Autodesk Smoke is a video editing tool appropriate for both industry professionals and amateurs looking to experiment with video production.
- Parallel editing storyboards with separate audio and video tracks
- Rich selection of deformation and distortion effects
- Node-based compositor
- Remains stable even when performing high end tasks
- Familiar learning curve for anyone with video editing experience
- Customizable interface
- Only runs on Macs, and requires a fairly powerful machine
- Users can't run Smoke on multiple displays in tandem
With Maya, Softimage and 3D Studio Max to its name, Autodesk is well regarded for its impressive collection of creative design software, and Smoke deserves a spot in the pantheon of reliable and well tested products in the Autodesk catalog. Upon cursory examination, Autodesk Smoke doesn't look all that different from competitors like Final Cut Pro. The default design of the interface is largely identical, with cascading files and folders in a left side panel, video playback windows on the upper right, and stacks of linear timelines underneath. In fact, editors accustomed to Final Cut's intricacies can easily load in Final Cut's hotkeys to make the transition to the new software simple. Sound and video are treated as separate tracks, and you can stack multiple video timelines on top of each other to work on multiple versions in parallel. While this is a great feature for any video editor, it's now a standard in the industry. The commonly used library of wipes used by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is available out of the box, but Autodesk Smoke also supports the ability to create your own custom wipes. This needn't be intimidating. The process is intuitive, and users can quickly create unique transitions with a minimal learning curve. Easy vector design for wipes minimizes the need to jump to external programs just to get the graphics you need for your custom transition. Animation and editing effects are rich and varied as well. Smoke has earned accolades as a premier video finishing software, and it pulls out the stops in that regard. Whether you're looking to saturate the color of your scene, emphasize lighting, or resize and add text, all the standard options are there and easy to implement. But Autodesk Smoke sets itself apart from much of the competition with its node-based compositor. While layer-based compositors are available in plenty of video editing software, they have severe limitations, creating a linear stack of imagery and effects. With Autodesk's complex node compositor, you can integrate elements in parallel, and that even applies to 3D elements. Not only does this allow you to create richer and more complicated scenes, it also makes editing much less of a hassle. Instead of having to dig through layers and layers to find the effects you need to edit, potentially screwing up the larger picture in the process, you can just find the element you're looking to work with directly through the node's map. That's not even getting into the variety of other features like stereoscopic workflow and the ability to work in mixed resolutions. There's a lot going on beneath the surface of Autodesk Smoke, and even experienced video editors could spend months or even years learning the ins and outs of the software. Like many modern software companies, Autodesk has moved to a software as a service model, meaning you'll have to dish out a monthly subscription fee for access to Autodesk. While it's a fairly expensive product, it offers perhaps the best editing functions in the industry.