Motion 5 review
Pros: Parameter rigs a boon to control and FCP collaboration; easy chroma key; real-time visual tweaking; faster, more modern architecture; low price
Cons: FCP X integration limited to exporting templates; no native EPS import; no stereoscopic 3D support
Motion 5 offers a new look and greater performance. Motion’s engine, now rewritten in Cocoa, incorporates OpenCL support for accelerating computation on compatible graphics cards, 64-bit architecture for optimised computation and access to greater memory resources, and support for Grand Central Dispatch multi-threading technologies – all of which help you squeeze the most out of your hardware. As with Final Cut Pro X (FCP X) and Compressor 4, there’s support for ColorSync colour management, and a shared render engine.
Motion can export four kinds of files back to FCP X: transitions make use of Motion’s eye candy tools for slick edits between materials; generators produce graphics dynamically (such as particle effects); titles allow use of animated text with typographical controls and RTF file import; and filters allow combinations of image- and video-processing effects.
Motion 5 has the ability to encapsulate selected controls into dynamic parameter rigs, controlling many elements at one time. You can combine parameters into rigs to consolidate live control of your compositions, and then publish those controls to smart templates and FCP X.
So, you could modify the display of a video in a 3D composition, adjusting the position of the camera rotating around it, changing its position in space, and altering a colour balance filter on the video. With the rig, you could combine those elements and control them together, which could greatly simplify adjusting the timing of all those elements against another video or a sound bed.
Motion is an effective basic 3D compositor, with controls for setting layers in three-dimensional space and adding lighting and camera controls
And as with other Motion parameters, you can assign MIDI and audio control or behaviours like Wriggle and Random. The result is a kind of generative, modular system for producing dynamic motion effects without coding.
On the compositing side, Apple has added much improved chroma keying. Drop the chroma key filter onto your footage, and compositing to a colour (such as a green screen) is effective immediately. Motion is also an effective basic 3D compositor, with controls for setting layers in three-dimensional space and adding lighting and camera controls. 3D compositing includes the ability to quickly rig up a scene with depth, then add movement simply by dragging and dropping motion behaviours. 3D compositing is powerful, but if you need native support for stereoscopic 3D output, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Content and coding
The heart and soul of Motion remains its extensive library of content. While it lacks the open-ended code extensibility of After Effects, in its place you can combine series of behaviours and other elements, for a visual equivalent to coding. You get sophisticated, easy-to-use match move and motion analysis and stabilisation features, inherited from Apple’s high-end (and now defunct) Shake. There’s a powerful, intuitive replicator and particle generator that with After Effects, for instance, would require a third-party add-on.
Advanced After Effects users will often (rightfully) praise the Expression scripting language, which allows users open-ended extensibility by enabling advanced motion behaviours in code. By combining behaviours, generators, and filters graphically – spreading them out across the timeline, and adjusting parameters on the fly – it’s possible to build more complex structures. Motion’s plug-in architecture isn’t yet as broad as After Effect’s ecosystem, but this is set to change, especially with Motion’s aggressive pricing and expanded FxPlug2 SDK.
Motion 5 still lacks some of the features needed to be a primary graphics workstation: tools like native EPS import and open-ended scripting. But that’s not really the point. Motion is well suited to the job of building titles, filters, transitions, and generators for FCP X, and the only way to build interactive assets for Final Cut. It’s also a worthy investment for anyone looking to add a little extra visual power to their creative arsenal.