Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Review: Apple Motion

Toolfarm Rating: (4/5)

By Matt Schirado, West Michigan After Effects User Group

I've been working with Apple Motion for several weeks now, and can comment a bit about how it stacks up to AE and other compositing programs. Motion is a resource hog; my dual 2 gig G5 is a minimum to run it effectively, using the mid-grade ATI Radeon 9600XT AGP video card, with 128 megs of VRAM. Ideally you should get the new ATI Radeon X800 8x AGP card ($500-ish). The other recommended graphics cards, the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and the nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra take up an extra PCI-X slot (which is unacceptable to me). My 2.5 gigs of RAM works well, but I haven't tried running other applications simultaneously.

Read the rest of the review My work has been with DV video clips and Illustrator and Photoshop files, animating 3-5 of them around the screen with 2 or 3 filters (there's 105 to pick), resulting in playback at around 20 frames per second. With certain filters, or enough layer elements, it can crawl at 2-3 frames per second. Most RAM previews render quickly - a minute or two for a 300 frame project. There's no question that this program can be fast, with near-instant updates while the timeline loops continually. If you want to work with uncompressed standard-definition video, or even HD video, you will need to consider the speed of your hard disk storage. Apple's own demonstrators have a 14-drive XRaid running with both barrels blazing. I, on the other hand....don't.

The text engine is comprehensive, and combined with the procedural animation presets called Behaviors, lets you begin and finish a title opening sequence faster than anything out there. You don't create keyframes, you adjust start and end timing as if you were trimming a video clip, and simple parameters pop up on the "Dashboard," a translucent tool windows that always presents the most pertinent settings for whatever object you have selected.

After Effects has far more text animation presets, but they apply keyframes to your text layer (often LOTS of keyframe), which can be much more dicey and complicated to adjust by hand later. You have the option to "bake" keyframes in Motion and adjust them in the Keyframe Editor window.

The development team for Apple Motion is made up of many former Discreet Combustion programmers, so the Particle Engine will feel familiar to Combustion users. You can use the 117 presets or literally create a particle from scratch. The wealth of settings could use a bit more explanation in the documentation, which is very, very thin (much unlike Final Cut Pro). Lucky for me Motion is relatively intuitive.

Motion's B-Spline mask making, with inner or outer feathering, but it isn't up to the par of Combustion, Shake, or Curious- Software's gFX Pro+ with mask feather settings per mask point. I have yet to try rotoscoping and keyframing each point; guess I'm waiting for a really rainy day.

3rd party AE-compatible filters will run in Motion, but with no speed enhancements whatsoever. The color space is stuck in 8-bit too, while much of AE supports 16-bit color space.

Apple Motion will not do any 3D layering or effects. It won't motion track or stabilize. It has no "paint" tools or brushes. You want Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Canvas, Gimp 2.0, or others to make your graphic elements for the most part, and assemble them in Motion. powerful enough to get you by without any of those programs if you need to. AE's compositing toolset is much more enhanced, with several keying filters while the only keyer of note in Motion is Primatte RT. It renders fast, but doesn't have nearly the toolset to tweak like Keylight or the retail Primatte.

AE wins the high-end film work, integrating with 3D programs, importing 3D camera matchmove files, finely detailed keying, and a paint engine for retouching, wire removal, and access to file's separate layers (Motion just see's Photoshop's layers). AE also offers exporting to Flash, distributed rendering with XFactor, and a Render Queue for managing multiple comp renders.

However, Motion's integration with Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro is excellent. I've imported a FCP music video project and each clip showed up on it's own layer. I brought a Motion project into FCP as a simple clip, which I could trim as I wished, but did NOT have to render before importing. I wish AE had thumbnail previews of particles, effects and text animation presets the way Motion does. It would keep you from having to apply each AE's text preset to see what it looks like.

The future of Apple Motion is appearing ambitious. January's MacWorld Expo an Illustrator After Effects' paint engine is tool pretty much matches AE's unveiled iMovie HD and Final Cut Express HD, supporting the HDV video codec currently used by JVC and Sony. We can expect HDV to be included in FCP, Motion and DVD Studio Pro at April's NAB convention. Unnamed sources have alluded to comments from Apple last year that we eventually will see a "Motion Pro," that will go headto- head with After Effects, and every other app on the market. The distributed rendering engine in Apple Shake, QMaster, could very well find support in all of Apple's other Pro Apps this year. Technologies in Mac OSX 10.4, Tiger, Core Image and Core Video, are rumored to already be active in Motion, and more "real time" playback horsepower could be unlocked once we install Tiger, supposedly to ship mid-year.

Wondertouch, the makers of the particleIIlusion particle generator, is expected to announce at NAB 2005 "wondertouch Particle Emitters for Motion," additional presets for Motion's particle engine.

Adobe isn't sitting around either, and AE 7.0 could easily imagine in the fall. ThinkSecret reported recently that AE would get a new Graph Editor, PS Layer Style importing, new Slo-Motion rendering, updated UI, and a recompile of the code as a Mach-O app for Mac OS X.

After Effects is also several versions old, while Motion is at version 1.01, and it shows with bugginess here and there. Adobe needs to work on AE's speed. Apple Motion a very good asset for graphic artists, but AE is still more comprehensive than almost anything else available. If I had to rate Motion, it would be a measured 4 out of 5 Tools.

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