Motion 1.0 has already shaken the industry with its revolutionary approach to animation (see review in Macworld UK, October 2004, page 39). Join us on a journey to discover what this brand-new app can do for you.

What sets Motion 1.0 apart from any other special-effects and motion-graphics software is that it allows you to create animations without ever touching a key-frame editor. This can be achieved using, for example, behaviours, and is also a real breakthrough in terms of productivity.

To start working in Motion you should familiarize yourself with the File Browser, the Library, the Inspector and the Dashboard. The File Browser provides easy access to documents. Motion's Library holds the graphical representation of objects and functions such as Behaviours, Filters, Generators, Particle Emitters, Shapes, Gradients, Fonts, LiveFonts, etc. Filters, behaviours and particles can be applied easily by drag-&-dropping them from Motion's Library palette onto the canvas. The purpose of the Inspector is to allow easy access to all editable properties of the selected object or group of objects.

Motion's vector shapes can be fine-tuned manually and transformed into particles

The Dashboard is basically a dynamically updated inspector palette that is always focused on just one property of the selected object or group of objects. Its translucent interface gives you a glimpse of how future Apple applications and the upcoming Mac OS X 10.4 (a.k.a. Tiger) will probably look like.

Motion's Dashboard allows you to quickly navigate through properties of the selected object and to edit its parameters

Behaviours

Behaviours in Motion are sets of rules that describe what happens to an object on the canvas, such as 'Oscillate', 'Reverse' or 'Drift Attracted to'. Interestingly enough, behaviours do not add keyframes to the animation. They bring about motion by defining the character of 'forces' being applied to an object such as gravity, attraction, spinning or edge collision rather than predefining the position of an object at any given point in time. Behaviours thus allow you to design random, less deterministic animations as well as the high-precision 'Swiss watch' kind of movement in a fast and efficient way.

Defining behaviours in Motion

Results similar to those Motion can achieve by using behaviours would otherwise require countless properly set key frames throughout the life span of every object. The process of defining key frames isn't really a difficult one, but it is a very tedious and boring exercise. Effects resulting from keyframe-based motion design are almost carved in stone in that it is so difficult to redesign them. If you create special effects for your clients, it's inevitable to present results and very often you will end up changing the animation many times until your client is fully satisfied. In other applications, this translates into redesigning your key frames and it practically means that your work is gone and you'll have to start from scratch. And usually you cannot even complain because a happy client is what your business is all about.

To optimize a behaviour in Motion, all you need to do is select the object, open the Dashboard, switch to the requested property and adjust its parameters.

Filters

Motion 1.0 comes with over 90 built-in hardware-accelerated effects including blur (for instance Gaussian blur), colour correction, distortion, twirl, glow, stylize, keying etc.

Applying filters to footage in Motion

Particles

Particles are sets of objects orignating from one source and multiplied by a particle generator (emitter). In Motion any visual object can be declared as a particle system.

To streamline the motion effect creation based upon particle systems you can rely on a preset of 100 ready-to-use particles from smokes and fires to Sci-Fi. Even more importantly, you can design your own particle effects and animate these using behaviours to create compelling and very impressive results.

Declaring an object as the origin
of a particles system in Motion

Applying predefined particles is like using filters or behaviours: simply drag-and-drop them onto your canvas. To declare an object as the origin of a particles system all you have to do is select it on the canvas and click the icon 'Make Particles'.

Using filters, behaviours or particles is just a matter of dragging-and-dropping their respective symbols from Motion's Library onto the canvas. The Dashboard updates immediately and you can see in real-time how your footage is colour corrected, distorted, rotated etc. Sometimes you may have to wonder why motion design and special effects creation had to be so difficult over the past years.

Gestures or mouse

For all of you who use a graphics tablet to draw objects and motion paths, Apple incorporated gestures into Motion as an alternative way of navigating through this app's user interface. Using gestures you can perform standard tasks such as simple edits without having to put the pen and the graphics tablet aside.

In order to bee able to use gestures, you must enable Handwriting Recognition in Mac OS X Ink Preferences.

Motion's integration in FCP HD

Motion integrates seamlessly with FCP HD and DVD SP 3 whether you purchase the apps in the Apple Production Suite bundle or separately. This close integration saves your projects from permanent back-and-forth data conversion so common with other software.

Final Cut Pro 4.5 HD can easily open, import and visualise native Motion 1.0 projects and templates (.motn) by using the menu command 'File > Open' or likewise 'File > Import > Files…'.

Apple's FCP 4.5 HD treats Motion native project files just like simple 'flat' video clips. You cannot edit any particular element of a Motion project in FCP HD. But there is no need to do so. Whenever you feel the need for improvements regarding your Motion project you can easily open it in Motion from within FCP HD. Any change to your Motion project reflects in your FCP 4.5 HD sequence immediately upon being saved.

For the sake of an easy workflow and an uncluttered user interface having a FCP HD toolset and a Motion toolset in two independent apps is indeed very convenient. Otherwise, countless editing capabilities of Motion would have to be introduced to FCP 4.5 HD and this would not make things any easier. As a welcome side effect of these two applications being separate you avoid a collision of shortcuts.

By integrating your Motion project in your FCP HD project you can easily keep the overview of the visual arrangement of objects on the canvas and see how your Motion masterpiece fits into your FCP sequence.

From FCP 4.5 HD to Motion

But that's not all to it. FCP can export clips for Motion ('File > Export > Export to a "Motion" project…') and automatically embed the resulting Motion project in place of the selected clips in the originating sequence (option 'Embed "Motion" content' in the following file select box).

Export selected clips in a sequence
from FCP HD to a Motion project

In order to turn over media from FCP 4.5 HD to Motion select them in the timeline and use the command 'File > Export > Export to Motion project…'. By checking the appropriate option in the file select box you can decide whether to automatically fire up Motion and whether to embed the resulting Motion file in place of the selected clips. The option 'Embed "Motion" content' makes sure that any change to the Motion file shows up back in your original FCP 4.5 HD project. This way, you will never again have to manually erase the exported media files from your timeline and reimport the motion project into this very gap (yes, this is similar to the trick of creating nested sequences in FCP 4.5 HD).

The option 'Embed "Motion" content'
results in
the Motion project being embedded
within the originating sequence in FCP HD
in place of exported media

A Motion project file created this way will include all clips and objects of your FCP sequence positioned properly in separate tracks and layers. The original composite modes and most other features of the FCP HD sequence will be preserved in the resulting Motion file. That's an awesome step to a tight and indeed very elegant integration of all the apps in your Apple Production Suite.

The use of the 'Export into a Motion project…' command (with or without reconnection to your former FCP file) is easy, but be aware of the fact that media files are currently properly loaded in Motion only if they are located on the same partition as the Motion project file itself. (This requirement may become obsolete with a minor update, so be advised to check for updates on a regular basis.) Otherwise, Motion will see such files as offline media and report them missing. If it already happened to you, the best you can do is simply 'reconnect' missing offline media manually.

But take care. By using the feature 'Export to a Motion project…' you won't notice any further changes made to the original FCP project in your Motion file. If you want you can choose your preferences so that any changes in FCP projects will reflect in depending motion projects.

Having Motion 1.0 and FCP 4.5 HD run along each other as a team is an amazing experience. Whatever you've got on your mind there always seems to be a really straight forward way to accomplish things.

Should you deactivate the option to automatically interconnect Motion 1.0 files with FCP 4.5 HD projects, any object, that is exported from a sequence is shown in the FCP timeline as a nested sequence. The very same happens on Macs where only FCP 4.5 HD is installed and Motion is not available.

Media files referenced by FCP 4.5 HD, that Motion is unable to find while exporting, are shown in a list of detected problems. If you cannot fix the problem for now – because the media are located for instance on a removable drive that is on the go – you can fix this anytime later by using the command 'Reconnect Media' in the tab 'media' (in 'Window > Media') from the menu at your mouse cursor when Ctrl-clicking the object.

Transparency

Whenever you open Motion projects that include transparent areas, FCP HD will attempt to automatically assign an alpha channel to the clip. This feature isn't free of minor flaws. FCP HD sometimes does happen to choose a wrong type of an alpha channel, for instance 'direct' instead of 'black'. You will notice this error in the irregularities of the outline contour of an object. In this case, you can apply the correct transparency setting manually.

FCP 4.5 HD supports four transparency settings:

– 'Without/Ignore': In this case any information regarding transparency in a clip is ignored,

– 'Direct': This type of an alpha channel is used to knock off the background behind objects created in a 3D application such as Alias Maya or Pixar Renderman,

– 'Black' and 'White': Transparency is defined by a grayscale image in that the transparency is contained in the black or the white portion of the image.

In order to change the type of the alpha channel applied, select the clip in the timeline and choose 'Modify > Alpha Type' from the pull-down menu of FCP 4.5 HD.

The Motion-FCP 4.5 HD-workflow is really a quantum leap. You can fine-tune your Motion projects step by step and they will show up automatically in FCP HD. That's an awesome advantage.

An industry in motion

The seamless integration between Motion 1.0 and FCP 4.5 HD is something Adobe After Effects 6.5 on the Mac cannot live up to, at least not for the time being. The modern user interface and the now Motion-only features like behaviours probably won't show up in Adobe After Effects 7 without causing further delays in the release of the software. What Adobe apparently needs to do is rewriting Adobe After Effects for Mac OS X 10.4 completely from scratch. Any experiments in gradually improving Adobe After Effects won't produce anything comparable to Motion, that's for sure, just like minor changes to PageMaker didn't transfer Adobe's publishing flagship of the time into a state-of-the-art app and it did take Adobe InDesign to challenge QuarkXPress. The earlier Adobe recognises this, the better for everyone.

A G5 is currently so affordable that the temptation to – at least partially – jump ship from a PC to a Power Mac G5 shouldn't be underestimated. What is even more, the upgrade from any Final Cut Pro release (including 1.x - 4.x) to Apple's brand new Production Suite might bring many user of Adobe Premiere Pro back to the Mac.

Skipping the Mac platform isn't a viable option for any software vendor in the creative industry nowadays.

Even if you buy an Apple Production Suite for the complete retail price of £ 899 (Apple offers an upgrade from any FCP release for £ 499), the bundle of Final Cut Pro 4.5 HD, DVD Studio 3 Pro and Motion 1.0 is truly a unique offering, especially given the fact that Adobe's Encore DVD 1.5 is more of a beta software and still a work in progress, but no way a reliable application. If you ever tried it yourself while on a deadline or if you witnessed a poor victim struggling to finish a project with Adobe Encore DVD 1.0 or 1.5 on a PC you will appreciate Apple Production Suite as an almost irresistible offer.