capsule review

Combustion 1.0

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 3-D compositing. The result is a video powerhouse that makes high demands on both computing and purchasing power.

A Whole New World

In addition to its 400-page tutorial, Combustion comes with a special guide to help After Effects users shift from 2-D compositing into 3-D. This is a wise move, since Combustion has a unique look and approach. The program delivers a totally 3-D 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 3-D 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 color 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 afire; because the program is always calculating in 3-D, rendering takes significantly 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 of RAM if you want to experience anything like spontaneous Combustion.

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