linux, Flame/Smoke/Lustre each require a minimum of a 16-Core 3GHz+ z820, a K6000, 16Gb Fibre or SAS, plus a Kona 4 card. The Kona is connected using quad 1.5G SDI out to whatever monitor or projector you're using.

    I have read about UHD support for Smoke on Mac, but haven't tried it. I know a number of people struggling with it though, and until there are more powerful options hardware wise, I imagine it's going to be difficult at best.

    I've spoken with AD support quite a bit about this. Beyond the basic system resources required to process the huge increase in data compared to HD, you need a GPU with a very fast (and large) Vram buffer to guarantee smooth playback. That's a little tough to come by on the Mac platform right now.
  3. We use Smoke on Mac. If you have the Mac Pro (Late 2013) it actually does a pretty decent job at playing back UHD and even 4k DCI. However, everything is of course limited by the storage speed. Any sort of uncompressed file format such as DPX won't play unless you have a very fast array & connection. We have been able to stick with ProRes444 as the source codec as well as the cache format.

    That is what peaked my interest, was that it specifically said Smoke. I believe that Smoke Advanced (Linux) is EOL, so I couldn't imagine it supporting UHD. In fact, I believe that the Smoke Advanced migration path was just to Flame or Flame Premium. So to say Smoke and Lustre, and not Flame seemed odd to me. Perhaps they didn't bother actually monitoring picture with anything other than a downconverted HD signal in Smoke on Mac.
  4. Jason Myres

    Jason Myres Moderator

    Yeah, it's just another example of Thunderbolt being pressed into service in a situation it's not ready for. We really could have used a few PCI-E slots.

    Since they're all one product now (Flame Premium), in facility circles it's very common to refer to Flame in the context of VFX/ Compositing, Smoke for online, and Lustre for grading. No one says "Flame Premium-Editing" or "Flame Premium-Grading". Autodesk marketing is the only one driving that. If you look at support docs (e.g.. "What's New in Lustre 2015"), or talk with AD support, everyone still refers to the three separately.

    As for UHD on Smoke on Mac, I would try to stick with codecs your TB arrays can handle, or hang in there until TB3 is released. I have been a long-time proponent of Smoke on Mac, but now that Apple's begun to consumerize their pro hardware, continuing to fight the good fight just seems less and less worthwhile.
    Marc Wielage likes this.
  5. I'm really curious how people are liking working on new Mac Pros with Smoke. I'm still chugging along with a 2010 Mac running Smoke 2013. I tested Smoke 2015 on a 2013 Mac Pro last year and found render time to take a minute longer with the same shot on my older system. Autodesk had little to offer in explanation - something like "with more features comes more render time". I'm about to upgrade this year, and am weighing my options. More and more, Linux (Flame) seems like the way to go.
  6. I have been running Smoke on both the cylinder, as well as a 2012 12 core, and I haven't noticed too much of a difference between the two with render time or performance. If anything, I found that higher resolution frame sizes play better on the cylinder, but I am sure that has a lot to do with the GPUs in the 2012 machine. To be perfectly honest, I haven't done a head to head comparison, or really paid too much attention for render times - so please take that with a grain of salt.
    But I would say that if you can go the Flame route, it certainly seems like that is where AD is pushing all of the new features and power. For us, Flame is on the high end for what we would need on from a finishing system right now (especially on price). Smoke is a great tool for conform, and some minor effects work, but we don't use it much past that. It fits nicely in our pipeline between offline and grading in Resolve, as I find there to be a lack of real conforming tools within Resolve.
  7. I suspect BMD wants very much to create a Smoke/Flame/Lustre compositing/color-correction/finishing system equivalent. My expectation is that a Fusion/Resolve system will be shown at NAB, but I hope they don't combine the functionality in one program. Two programs would be fine.
  8. That could be an interesting combination, but more for the price point then what would ultimately be the usability. I'm not convinced that combining the tools would end up working too well from a dev standpoint. If nothing else, perhaps it would be more competition to nudge Autodesk. For me at least, I'm not sure the ability to do more compositing would be as important as having a more robust conform toolset in Resolve. Right now SMAC has been one of the only things keeping us tied to the Mac platform.
    Marc Wielage likes this.
  9. We have 2 Smokes (perpetual license) - one on a MacTube, and the other on a 2012 Tower w a K5000 card. We upgraded the tower to 10.9 so that we could be running the same OS, same versions, etc - but it hasn't worked out too well. We're going back to 10.8, as the K5 card/Smoke doesn't seem to do well with 10.9. Supposedly, 10.10 is much better, but it's not supported by ADSK (but Flame Assist is). When they were both working well, I clocked the new one as about 10-20% faster renders, but not much difference in overall performance.

    Since this was a 4k thread... we've done some tests and VFX work at 4k, but haven't done a full 4k delivery. If you use ProRes4444 as your render codec, either Mac worked fine with an 8 drive Raid. Using Uncompressed, you need a RAID that can pull 1 TB/s - and neither of our raids are capable of that, so we wouldn't be getting realtime performance anyway.

    As mentioned above, there is no 4k/UHD video SDI output on Smoke, so we were only doing HD monitoring.
    Jason Myres likes this.

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