Making Titles with Motion

This week, I finally gave up on using the Avid title tool. Nothing’s changed, of course. It still does what it always did, all the way back to the early ’90s. But back then, a main title meant a series of cards fading in and out. Today, title animation is so common that I felt compelled to try and find another way. And yes, I’ve made a good faith attempt with Avid Marquee, making all my titles with it on at least one show, but it’s way too techie and so badly integrated with the MC that sometimes it’s laughable (for more, check out these posts “Fixing the Title Tool” and “More on the Title Tool.”)

I know that some of you use After Effects, and I realize that it’s very powerful, but for me, it seems to require an awful lot of meticulous attention to keyframes.

Enter Apple’s Motion. Motion offers “behaviors” — canned combinations of keyframed parameters that can be stretched and shrunk to make your animations do all kinds of things that would take hours with other applications. And Apple helpfully allows you to preview these behaviors, and to mix and match them if you don’t see what you want. It is also completely real-time. You never render anything, and that makes it feel very responsive. You can also let it play your animation as a loop and change parameters while it’s running, which makes it seem even more spontaneous.

So I just completed a first draft of a main title with Motion. Though the learning curve was much steeper than I had initially expected, I was able to do things that I couldn’t even contemplate with the MC. Specific impressions follow.

Pros:

  • All real-time. No rendering. Lots of canned effects.
  • Easy to do impressive things quickly, but fine-tuning takes longer.
  • Integrates with the MC fairly well, as long as you’re willing to export and import and you know a few tricks.
  • Good on-line manual. There’s plenty of conceptual explanation, so you can get a high-level look at what you’re trying to accomplish and then dive into the details. Contrast this with MC’s online help, which gets to the nitty gritty, but often skips the big picture.

Cons:

  • Maximum resolution is HD, so it’s not appropriate in a film/DI environment. I’m working on a show that will deliver HD, so it’s not a problem, but I want to use this on film shows, too.
  • Not particularly stable. Crashed regularly and with no warning, making me value Adrenaline’s comparatively bullet-proof performance.
  • Not good with two monitors — I didn’t see a way to split the timeline from the viewer, for example.
  • Despite Apple’s heroic attempt to shield you from keyframes, you’re eventually going to need the program’s keyframe editor. And because it graphs keyframe values in 2D space, it needs lots of screen real estate and isn’t particularly intuitive for AE or MC users.

Tips:

  • If you’re working in a traditional offline/online environment, be sure to set up your project at the screen resolution that you’ll deliver at. Talk to the people who will online your project and work out the specifics before you start.
  • You’ll have to experiment with export choices a bit. I exported at the Motion project resolution, using the default settings, and imported the resulting Quicktime into the MC with “invert alpha” at 1:1 resolution. That created cleaner keys. It helped that my standard-def Avid project is 16×9 squeezed. Thus the aspect ratio in the Avid and in Motion matched. (See this post for more.)
  • I chose to “export selection,” which meant that each title came over as a separate item. If you want to move your entire Motion project into the MC, you can just drag the little icon at the top of the Motion project window directly into an Avid bin.
  • I was able to install MC software and Motion on my laptop and didn’t see any conflicts. But our rental company insisted on creating a dual-boot setup for our Adrenaline systems. That isolates the MC for safety, but it’s awkward.

Bottom line — Avid needs a new title tool. Though I like Motion, I didn’t much enjoy going back and forth between the two programs, and rendering all the mattes in the MC is a pain. Making a small change means going back to Motion and then doing the export/import thing again. The integration is better in the Final Cut environment, but you still have to leave FCP to do your titles. Avid has an opportunity to build a better title tool, and to put it where it belongs — in the editing application.

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8 Comments on “Making Titles with Motion”

  1. Shane Ross Says:

    Yeah…I have been dabbling with Motion recently too. I have been using FCP for years, but not Motion. Trying to do something simple today and pulling my hair out. I guess it is time to play with the tutorials to familiarize myself with the application first.

    I have a buddy who is a Motion Genius and GURU and what he can do is AMAZING.

  2. Grant Says:

    Sadly not an option for us Avid people in the PC sphere…unless I can convince someone to pony up for a G5 somewhere next to my xw8400….

  3. Martin Baker Says:

    Steve

    You can undock the Timeline tab by dragging it over to the second monitor and then dock other tabs into the new window that gets created. e.g. I have the Keyframe Editor full screen on the second monitor so I can toggle between them. In the Window menu you can save this as a layout.

    TIP: As Avid doesn’t understand premultiplied alpha on imports, to avoid black halos you should click on the Options button in the Export window, select the Output tab, uncheck the ‘Use current project and canvas settings’ and then uncheck ‘Premultiply Alpha’. You can save this as a preset so you don’t have to set it up every time.

  4. Steve Says:

    Very helpful. I was wondering where those halos were coming from. And now that you explain it, I see how to move the tabs. Thanks, Martin!

  5. Harry Miller Says:

    LiveType also give a timeline and templates. I found the learning curve a bit easier. I sort of understood Motion when I went through its tutorial.

  6. Mark Raudonis Says:

    Uh oh. First “Motion”, then next thing you know, you’ll be exploring “Soundtrack Pro” for all of it’s great audio editing capabilities. Careful… you might just start enjoying FCP Studio.

    Mark

  7. Doug Says:

    Steve,

    Boris Graffiti and Boris RED or Avid FX as they call it, also have pre-built text much like Motion, as a matter of fact the PM for Motion came originally from Avid through Boris to Apple. It is a plug-in into the Avid so there is no export, but you do have to render. The learning curve is very small for most editors and because it has such a large library of canned effects, the only thing you have to change is the text itself, hit apply and your done. You can preview before you apply which makes it very easy to pick an choose. Boris offers trial versions to give it a shot. End of the day, no editor likes to go in and out of their editorial software, Boris offers a solution and it works.

  8. Steve Says:

    Doug,
    What happens when it comes time to online in HD? Can Boris titles be uprezed? How do you do it?

    Steve


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