Ken LaRue's 6 DVD combustion 4 training course is a solid value, impressive for its quantity (more than 34 hours of material and almost 4GB of sample files), its presentation, its production values (excellent video and sound), and most of all for the quality of the information presented. Combustion is an incredibly rich and complex application. This course really covers the territory, and covers it well, with some very cool project examples. It's not limited to just showing how the application works, either. For instance, the "slave capsules" created by Ken and included on the DVD allow you to adjust effects on multiple video clips simultaneously, potentially a huge time-saver. You could create these slave capsules yourself, but Ken has saved you the trouble.
In these tutorials, Ken achieves a nice balance between moving along at a good clip and repeating important points so that they sink in. I also appreciate his consistent enthusiasm and humor.
I like the fact that the lessons are designed to run at 1280 x 1024 pixels, which means that--once you subtract the screen real estate taken up by the navigation and playback controls for the tutorials--the Combustion screen I'm watching in the videos is the same size as the 1024 x 728 screen I normally work in. No eye-squinting or pressing my nose up to the screen to figure out what's going on.
The course is not cheap ($298.00), unless you compare it to what it would cost to get the same amount of live instruction. I have to say that I personally prefer the video overall, because it allows me to go at my own pace, going back and repeating lessons or parts of lessons as much as I want, and taking breaks when I need to clear my head. For me, video tutorials are by far the fastest and best way to make progress in learning a complex application.
The standard navigation controls included with the tutorials do not allow you to just go back a few seconds, however, or to scrub to a desired point in the tutorial. You're limited to going to the beginning of a selected section ()most of which are ten minutes or so in length). That being said, QuickTime files are directly accessible on the DVD, allowing you to play them using any player you want. If I want to scrub or jump around in a particular movie, I can find it on the DVD and play it using Sony Vegas, for instance. This also allows me to speed the videos up and still understand Ken's commentary, if I want to quickly review a section.
I would like to see a more flexible set of controls included in the standard interface. The standard controls are basically designed for someone who wants to sit down and go through each lesson from beginning to end, optionally repeating the whole lesson.
I'd also appreciate a "skip intro" function when each DVD first starts, as there's a significant wait while the title and credits roll.
This DVD set will work well for novices, but intermediate Combustion users will get a lot out of it as well. Advanced users may just need the "What's New" course for $68.