LiveMotion 1.0

Adobe’s late entrant into the vector-animation field needs to be pretty special to bite into the market domination established by Macromedia’s Flash. While LiveMotion does contain some welcome features, Adobe’s great-white-hope looks unlikely to knock out the champion. Perhaps comparing Flash and LiveMotion too closely is wrong, as there are as many differences as similarities. LiveMotion owes more in operation and functionality to AfterEffects than Flash, with a completely different approach to the way that objects are treated and animated. The user interface will be achingly familiar to anyone who has ever used either Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. It has a similar set of vector-based drawing tools that are used to create the objects and shapes which can then be animated. However, it lacks the freehand-sketching tools that some Flash users find useful, while most Illustrator or FreeHand users will already have the precise drawing tools they need. Each object can have multiple layers, to allow you to create complex graphics, and also apply effects, much like in Photoshop or ImageStyler. This is certainly simpler to grasp than Flash’s shapes, symbols and instances lexicon. While Flash uses a frame-by-frame approach with elements placed arbitrarily in layers, LiveMotion is timeline-based, and each object is automatically in its own layer. Then, just as in AfterEffects, every conceivable attribute of an object can be changed over time by simply adding keyframes and making the required adjustment either numerically or interactively. This makes it a much more precise animation tool than Flash, but this also means that setting up the animation can take much longer. Locking elements and temporarily making them invisible is not as easy as it could be. Because all effects and animations are applied separately, it’s possible to change any aspect of a composition or animation indefinitely, without having to go back to previously saved symbols and repeat steps. This non-destructive approach, and the precise timeline, shows LiveMotion’s film-editing pedigree. Adding interactivity is one area where LiveMotion cannot begin to compete with Flash’s advanced ActionScripts. However, adding simple interactivity, such as dynamic button effects, is easy – and for many users, the no-need-to-code approach will be welcome. But the lack of support for variables, and the more sophisticated object-oriented approach of Flash, limits what can be done in LiveMotion in terms of interactive games and advanced navigation interfaces. LiveMotion can import a number of vector-based and bitmap file formats, such as Illustrator files or EPSs, although not SWF or raw Flash. Illustrator and Photoshop files are imported with their layers intact, which is a great feature. LiveMotion exports SWF files, as well as animated GIFs and static bitmap files, but has no support for QuickTime export or the much touted SVG format. As LiveMotion allows you to combine export types in one composition, such as a bit of SWF here, an animated GIF there and a Javascript rollover here, some exported page designs can get rather complex.

OUR VERDICT

LiveMotion and Flash can live together, and I’m sure many designers will combine the superior animation controls of LiveMotion to create SWF files, which they can then import into Flash to add interactivity. As a 1.0 release, LiveMotion has much to recommend it. Pity we couldn’t have had it two years ago…

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