By Mike Curtis Macworld.com | on July 24, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 695 . 216
Pros: More powerful compositing environment for graphics than Final Cut Pro; 3-D shadows and reflections; depth of field, credit rolls, and other features enhance and speed production of visually rich content; Share feature aids file exports.
Cons: Beefy computer required for best results; shadows, reflections, and depth of field look simulated instead of fully realistic and can be difficult to work with; render times can still be long as with any complex compositing application.
Apple has been steadily adding sexy features with each new version of Motion, and version 4 is no exception. A high-profile feature in version 3 was 3D, and in Motion 4, Apple continues to enhance the realism of motion graphics with new rendering capabilities to simulate shadows, reflections, and depth of field.
Behind the scenes, there are improved tools for camera framing behaviour, as well as the ability to link parameters together to simulate complex relationships between objects.
Text handling capabilities have also been enhanced with new manipulation controls over individual text characters, and there is a new credits tool called Scroll that will bring a sigh of relief to TV and film editors. As with previous versions, you can never have too much RAM, CPU, and GPU horsepower -- Motion can use just about every resource you can throw at it, as it is probably the most resource-hungry tool in Final Cut Studio. Let's take a quick look at the notable new features.
3D shadows and reflections
Motion 3 added 3D capabilities, but objects didn't interact with each other in a visually realistic fashion. Now, by default all objects can cast and receive simulated shadows from lights in your 3-D compositions. Also, any shape, video plane, or paint stroke can simulate reflections from objects around them. As with shadows, parameters such as edge softness and falloff can be tweaked and animated to your heart's content. Both of these effects are simulated, and while they look good, they don't always behave like their real-life counterparts. I found the feature to be tricky to work with -- I experienced an odd clipping of shadow and reflection edges in one setup I tested -- see the screen shot at the top right.
Depth of field
Depth of field is a popular technique used by photographers and cinematographers to direct our attention to specific parts of a composition. This is the ability to bring objects at a particular distance from the camera into sharp focus, as objects closer to or further from that point become progressively and increasingly blurred. Previously, it has been possible to simulate this effect by painstaking manipulation of manual blur settings. But with Motion 4, it is a 'set it and forget it' type behaviour -- let the rampant rack focusing begin!