View Full Version : Composing software: Share some experience

05-10-2003, 10:09 PM
I have come very close to buy Combustion. I read the news, followed the discussion (3DBuzz, CGTalk, Discreet Support, Creative Cow), played with the demo.

But two thinks let me hold my breath to buy it:

1. concern about a new release of combustion (C*3) soon and would have to spend extra money on that

2. I see the different benefits of DOF, color corrections, adding particles in post, ...

The animation package I use is Lightwave, which is to some extent support by C*2

So please share some examples what you have used C*2 for and what it is capable of)

What are the little or big things you use it for. (Does not matter really if you use AfterEffects instead as long it is a composing package)

Thank you,

Thorsten Meyer

05-12-2003, 11:53 AM
Well, I think I've used nearly every compositing app out there and I think it really depends on what type of work you plan on using it for... broadcast, multimedia, film etc?

05-12-2003, 10:41 PM
1. Many companies when you buy a product near an upgrade will give you the upgrade for free, ask a dealer what the status is on that.

2. Compositing gives you the ability to tweak your 3d images to a new level, you can adjust the bloom, blur, depth of field, strenght of shadows etc etc. Almost any aspect of your image, with a much shorter render, and if you render in layers it's much easier and faster to make changes, what if the client wanted a green background for his logo? no problem use a color effect on the background layer and he can see it right away. "is this shade of green ok?" I've used compositing apps to stabilize footage, to blend in CG to it, to color correct certain layers, to do croma key..
I have been using AfterFx for a long time, it's pretty fast and the interface is very clear and logical but I do most of my compositing in Digital Fusion now. I think DF's way of working is harder to grasp for someone without prior knowledge of compositing apps tho. Both of the mentioned programs impot RLA with Z buffer, DOF and fog efects are of course very fast ad you can see the changes as you fine tune it, so in the end they look better. Besides just compositing 3d rendered images you can use it to make moving backgrounds, move scaned images, or animate 2d created art. I just animated 3 hand drawn girls with butterfly wings. It can be done in LW, but just faster in compositing.

05-13-2003, 09:18 AM
I've heard that Combustion really bogs down when you add many layers. That's just heresay, but it comes from a friend who has lots of connections in film. Another friend, who has connections in ILM, has told me that Combustion really hasn't caught on in the Film industry, and that Shake is the one to use.

Both people agree that Shake is the one that really holds up, especially when you get many layers and really large images. At home, I'm using After Effects, and though it doesn't have the "nodal" interface (like a flowchart) I can still do good work in it (with help from my ILM friend). If you can get a proggy with the nodal interface, do it! There's just no substitute for being able to see your thought process laid out in a flowchart view on your screen. It makes it much much easier to work in.

I don't have much info on Digital Fusion, but I've heard that its main strong point is working with text.

I previously worked with Media Illusion, another great (read Fantastic) nodal compositor. Avid took apart Illusion and moved all its features into SoftImage. So if you want Illusion's compositor, you'll have to buy another 3d app with it. :-|

Hey Newtek, please please develop a really good nodal compositor!

Hope this helps

05-13-2003, 09:58 AM
Shake is really good (for so many reasons) - but it's not worth the money if you just need to do simple compositing work. And I don't think it's being developed for PC anymore since Apple took control - correct me if Im wrong.

That's why I think it depends on what type of work you do - if you are just tinkering around there's no need to break the bank on a compositing app - buy AE. If you are doing more serious work with lots of color correcting, keying, etc - or just want speed when working with high res images - get Shake.

05-13-2003, 12:29 PM
Hi everyone,

Just my 2 cents:

Personally I have only worked with combustion* for a short time and currently I'm using AE for my everyday work.

concerning combustion*:

This is more for real world stuff. The keying, color correction, masking and tracking features are great. The particles I consider more of an toy but useful sometimes. The Text tool is more valuable to me. With complex things it gets terribly slow, however. It consumes tons of RAM and uses OpenGL quite heavily so a good graphics card is a must. Also final rendering for output is dead slow. Even though AE plugins should work, in most cases they don't (in the way you would expect and be comfortable with) which leaves little room for expansion. Also combustion* has kind of an image problem - before the price drop last year it was rather expensive which has hampered development of a strong community (at least that is my personal observation).

concerning AE:

While combustion* is strong on the mentioned areas, these are the things where AE cannot hold up. Tracking is dead slow, Keying is adventurous and color correction is not as efficient as it could be (since it applies principles and techniques like Photoshop which are not so well adjusted to motion graphics). And yes, the interface is pretty much outdated and by no means stylish - but usable at least. On the other hand there are tons of plugins (even free ones) and tutorials around which has saved the day for me a few times.


05-13-2003, 12:42 PM
I received C*2 from Discreet and with that the Training DVD Set (great one). From my expierence with the demo and now with the training DVD set I can say I really like the workflow and the program it self.


05-13-2003, 03:26 PM
Lunarcamel, I totally agree with you - it absolutely depends on the kind of work. Thanks for the comment.

I'd heard that the future of Shake on Linux was uncertain some time ago. I'm not sure if they've decided anything on that.

Mylenium, thanks for your info on Combustion*. I'm really glad to hear that it has a good workflow, because I've also been considering buying Combustion* myself until I heard about render speeds. I'd be curious to hear about what affects that (aside from the obvious like heavy Gaussian blurs)

Also good point on C's tracker. I'd heard that tracking and paint/roto work were what lots of shops are using it for.

So maybe I should keep Combustion* in consideration.


05-13-2003, 11:44 PM
Hi Scott,

I suppose combustion* has still a somewhat weak memory mangement. Basically that's what makes it slow in rendering and can cause crashes sometimes. From my experience (which really isn't that much) they tried to make memory mangement too smart and missed the goal. It's like "Oh yes, I rendered this frame for preview, why not cram it into the RAM even if no one is ever going to need it anymore." Unfortunately it doesn't give you back this RAM voluntarily so you have to flush the cache manually. However, I simply suggest downloading the demo and there are even a few test setups so it should not be too difficult to make up your mind.


06-06-2003, 06:20 PM
If you don't mind, I would like sneak in on this discussion since I am involved in a project that will involve some compositing. From the comments, I can tell that you all have more compositing experience than I do. Here are some parameters that may help:

Current Tools I have:

LighWave 7.5
Aura 2
Toaster 2
Rendering nodes: Up to 1,000 P4s at 2.0 Mghz

Project: I need to create a photoreal landscape in LW and have two people walk around in the landscape. It has to be seamless. It has to look totally believable. The total time of the video scene is about 5 to 7 minutes.

As you can see, rendering power is not an issue. I'm more concerned with compositing my subjects inside of my LW scene realistically. The approach I was considering is video taping my two actors infront of a Blue screen (or green) using a proffessional DV camera. I was hoping to key out the blue using Auara. I may have to use other software to motion track the actors so that I can import the tracking information into LW and then apply this to some stand-in character models. I was going to front projection map the DV footage on the models so that the scene elements (I will be using light probes and Radiosity heavily since I have no limit on rendering nodes) will mesh with the actors as much as possible.

Could anyone make some helpful comments on whether this approach is workable? Is Digital Fusion (the package that comes with LW 8) a necessity in this case, or is it a case of either or?

Thanks for giving this some thought.

Rob Zick

06-07-2003, 01:18 AM
The keying options, color correction tools and tracking of Digital Fusion are light years ahead of anything you can do in Aura, So it would make your life easier.
Be aware that DV footage doesn't do blue screen as good as the venerable betacam sp.
You could use stand in models of your actors in LW but it might be hard to animate them to match your characters movements, depending on your shot an alternative could be to use a matte of your actors mapped to a plane and render as unseen by camera so they cast shadows but don't render, and any object that passes infront of them render it separately and composite the 3 layers afterwards. (background, actors, front objects)

06-07-2003, 03:20 AM
If you need the composition-soft for painting on your frames.. then cine-paint (formerly filmgimp) will do this very good and for free. It originated as a Linux-based Soft but is now available for 32-bit Windows...

cine-paint (http://cinepaint.sourceforge.net/)

.. you can give it a try without spending any money... (well donations always help the developers ;) )

06-07-2003, 03:50 PM
Just my two cents, but I use a lot of PhotoShop multi layer images for my animations and After Effects works with them, in my opinion, the best. It's much faster with these files than Combustion as well. This all only makes sense though, as Adobe owns each one. Combustion has some real powerful tools...but for the day in and out the speed of After Effects is better.

Just my two cents...

06-07-2003, 05:19 PM
i use combustion and think that C*1 was a great product..rock soild etc...c2* added a load of features plus a few bugs to boot..
C2* has a good workflow generally with support for all colour spaces so it's fine for film/t.v etc plus the gmasks are neat..

generally C2* works good for :
*digital mattes
*colour correcting
*blue/green screen
*rpf files
*2 particles
*vecta paint
*rig/wire removal
*layered files form max

i'm quite interested in what fusion plus has to offer..i'll try a demo and see how it compares to combustion 2..

the thing that concerns me is that the team behind combustion were laid off near the end of making C2...that's how the bugs didn't get squashed...we did have a bug fix later though.
so what for C3?....will it get the new colour corrector?
how much will the upgrade be etc...

seems that it could run like my max did...i changed to lightwave rather than update max 4...
so i may go with fusion........


06-08-2003, 09:55 AM
rzick, have you ever shot anything on bluescreen? I think this is a good starting point ;) If you haven't then I'd do some reading on the subject.

I've done many bluescreen shoots on 35mm and crappy DV and if you don't know the basics of shooting for bluescreen it's not going to matter what software you use. If the footage looks crappy then the key will look crappy and you will spend forever trying to clean it up.

If you have a decent stage to shoot on and the proper lighting then almost any compositing software can pull a good key - even AE (yuck!)

The Tin Man
06-08-2003, 04:08 PM

Just wondered if anyone has experience of most of the composing software around.

This would include Digital Fusion, Combustion, Commotion Pro and After Effects/Pro.

With the offer of DFX+ with lightwave at the moment I think it would be relevant. I had thought of not getting this offer and putting the money towards one of the other composition software. Just wondered what people use, whether they know what some of the top companies use etc, as I would think it would be great to have the experience (an extra string to the bow), and what they consider strengths and weaknesses of each.