Discreet Combustion 2.1 test

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Discreet Combustion 2.1

Integrating CGI with real-world footage is an intricate process. Combustion seeks to minimise the fuss

When a company like Discreet slashes the price of one of its flagship apps by over £3,500 - to less than one-fifth of its previous ticket - something's definitely up. Until a few months ago, Combustion 2 cost over £4,500. Now, with the release of V2.1, it's cut to £852. This seems like a radical move, but is it just an attempt to boost sales, or something a little more subtle?

For a start, the new price puts Combustion directly in competition with After Effects. However, Combustion is a more specialised beast than Adobe's compositor. Although it can be used for most of the same tasks, Combustion comes into its own when used in tandem with 3ds max. The primary feature enabling this is that 3ds max can output elements such as Object ID, Z depth or transparency in separate channels within the RPF file format, which can then be imported into Combustion. The benefit is that these channels allow Combustion to edit effects in 3D space - for example 3D glow can be added, or other layers inserted amongst the 3D objects in the RPF file - without having to re-render the 3ds max file. This is a great time saver, particularly if the 3D is rendered at film resolution and would take hours (or even days) to re-render.

Pairing a massive price cut with the release of Combustion 2.1 is a bold but canny move. Considering the massive amount of power on offer, it's now a bit of a bargain. Anyone using 3ds max and needing to produce a finished composite will find Combustion the perfect companion, and users of other 3D animation software will still find it more than handy, too, especially if their chosen software supports RPF output.

With particle effects and motion tracking as standard, Combustion has plenty to offer even those working without 3D. But there is one big drawback - the enormously steep learning curve. This is not an easy app to get to grips with, even compared to After Effects, as there are many hidden options affecting how operators behave. Still, the manual is comprehensive, and anyone who's learnt Combustion will have less trouble moving on to learn Flame or Inferno. Discreet has launched a major challenge to Adobe After Effects, and in the process opened up enormous compositing potential to a much wider audience.

James Morris

Read the full review in May 2003's Computer Video magazine.


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Discreet Combustion 2.1

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