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Plugins Changed My Mind

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Lillian Young
Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 12:16:58 am

This is just my opinion. I know that we are different types of editors with varying levels of complexities and team workflows. So this is just my opinion after diving into FCP X for one day.

I am a 8-year FCP 7 user capable of creating my own motion graphics in AE. But in recent times, I've experienced issues with FCP 7 that made me want to switch to something...but not FCP X. No way. Never. Non-editors are using it. Ugh. However with that mindset, non-motion graphics artists and non 3D artists are also digging into our industry because of access to software and tutorials. So I have to put that out of mind and think of what works for me.

So I got an independent project. I started it in FCP 7 as always, but we decided to re-do it from scratch -- new direction. Hmm. I was experiencing out of sync issues in FCP 7, couldn't find a copy of Soundtrack Pro on my machine (I don't know what happened), desired a better way of organizing footage and was overall frustrated. So I opened FCP X out of curiosity where the clip was instantly in sync and the audio was easily repaired without any round-tripping.

Next, I started playing around with 3rd party plugins and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Yes, it's Motion meets iMovie-ish, but pro egos aside, things like background rendering are practical (for my purpose).

Also, the organizational aspect will expedite my workflow. And the one thing I feared most -- the learning curve? No big deal. Many of the FCP 7 shortcuts (that I use) are the same, some are no longer applicable and the new things are easy to learn especially for After Effects editors.

As far as old FCP 7 projects? I can still work in FCP 7. I doubt anyone at work is using X, so I can do 7. But I am now happy to also incorporate X. In fact, with it, I am excited about editing again.


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David Mathis
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 12:38:13 am

When seeing version X for the first time I was very disappointed and nearly went into shock. How could Apple do this to us? What were they thinking? As months went by and updates were made I decided to jump in. Confused at first but X started to grow on me.

Sure there are a few things that need improving and features need to be added. Overall, very impressed by where X is going.

Motion is a strong point. Quickly create a lower third from scratch, save it out for later use when it comes time to add a lower third in. Also like the fact that you can create a custom effect.

Appreciate connected clips, first they were annoying but now come in useful. Still trying to accept the new timeline but starting to get a handle on things.

For more complex stuff I find After Effects a better choice. Expressions save time and cut down on the number of keyframes needed. Find creating the graphic part in After Effects and text in Motion a good compromise for a more complex lower third. In fact the two programs compliment each other very well, in my opinion.

I guess the point I am trying to make is I finally opened my eyes, opened my mind and find that change, while difficult, is not necessarily bad.

Those are my thoughts.


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Andy Neil
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 3:35:23 am

[David Mathis] "For more complex stuff I find After Effects a better choice. Expressions save time and cut down on the number of keyframes needed."

Expressions can have a lot of flexibility, but they're also clunky in implementation (too much like a programming language, and requiring specific numbers that don't tell you much in context about how it will animate). Behaviors in Motion do most of the same things that expressions in AE do, and they're ridiculously easy to use. I almost never use keyframes when animating graphics in Motion.

Andy

http://www.timesavertutorials.com


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Shawn Miller
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 5:01:26 am

[Andy Neil] "Expressions can have a lot of flexibility, but they're also clunky in implementation (too much like a programming language, and requiring specific numbers that don't tell you much in context about how it will animate)."

Might be because AE's expressions language is a specialized version of javascript. :-) Fine if you don't want to learn programming, but I'm not sure it's fair to call it clunky.

Shawn



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Andy Neil
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 5:13:14 am

[Shawn Miller] "Fine if you don't want to learn programming, but I'm not sure it's fair to call it clunky."

Having to learn programming as an editor is the very definition of "clunky" in my opinion.

Motion behaviors sacrifice some flexibility for ease of use. AE expressions sacrifice ease of use for flexibility. I think there could be some kind of middle ground and I wish Apple or Adobe would pick up the gauntlet to figure it out.

Andy

http://www.timesavertutorials.com


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Shawn Miller
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:11:44 am

[Andy Neil] "[Shawn Miller] "Fine if you don't want to learn programming, but I'm not sure it's fair to call it clunky."

Having to learn programming as an editor is the very definition of "clunky" in my opinion."


I suppose I can understand this to a point, and maybe agree that editors don't typically want to jump that deeply into scripting. But I also think you have to put AE in context. It's not a tool strictly for editors, it never was. Editors may not depend on writing their own scripts... but mograph and VFX artists often do. That's why I think it's unfair to call this capability clunky, it's essentially saying that anything that you don't use in your workflow is unnecessary.

[Andy Neil] Motion behaviors sacrifice some flexibility for ease of use. AE expressions sacrifice ease of use for flexibility. I think there could be some kind of middle ground and I wish Apple or Adobe would pick up the gauntlet to figure it out."

To be honest, I think Apple has figured this out. IMO, Motion is a great tool for editors who create motion graphics, and not a general tool for motion graphics and VFX artists. That's not a knock on Motion, but I do think there is a reason why people who specialize in mograph and VFX, haven't adopted Motion in the nine (or so) years that it's been available. Again, not a knock on Motion... just an observation that mostly editors seem to use it.

Shawn



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Andy Neil
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 7:25:34 am

[Shawn Miller] "That's why I think it's unfair to call this capability clunky, it's essentially saying that anything that you don't use in your workflow is unnecessary. "

I know we're only ever going to agree to disagree here, but my opinion of the clunkiness of expressions isn't rooted in my workflow. GUIs exist for a reason. Mograph and VFX guys may need to create specialized effects with scripting and that's fine. But you're telling me that AE can't produce a basic Wiggle effect with a GUI interface like it can for all the other effects it has available?

Expressions could be designed like functions in a spreadsheet program where the interface could list them and prompt you for the parameters that need to be shown as values. Essentially make expressions easier to write so that you're not dealing with a situation where your animation doesn't work because you didn't put the right number of parameter values between parentheses.

Or why not just create a GUI for expressions? Type in the expression you want to apply, and then the parameters you need to express values for show up as sliders in the effects editor where you can make adjustments in the same manner that you do for any effect that you apply.

Basically, I think expressions were created to fill a need years ago, and their implementation could be a lot better.

Andy

http://www.timesavertutorials.com


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Aindreas Gallagher
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 1:42:10 pm

[Andy Neil] "Expressions could be designed like functions in a spreadsheet program where the interface could list them and prompt you for the parameters that need to be shown as values. Essentially make expressions easier to write so that you're not dealing with a situation where your animation doesn't work because you didn't put the right number of parameter values between parentheses.
"


there are around a million examples of what you are describing in AE - one of the most famous is ease and whizz - a really nice keyframe acceleration controller that is basically a front end for a script. you're aware that the scripting language in AE actually has GUI and slider tools available to it?

Like shawn said - motion is a version of mograph designed for editors, as in to say, not designers - you can tell because, as shawn pointed out, in its nine years of existence, the only people who use motion are editors. designers use after effects.

I've been at it since around 98 and i've never met a single mograph guy who used motion, or worked with a single brand asset built and deployed in motion.

http://vimeo.com/user1590967/videos http://www.ogallchoir.net promo producer/editor.grading/motion graphics


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Andy Neil
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:11:15 pm

[Aindreas Gallagher] "there are around a million examples of what you are describing in AE - one of the most famous is ease and whizz "

You're describing a plug-in. That you buy. I'm talking about changing the interface for expressions within AE.

[Aindreas Gallagher] "you're aware that the scripting language in AE actually has GUI and slider tools available to it? "

No, I'm not aware of this. As I said, I'm not a programmer, nor do I want to be one. I've used expressions in AE before, but I don't have the skill set to use expressions to their fullest. The typical example of how I use expressions is adding a little wiggle shake on a camera to simulate hand-held or something like that. I'd be interested in seeing the GUI for expressions though if you can point out how to get to it.

[Aindreas Gallagher] "Like shawn said - motion is a version of mograph designed for editors, as in to say, not designers - you can tell because, as shawn pointed out, in its nine years of existence, the only people who use motion are editors. designers use after effects."

I agree with Shawn about the design of Motion, although I don't agree with your backwards logic about why only editors use Motion. First off, it's not true, but there's so little market penetration I can see why this is a prevalent attitude. The fact is, there are shops that use Motion, and facilities whose designers use Motion for gfx packages for FCPX. I've worked with some of them.

But why would a Mograph guy bother learning Motion for most jobs (if the program isn't required) when they're already comfortable with AE, and when AE can do more than Motion anyway? There's just no incentive. I'm fine with that. I've got nothing against AE or those who use it. That said, I think there are certain things that Motion does better than AE: namely behaviors, particles, and replicators. But my original comments weren't to argue one over the other. I just think the interface for expressions is clunky.

Andy

http://www.timesavertutorials.com


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 2:39:01 pm

I'm not by any stretch of the imagination an expressions expert, but I think that Adobe created the Pick Whip aspect of Expressions just for the purpose of making life easy on those who don't want to "learn the language". How much easier can it get than dragging and linking parameters to get very powerful results?

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Richard Herd
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:27:42 pm

[Joseph W. Bourke] "How much easier can it get than dragging and linking parameters to get very powerful results?"

An actual GUI could be nice. Suppose you have 100 layers and you need to pickwhip four twirlies deep 100 layers up, also 4 twirlies deep. Suddenly, there's not enough real estate to pickwhip. But a GUI ... now that might be nice.

At least let the whip work the way OSX lets you drag a file to a folder and it blinks and opens and so on.


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Richard Herd
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:20:25 pm

[Andy Neil] "Or why not just create a GUI for expressions"

And that is an excellent encore performance! Even more thunderous applause and standingonmychair ovation!

I hope Adobe is listening.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:37:21 pm

I'm an expressions geek. I find them invaluable, and while I agree there's room for improvement, I think that some of your objections to them are relatively easily answered with the current implementation.


[Andy Neil] "Or why not just create a GUI for expressions? Type in the expression you want to apply, and then the parameters you need to express values for show up as sliders in the effects editor where you can make adjustments in the same manner that you do for any effect that you apply."

There are a class of effects in Ae called "Expression Controls" which include checkboxes, color pots, point controls, angle controls, and sliders. When I write expressions, I almost always link the values to controls with the pickwhip.

For a wiggle expression, I'd add two Slider Controls to the layer, then I'd name the first wiggle_Frequency and the second wiggle_Amplitude. Then I'd add a wiggle expression to a property, but instead of using hard-coded values, I'd link them to the slider controls:

wiggle(effect("wiggle_Frequency")("Slider"),effect("wiggle_Amplitude")("Slider"))

Now I can adjust the parameters via the GUI and even keyframe them if I want to.

Finally, since I hate repeating tasks, I'd select the two slider controls and the wiggled property and save an animation preset. Then the next time I wanted to wiggle something, I could search the Effects & Preset panel for my wiggle and apply the whole thing with a double-click or a drag-and-drop. This also creates an FFX file which is portable and can be shared with other users.


[Andy Neil] "But you're telling me that AE can't produce a basic Wiggle effect with a GUI interface like it can for all the other effects it has available?"

Ae does actually ship with some wiggle presets. If you type "wiggle" into the Effects & Presets panel, you'll see them. They do exactly what you're looking for, and in almost the same manner as I describe above.


[Andy Neil] "Expressions could be designed like functions in a spreadsheet program where the interface could list them and prompt you for the parameters that need to be shown as values. Essentially make expressions easier to write so that you're not dealing with a situation where your animation doesn't work because you didn't put the right number of parameter values between parentheses."

A rudimentary version of this exists now. When you Alt-click a property to add an expression, you'll see a triangle icon right next to the pick whip. Clicking this opens a fly-out menu with all the different functions available. Selecting one from the fly-out menu will add it to your expression and will include brief descriptions of the parameters.


[Andy Neil] "Motion behaviors sacrifice some flexibility for ease of use. AE expressions sacrifice ease of use for flexibility. I think there could be some kind of middle ground and I wish Apple or Adobe would pick up the gauntlet to figure it out."

I would not say that Motion behaviors sacrifice some flexibility for ease of use -- I'd say that Motion behaviors sacrifice enormous flexibility for excellent ease of use.

I would also say that Ae expression trades terrible ease of use for massive flexibility. Some things that should be easy (and are easy in Motion) are pretty hard in Ae unless you have a significant base of knowledge. However, a great many things that are very hard or outright impossible in Motion are doable in Ae once you learn expressions.

I think that's a very elusive middle ground you're speaking of. This is a difficult trade-off to manage. I think that a visual programming environment (read: nodal system) like Quartz Composer or C4D's Xpresso is a reasonable middle ground to consider, but this only eliminates the need to know how to write in a programming language, not the need to think like a programmer.

I don't mean to be dismissive of your objections. I agree that this is an area where Ae can be improved -- but I'm also wary of any "improvements" that would limit what's available today. I'm sincerely curious to hear your opinions on what else can be improved. I've been filing a stack of feature requests around expressions in Ae myself, and I'm always happy to add to that stack.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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David Mathis
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 8:40:16 pm

[Walter Soyka] "
I would not say that Motion behaviors sacrifice some flexibility for ease of use -- I'd say that Motion behaviors sacrifice enormous flexibility for excellent ease of use.

I would also say that Ae expression trades terrible ease of use for massive flexibility. Some things that should be easy (and are easy in Motion) are pretty hard in Ae unless you have a significant base of knowledge. However, a great many things that are very hard or outright impossible in Motion are doable in Ae once you learn expressions."


I find expressions very valuable. Yes, they can get complicated, but once you figure it out it becomes a great tool. I find linking parameters in Motion to be time consuming. There is no way that I know of to save a parameter for later use.

Expressions can be saved in a text file, usually I go with Text Edit to do this. Just simply select the expression, copy it and then paste it into a word program. When needed, it can easily be found. Also, you can copy and paste expressions to multiple layers with ease.

I do like Motion when needing to create a lower third, effect or something else to use in FCP X, one of the great things. I do love working with Motion but it is not always suited to more complex projects.


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Shawn Miller
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 8:51:56 pm

[Andy Neil] "Shawn Miller] "That's why I think it's unfair to call this capability clunky, it's essentially saying that anything that you don't use in your workflow is unnecessary. "

I know we're only ever going to agree to disagree here, but my opinion of the clunkiness of expressions isn't rooted in my workflow. GUIs exist for a reason. Mograph and VFX guys may need to create specialized effects with scripting and that's fine. But you're telling me that AE can't produce a basic Wiggle effect with a GUI interface like it can for all the other effects it has available?"


AE does have this, it's called the Wiggler:

http://library.creativecow.net/articles/tierney_jim/wiggler.php

But I get your point, you want expressions to be more like plugins or behaviors; drag and drop, no troubleshooting. Scripting is (or can be) messy; an improperly written function, a misplaced comma or a simple typo and your script doesn't work. That can be frustrating, I agree. But that's also the nature of scripting. It's like calling an Alexa clunky because it's not as easy to use as an FS100.

[Andy Neil] "Expressions could be designed like functions in a spreadsheet program where the interface could list them and prompt you for the parameters that need to be shown as values. Essentially make expressions easier to write so that you're not dealing with a situation where your animation doesn't work because you didn't put the right number of parameter values between parentheses.

Or why not just create a GUI for expressions? Type in the expression you want to apply, and then the parameters you need to express values for show up as sliders in the effects editor where you can make adjustments in the same manner that you do for any effect that you apply."


It sounds like you're advocating for a text editor for expressions. I think that could be really useful... sort of like a Komodo Edit for AE. I'm not sure if that would address your core complaint though, even a text editor is only useful to someone who understands scripting.

[Andy Neil] "Basically, I think expressions were created to fill a need years ago, and their implementation could be a lot better."

Absolutely, but I think we might have different ideas on what that implementation would look like. :-)

Shawn



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Andy Neil
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 9:06:25 pm

[Shawn Miller] "It's like calling an Alexa clunky because it's not as easy to use as an FS100."

Actually, to use your analogy, it would be like calling an Alexa clunky if you had to type in the F-stop on a keypad instead of just turning the iris wheel.

According to Walter's post, it seems there are some aspects to expressions of which I wasn't aware. I only recently got CC, I'd been stuck on CS4 before that. But Walter brings up an interesting question. How would you change it?

For me, I'm not sure. Without understanding the difficulties in scripting language, I would want a Siri-like interface where you could suggest functions and the expressions GUI would format the expressions properly, prompting you for the values you need to input or listing them as options in the effects editor. Then a person with limited scripting knowledge could pull off some pretty complex effects simply by knowing what he wanted to do.

But then, if I did understand the limitations of scripting language or GUIs, I wouldn't need to bother because scripting expressions would make sense to me. :-)

Andy

http://www.timesavertutorials.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 9:23:43 pm

Expressions and scripting are different things. Expressions are evaluated automatically at render-time to control the value of a specific property -- much like a behavior. Scripts are specifically executed to control the application itself -- much like AppleScript.


[Andy Neil] "Without understanding the difficulties in scripting language, I would want a Siri-like interface where you could suggest functions and the expressions GUI would format the expressions properly, prompting you for the values you need to input or listing them as options in the effects editor. Then a person with limited scripting knowledge could pull off some pretty complex effects simply by knowing what he wanted to do."

I think this is called the CreativeCOW After Effects Expressions forum [link] :)

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Richard Herd
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 9:19:46 pm

Expression Sampler. It's a good place to go.

http://library.creativecow.net/articles/devis_andrew/hidden-templates/video...

Regarding copying expressions: Edit | Copy Expression Only

Then paste.


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Simon Ubsdell
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Jan 2, 2014 at 11:25:44 am

[Andy Neil] "Or why not just create a GUI for expressions? Type in the expression you want to apply, and then the parameters you need to express values for show up as sliders in the effects editor where you can make adjustments in the same manner that you do for any effect that you apply."

Actually this is pretty much exactly what Motion Behaviors are - expressions with a GUI. Wriggle is a very obvious instance of this being the case.

Simon Ubsdell
http://www.tokyo-uk.com


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Richard Herd
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Dec 31, 2013 at 6:18:18 pm

[Andy Neil] " I think there could be some kind of middle ground and I wish Apple or Adobe would pick up the gauntlet to figure it out."

Thunderous applause and standing ovation!!


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Jan 1, 2014 at 12:21:01 am

And of course where but on AE Scripts would you find a script which purports to simplify Expressions, but at a cost:

http://aescripts.com/iexpressions/

They do, however, offer bundles centering on specific aspects of AE, such as Camera, Physics, Wiggles, etc.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Richard Herd
Re: Plugins Changed My Mind
on Jan 2, 2014 at 5:36:02 pm

Thank you!


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