Motion was announced and demoed in a beta release as early as on this year’s NAB (where it earned Best of Show status). It was then previewed at DV Expo in New York, before it finally matured to a box release at Siggraph 2004 in August. A rather natural question after so many months of intensive campaigning is whether Motion is just another well-packaged idea or a useful tool for motion graphics and digital content creation.
If you’re sick and tired of the tedious approach of keyframe-based animation, Motion’s capabilities will amaze you. The program delivers a carefully selected, almost hand-picked set of features from illustrating and keying through motion design, particle generation, video filters, text effects and compositing, which you would otherwise have to seek in various costly software packages famed for their almost scientific degree of difficulty. Unlike many established applications, Motion brings a groundbreaking ease of use; it is intuitive, fault-tolerant and inspiring to play around with. While the interface is an elegant mix of DVD Studio Pro 3 and Final Cut Pro 4.5 HD, the functionality is a class of its own.
Behave - or don’t
What makes Motion so exceptional is its departure from the keyframe-oriented approach to animation, which gives you the freedom to interact with elements of your animation in real-time.
Motion can animate objects by either recording mouse activity or by using behaviours. A behaviour is basically a set of rules that describe the way objects can move around the canvas and interact.
Motion currently sports four types of behaviour, including simulations and particles. Simulation behaviours are modelled on physical phenomena such as gravity. Particle behaviours are reserved for objects multiplied by a particle generator.
The user can also draw motion paths by dragging objects on the Canvas with a mouse or using a graphics tablet. You can use keyframes for fine-tuning.Changes to a project do not require rendering; the user can interact with Motion in real-time.
Motion sports its own Dashboard, designed for quick access to the attributes of a selected object or a group of objects. It is a context-sensitive floating pane, which contributes to a more efficient use of the screen’s real estate. It’s similar to the Dashboard due to ship with the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger).
In the box, you’ll find an installation DVD, a content DVD with a collection of templates as well as documentation, and a demo of Soundtrack. While DVD Studio Pro 3, FCP 4.5 HD and Shake 3.5 all come with documentation, Motion brings a beautifully printed 170-page handbook called ‘Motion Grand Tour’. Additional documentation and some other goodies are available online upon registration (www.apple.com/motion/download/).
Power without price
Motion’s price tag of less than £200 makes it a particularly compelling choice. But it’s easy to forget the fact that this application demands very powerful hardware, which will generally translate into additional investments not accounted for in its price. The program will run only with a fully supported graphics card,
and it won’t settle for less than an AGP 4x with 64MB graphics memory (the more and the faster, the better).
Though Motion will joyfully perform on any off-the-shelf Power Mac G5, a memory upgrade to at least 2GB is in any case highly advisable.
If you deploy one of the more-recent Power Macs G4, your graphics card will almost certainly need a replacement just to be able to fire-up Motion.
If you decide to jump to a G5 instead of swapping graphics cards, a built-to-order configuration may save you a lot of headache. If you can, avoid buying the NVidia GeForce FX5200 Ultra (64MB) and the ATI Radeon 9600 XT (128MB), else you may have to upgrade very soon. Even the original 2GHz machines are beginning to look underspecced in this area (Macworld, August 2004).
Your options when buying a Power Mac G5 in the Apple Store are currently an ATI Radeon 9800 XT (with 256MB and an ADC/DVI connection) for an additional £260, or the NVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL (with 256MB and a Dual DVI connection, no ADC) for an additional £379. To upgrade an off-the-shelf Power Mac G5 on your own, look no further than the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (August 2004), which is an excellent card for just £219.
Motion is the biggest advance in motion-graphics in nearly a decade. It’s the first time that a major software player has dared to look beyond the traditional keyframe-oriented approach with innovations of such magnitude in this price category. The software is well worth every penny, and it will save you hours. Motion is a must-have for everyone working in motion graphics and digital-content creation, just for the sake of the high-quality results that you can achieve in seconds instead of days. It’s also available in a bundle with DVD SP 3 and FCP 4.5 HD (called Apple Production Suite) for £899. Users of Final Cut Pro (any release) can upgrade to Apple Production Suite for only £499, which will score them DVD SP 3 (WWDC 2004) along with Motion and FCP 4.5 HD.