View Full Version : diferences between Combustion and Adobe afterfx?

09 September 2002, 02:11 PM
Are there any major differences between these two apps. I have access to Combustion v1 and Adobe After Effects v5 at work...which should I get into? As far as I can tell, Combustion has the paint utility build in, and Adobe afx doesn't.

09 September 2002, 01:56 AM
It depends... theyr'e both very powerful packages, but really it's up to you depending on which one you can afford and which one you find easier to produce better work in. BTW After effects production bundle includes a vector painting plugin. Remember that the discreet product is more heavily geared towards 3D and compositing of 3d artwork and is very powerful that way, after effects has many many plugins available... try learning both as you will probably find that they're both useful tools to know.

09 September 2002, 02:51 AM
the first difference that comes to mind is the price. Combustion is much more expensive than after fx , but you get what you pay for.

IMHO combustion has a much better interface than after fx , also %80 of the after fx plugins work in combustion.

the motion tracker and color correction tools in combustion is the same tracker and col. corrector in inferno.

after FX has its own strenghts too , there are more training materials for it than there is for combustion. Its more widely used , etc.

in short , download both demos and see for yourself.

09 September 2002, 10:31 PM
Having used both for some time, I would strongly recommend Conbustion over AE. The main reasons are compatability with the systems other high end shops will be using. This is very important when you are working with multiple shops on the same job. Most if not all do use AE, but the Discreet line is more useful for the high end, polished work. The color correction tools in combustion are absolutely top notch, the best I've ever seen. There is a somewhat steep learning curve with combustion, and not much support without shelling out to discreet for their books. If you can conquer Combustion, however, it will make you more valuable than if you were merely good with AE. My choice, without hesitation, is combustion.

good luck!

09 September 2002, 05:09 AM
i just tell you that there is no major difference between:
AE, Combustion, DFusion, Shake, etc....
the working logic & result are the same, but some are better in
ChromaKey & Matting (like combustion) a bit.
pick eachone you like it's interface more! ;)

09 September 2002, 07:05 AM
Sorry, but the last poster is wrong. There are major differences, but many won't come into play unless you're doing serious work. Here's some examples:

Render times, the bane of our existence! The discreet line of compositing programs usually render much faster than AE in my experience, and their network rendering tools are FAR superior. In AE all you get is their "watch folder" option for network rendering, which is somewhat unreliable and no where near as efficient as a true network render queue.

There is absolutely no comparison between AE and shake/combustion when it comes to compositing. The node based compositing workflow is far more intuitive when you are dealing with complex, multi-branch composites, and from what I hear it allows far more layers and operators to be used without bogging your machine down while working AND rendering. A lot of comps on Starship Troopers had over 100 elements at one time, and in 2k resolution!! This comes out to about a gig a frame (? my math may be a little off on that). AE would have died on the spot.

Combustion is set up to work seamlessly with 3D studio max files which is very handy if you use it (I use Maya, but Max for some motion graphics work).

Combustion can email you when your file is done, not so important but it's saved my butt on a few occasions. Also there are other Discreet tools that allow you to set up more serious situations, such as grabbing files to and from a SAN, and while you can do this sort of thing in AE it's not managed as well in my opinion.

I would like to hear what others have to say on this topic...

09 September 2002, 09:11 PM
i´d say it depends on what kind of works you want to do. in my opinion if you want to do graphics-intense work use after effects, complex animation is much easier, photoshop integration works better and precomping is much easier and better to handle. but if you wanna go for live-action (also cg integration) compositing you should definitely use combustion as keying, tracking and color correction (which you will use extensively all the time) are much better than what ae can do.
at least that´s what i think?

09 September 2002, 09:46 PM
The discreet line of compositing programs usually render much faster than AE in my experience

my experience proved it in reversed! but everyone has his exp.

and their network rendering tools are FAR superior

well, i'm not sure about that, but is it important very much ?(atleast for me, no...cause i'm doing Video, not a Movie with 100+ layers)

A lot of comps on Starship Troopers had over 100 elements at one time, and in 2k resolution!!

i'm sure that Werner didn't mean wanna something like that,
probably he's looking for a regular/user-friendly compositing app.

Combustion is set up to work seamlessly with 3D studio max files which is very handy if you use it

well, if you mean RLA image format, AE could support it as well,but
if you mean PAINT fx in MAX you are right, but in my experience
the PAINT tool of combustion is FAR behind the Photoshop or PAINTER
& it's not usefull for texturing purposes.

Combustion can email you when your file is done

i do NOT call it a MAJOR difference.

:) & :beer:

09 September 2002, 06:23 AM
You're definitely right, as for all apps out there it's all about personal taste and preference. My experience has just told me that more medium/high end shops tend to use the Discreet line, with AE being reserved for their less demanding work. As for your specific points:

I have seen render times around two times faster than AE, especially for complex calculations like blurs etc.

As you point out, network rendering won't mean beans to someone looking to noodle around with low-level compositing, but if you eventually want to do more complex work such as "good quality" 3D integration, you might wish you had Combustion and a few slave machines for rendering.

I believe Combustion will work directly with the actual .max files, and you can transfer them back and forth between the apps seamlessly. You could create the camera moves, text etc. in a max project, apply operators to them in a Combustion 3d composite, then export it again to max for further tweaking without file problems and compatibility issues. HUGE time saver. I may be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure... :)

Another point or two for the debate, Combustion can work in 10bit(+) space, comes with stock plugins and operators that you would only find in the production bundle of AE, and has built in 2d particles which are top notch. This feature alone blows AE away as far as I'm concerned. Might not be necessary for the intro level guy, but he'll someday wish he had that power under the hood for not much more cash than AE production bundle plus a few basic plugins.

I'd love to hear any rebuttles to these points, I use both AE and Combustion, so I'm not necessarily trying to discredit the excellent product that AE is.

09 September 2002, 02:46 PM
I like both of this app. If you have two kids you know what I mean.

To stick with the thread, I'll tell Werner that its more worthwhile to go to your app and play the two (if you use both) than to reply to 'which is the better app' thread. I'll give you the developers URL ( and

They are both different like us including the way we're going to use it (even if you or me have both). It depends on what you'll gonna do with it.

I use both but only for assist not the main tool for me. For my work Combustion fits the setup since we'r discreet product user. AE is great since we have connectivity to our wsd plus the plugins we already have. A client usually request for certain effect that can be easily done with AE plugins. We don't have plugins for combustion.

Their best used on where they excel.

In terms of workflow/conventions, Shake is the model product that I admire for an fx/compositing app.

09 September 2002, 02:55 PM
thanks for all the replies and comments. My question was not which app is better, but what are the major differences between them. Like I said, I have access to both (not company owns them). At this stage I don't use composition software in my line of work, but I would like to learn something new. I asked the question to get an overview of their capabilities. I love both Discreet and Adobe software...I just need to make a personal decision.

thanks again for the comments.

05 May 2003, 10:17 PM

The link above should take you to some FREE downloadable training videos. You might have to register to be able to download them.

After using Aftereffects production bundle and then jumping on to Combustion I would have to say that Combustion is by far the more useful of the tow. I used the videos in the link above to get me on the road and it was great.

Pros for Combustion:
-Color corrector
-Paint module
-Compatibility with 3D studio max with the ability to render separate passes straight into the combustion format.
-The ability to keep all of the UVW's and pixel velocity for advanced effects such as changing or editing the texture of an object and true 3d motion blur without the rendering crunch of 3d.
-The schematic view for full control of the outcome of the piece.

Cons for combustion:
-Learning curve (It’s not so steep if you have used Max or Afx)

Hope this helps,
Have fun.

05 May 2003, 08:53 AM
And the Big cons for combustion:

* Crazy memory handling which makes you ran out of ram every 3rd frame on a mediumsized composite (numbers of nodes), so the app feels extremely slow, and it really is slow.

* The logic of the timeline is incomprehensible, I lose myself all the time and have to start looking all over again when trying to find which layer controls what, some layers seem stuck without reason and you have to go way down all the branches into the hirearcy to find the layer you're looking for. I would *not* like to take over someone elses combustion project :surprised

* The nodes are not worth the name they bear, it's almost as useless as the AfterFX flowchart, except you can rewire the nodes. But that alone doesn't make a node workflow, it's completely dependant on compensating for the layer structure, which cripples it.
And the Big cons for AfterFX:

Masking and rotoscoping is terrible, there are no splinebased animation (worth mentioning) so you're usually stuck with linear animation and ease-in-out-type animation. The app is not multi-threaded except a few plugs. You have to pre-compose a vectorlayer in order add an effect or a mask to it :surprised. The interface is based on floating windows which quickly gets messy.

eeh, apart from those things both apps are really great and I urge you to learn both, they really do have their own strengths! I think every single frame we've completed over the years had at least one go through AfterFX :)

If you *have* to choose and have little or no expereince of 2D/compositing I say start with AfterFX, it's the broader of the two apps and is a *lot* easier to learn, besides, combustion 1.0 is not very plesant... upgrade to 2.0x before using it

05 May 2003, 09:15 PM
:surprised Combustion is not that bad. It sounds like you've been traumatized. It sounds like there’s no organization skills on the projects that have worked on. Okay, here goes ...... Poooof you’re healed.....

:buttrock: He is right for, the most part, but I find the time line to be wonderful and the nodes to be a lifesaver. The timeline now has a context sensitive function that clears up the clutter. Also, the memory thingy can be forgiven because you can do memory dumps every time it starts to handle badly by right clicking on the label where it tells you how much memory is being used and selecting purge memory.

:buttrock: Another thing, If you are a beginner then I urge you to pick up the harder applications and learn them because once your over their steep learning curve then you pretty much know how to work with the other apps. Let me tell you though, after using “combustion 2.1”, I will never use after effects again.

:buttrock: Aftereffects production bundle (The film bundle) costs 1599.00 or 1499.00 dollars where as discreet has lowered the price of combustion 2.1 to 999.00 dollars. The cheaper version of after effects costs a hefty 749.00 dollars and is definitely not worth it because of the lack of ability therefore you would be limited to 8bits without any advanced keying features.

:buttrock: The color corrector alone is worth purchasing combustion not to mention that you can have motion blur use pixel velocity data, through the rpf format, to have fast and accurate motion blur/depth of field among many other things like advanced color keying for blue and green screening and much more.

Peace and good luck,

:buttrock: PS: I made the mistake of purchasing After Effects which I never use anymore. Also, the learning curve isn’t as bad when you have free training videos at your finger tips. Look at my previous post to see the link for the videos.
:buttrock: :drool:

06 June 2003, 11:10 AM
Originally posted by jcdied4me
:surprised Combustion is not that bad. It sounds like you've been traumatized. It sounds like there’s no organization skills on the projects that have worked on. Okay, here goes ...... Poooof you’re healed.....

Combustion is not that bad, except for the issues I stated above. I've not been traumatized, I just know what to expect from a decent node workflow. I know a *lot* of softwares and combustion is weirdest of them all, if it wasn't so slow and so memoryhungry it would be a top-notch app, I'm sure it'll get a lot better in time. But you can't say the nodes are any good if you ever tried a real nodebased program like Shake, DF, XSI FXtree, NUKE, RAYZ etc.

06 June 2003, 03:50 AM
Uuuut ohhh, he's a name dropper. Its okay, I understand. I find combustion very intuitive and have used other node based applications. I stick mostly in the 3D and traditional arts though. You probably know more in this area than little old me anyways. Well, good luck everyone and may your application journey be well.


06 June 2003, 07:54 AM
- More plugins avaliable
- User friendly GUI for PS users
- Time remaping
- Support for multiple image and audio formats
- You can use audio to animate things
- Expressions
- Motionmath

- Chroma
- Longer render times (depends on which type of fx are you using)
- Tracker
- Color Correction
- Net render
- 3D compositing is almost unusable
- Schematic view is useless
- Interface kinda terrible with a tablet

- 3D compositing
- Support for RPF (for max users)
- Color Corretion
- Tracking
- Paint engine
- Chroma
- Integration with FFFI brothers
- Gmasks
- Particle engine
- Motionblur
- Large buttons for tablet users

- Limited support for image files (example doesn't load zpic)
- Limited support for audio files (mp3)
- You can't link parameters
- No expression
- Nothing similar with motion math
- Timeline is a little weird (at least for me :surprised )
- Is not a real node driven app

Each app have their strong and weak points, the best option is try both and stick with one that best suits your needs.
If you like the node driven way, I sugest taking a look at Digital Fusion from Eyeon or Shake from Apple.

For a 2min thought I think thats all, I hope that helps.

See Ya!

06 June 2003, 08:14 AM
Originally posted by jcdied4me
Uuuut ohhh, he's a name dropper. Its okay, I understand. I find combustion very intuitive and have used other node based applications. I stick mostly in the 3D and traditional arts though. You probably know more in this area than little old me anyways. Well, good luck everyone and may your application journey be well.


:surprised :surprised :surprised

for the record: combustion isn't nodebased, 1.0 didn't even have a flowchart

06 June 2003, 11:02 AM
The record has been stricken.:wip:

:lightbulb I have this feeling that I already knew combustion is not node based, I think that I was talking about other applications. But, maybe I'm just retarded. Hay... What’s a nerd...cough...cough... I mean a node? :buttrock:

Have a nice day

06 June 2003, 12:33 PM
If you say 'other' you imply that combustion is based on nodes as well.. so whats up with the attitude? Don't speak if you're not interested in the response.

06 June 2003, 04:08 PM
Hay man, I've just been messing. I just thought it was funny that you commented so proudly and had a feeling that you were easily aroused, so I just ran with it to see if you would get fused. That’s funny, you got mad. Its kewl, I've got mad as well sometimes when stupid people like me are being dumb. I’ll stop now. You’re to funny.


06 June 2003, 04:51 PM
That the largest pile of poo I've heard in a long time.

06 June 2003, 06:30 AM
poo it is then...


06 June 2003, 12:08 AM
guys someone mentioned that most of aftereffects plugins work for it true ??..the same plugin files or you mean there's a combustion-enabled version of each plugin ?

06 June 2003, 09:09 AM
The same files, combustion supports aftereffects plugins, so does digital fusion :)

06 June 2003, 10:57 AM
huge thanx opacity.. one of the main factors restricted me from trying to learn combustion is the huge variety of filters of AE.
anyway i guess learning both isn't the hardest thing ever .

06 June 2003, 05:42 PM
Combustion and DF have a list of what plugins work and which ones don't. Probably about 60-70% of them work with C and DF.

06 June 2003, 08:16 PM
so is the glass half-full or half-empty? :p

06 June 2003, 12:10 PM
Originally posted by opacity
so is the glass half-full or half-empty?

considering discreet has most big studios and boutiques by their STONES :scream: and C3 not very far away...
there may BE no glass/spoon ;) :wise:

If youre trying to get jiggy with the whole post process
then go AFX.Upgrade to C2 later.It will seam odd at first but will become very straight forward soon.

I could draw paralles with 3dmax and maya as well...happens all the time.
There tons of excellent resources for both softwares(afx,max) wich really get you going good.After that you simply have know which is the equivalent button to push in another app.

ka-ching !!!


07 July 2003, 06:13 PM
Adobe pleeeease give us a curve editor, pretty please with sugar on top.


07 July 2003, 11:51 PM
I'm just started running into the limitations of AE , although i must say that most of it is amazingly easy to use (but i did have 10 years on Photoshop before that).

Combustion sounds great, if you happen to use Max, but what about if you are a Maya user? isn't Fusion in the running or is it just too unpopular to bother learning? How well do Maya render layers/ passes integrate into Combustion?

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