It’s been caught in the shadow of (perhaps well-deserved) controversy over Final Cut Pro X, but Apple’s Motion is worth a look, whether or not you’re even a Final Cut user. (Final Cut Pro X is not required in order to buy Motion.)

At $50, Motion gives you a range of dynamic animation behaviors, real-time image processing filters, three-dimensional transforms and lighting, and ace chroma key features. In fact, for readers of this site working on live visual gigs, it’s even more ideal, perfect for dropping in assets and quickly whipping up eye candy – all the more so with a laptop-friendly UI and fast output even without a dedicated workstation. It could be that extra tool that allows you to put together quick motion assets for a live performance set. I like its MIDI features for hands-on control of visual compositions, though I’m not quite ready to go as far as using it as a live tool itself, even though I once saw a demo suggesting that. It’s just a nice, real-time visual engine.

You can read my more detailed thoughts in the review of mine published on Macworld:

Parameter rigs a boon to control and Final Cut collaboration alike
Fantastic, easy chroma key
Real-time visual tweaking fun and fast as ever
New, faster, more modern architecture
Incredibly low price

Final Cut Pro X integration is limited to exporting templates
No native EPS import
No stereoscopic 3D support

I’m indebted to the thoroughness and detail both of my colleagues at Macworld and to the team at Apple; here’s the full review:

Apple Motion 5 []

But here’s the important detail: you don’t need Final Cut Pro X to take advantage of Motion 5’s power. What you lose is, admittedly, a cool feature – the ability to export dynamic templates to a Final Cut editor, or gain real-time parameter control from the Final Cut side. That functionality will only work with the new Final Cut Pro X, not previous versions. But on the other hand, parameter rigs can be just as useful within Motion, and export to video is fast and easy. (For another $50, you can add on Compressor for yet more control – again, without necessarily investing in Final Cut Pro X.)

In other words, if you use Premiere, Vegas, Avid, Final Cut Pro 7, or anything else, you’re still staring a live, real-time, 3D, hardware-accelerated visual powerhouse in the face that costs only US$50. At that price, I can imagine even a lot of After Effects die-hards picking up the software.

Now, don’t get me started on Final Cut’s magnetic timeline — not yet, anyway — but if you want to feel warm, fuzzy thoughts about having a Mac for visuals again, Motion could be your ticket.

One final side note that didn’t make it into my Motion review, because for Macworld readers, it’s not nearly as relevant as it is for Create Digital Motion readers. Quartz Composer compositions are not directly supported in Motion, as with previous versions. Quartz Composer remains a terrific tool; it simply lacks the color calibration features and aspect ratio handling that Motion has. QC can be used with Motion, if you’re a developer – it’s supported as part of the FxPlug 2 SDK. But you don’t get the kind of drag-and-drop QC composition use you do with VJ apps like VDMX. That’s no worry: you can just make some visual work in Motion and export to video alongside QC work, then bring the two together in your visual set in a dedicated live visual app.

  • nobbystylus

    I wonder if VidVox will be able to tap into the publish controls from Motion 5 and then we could have interactive Motion projects inside VDMX?

  • Nice find Peter 🙂

    "Quartz Composer remains a terrific tool; it simply lacks the color calibration features and aspect ratio handling that Motion has. "

    What do you mean by the latter?

  • Perhaps this seems obvious to most, but I must ask something I have been unable to definitively answer:

    Does Motion require Final Cut Pro, or can it be used without purchasing Final Cut?

    This looks ideal for content generation.

  • Peter Kirn

    Sorry, I don't know how to make this more explicit — 🙂

    You do not need Final Cut Pro X to use Motion. That's why I say in the article above, and in the review, that you might want to consider Motion even if you don't use Final Cut Pro X.

    It's an entirely standalone product. All you lose is the ability to share templates with FCPX dynamically, because then you don't have FCPX.

  • MOTION used to be a standalone product. That's how I bought it. And it was my reason to get Final Cut Studio initially because that was the only possibility to get my hands on the latest MOTION version. Had I known it would become standalone again – I probably wouldn't have bought FCS at all. 
    The question now is: Does the new MOTION have many advantages over the previous version? 
    BTW: Motion can be used with MIDI so it *should* work live. Syphon integration would be nice…

  • Peter Kirn

    @vjwunderkind: Um… you could read my review for the answers to how Motion 5 is different than previous versions. 😉

    The reason I wouldn't recommend Motion for live use is that:
    1. it doesn't assume that you're going to use it in real-time *without dropping frames* (key), in the way a vj app would
    2. it doesn't have an interface that's configured to manage multiple assets in real-time

    Those are, I think, fundamental.

  • Hey Peter,

    I will definately read your review – I just skimmed through it and read the conclusion – but I couldn't find a "don't buy if you have the previous version" or the like… I just read that it erases the previous version from your hdd – are there ways around it AND can it be transferred to a computer running anything but 10.6.7? (I have a hackintosh which only allows me to run 10.6.4 – don't know why…)

  • Peter Kirn

    It doesn't erase the previous version — see comments in the Macworld article; someone there points to an Apple support doc on the topic.

    Whether you buy it if you're an existing Motion owner depends on whether you like the new features — so, if you don't ever do keying and don't think you need parameter rigs, you could stick with the current version, if you're happy with it. But I do like the new features, as a Motion user, personally.

  • nobbystylus

    i wonder if in OSX .7 Lion (or xcode 4.1) we'll see a new Quartz Composer enabling more interaction with Motion / Final Cut Pro x? It seems sensible and they share the same foundations. A 64bit QC for creating effects, generators and live tools that can be used within Motion 5 in turn all feeding into FCP. 

  • Peter Kirn

    I believe Quartz Composer is intended to remain independent of the SDK (FxPlug 2) that's in Motion. You can get that SDK with a Mac developer account, though, if you want to play with it, and it *does* support Quartz Composer.

    The aspect ratio discussion was just that I don't believe QC in its present form, as I understand from Apple, is able to deal with fluid aspect ratios and resolution independence in the same way Motion is, but I'm not completely clear on all the details.

  • nobbystylus

    if QC is a different beast, then i wonder what apple's plans are with QC? FxPlug 2 obviously has huges advantages in performance and it would make sense if those translated to a realtime app like QC. 

  • I think it's really weird that you can't do the roundtrip FCP -> Motion -> FCP… Ah well. I was asking about installing both because some commenter on the German App store said Motion 5 deleted the previous version…

  • vjwunderkind, if you're worried about the new version potentially overwriting or removing the old one just do what works with any dot-upgrade: copy the existing version to the desktop from apps folder (copy, not move, so that the original stays in your apps folder) and rename it with the version number appended. Then do the new install (or upgrade or w/e) and if you find the old version is gone, simply move your now uniquely named version off of the desktop back into your apps folder.

  • Yeah – When i do upgrades to mostly self-contained apps like Logic, I always zip the previous version before running the upgrade and keep the zip around just in case. Then I can unzip it at any time if I run into problems and be back to the previous version.

  • whoa i didn't know you could to smoothing, stabilization AND optical retiming in motion standalone – just might buy it for those things alone – so far i've been using a homebrew stabilizer I made in jitter using cv.jit tracking objects! it is fun to say i made it, but it really has some serious limitations that will prolly take me hours upon hours to fix. I'm a little wary though – everyone on the app store is complaining about Motion crashing a lot…