In big news from Montreal, Autodesk announced that Flame on Linux is immediately available as a software-only subscription and that they will discontinue selling turnkey hardware systems early next year. In addition, Flame is coming to OS X at the end of November, joining Flare and Flame Assist on the Apple platform. And finally, Flare and Flame Assist will be available for purchase by anyone who wishes to use the application — not just Flame owners.

Via the software subscription program, users may purchase floating or node-locked licenses for any of the Flame family products on any platforms. One caveat, however, is that only the Linux license server can serve floating licenses. So if you have a facility filled with OS X systems, you’ll want to install a Linux license server to take advantage of the benefits of floating licenses.

All of these changes speak to ones that many artists and facility owners have been clamoring for over the last several years. It makes a lot of sense based upon the changes in the industry and the pricing pressures facilities are facing. So let’s takea look at the news by examining the pricing as well as the move away from turnkey systems to recommended configurations.

Pricing

Those that were hoping for rock-bottom pricing of Flame will be disappointed. However, those that run a sensible business doing high end work will likely be pleased with the changes and flexibility that the software subscription provides. Subscription prices for Flame that are as low as $500USD/month mean that almost any faciliity with a good business plan can make money at those prices.

While this will undoubtedly open up Flame to many new users, this move doesn’t significantly change the target market of Flame. It’s difficult to directly compare Flame with other software due to its deep and integrated toolset that other applications don’t provide but hell, let’s do it anyway. Even at the lowest $500/month level, Flame is still significantly more expensive the Adobe Creative Cloud and remains more expensive than The Foundry’s Nuke or Nuke Studio. “This isn’t about going after someone who has never thought about a Flame and now says 'Hey, it’s available on the Mac’" says Autodesk’s Marc Hammaker. “This is about offering a solution that helps the evolution of where our customer’s business has gone."

While monthly cost is an issue, perhaps the biggest change for facilities is that the move to subscription software means the cost of entry is much lower. Previously, owners would have to spend a large sum of money to buy a turnkey hardware system. While this did ensure that Flame worked the same from facility to facility, as well as reduced the number of hardware systems Autodesk had to support, a lot of facilities already had invested in hardware systems which could run the software. Maybe not as fast…or exactly the same…but the application would run solidly. This breaks down that barrier.

In addition, monthly subscription access means that facilities can more easily ramp up and down their gear and expenses as the work ebbs and flows. Couple this with the upcoming OS X support, and facilities can put existing Apple hardware to use for Flame. This is a huge change in flexibility for those facility owners.

In breaking down the prices for Flare and Flame Assist, it’s clear that if one artist or workstation needs the capabilities of both applications it is a better deal to simply go all in with Flame. Freeing Flare and Flame Assist from the “Flame Dongle” also means each package is likely to be more attractive to freelancers as well. All in all, the removal of the requirement to , Flame on OS X, and opening up Flare and Flame Assist to everyone.

It’s important to note that the prices quoted in this article are in US dollars and are “suggested retail prices.” Due to the sales structure for the Flame family of software, final prices are determined by resellers located around the world. So if you’re outside the US and don’t have an Autodesk Sales Representative, check with your local reseller for pricing.

flame-pricing.001


Finally, for those who currently have a perpetual license of Flame, as they will keep the price of annual subscription at the same price as they’re currently paying for maintenance.

Hardware

The other big news in the announcement from Autodesk is the end of selling turnkey systems and moving towards recommending “qualified hardware.” This is a big departure from the past, going back to the early days of discreet. At one point, even storage systems were turnkey, with disk drives in Stone storage arrays flashed with firmware. If the drives didn’t have the correct firmware, they couldn’t be used, necessitating buying premium-priced drives from discreet. Another example is that Flame software wouldn’t even launch if the correct I/O or graphics hardware wasn’t installed.

However, in recent years, a secret of Flame is that you’ve been able to run it on custom hardware. How? Without fanfare, hardware and configuration checks were dropped from the Flame software startup sequence. This, coupled with the ability to license Flame off a floating license server, opened up the door to launching the software on systems that Autodesk didn’t sell.

We know this first-hand, by running Flame for the last several years on a relatively inexpensive HP Z820 stocked with dual Intel Xeon 6C E5-2630 2.30GHz processors, with multiple SSD drives set up for RAID performance. Granted, performance wasn’t the same as the turnkey system, but it is still excellent performance and the cost is significantly less. One area in which we didn’t cut corners is the graphics card — on the Linux platform NVIDIA Quadro cards are critical. It will be interesting to see if the less expensive Titan cards work for Flame in addition to the more expensive Quadro M6000 cards. That could be a significant price savings, though certain GPU-only features such as the GPU R3D debayering only work on the Quadro cards.

Linux Hardware

What exactly can we expect regarding the qualified hardware for Flame? As far as the Linux end of things, not much appears to have changed. "The recommended configuration for Linux will look a lot like the current turnkey configuration for Flame,” says Autodesk, "meaning that we’re not planning to qualify additional graphics cards or operating systems.” But the reality is that one will likely be able to run Linux Flame on a wide variety of hardware, as proven by our testing and use in production.

This is borne out by the fact that Autodesk will not prevent users from running the application on any specific graphics boards. However, it's important to note that when running an application on non-recommended hardware, the workstation becomes not supported and it will not be supported under the technical support contract that comes with subscription.

So what about a system that can run Flame, but technically isn’t qualified? Let’s look to some of the more important aspects of the current requirements for Linux Flare 2016 to gain some baseline insights:

Linux minimum requirements: Flare 2016

  • CentOS or Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation for 64-bit x86-64 AMD/Intel version 6.3 or 6.5.
  • AMD64 or Intel 64 multi-core processor.
  • Graphics card, either of:
    • NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600, 4600 graphics or newer
    • GeForce 8 series or newer
  • Audio card: ALSA compatible.

Recommended platforms for Linux

  • HP ZBook 17” G2, NVIDIA Quadro K5100M, 16GB RAM
  • HP Z640, NVIDIA Quadro K4200 & K5200, 32G RAM

Supported broadcast I/O cards

AJA Kona 4

  • NTSC-PAL , HD 1920x1080 (up to 60p), 2k 2048x1080 (up to 60p)
  • UHD 3840x2160 (up to 60p) , 4k 4096x2160 (up to 60p)

AJA Kona 3G

  • NTSC-PAL, HD 1920x1080 (up to 60p), 2k 2048x1080 (up to 30p)
  • UHD 3840x2160 (up to 30p), 4k 4096x2160 (up to 30p)

AJA Kona 3

  • 4.3 beta 10 Driver available with software download or (download driver)
  • NTSC-PAL, HD 1920x1080 (up to 30p)

In examining these specs, it appears as though Flame *should* be able to run on wide variety of hardware. It might not have the performance of the qualified system, but perhaps those differences won’t impact actual use of Flame.

The final big factor related to Linux support is the operating system. Flame currently doesn’t run on CentOS and the versions of Red Hat and CentOS are ancient. Many installs of Flame have even older RHEL versions, which leads to problems when trying to install security patches or integrate with Linux systems in the facility running newer versions of tools that are incompatible with RHEL. If one could use a more modern Linux OS when running Flame, Flare, and Flame Assist, this would be a significant development for facility engineers and CTOs

OS X Hardware

What about OS X? Those recommendations aren’t public yet, though they are expected to be finalized before Flame on OS X ships on November 24th. "While we’re starting from the same qualified OS X configurations we have for Flare and Flame Assist, to deliver the “Flame experience” that you’d expect,” says Autodesk, "we’ll be recommending higher end Mac Pro and iMac configurations for maximum performance on OS X.”

Translation? Your performance will vary depending upon your hardware. That’s a sensible takeaway for software and something facility engineers and CTOs are used to dealing with every day. Once again, the current recommendations for Flare 2016 on OS X provide a useful data point:

OS X minimum requirements: Flare 2016

Mac OS X version: 10.9.5 Mavericks, 10.10.x Yosemite, or 10.11 El Capitan.

Recommended platforms for Mac OS X

  • Mac Retina 5K (late 2014), AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5, 16GB RAM
  • Mac Pro (late 2013), Dual AMD FirePro D500 or D700 GPUs with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each, 16GB RAM
  • MacBook Pro (late 2013), NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB RAM
  • iMac 27 (late 2012), Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX 2048MB, 16GB RAM

Supported broadcast I/O cards

AJA io4k

  • NTSC-PAL , HD 1920x1080 (up to 60p), UHD 3840x2160 (up to 30p) , 4k 4096x2160 (up to 30p)

AJA ioXt & Kona 3G

  • NTSC-PAL, HD 1920x1080 (up to 60p)

AJA KONA 3 (not supported on Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan)

  • NTSC-PAL, HD 1920x1080 (up to 30p)

Blackmagic UltraStudio Express, UltraStudio 3D, UltraStudio 4K, UltraStudio Mini Monitor Thunderbolt, Decklink 4k, Decklink HD 3D and Decklink Studio 2.

  • NTSC-PAL, HD 1920x1080 (up to 30p)

The takeaway? Similar to Linux-based systems, your performance will vary based upon your hardware. If you want to throw around a lot of geo in Action and add numerous lighting effects, it’s gonna run better on a Mac Pro than on a MacBook Pro with limited graphics capability.

So..what do you think about the news? Chime in below in the comments section - we’d love to hear what you think.

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Autodesk Press Release

Here’s the press release from Autodesk regarding the news:

Autodesk Introduces Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Subscription Options for Flame and Previews Flame 2016 on the Mac

SAN FRANCISCO, November 4, 2015 – Today, Autodesk is announcing new Desktop Subscription options for Autodesk Flame software. The new subscription pricing for Flame starts at $750USD per month and can be accessed annually for as low as $500USD SRP* per month. Autodesk also announced Flame support for OS X as part of the Autodesk Flame Extension 2 release, available late November 2015. Autodesk Flare and Autodesk Flame Assist software are now available as standalone products with monthly subscription prices, starting at $400USD SRP*.
*US pricing only. Actual prices may be determined by your reseller.

Important news for the Flame Family:

  • New monthly, quarterly and annual Subscription options for Flame, Flare, Flame Assist and Autodesk Lustre
  • Unrestricted ability to purchase Flare and Flame Assist licenses with no requirement to own Flame software already
  • Customers may source their own qualified Linux hardware for Flame Family products
  • New support for Flame on OS X in addition to Linux and the announcement of the Flame Family 2016 Extension 2 release available later in November

With these changes, Autodesk is evolving the entire Flame Family to meet the needs of a growing base of creative professionals including freelancers and smaller facilities that need access to powerful 3D visual effects and finishing tools to tackle tough jobs. The new subscription offerings provide a lower cost for facilities expanding their creative capabilities and for smaller studios and individual freelancers who work on a project basis. Autodesk plans to continue to sell perpetual licenses of Flame Family.

  • Early next year: sales of Flame as a turnkey system will discontinue.
  • Today: Flame will be available as a software only product. Customers can choose their own qualified Linux hardware.
  • Late November: license Flame on the Apple Mac OS X. Recommended configuration specifications for Flame running on OS X will be available soon.

“The changes we are making allow us to continue to provide our Flame users with the tools they need to grow and transform their businesses, now and in the future, as well as to ensure that our business continues to serve them. With the new Flame business model, it’s never been easier for artists and studios to access these powerful tools they need for the high-end finishing their customers demand,” shared Marc Stevens, vice president, Film & TV, Autodesk . “Community feedback is vital to the future of Flame, and these changes reflect what our customers want; they’ll also allow us to meet the emerging needs of staff artists, freelancers and facilities by offering more choices, just like the rest of Autodesk.”

Flame Family 2016 Extension 2 Information

Autodesk has also announced the upcoming Flame Family 2016 Extension 2 release that will be available to customers later this month. It brings new format support and stunning performance gains in color grading workflows. Lustre Reactor brings new GPU acceleration to color grading workflows and significantly improves performance when using blur, keying and softness controls for both preview and rendering operations. Other enhancements in Lustre include 32-bit floating point GPU rendering locally, via Shot Reactor and when using Autodesk background rendering software; performance enhancements when working with Open EXR source media with embedded mattes; UI support for high DPI monitors (4K); and new Print View and Print LUT support when using AJA SDI output. Across the Flame family of products, when importing media, artists can take advantage of new support the full DNxHR media family by using either QuickTime or MXF containers, as well as updated support for R3D media files including R3D SDK 6.0.3, allowing Flame to directly support the new Dragon 6K sensor and Rec 2020 color space. When exporting media, the extension supports Sony MPEG-4 Part 2 Simple Studio Profile (SStP) encoding in an MXF wrapper, supporting a variety of formats and presets.

Desktop Subscription Pricing and Availability

As of today, the 2016 versions of Flame, Lustre, Flare and Flame Assist are available for purchase as software subscription only through an Autodesk Reseller or Autodesk Sales Representative. For more information, visit autodesk.com/flame.


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