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Apple Motion
Posted Oct 27, 2004 Print Version     « previous Page 2of 3 next »

Motion makes it easy to place, duplicate, and nest multiple video clips, either side-by-side or picture-in-picture, as shown in the dolphins screenshot. You can have multiple video clips (or images, text, or effects, for that matter) in a single layer, or separate them out into their own layers. Which way you go will depend mostly on how many behaviors and filters you intend to apply, and to how many layers; it's more of a housekeeping issue than anything else. (No, we didn't send a staff of videographers out to sea for this footage. It's part of one of three outstanding tutorials Apple supplies, making up for the now-expected lack of a comprehensive manual.)

When you apply a behavior, filter, or effect to the canvas, you immediately see one of Motion's coolest features: the Dashboard, a small gray window that lets you change parameters—such as the in and out points for the fade behavior or the speed and direction of the particles for an emitter—easily. For effects like drop shadows and shape fills, you can also select the color well in the Dashboard to reveal either wheel- or spectrum-style color pickers (again, more echoes of Photoshop). The Dashboard is slightly transparent, so you can always see what's going on behind it. The Dashboard doesn't contain all the adjustable parameters, though. To see those, you need to display the Inspector, which appears on the upper right-hand portion of your screen (if you don't have a Cinema display now, you're probably thinking of getting one). In the upper right-hand corner of the Dashboard is an "i" that, when clicked, reveals the Inspector. (You can access almost all of Motion's features in multiple ways: via the Dashboard, pulldown menus, or the toolbar at the top of the canvas.) Depending on the layer you've got selected, the Inspector shows dozens of different parameters. The properties tab displays controls for object properties such as position, rotation, and scale; the behaviors tab includes behavior-specific functions like fade in/out and grow/shrink; the filters tab contains all filter controls; and the text tab contains all text parameters for both standard and animated LiveType fonts.

Finally, there's the timeline pane, which appears in the lower third of the screen. It'll be familiar to any video producer who's used a timeline-based NLE before, so there's no need to go into it in much detail here, other than to add that it only allows for basic trim and extend functions, but that those functions apply to behaviors and filters as well as to any video or still media you might be using.

Good Behavior
By far, the most impressive aspect of Motion is its behaviors, which let you animate objects on the screen or create interaction between objects without using keyframes. Each behavior applies a rate of change to the parameters of an object over time. Simple behaviors like grow/shrink and fade in/out are self-explanatory, but more complicated behaviors (called Simulation and Parameter) approximate natural forces like gravity, attract, and repel. The Dashboard for most behaviors allows you to adjust parameters either by entering values or dragging visual representations of the behavior on a vector representing the screen. (Don't worry; if you want to use keyframes, Motion gives you that option, too.)

Just as impressive as the object behaviors are the text behaviors, which include fading in from right to left, waves, and the simulation of text flying in from behind the camera. As with object behaviors, the parameters are easily modified from either the Dashboard or the Inspector. The included LiveType fonts, with names like Pulse, Handwriting, and Glow, bring their own animation, which is—you guessed it—adjustable to specific needs.

One of my tests with Motion was using it to turn the cover of the September issue of EMedia into a motion graphic (it's about time we took this show on the road). I needed only three main layers, which I labeled Graphics, Text, and Background (which received no further treatment). The Graphics layer consists of five sublayers. Three of them—a laptop and camera, both set against the starburst featured prominently in the original magazine cover—were stationary elements. The Scooby-Doo-style van was too cool not to animate, however, so I applied the Throw behavior to that sub-layer so that it would appear to "drive" across the screen. As the behavior played out, it was simple enough to adjust the speed and direction of the Throw by dragging the arrow in the Dashboard for rough settings, and then using the behaviors tab in the Inspector to tweak those parameters.

The Text layer was a little more complicated, though not much. I ended up changing the font on some of the text, since my machine didn't have the font our art director used on the original. (Had I had that font, I would have been able to import that layer from Photoshop and modify the text just as I ended up doing with the text I entered.) To emphasize the play on words in "mi-rack-ulous" (a reference to Serious Magic's DV Rack), I bumped the point size up on only the letters "rack," and then I applied the wave text sequence behavior to make all the letters increase and then decrease in size as if a wave were rolling across the word. Again, the Dashboard let me do the heavy lifting, while the Inspector gave me the precision tools to make the final adjustments.

I still wasn't happy with the final composite image, so I decided to add a particle emitter at the top of the screen. I scrolled through the particle emitters, previewing each one in the library thumbnail screen. Though limited in number, they're as impressive as those you'll find in many 3D design tools. I decided on Fireworks05, which itself includes two other images in the Motion library, Blur11 and Sparkle. I dragged the Fireworks05 emitter over the canvas to roughly position it, then went to the layers tab to move it beneath the "mi-rack-ulous" layer. A few adjustments in the properties tab of the Inspector to set the size, shape, and length of the effect (Scale, Shear, and Duration, for those of you keeping score), and I was set with a graphic that added motion to an already terrific design.

Movin' Out
After spending about 30 hours working with Motion, I feel like I've only begun to scratch the surface of the software's capabilities. In addition to playing well with Photoshop, Illustrator, and a variety of After Effects plug-ins, Motion is fully integrated with Final Cut Pro. You can open timeline data including cuts and blends from FCP (though you can't import filters applied in Final Cut), or you can open Motion directly from the FCP timeline and bypass the import/export step. If you then make a change in Motion, the change is automatically updated in Final Cut; the same is true if you're working on a motion menu for use in DVD Studio Pro. And in addition to outputting directly to DV, DVCPRO, MPEG-4, and other QuickTime-supported codecs, Motion integrates with Compressor for MPEG-2 and batch QuickTime compression.

All of which adds up to a no-brainer for any Mac-based videography or post-production studio, especially at its $299 price point.

See Sidebar 1 on page 3 for System Requirements

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