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Valued Contributor
90 Posts
11 Kudos
Registered: ‎03-15-2012

desktop vs. timeline

25 Views, 4 Replies
04-29-2012 02:29 PM
in the beginning there was no flame...

in fact in the beginning there was quantel. in 1986 harry was introduced and it was one layer over back.
and in 1992 they introduced henry. henry could handle multipe layers over back, i am not sure how many but
i guess they started with 4 layer maybe they directly had 8 layer but i guess not.
so the approach to do the comps was very clear, stick 8 layer over your back, render them to your desktop,
take the result und feed it as a background into your next comp and add more layer.

the advantage was that that this approach was very fast and interactive. you could work directly with clients
and do directly what they wanted to see. the bad thing was, when you have a more complex comp that needed more than
a few layers and the client request you to change something in one of your first comps then of coure you had to render
everything above this comp and you had to do it manually.

but we all know our clients, you can do a bad tracking, a bad key, bad roto and plastic cg, what they care about are
the skin colours of the main actor and they mostly hold the product near your monitor and say, see this is more golden.
so mostly you come away with a selective colour correction on top and the client leaves happy.

i still work with clients today who honnestly tell me that the fastest mashine they ever worked with was henry
and why we are not using it any more coz it was awsome.
then mostly i tell them that we have a framework agreement with discreet logic and we are not allowed to use quantel mashines
by contract ;-)

however, when flame came up it was designed with exactly the same idea like quantel. they enhanced most of the features,
so the compositor could directly handle more than 8 layers and it had a way nicer desktop where organizing clips was way more
easy than on quantels 3 reel desktop, but the general work approach was exactly the same like working on a henry.

i cant remember version 4 exactly but i am sure with version 5 there was a batch. it was not really designed to work
in batch but if you did a comp, within a comp, within a comp and the client asked you to change something in comp one,
you could easyly change it, then throw your next few actions into batch and ask the client if he wants to see the result
right now after rendering an hour or if we should render it when we leave the studio for lunch.

i remember, that one of my clients bought this own flame, it was a nice one with v12 graphics and dual 400mhz.
wow this mashine was freakingly fast. a henry could render one layer with all effects on it in realtime!
i remember that this mashine was rendering even faster, a one minute colour correction was rendering in below 50 sec.
wow, fastest mashine on the planet at that time. ;-)

around that time a client (one of the biggest post companies in germany) called me if i could pop in and finish a job,
but the client is very difficult coz he had just fired his flame artist. i agreed and when i poped in i asked why
did he fire him? and i was told coz he was already working on that commercial for 3 days and the client things that he is
awfully slow. i was surprised coz they had a really new inferno with latest hard and software. i worked on this mashine
a time before on a feature in 3k and it was fast and responsive. what i saw then made me lough. the artist did the
whole 30sec commercial in 1 (one!!!) batch. when i wanted to see another frame i had to wait roughly 3 minutes.
wow. surprisingly inferno was still running rock solid. so i divided this setup into as may peaces as possible
and took as much as possible to the desktop. i poped in somewhere in the late afternoon and we were done around midnight.
client said that this was nearly as fast as on henry.... pfffffff.....

so after these experiences it was clear for me that i have to avoid batch as long as possible, or at least avoid it
when working with clients.

when smoke came up and i first saw it at a smoke training class at autodesk (or maybe discreet). i was sure that i never
want this product. the action was called dve and it was restricted to 8 layers. the timeline was awfull.
i was one of the first avid editors in germany and when talking about a timeline in my opinion it had to look and work
like a avid timeline. smoke was clearly different, and not in a good way. it was way easier to delete effects than creating
them. versioning was a nightmare. and smokes desktop was a pain compared to the nice flame desktop.
so why go with a smoke?

the next few years were great then. you could just ignore all the autodesk updates and just work on your system.
the 1st 3d tracker came out, it was awfull, no need for an update, the modular keyer was still not as good as keylight
and a pain to use. the linux boxes were introduced but they were crashing 50x a day. very very nice. there was no need
at all for an upgrade or a change to work differently.

but then after a few rumors autodesk surprisingly introduced smoke on the MAC!!! for me that changed everything.
an advanced system for a wedding film price. great. sure smoke still had this awfull desk, but the dve was gone and the action
was there. nice. the crappy timeline was still there but it had some modifications over the years, not nice but usable.
all the major tools colourwarper, keyer, action etc... it was all there, so it was a flame light.
very very cool product. the most flame people i know hate the smoke, but it was clearly better to work on a smoke then
on after effects, fcp, nuke and shake.

and the linux boxes, they were working now, and they were as rock solid agin like the irix systems, but 20 times faster.
now the workflow changed. people are using the batch heavily, batch is now in the timeline. all the autodesk demos are
only around the timeline. well i am still not using the timeline. i still use my desktop. i process one action to the desk
and "swap shot" it in my reel. if i need more than one action to do a comp i use a batch and process it to my desk.
but i still try to avoid batch. when i do a colour correction, i render it on the desk. the timeline scares me.

now there is a new smoke. with a brand new timeline. it looks and i guess feels like an avid timeline. it is not so
easy anymore to delete effects by accident. i guess i really like the new timeline.

so why all this flame history blabla?

i think that when you have a great timeline there is nothing wrong with using it. but at the same time i see that
with the timeline there comes batch. and with increasing frame sizes (4k or more) and the heavy use of batch we will
slow down flame to death. in the last few years i saw a lot comps done in flame witch were not interactiv anymore.
having a whole 30sec commercial in one batch, yes i see it again and again. and that is exactly not the way i want to go.
i want to work on a system that is as fast as you can think, and batch is not the tool to increase speed.

i like the very new timeline but i still love my desktop.
and when i continue working with it, then maybe one day flame is as fast as henry ;-)
Distinguished Contributor
502 Posts
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Registered: ‎07-10-2003

Re: desktop vs. timeline

04-30-2012 01:11 AM in reply to: peppermintpost
hey, thats a long text ;-)
complete history of vfx ...
of course all valid point, youre bringing up here - althoug i must say, that you left out a couple of facts, too ...
i remember flame coming on a 4 proc onyx (some MHz) with 256 MB ram & you have been working on PAL 8bit - this has changed a lot & i would doubt, that a Henry is faster (in reachnig the result) than a flame (for quite some time now).
the Henry was looking good (&fast), because the artist was always busy: large tablet, each single step executing & rendering, so all the time there was something happening & clients got action ("entertainment") for the money.

im looking forward to june to see, how the new workflow paradigm could fit in here

robert coulin
Distinguished Contributor
148 Posts
2 Kudos
Registered: ‎04-19-2008

Re: desktop vs. timeline

05-10-2012 07:54 AM in reply to: peppermintpost
Batch isn't the issue, sloppy work practices are.

I have run across flame ops who build impossibly slow setups. I once rebuilt and rendered a title sequence in less time than the previous op's setup took to simply render, for example. A PICNIC* as it were.

Batch is awesome. It has far more tools than Action and allows you to use them all in context. If you precomp sensibly it's plenty fast. It's doubly awesome because you can leave all your work in one place.

*Problem In Chair, Not In Computer
4 Posts
0 Kudos
Registered: ‎05-14-2012

Re: desktop vs. timeline

05-16-2012 12:25 PM in reply to: peppermintpost
I agree with Andy Dill, it´s up to the the user to define how best to utilise the tools. Personally I tend to paint clean plates and reflection plates to the desktop prior to track and comp in batch. Generally if I need a denoise strategy for keying i will pre render this to the desktop aswell (it takes time even if you know what you want) otherwise batch is good for me
4 Posts
0 Kudos
Registered: ‎05-14-2012

Re: desktop vs. timeline

05-16-2012 12:42 PM in reply to: peppermintpost
Oops Yes, Forgot to say if you are working in a group environment and you are the vfx lead then there is a great adavntage with batch. You can implement a sensible naming covention, you can insist that all nodes are visible (ie. there are no deeply complex decisions buried in an action node) and you can 'easily' tweak other people's work should it be necessary.