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Combustion Underground

Runaway Training DVD series By Stephen Schleicher

A few months ago I suggested it would be a great to have training products available for users of discreets combustion 3 application.  It seems my requests have been answered with many companies putting out training material. The first offering was in book form, and now Runaway Training has come out with their series in DVD form Combustion Underground.

Runaway Training is taking a new approach to training DVDs.  Instead of selling a complete collection covering every aspect of combustion 3, the founders are offering training one disc at a time.  And, instead of going into great detail on all of the features and functions on a particular aspect of the application, they are presenting a complete How-To and use various tools to complete the project. 

I reviewed the first DVD in the series which takes a look at how the Paint/Clone tool can be used to extend a shot.  In this case, the How-To demonstrates how to add additional floors to an office building, and by combining 3D cameras, lens flares, and gradient solids, create an interesting tilt to the building that wasnt possible in the original shot.  On the surface it may not seem like much, but when you apply the concept to your project, you can easily and instantly transform a dull cityscape into a more complex one.

Host Lee Roderick spends roughly 40 minutes covering Set Extension, and during the time he quickly walks you through the workflow of creating the shot.  Runaway Training states that this training is for the beginner to intermediate user of combustion 3, but I think a true beginner might have some difficulty in keeping up with Lees fast paced (but thorough) tutorial.  Very little if any time is spent defining what each control does, so brand new users may get confused. (This makes a good case for RTFM.) However, Lee does a good explanation of why his workflow works, and as beginners progress, tool usage should fall into place. 

Lee introduces the disc by touching on the equipment he is using for the lesson, and mentions he likes to work with and will be using the Wacom Centiq device.  He does state that everything he does can be accomplished with a mouse, but I was disappointed that he didnt mention keyboard shortcuts at all during the presentation.  At the very least a quick pop up with the keyboard equivalent would have helped.  Overall I found the How-To to be solid and it did have some very good tips and techniques that advanced beginners and intermediate users may not be familiar with.

Following the How-To portion, the DVD takes a bit of a magazine approach.  Two additional sections are included; the first, Three for Free, is followed by Inside Track.

Three for Free are three very fast tutorials that cover an aspect of combustion that are somewhat closely related.  In this disk, Lee covers masks, glows, and light rigs.  For the most part these are very quick overviews of what you can do with combustion 3, and how the project was briefly set up.  It is then up to you to open the project file and break it down for further learning.  This is actually not a bad way to present additional bonus material.  As an instructor myself, I often force students to deconstruct a complete project for their own self education, and that is what Runaway Training is doing here.  Because these are bonus bits, if you want to further enhance your learning, you have to download the project files from the Runaway Training website.  The good news is, they are free downloads, so even if you do not purchase the DVD for the primary How-To, you can still work with some sample projects on your own.

The final section of Combustion Underground Inside Track, is a short interview with an industry professional covering their background, experience, and their views on the industry.  In this inaugural disc, Runaway Training interviews Alex Lindsay of dvGarage fame.

What makes Runaway Training a good buy is the price.  Each installment of the Combustion Underground series comes in at an amazingly low price of only $19.95.  Im not trying to sound like some infomercial huckster, but $20 for training and bonus material is really great.  Best of all, you are not required to purchase a subscription like other tutorial of the month clubs want you to do.  If you are only interested in one or two discs, then that is all you have to buy.

Currently there are only two discs that have been complete, and that is a bit of a concern.  According to the Runaway Training website, they plan on putting out two or three DVDs each month.  It is unclear if they mean two or three DVDs covering combustion each month, or two or three DVDs covering all of their applications (Final Cut Pro and combustion are the current two).  So far Runaway Training has been releasing the Combustion Underground series at the pace of one per month.  This in itself is very good considering the content created and the price.  It would be nice if they had a timeline of when future ?issues were going to be released, and the topics covered. 

I am looking forward to seeing future offerings in this series.  It should grow and evolve over time to be a great source of information.  Because topics/projects do not appear to be planned out far in advance (at least the website is not offering any advanced solicitations), and Lee Roderick welcomes feedback, I would imagine that users could submit requests for what they would most like to see on a future disc.  An issue on keying would make for an excellent How-To.

For those users who are beginning to migrate to, or who have worked for with discreets combustion 3 just a little bit, available training products are at a premium right now.  And because many people learn better by watching and doing instead of reading and trying to comprehend, I give Runaway Trainings Combustion Underground DVD series a Good Buy Recommendation.

For more information visit www.runawaytraining.com

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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at schleicher@mindspring.com

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