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Getting Started

Getting Started

Welcome to the official Apple Pro training course for Motion, Apple Computer's revolutionary real-time-design motion graphics application. This book provides a comprehensive guide to designing with Motion, including the use of particle dynamics, behaviors, filters and effects, audio, bluescreen keys, text, and keyframing.

Whether you've been creating motion graphics for years or are encountering the art form for the first time, every chapter is worth reading. That's because Motion's way of designing is profoundly different from anything you've used before. Motion's real-time design engine and behavior system are easy to learn and yet open the door to expansive creative experimentation.

If you're already familiar with Adobe's After Effects software, you may wish to read through Appendix A, “Motion for After Effects Users.”

The Methodology

This book takes a hands-on approach to learning the software. It's divided into projects, which gradually introduce the interface elements and ways of working with them, building progressively until you can comfortably grasp the entire application and standard workflow.

Motion comes with an exhaustive number of keyboard shortcuts and ways to access menus. We'll concentrate on learning the ones that are most important and most efficient; Motion's user guide (available from the Help menu) includes a comprehensive list if you need something specific.

Course Structure

This book contains several very detailed motion graphics projects, which cover all the different aspects of Motion. They're typical of the kinds of assignments motion graphics designers see in the real world. The lesson design projects break down as follows:

Some Quick Terms

Before we move ahead, we need to touch on a few key terms used throughout the book.

  • Composite— You'll see the word composite appearing often in the book. Usually it's referring to your final work—the image you see on the screen. You could also think of this as a composition (or comp for short). It's occasionally used as a verb: You composite several objects together to create the final product.

  • Objects— This is the term Motion uses to describe the individual elements of a composite. Objects can include QuickTime movies, image sequences, still images, and text. The objects are layered together to create the composite.

For a fuller understanding of motion graphics–related terms, see the Glossary at the end of the book.

Copying the Motion Lesson Files

Apple Pro Training Series: Motion comes with a DVD containing all the files you need to complete each lesson. Each lesson has its own folder with project files, media, and a sample clip of the final version.

Installing the Lesson Files

Insert the Apple Pro Training Series: Motion DVD into your computer's DVD drive.

Double-click the DVD icon on the Desktop titled “APTS_Motion.”

Drag the folder APTS_Motion onto your Macintosh HD icon.

It is important that you put this folder on the top level of your hard drive as described; this will ensure that the project files correctly link with the media they use.

System Requirements

Motion has a high set of minimum system requirements. Applications such as Final Cut Pro are designed to scale their performance from less powerful laptops all the way through to fully equipped G5 systems. While this is also true of Motion, the real-time performance that makes it so revolutionary requires certain hardware to be present in order to operate.

The minimum system requirements for Motion are an 867 MHz G4 with 512 MB of RAM running Mac OS X v10.3.5 or later, as well as one of the following AGP graphics cards (or better):

  • ATI Radeon 9800 XT (R360)

  • ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (R350)

  • ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (R300)

  • ATI Radeon 9600 XT (RV360)

  • ATI Radeon 9600 Pro (RV350)

  • ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 (RV M11)

  • ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 (RV M100)

  • nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL (NV40)

  • nVidia GeForce Go5200 (NV34M)

  • nVidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (NV34)

In addition, Motion requires a 1024x768-pixel display, 10 GB of hard disk space, QuickTime 6.5.1 or higher, a 4x AGP slot, and a DVD drive.

How Motion Uses Your Hardware

All systems are not created equal, and the more power you have in your hardware, the more you'll be able to do interactively (that is, without rendering) in Motion. Here's a brief explanation of how Motion leverages your hardware; if you're thinking of upgrading your system to run Motion, it might help you decide what will give you the best results.

The following sections are a little technical, so if you start to lose track, don't panic. Just remember: Faster equals better, and more RAM also equals better.

System Memory

Motion uses system RAM to cache all the different objects that make up your composite throughout your preview range. I know, we're getting a little ahead here since you're not yet familiar with the product, so let's look at an example.

Let's say you're combining three QuickTime movies in Motion to create a final, single image—your composite. For the example, let's imagine you have a moving fractal background clip (Element 1), a rotating web (Element 2), and some random boxes (Element 3).

Each frame of NTSC video contains 720 pixels horizontally and 486 pixels vertically (480 for DV). When you add up the memory required to store every one of those pixels in the computer's memory, it works out to about 1.3 MB (including an alpha channel) per frame.

So if you wanted Motion to generate a real-time preview of your three-layer composite that lasted for 120 frames (about 4 seconds), you'd need 1.3x120 MB worth of RAM to cache each element. For all three elements to be cached, you'd need 1.3x120x3 = 468 MB.

So to be able to make real-time adjustments to the three clips in our hypothetical composite, you'd need at least 468 MB of available RAM—that's after the operating system, Motion, and other background applications had their fill of the memory. For this scenario to work well, you'd want at least 1 GB of system RAM. (The story for PAL would be essentially the same, since although the images are 720x576, there are only 25 of them each second.)

Have I lost you in geek speak? That's OK. All you really need to know is that if you have more system RAM, you can play back more objects in real time and watch a longer preview of your composite than you could with minimal RAM. Motion can use up to 4 GB of a G5's system RAM. Hang in there, though, as this is only part of the story.

Video Card Memory (VRAM)

In addition to your system RAM, your Macintosh has memory on the graphics card itself. This memory is known as VRAM (for video RAM) and is used by the graphics card while it's performing calculations to draw an image to your computer monitor. Your graphics card also has its own processor, called a GPU (for graphics processing unit), which calculates how things should get drawn.

When it comes time to draw a frame of your composite to screen, the different elements required for that frame are sent to the VRAM of your graphics card, along with a set of instructions telling the processor on the card where and how it's supposed to draw each image. The processor might be told to scale down an image, blur another, and color-correct another before combining them all into a single image. This is where the real-time part of Motion takes place.

Since the graphics card's processor can only render what's been put into its VRAM, the number of layers that can be processed in real time is going to be limited by how much VRAM you have. Once a single frame is drawn, the VRAM is free to load up the objects for the next frame. So the amount of VRAM determines how many layers and effects can be combined at one frame of the sequence, not the whole sequence. In other words, your system RAM ultimately decides how long your preview range can be, but the VRAM decides how many elements can be composited together at once.

Finally, even when you reach your VRAM limits, Motion has a clever RAM caching feature to allow you to render a real-time preview and still manipulate individual objects in real time via a soloing feature.

CPU Speed

You've always been told a faster CPU is better. That's also true for Motion, but not in the way you might think. Since all the heavy lifting is being done by the processor in your graphics card, the CPU doesn't really have much to do with the actual construction of the composite.

Where the main system's CPU comes into play most is in calculating Motion's behaviors, particle trajectories, motion paths, and curves before sending them to the graphics card. So if you're using a lot of complex behaviors in your project or working with particle systems, you'll definitely benefit from a faster processor.

You'll also see an improvement going from a G4- to a G5-based system due to the higher bandwidth on the latter, and a dual-processor system will perform better than a single-processor system. The G5 architecture allows more data to travel at faster speeds between the CPU, the system RAM, and ultimately the graphics card.

Summarizing Hardware Requirements

The good news from the preceding technobabble is that if your system meets the minimum system requirement (an 867 MHz G4 Macintosh), improving Motion's performance doesn't necessarily mean having to buy a faster computer; upgrading your graphics card may be all that's required.

Here's the story in a nutshell:

  • System RAM determines how many frames of animation you can preview in real time (and, to some degree, how many objects in a composite can be viewed in real time before you have to perform a RAM preview render). Motion can address up to 4 GB of a G5's system RAM.

  • VRAM (video RAM on the graphics card) determines how many objects in a composite can be rendered in real time before a RAM preview render is required. If you want more objects on the screen with more filters and effects, you'll need more VRAM.

  • CPU speed determines how many complex behaviors and simulations can be applied to the composite objects in real time. It has less impact on the number of layers that can be drawn to screen; the amount of VRAM is more important in determining this.

About the Apple Pro Training Series

Apple Pro Training Series: Motion is both a self-paced learning tool and the official training curriculum of the Apple Pro Training and Certification Program, developed by experts in the field and certified by Apple Computer. The series offers complete training in all Apple Pro products. The lessons are designed to let you learn at your own pace. Although each lesson provides step-by-step instructions for creating specific projects, there's room for exploration and experimentation. You can progress through the book from beginning to end, or dive right into the lessons that interest you most. Each lesson concludes with a review section summarizing what you've learned.


Apple Pro Training Series: Motion is not intended as a comprehensive reference manual, nor does it replace the documentation that comes with the application. For comprehensive information about program features, refer to these sources:

  • The user guide. Accessed through the Motion Help menu, the user guide contains a complete description of all Motion's features. You'll want to pay attention to the Late-Breaking News button on the first page of the online help; it provides a direct link to updated Motion information at Apple's Web site.

  • Motion's Web site: www.apple.com/motion.

Apple Pro Certification Program

The Apple Pro Training and Certification Program is designed to keep you at the forefront of Apple's digital media technology while giving you a competitive edge in today's ever-changing job market. Whether you're an editor, graphic designer, sound designer, special effects artist, or teacher, these training tools are meant to help you expand your skills.

Upon completing the course material in these books, you can become a certified Apple Pro for most Apple Pro applications by taking the certification exam at an Apple Authorized Training Center. Certification is offered in Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Shake, and Logic. Successful certification as an Apple Pro gives you official recognition of your knowledge of Apple's professional applications, allowing you to market yourself to employers and clients as a skilled, pro-level user of Apple products.

To find an Authorized Training Center near you, go to www.apple.com/software/pro/training.

For those who prefer to learn in an instructor-led setting, Apple offers training courses at Apple Authorized Training Centers worldwide. These courses, which use the Apple Pro Training Series books as their curriculum, are taught by Apple Certified Trainers and balance concepts and lectures with hands-on labs and exercises. Apple Authorized Training Centers have been carefully selected and have met Apple's highest standards in all areas, including facilities, instructors, course delivery, and infrastructure. The goal of the program is to offer Apple customers, from beginners to the most seasoned professionals, the highest-quality training experience.

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