We present a novel multi-level methodology to explore and characterize the low energy landscape and the thermodynamics of proteins. Traditional conformational search methods typically explore only a small portion of the conformational space of proteins and are hard to apply to large proteins due to the large amount of calculations required. In our multi-scale approach, we first provide an initial characterization of the equilibrium state ensemble of a protein using an efficient computational conformational sampling method. We then enrich the obtained ensemble by performing short Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations on selected conformations from the ensembles as starting points. To facilitate the analysis of the results, we project the resulting conformations on a low-dimensional landscape to efficiently focus on important interactions and examine low energy regions. This methodology provides a more extensive sampling of the low energy landscape than an MD simulation starting from a single crystal structure as it explores multiple trajectories of the protein. This enables us to obtain a broader view of the dynamics of proteins and it can help in understanding complex binding, improving docking results and more. In this work, we apply the methodology to provide an extensive characterization of the bound complexes of the C3d fragment of human Complement component C3 and one of its powerful bacterial inhibitors, the inhibitory domain of Staphylococcus aureus extra-cellular fibrinogen-binding domain (Efb-C) and two of its mutants. We characterize several important interactions along the binding interface and define low free energy regions in the three complexes. Proteins 2010. (c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.