|Even before its upgrade to Version 3, Combustion 2 was a world-class 2D and 3D compositing program.
Artists creating Macromedia Flash content benefit from SWF output, saving time by eliminating the need to render to an intermediate format. It maintains paint objects as vector graphics in SWF, so they remain crisp and sharp at any resolution. Artists importing Combustion SWFs into other environments, such as the Flash MX authoring tool or ToonBoom Studio, can continue to transform and animate each vector graphic as a separate object.
Bitmaps do not export to SWF by default. This means that anything you do with the paint bucket, eraser, magic wand, or text-selection tool will not normally show up in the SWF. The same is true if you apply an operator, such as a distortion, to a paint object. Thanks to the creativecow.net Combustion forum, I discovered that I can output bitmaps to SWF using Combustion's Reveal mode. The new SWF output feature is solid and robust: I have not seen a glitch or an artifact in a SWF created by Combustion.
The new morphing and warping feature adds significant value to Combustion. Functionally, it is not to be underestimated. You never know when a client will want you to morph a beer can into a silver bullet. In addition, morphing and warping can be used for more mundane tasks. For instance, they can accurately and relatively quickly "paint out" an unwanted object that temporarily comes into frame: Just create a morph of a background object, starting on a frame before the unwanted object appears and ending on a frame after it disappears. RE:Flex Motion Morph creates in-between frames without the object. Nothing about morphing and warping appears in the printed manual or the Help files. I had to go to the Discreet Web site to get enough information to start making intelligent mistakes.
The new Edit operator, along with new features like Slip Layer and Split Layer, can save time by eliminating the need to export to an NLE. It's not going to replace NLEs like Adobe's Premiere or Sony's Vegas, but it's great for simple transitions, cuts, and trims.
Combustion is not easy to learn. Yet, once you get the hang of it, the software solution enables you to produce superlative results with relative ease. Version 2 of Combustion was a world-class compositing tool at a reasonable price. New features offer enough sizzle to make Version 3 a no-brainer upgrade for most users of Version 2. For those who have never used Combustion, it's definitely worth a look.
Michael Hurwicz (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.hurwicz.com) is a freelance writer specializing in 2D and 3D.
Minimum System Requirements: Apple Power Mac G4, 800mhz or higher, running Mac OS X 10.2. or later, or an Intel Pentium III, Pentium 4, or AMD Athlon XP CPU, 850mhz or higher, running Windows XP or Windows 2000; a 20gb hard drive with 120mb of free space, 512mb of RAM; and a video display card with 4mb of VRAM.