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Beta Sight: Autodesk Flare

Jul 14, 2009 12:00 PM, By Kirk Balden, VFX supervisor and senior Flame artist at Smoke & Mirrors' New York outpost

Smoke & Mirrors is first with Flare.


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Smoke & Mirrors was the first visual-effects studio to purchase Autodesk Flare, a companion to Autodesk Flame and Inferno. Pictured: Kirk Balden, VFX supervisor and senior Flame artist at Smoke & Mirrors New York.

Smoke & Mirrors was the first visual-effects studio to purchase Autodesk Flare, a companion to Autodesk Flame and Inferno. Pictured: Kirk Balden, VFX supervisor and senior Flame artist at Smoke & Mirrors New York.

When Autodesk Flare, the new companion software for Autodesk Flame and Inferno, was introduced at NAB Show 2009, Smoke & Mirrors was the first visual-effects studio to buy it. In fact, we made the purchase—two seats—during the first hour of the show. It was a decision made after many months of beta testing, putting Flare through its paces at our facilities in New York, where I'm based, and London. (We also have an outpost in Shanghai.)

Because we've outfitted Smoke & Mirrors with the most recent versions of Autodesk Flame, Smoke, Toxik, Combustion, Backdraft, Maya, 3ds Max, and Softimage, Flare fit seamlessly into our pipeline. We run it on HP xw9400 workstations with the CentOS operating system. Since our purchase in April, Flare has already helped us efficiently finish visual-effects work on a PSA for ad agency BBDO New York, and it is currently being tapped for many other exciting upcoming projects.

What’s Flare?

Flare operates like an assistant station so commercial post facilities can maximize productivity by freeing up the Flame and Inferno suites to perform the heavy lifting on visual-effects jobs. Based on the Batch compositing environment, Flare has the same creative toolset found in Flame and Inferno, which means you can execute compositing, graphics and design, rotoscoping, retouching and dust removal, project setup, and keying the same as you would on Flame. It's also one-fifth the cost of Flame, so you can leverage the power of Flame at a fraction of the cost.

Because it's a software product that comes as a floating license, it enables a modular workflow, so a facility like ours can dynamically tailor a visual-effects suite to the needs of a particular project or client. This might mean integrating 2D and 3D departments into one bay—with Flare, Flame, and Maya all in one room—allowing you to work more creatively on the same project because 2D and 3D aren't separate departments on different floors.

Putting Flare to the test

A 30-second PSA called "Signs," which we recently completed for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), was perhaps the world's first Flare project.

Shot in one take from the first-person perspective of a commuter driving down the freeway, the spot shows handmade welcome-home banners hanging from overpasses with various messages to convey the difficulty of approaching and engaging a friend or family member who has recently returned home.

We were originally brought on by the agency to do simple clean-up and shot stabilization on the signs, which were made from bed sheets and hung from the overpasses. They soon found out that it was illegal to hang banners of that size on freeway overpasses. The signs had to be re-created digitally, so what started as a simple finishing job turned into something much more substantial.

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