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Ken LaRue Does It Again By Ko Maruyama
Ken LaRue, quite possibly the best Combustion demo artist in the country, has just released a new series of training and tutorial DVDs which will show everyone COMBUSTION 4 from Autodesk.  What's great about his tutorial series is that he's scaled it for everyone.  How so? Here's how:

Ken LaRue is a great demo artist.  Combustion is in his blood and he can take you through the broad streets and dark alleys of the software.  From the days of Discreet*, Ken's been THE guy you'd see at the tradeshow booths; showing off new stuff, and even telling you about the old stuff.

If you were lucky enough to catch him in a brief moment when he wasn't crowded by spectators, Ken would give some of us a little "ADVANCED USER" demo.  He wouldn't step through the obvious tools with the regular "click here" script that some demo artists read, but instead, he'd dispatch the demo with hotkeys and shortcuts that a PROFESSIONAL user would and should know.  Unlike an insecure artist, afraid to give away his "patented secret move", Ken would tell all; sometimes eliciting a "HEY MAN, YOU'RE GIVIN' AWAY THE GOOD TRICKS".

Ken's done it again, showing off Autodesk's COMBUSTION 4.

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What's great is that Ken doesn't require everyone to purchase the whole series.  He appreciates that you've already come up to speed if you've purchased the COMBUSTION 3 training series, and gives us an upgrade price (about half off!).  Alternatively, if you only need to learn WHAT'S NEW, there's a DVD for you as well.

If you want to check out specific parts of the application, you can purchase portions of the series from his website.

For anyone just coming to the software for the first time, there's a complete set purchase which allows you to jump into the software head-first.  This is the same 6-DVD set that upgraders will receive.

There are over 30 hours of instructions on the complete set of DVDs which will get you up and running, able to take on real work in no time at all.


One telling thing about the training movies (one that speaks highly of the software) is that the version Ken shows off is the Mistral Version Beta; which, as far as I can tell, does not crash during the lessons. 

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Ken's lessons are great: easy to follow and apply.  The one thing I miss from the DVDs is footage or project files to work with. (NOTE: I've left this bit in, because Ken helped me out (always helping).  The files are there, but on DVD#6.  Complete with setups.)  This means you'll want to copy over all of those projects before you get started on the lesson - - so start with #6; there's a reminder card in the DVD set.  However, you'll have to manually open the folder called "C4-DVD".  This is where everything is; you will find all footage, setups, capsules and Combustion workspaces in a folder named C4-DVD. Guh.    There is so much footage to work with out there; most Combustion users can make their own, or find resources.  And projects that you will start while going through these tutorials will be enough to cover any projects you'd find online. So this complaint is minor for me.

The only considerable complain I have with these DVDs is that you'll need to run them on your computer.  They're authored with Macromedia Director software rather than with a standard DVD authoring software, so  you can't play it in a set top player.

This is a DVD because there's so much movie data on it, but it's not really what you might consider a conventional "DVD-movie".


Additionally, you have to use the the authored buttons. This means that you can play, pause, rewind, and jump to previous and next chapters, but you can't select a specific chapter (i.e. Timeline - Part 4).  Unfortunately, this also means that you can't fast forward through a chapter to the point

Furthermore, unlike a standard DVD author, the full screen capture movie in the Macromedia Projector can't be resized.  So you can't watch the video in the corner of your screen while working on Combustion itself.   You'll have to put it on a second monitor.  There are no "Half", "Full" or even "Fill Window" options for the Projector software.

These small drawbacks are actually quite fixable, and in some users' experiences may be a BETTER method.

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Because the Macromedia Projector relies on QuickTime movies to play out in the software, you can open any of Ken's presentation movies in a standard player, then use the QuickTime player to resize the movie in playback, and even scrub the video to find the spot where you last left off - - something that you can't even do with a conventional desktop DVD player.

If you're new to Combustion, this is an instruction set that you cannot do without.  If you want to get up to speed quickly with a portion of the software, or even just the new pieces of Combustion 4, you must check out Ken's website, "The Street Productions":

There are plenty of sample movies on the website, as well as some free tutorials and tips to download.

The Macromedia Projector works equally on Mac and PC.  So, although Autodesk hasn't announced a specific release date for the Mac version of Combustion 4 yet, you can start learning about the software now by ordering the training at If you have a PC - there's no excuse.  This stuff is great - time to upgrade your software and your training.

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Combustion 4, autodesk, ken larue, the street productions, ko, discreet logic, combustion training

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