Fast and Easy

Motion's real-time graphics revolutionize animation

When Apple unveiled its Motion real-time graphics and animation package, the response from broadcasters, post-production professionals and even home-video enthusiasts was strong. Not only does the system promise a wealth of features, but its $299 price point thrills upper management. Paul Saccone, Apple Final Cut Pro product manager, explains how the recently launched software package will change the way video professionals approach motion graphics.

Motion is just hitting the streets now. How would you describe it to the uninitiated?

First and foremost, it's a real-time design environment with accelerated filters, particle effects and all of the motion parameters working in real time, even in HD [high-definition]. Video applications have always been an area where you do an effect, render it and watch it. Then you do it again and again. But Motion's real-time engine changes that.

What's the trick?

The trick is to use every ounce of hardware, processing power and operating-system capabilities we can. It also uses behaviors for animation, as opposed to a keyframe-based system. It supports a full-blown keyframe editor, if you want to work that way. Since behaviors are a procedural animation technique that mimic physics, you can apply gravity or edge collision to an element. You can have a ball bounce off other objects.

Have procedural animation techniques been used before?

They're popular in 3D applications, but this is the first time we've seen them applied to video. The ability to create fluid motion quickly with behaviors instead of keyframes makes it approachable to just about anyone. [It means] they don't have to know how to do keyframe animation.

How does the system process behaviors?

The physical-simulation modeling and the mathematical computations are processed by the CPU [computer processing unit] using dual-processors. The filters and effects get accelerated using graphics hardware on a graphics card. The faster your graphics card, the more filters, particle and effects you can do in real time. For video playback, it all gets cached in RAM [random-access memory]. Other things get cached in RAM, too, so we can do real-time interactive playback.

That leverages the 64-bit architecture of our G5 computer and uses the full 8 GB of RAM so it can work with high-def or many complex layers.

How easy is this to drop in with other manufacturers' edit systems, such as Avid or Pinnacle?

All of the media that it generates is Quicktime, so Avid can read those files and send them back and forth with Motion. And with our own Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing system, it has a seamless integration that makes it compelling for those using legacy NLEs [non-linear editors] to make the switch to Final Cut Pro.