DVGarage.com Compositing Toolkit (http://www.dvgarage.com/prod/prod.php?prod=ctk)
Overall rating - 4.5/5
First let me say that this training kit is firmly focused on Adobe After Effects, however all the principles can be applied to combustion with a little lateral thinking.
I picked up this kit at Christmas (thanks to a great discount promotion from DVGarage - definitely sign up to their newsletter for special deals) and have only recently had a chance to sit down and go through the tutorials from start to finish.
The project is essentially a lightsabre battle, with the original footage being two martial artists shot on bluescreen with DV. This is important to keep in mind as the tutorials are very much focused on effects/keying of low quality footage - something that a large majority of us work with, especially us poor students!
The tutorials cover:
* garbage matting
* pulling separate keys for problem areas (ponytails, motion blurred arms etc) and how to recombine them.
* rotoscoping the sabre blades and adding lighting effects to them
* adding flare layers with masks for the sabres striking in between the two fighters.
* compositing into a still background and how to make the merge more believable
* final touches such as lighting, colour correcting and minor effects.
The kit also includes an AE plugin: DV Matte, specifically designed for dealing with tricky DV keying. Also, each chapter has template overlays for AE to follow along (such as outlines to follow for masking, drawing sabres) and the finished AE files for the chapter so you can check them if get stuck.
The tutorials are provided as full colour PDF's, with each page covering a step (or substeps) of the process. I have to say that the tutorials were extremely well set out. Instructions are clear and literally every step is covered, as well as talking about why you are doing what you are doing, with a bit of theory thrown in. As I said before, all the tutorials relate to After Effects, so you will have to use a bit of grey matter to work around some of the issues. I found that combustion doesn't have some of AE channel operators (or more likely I just don't know how to use them properly yet), but with a bit of thought the effect could be replicated by combing severl c* operators.
The CD's also contain Quicktime overview movies of each chapter to watch before you get started.
Overall I can highly recommend this kit. Realistically there is not too much training around for combustion (more reviews on other training I have bought later) so this turned out to be a very good buy. I definitely learnt a lot of techniques that I would not have discovered on my own.
Note: I also purchased the CTK companion (my raiting 3/5), which contains all the shots of the fight sequence for you to work on. While it is great to have all the footage, it has been very, very heavily compressed, so getting decent keys will really stretch your skills (and possibly patience). Of course, if you can get a decent result with this footage, anything better should be a piece of cake ;) Given that blue screen footage is hard to come by to practice on, it is still a worthy purchase.
I would also recommend checking out the free tutorials on DVGarage. There is some great general compositing info there, including how to create effective heat haze . . . a classic!