It has only been a short while since Discreet attempted to move into the mid-range professional market with the first release of Combustion, a compositor and video-effects tool that offered many of the features available in Flame (the package used in effects houses around the world).
However, the interface for Combustion has been tweaked for version 3.0 and will look strange to new users. It is designed for output across multiple monitors so that its clean and elegant workspace can be used extremely efficiently. Don’t expect any handholding, but if you will be working in professional editing suites you will have little trouble moving between Combustion and higher-end systems.
The latest release adds new tools for painting into clips, plus expressions for setting up complex animations without key framing. Selections and masks can be fully animated as before and the program includes high-end tools for colour correction, audio and motion tracking — for example, to remove unwanted jitters or to scale and rotate footage (see here for an example). All these tools are desirable but it’s the particle effects system that is the real bonus.
A range of presets enables you to set up 2D effects such as sparks, smoke and lights, which will easily match anything from a high-end 3D package.
Combustion is worth considering, especially given that Premiere Pro and After Effects combined are nearly half as much again.