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Motion 4 isn’t a standalone product--it ships with latest version of Final Cut Studio. Yes, this video effects program might be a mere “component” of a larger software suite, but because it competes with standalone applications, we decided to distinguish it with its own review. And we went all “deep focus” on it, because Motion 4 has come a long way since the days when Apple was selling it as solo software.
Motion came into the world as a rather immature competitor to Adobe After Effects, the respected and feature-rich standard-bearer. Since that time, Apple has steadily improved Motion to the point where it’s a credible alternative to the Adobe stalwart. The fact that you get Motion in Final Cut Studio 3 (along with a number of other fantastic, pro-level apps) makes it pretty hard to ignore Apple’s stake in the video-editing game.
The software helps you create slick motion graphics for everything from commercials to DVD menus to film and video title sequences. When Apple released the previous version (about two and a half years ago), it was the first time we thought Motion was really ready for a wide variety of projects, thanks to new features letting you set up cameras, lights, and objects in 3D space. But those 3D features only went so far, because Motion still couldn’t cast realistic shadows or reflections. Sure, you could fake those effects by creating duplicate objects and morphing and blurring them until they looked like shadows or reflections, but it was a painstaking process.
With Motion's intuitive interface, its tight integration with Final Cut Pro, and the latest round of new features, there's nothing holding Motion 4 back from doing world-class work.
Motion 4 offers precise control over light sources and shadows.
Motion 4 fixes all this. For starters, light sources can now cast realistic shadows on everything in your 3D world. You can toggle lights to cast shadows or not and toggle objects to receive shadows or not. You can also tweak other parameters, such as a shadow’s edge softness and its color. Similarly, Motion 4 now lets an object--say, a video layer, shape, or paint stroke--cast reflections on its neighbors, giving you precise control over how reflections fall off.
Apple also adds more 3D realism by way of realistic depth-of-field effects, which enable you to control the relative sharpness and softness of foreground and background elements in a scene. Keeping some elements in focus and others out of focus helps direct the viewer’s attention to what’s important and imbues a scene with true filmlike qualities. Motion 3 had no way of knowing what should be in focus and what should be blurry; again, you had to manually blur elements to simulate depth-of-field effects. But now Motion 4 lets you easily set a point in 3D space where the camera will focus--anything closer or farther away will automatically fall off into fuzziness, depending on the characteristics you’ve given your camera. And speaking of the camera, Motion 4 has added Camera Framing, which enables you to pick an object on which to keep the camera pointed, no matter where you move the camera or objects in your scene.
Rolling credits are a staple of film editing, but it’s never been easy to actually animate a basic credit sequence. Motion 4 makes the process a piece of cake. You can import a text file containing your credits, set type properties, and use a custom navigation tool to quickly jump to any part of the credits to perform last-minute edits. Finally, just apply a Scroll Text behavior to your credits, and then adjust scroll speed, direction, and other useful attributes. Voilà! Instant and professional scrolling credits.