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Discreet, maker of SGI-video applications with such incendiary names as Flame and Inferno, is now blazing a trail on the Mac. Combustion 1.0 combines the main strengths of Adobe After Effects and Pinnacle Systems’ Commotion with a breakthrough feature all its own: true 3D compositing. The result is a video powerhouse that makes high demands on both computing and purchasing power.
In addition to its 400-page tutorial, Combustion comes with a special guide to help After Effects users shift from 2D compositing into 3D. This is a wise move, since Combustion has a unique look and approach. The program delivers a totally 3D environment, with unlimited layers and lights, complex reflectivity, and a fully animatable camera. Layers are still flat – although you can hinge them together – but shadows, lighting and focus controls lend depth to routine compositing jobs.
Although Combustion implements 3D with stunning finesse, After Effects users will miss some features, including composition and layer markers and time remapping. And the text features are disappointingly inflexible; click away from the text tool, and you can no longer edit text.
Consistent with its SGI origins, Combustion offers extremely well-developed, detailed motion tracking, painting, keying, and colour correction – not your typical version 1.0 tools. The program accepts many Adobe Photoshop and After Effects plug-ins; it even one-ups After Effects by letting you edit imported Illustrator art. But Combustion does suffer from some new-release bugginess. These minor problems, along with upcoming multiprocessor-G4 support, make a compelling argument for holding off until Discreet releases an update.
When it comes to rendering, Combustion is hardly a house on fire; because the program is always calculating in 3D, rendering takes a lot longer than in After Effects. And, although Combustion’s powerful RAM previewing can greatly accelerate your workflow, you need at least a 450MHz G3 or G4 with 512MB RAM if you want to experience anything like spontaneous Combustion.
Combustion may do more than either the After Effects Production Bundle or Commotion Pro, but that doesn’t justify its cost – equal to both those programs combined. Still, it delivers first-rate results, and if you need robust 3D-compositing, it’s the only game in town. Just make sure you have a blazingly fast computer – and money to burn.