Apple Motion Compositing Software Review
$299

Apple

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

(408) 996-1010

www.apple.com

Apple Motion is a slick, easy to use and relatively low-cost special effects and compositing software package with real-time convenience and an innovative set of design tools. Motion delivers a powerful set of filters, behaviors, text animations, particle emitters and other motion design tools in an elegant interface that makes it easy to start creating impressive titles and effects in just a few minutes. Motion also offers easy integration with Final Cut Pro HD, Apples most recent version of its video editing application, and its DVD authoring application, DVD Studio Pro.

Text, Behaviors and Filters
We loaded Motion onto a dual-2.0 GHz Mac G5 running OS X 10.3.5 with 4GB RAM. We ran the program and selected a DV-standard 720×480 pixel canvas for our first test and prepared for a long, arduous journey into the inner workings of the Motion interface. Weve used many compositing applications before, so we knew what to expect. Eventually, wed get the hand of things, but for the first few hours, we expected to be a bit baffled.

Well, our expectations were not met. Beginning with a simple title as our test, we easily located the Type tool above the top of the Canvas and began entering text directly into the 720×480 frame. Once we entered our text, it was simple enough to locate choices for color, scale, fonts, gradients and other parameters. Next, we wanted to create a fancy letter-by-letter animation of our title. We found the list of Text Behaviors and dropped one directly onto the text. We tried a Bounce-On behavior first, and immediately the letters of our title began bouncing onto the screen, one by one, with no rendering and not so much as a peek at the manual, which is actually very nice at 168 full-color pages.

Our next trick was to make the title glow, but only after it stopped bouncing. This also proved far easier than wed first imagined. We accessed the list of Filters, grabbed the Glow filter and drop it onto the text, then adjust the time parameters to keep it from happening until the title stopped bouncing.

Thus far, wed only used the default settings for our Behaviors and Filters, so we accessed the Dashboard feature for each of the effects to first manipulate the Bounce speed and direction, and then the angle of the Blur. The dashboard tools for manipulating these and other visual aspects are very intuitive and, in most cases, are sliders of some sort. Likewise, the animation timeline is very usable, with a colorful graph feature animators will love.

Particle Fun
Next, to take our titles visual appeal up a few notches, we decided to put some kind of space-age particle system behind the words. Lucky for us, Motion has an entire category of particle emitters labeled Sci Fi, so we opened that folder and selected one that looked appropriate and dropped it on the screen. Immediately, with zero rendering time, we saw a preview of the results. To move it behind the title, we had to locate the palette of layers in the Project window and drop it behind the Text layer. Then we could bring up the Dashboard and manipulate the particle attributes, such as rate, life, direction and size.

There was a lag of perhaps a second between when we altered an attribute, say a Bezier curve, and when it updated on screen, but this is not unusual with compositing apps. To push the software to its limit, we tested the same tools at full DVCPro HD resolution and, not surprisingly, the system did bog down some, requiring a 15- or 20-second render for complex particle emitters. It is easy enough to turn off the particle effect and display it as a wireframe to make the process less laggy.

Power and Simplicity
Weve only covered the simpler aspects of Motion. Even if you use nothing but these basics, youll probably be more than satisfied with its capabilities. Although the interface is simple and elegant, with dozens of pre-configured Behaviors, Filters, Simulations and high-quality Design Templates, Motion will satisfy the needs of most titling and animation projects. Motion provides a range of professional shape-drawing capabilities, masking tools, pen-and-tablet commands, motion controls and plenty of other bells and whistles to give professionals direct control over their visual designs. Motion isnt as deep as After Effects, but, then again, it isnt as complex to use either.

Apple is following Adobe with an aggressive collection of applications in its Production Suite, including Final Cut Pro HD and DVD Studio Pro for $1,300. Its more than just a trio of apps in the same box, however, and you can move a project between the apps in a very coordinated way. For example, you can be working on a DVD menu in DVD Studio Pro and, with a click, pop into Motion to do the motion menus, compositing and animation. When you are finished, youll drop right back into DVD Studio Pro to finish the authoring.

So whats the bottom line? Ultimately, any program should be judged by the work it produces for you at the end of the day: the professional quality of the output is second to none. The next generation of compositing and effects software has arrived and its only $299.

Joe McCleskey is an instructional media specialist and plays a mean guitar.

TECH SPECS

Version: 1.0

Platform: Mac

Operating System: OS X v10.3.5+

Processor: PowerMac G4 or G5, 867MHz

RAM: 512MB

Hard Disk: 1GB

Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9800, 9700, or 9600; nVidia GeForce 6800, Go5200 or FX5200 Ultra

Printed Manual: 168 Pages (all color)

Demo Version: n/a

STRENGTHS

  • Intuitive, elegant user interface
  • Real-time previews
  • Lovely, professional effects

    WEAKNESSES

  • Recommended system requirements are steep
  • Real-time bogs down at HD resolutions

    SUMMARY
    A truly impressive compositing and effects package, both in terms of usability and output, at a very reasonable price.

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