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Moving to Combustion from After Effects, Part 3:

A birds-eye view of the C2 interface, volume one By Kevin Schmitt
When last we visited switching to Combustion 2 from After Effects, I had just finished explaining how to bring all of your native Photoshop files into Combustion with almost as much flexibility as After Effects itself gives you. That's all fine and good and what-not, but you may be wondering just what the mass of charcoal and nonstandard (to Mac and Windows users, anyway) interface elements that make up the Combustion interface can even do now that you've managed to get footage into it.

However, once you get past the obvious difference in appearances between the two programs, you'll find that learning the Combustion interface is more an extension of a language you already know rather than learning something new from scratch.

Of course, with programs as complex and far-reaching as Combustion and After Effects, I could conceivably spend years delving into every minute difference between the two, so in the following few installments of our ongoing series I'm going to concentrate on a more general overview of where things are in the Combustion interface.

The big picture
For those used to the lush green climes of After Effects (fig. 1, left), Combustion might as well be the surface of the Moon (fig. 1, right). Everything's dark gray, the buttons and other widgets don't look at all "normal" (regardless of whether you're in the Mac or Windows camp), and fughettabout the open/save/import dialog (fig. 2). But you'll get over the shock very quickly. What may initially look like a mess is actually one of the more streamlined and user-friendly interfaces ever designed in the history of mankind. OK, so that last sentence might be a bit overstated, but I have to keep you interested, right?

Figure 1

Figure 2

Let's go around the horn here and examine C2's major interface elements and how to approach them from an After Effects perspective.

In General...
If you're new to Combustion, it might help to compare the interface, however strange-looking at first, to a suite of products you may already be familiar with: Macromedia's MX line (the Windows versions, anyway). The comparison might be a bit of a stretch, but there are some similarities between C2 and MX:

1) By default, both C2 and MX (in this case, Freehand MX) present a single window with various docked palettes (fig. 3).

2) Both programs arrange the palettes via tabs (fig. 4), although Combustion is admittedly less flexible than MX in this regard.

3) Both programs also let you tear off palettes and arrange them as you like (fig. 5). MX exhibits this behavior by default, while Combustion makes you explicitly turn on this feature in the Monitors preference panel (fig. 6). Incidentally, this same panel is also where you tell Combustion where to put the various palettes in a multiple monitor setup.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

At least in my case, being used to both the standard Adobe interface and the Macromedia MX interface (and working concurrently in the two environments) helped ease my transition tremendously to Combustion, so it may serve you well initially to draw upon whatever MX knowledge you have to help develop your understanding of how Combustion works. And with that, as Kermit once said, "Moving right along, Fozzie." Let's get into some specific After Effects interface features and how they translate to Combustion.

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Related Keywords:Combustion, After Effects, interface


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