In the Apple NAB promo video (Link), they had at the very beginning a 3d orbitinig text effect where the text seemed to be orbiting around an 0% opacity object. Is this possible to do in motion or do I need AE?
If anyone knows of a tutorial for a similar effect, I would REALLY appreciate it. Thanks in advance for your help.
Motion doesn't have any form of 3D space in its' current form. Notice that the animation you bring is not just about perspective and Z distance: the objects in the back are, well, in the back. That points to a true 3D space system. It could have been done in Shake, Combustion or After Effects. I believe it is the later, since Imaginary Forces (the people behind many of these Apple animations) use AE a lot, and also because it looks like they could have used 3D Assistants: a tool that helps you assemble complex 3D patterns from plain layers in After Effects. Any other way, it wouldn't be "human" to animate the construction of a spherical pattern with hundreds of text layers like they did.
If you want Motion to have this kind of 3D space functionality, let them know: start sending those featue requests!
The good news is: If Motion ever goes 3D, what you saw here is very related to the idea of "Replicators". So, Motion with 3D would really be a weapon of mass destruction!
I suspect it's full 3D- AFX is more capable of 3D than Motion by far but it's still not full on 3D like you easily have in a 3D program. I'd guess it was done in Maya. Also Cinema 4D and Lightwave are reasonably priced and fairly easy to learn.
Are you familiar with 3D Assistants? Because the Spheroid creator makes stuff like this with text layers in a snap. Actually, AE does: 3D Assistants just automate the process so that it takes 30 seconds instead of 30 hours. They are keyframe assistants like the other ones in AE: they do not add functionality but rather produce complex animation in an automated manner.
I enjoy Cinema 4D a lot. One of my favorite applications (Mograph's Cloner objects would also help in assembling something like this easily, but MG was released later than the Apple NAB spot) But usually, when these things are done in a 3D applications, you notice objects "bend" or adapt to the spherical pattern. This case is typical 2.5D, as in AE or the other applicationes we mentioned. So, if they used a 3D application, they made sure it looked like it was done in a 2.5D tool. So, the relevant thing for the original question is: it can be done in a 2.5D app (like those mentioned before) or in a 3D application but with your hand tied so it doesn't look like you did it that way :)
All the best!