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Moving to Combustion 2 from After Effects, Part 5

Fifth part: A birds-eye view of the C2 interface, volume three By Kevin Schmitt
Shockingly enough, it didn't take me three months between installments this time, so we can pretty much pick up right where we left off without me apologizing or otherwise stammering through some sort of excuse. We're going to take one more peek at where some of the main interface elements you're used to from After Effects can be found in Combustion, finishing up with a extended look at the centerpiece of the Combustion workflow: the Operator Controls. Yes, I'm sure you have goose bumps the size of golf balls right now just thinking about the excitement that promises to ensue, so let's get right down to business.

Importing footage
The subject of importing footage came up back in parts one and two of this series (when I was dealing with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop files, respectively), but as is usually the case with someone who is blessed with an appalling lack of thoroughness like myself, I glossed over this seemingly important aspect of Combustion's interface. While the respective After Effects and Combustion Import Footage dialog boxes couldn't look more dissimilar (fig. 1), they both do provide the same necessities.

Figure 1: AE's and C2's Import boxes: not exactly separated at birth.




Where is it?
We're not in real radical territory here. After Effects offers two options: import file or import multiple files, both of which are accessed through the File->Import menu (fig. 2, left). Combustion gives you a single option to import footage, found under the File->Import Footage command (fig. 2, right).

Figure 2: Exciting stuff here: Import menu items!


Main Differences
Ignoring the elephant in the room for the moment (the elephant being that AE's and C2's Import dialogs look nothing alike), After Effects has two options for importing, but Combustion "pretty much" only has one. In After Effects, you can do basic multiple importing through the File->Import->File command, but if you want to import files with the various options After Effects gives you on a file-by-file basis, you have to use the File->Import->Multiple Files command. No real biggee there. In Combustion, importing one or many files is handled in the same interface, utilizing a bin at the bottom of the dialog to indicate your chain of selections (fig. 3). However, you can't import other Combustion Workspace (.cws) files this way -- you have to use a separate menu command to import other projects (which is why I put "pretty much" in quotations earlier). Somewhat curious, but again, no real biggee there either.

Figure 3: Combustion integrates a selection bin so you can choose multiple footage items at the same time.


Ultimately, though, C2's funny-looking interface gives you several more options than AE's. Of course, "funny looking" is a relative term, applicable to those that have exclusively worked on either Mac or Windows workstations. What you see in the Import panel is also more or less what you see in the open and save dialogs as well, so once you get used to it, you'll feel at home no matter what you're doing to get files in and out of C2. At the risk of rambling on more than I already have, here's a quick list of the extras you get in C2's Import panel:

  • You can generate thumbnails of various sizes for supported clip types.
  • You can choose to view image sequences as single files in collapsed mode, of flick a switch and see each individual frame in expanded mode.
  • File searching is built right in.
  • There's an import list for multiple file import, which also serves to tell Combustion the order in which your clips will be imported.
  • Click on a clip's thumbnail, hold the mouse button down, drag it left or right, and you can scrub through your clip right there.
  • A Windows Explorer-like file browser is integrated right into the panel.


Figure 4: This seemingly innocuous Preference checkbox is all that stands between normal dialog boxes and Combustion's superfly dialog boxes.
Sure, some of these things aren't exactly unique to Combustion, but the way that everything and the kitchen sink is all right there in the Import panel is pretty nice, and ultimately affords a pretty high level of control over the entire import process. However, I do realize that some fear change, so if you don't like this freaky panel and just want something bare bones, you can turn it off and invoke the host OS's native dialog boxes (fig. 4).

Oh, and one more thing on the topic of the import process: AE has drag and drop importing directly into its Project window. C2 doesn't. Nothin' more to say 'bout that, other than it's a serious omission on C2's part (not to mention that this is about the thousandth time I've mentioned it in this series alone).

Project management
I've combined a couple of things here under the generic banner of project management: clip organization and individual comp management. Both programs do pretty much the same thing here, but as usual (and get used to a variation on this phrase, if you haven't already), they do what they do a tad differently.

Where is it?
Both programs have a bin where you can see a project's imported clips. AE's is known as the Project window while C2 calls its bin the Workspace. In the default view, both are located on the left-hand portion of the screen (fig. 5). On the comp management side of the coin, both programs also have schematic views (discussed in part 3 of this series) to manage individual comps as a graphical flowchart (fig. 6). Both AE and C2 overlay the schematic view over the main comp window or Viewport, and is accessed through a button (AE) or a menubar or contextual menu command (C2). The non-graphical method of comp management is accomplished through the timeline in After Effects, and either in the timeline in Combustion or the Workspace.

Figure 5: As Mr. Miyagi once said, "different, but same." To which Daniel-san replied, "No, different, but different."


Figure 6: The schematic view in either program is a pretty addicting way to manage your comps.


Main Differences
That last, seemingly throwaway sentence in the previous paragraph hints at the major difference in comp management between After Effects and Combustion. While you can use C2's timeline to rearrange a comp's layers and do the other things you may be used to from AE's timeline, the main method of seeing the various aspects of your comp (and project in general, for that matter) is through the Workspace panel (fig. 7). So, in After Effects terms, the Workspace combines parts of the Project and Timeline windows in the same space, with the added benefit of seeing your entire project at once, not just the assets of whatever individual comp you may be focused on.

Figure 7: Combustion's Workspace combines a footage bin with composite management in one space.


Another quick Combustion-only item in this category is the Footage Library (fig. 8), which uses the Viewport to show thumbnails of whatever clips you've imported in your Workspace.

Figure 8: NLE users might be familiar with the thumbnail clip view, shown here in Combustion's Footage Library.


Footage Interpretation
These days especially, footage can come in all shapes, sizes, frame rates, field dominances (is that even a word?), aspect ratios, and on and on, so more often than not you need a way to tweak how your program "sees" all of these files. Luckily, both AE and C2 let you do just that.

Where is it?
In After Effects, the footage interpretation options are accessible through the Project window via the Interpret Footage->Main contextual menu (fig. 9). In Combustion, clicking on an asset in the footage library portion of the Workspace yields similar options in the Footage Controls panel (fig. 10).

Figure 9: In the words of Ian Woosnam, "simple, beautiful, classic." The After Effects Interpret Footage interface, not Smell The Glove.


Figure 10: Combustion's version: more options than you can shake a stick at.



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Related Keywords:Combustion 2, After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop

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