SPARKL with Autodesk Smoke on iMac

August 28, 2013

Autodesk Smoke on iMacVisual Effects Artist and editor Mark McKenna delivers seamless editing, visual effects and colour grading to his clients. Digistor worked with Mark to put together an Autodesk Smoke system that would enable him to practise his craft independently from large production facilities and be able to offer mobile in-house services.

“As a Flame Artist I realised that Smoke was essentially an affordable Flame. It gives me the tools of my trade without having to be attached to a facility.” said Mark.

The set-up Mark purchased from Digistor was Autodesk Smoke running on an iMac and Promise Pegasus R6 RAID. “The choice of iMac was important as I’m mobile. I turn up with a few flightcases and bring the Suite to the client. When the new iMac was announced I saw the specs on the GFX card I put in an order immediately… I had been waiting a while!  I was worried at first not believing it would cut the mustard on more challenging work so held on to my 2010 Mac Pro in case. No need… The Mac Pro is now gathering dust.”

Autodesk Smoke on iMacDigistor also upgraded Mark’s MacBook Pro to run as a networked Smoke licence. “The laptop is an important part of managing changes on jobs. If the iMac is installed in an agency somewhere I have the ability to switch to Smoke on the laptop to make changes for other clients in the evening or if I get a quiet moment. The laptop is also a vital backup in case the iMac goes bang one day.”

Mark now lives and works in Adelaide but can travel anywhere as required. Prior to that he has been in the broadcast and film industry for 25 years with much of his career spent in large facilities in London, Germany and recently Melbourne. His early days were spent on Quantel systems Henry and Editbox (and even Harry) but the last 10 years have been spent with Autodesk and he now runs the big three... Flame, Smoke and Lustre.

More and more Mark relies on Smoke for most of his work. ”I can keep it simple and just use this system in isolation as I don’t need anything else. However I do also run Resolve on the same iMac (partitioned though) but most situations so far have me staying in Smoke. Larger projects will have me stepping up the workflow in and out of Resolve but it is so much easier in an Agency environment to stay in the one place. You can juggle composites grading and recuts all at the same time. Now that Smoke works so well with Pro Res why go to Final cut to offline too? As an Autodesk specialist I’m way quicker cutting in Smoke anyway”.

Smoke in StudioHaving known and worked with Digistor for years as a staffing Flame/Smoke Artist whilst working at a number of facilities (Digital Pictures, Iloura, Kojo) Mark trusts them. “Digistor is familiar to me and I know their standards. So the choice to go with them was a no brainer for me. I have had to seek technical help from them as far back as when Helmut was working with them and they consistently have people to talk to who know the Autodesk products. And let's face it they are way too complicated for a mere mortal to manage!"

Mark worked with Digistor account manager, Warwick Morris to figure out the best configurations for this system. But when the iMac came out Warwick knew it was for ideal for Mark’s requirements and called straight away.

Autodesk SmokeEssentially this system has given him the tools he needs to be his own boss. “Until now I have always had to be attached to a facility as the equipment has always been so prohibitively expensive. It was rather like being a carpenter but not having a saw! Having the tools of my trade at my own disposal is hugely empowering.” explained Mark.

SPARKL offers two different types of service; “Mobile Smoke Edit Suite” and “remote VFX artist”. Mobile Smoke Edit Suite includes Mark coming and setting up in your office/studio with a Smoke editing system (including a Sony OLED (Organic LED) broadcast reference monitor. This offers great peace of mind whilst grading as these are calibrated at the factory and cannot drift. ) "Remote VFX" artist involves sending in shots remotely and Mark fixes them up.

In the past much of your visual effects work could not start until the online stage, as that was the only place you could access your pictures easily. It's so easy to farm out shots now, saving time and money.

To find out more about SPARKL on their Website, or check out the showreel below.

SPARKL showreel from Mark McKenna on Vimeo.