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Re: Motion TRACKS versus FCP X Trackless

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Walter Soyka
Re: Motion TRACKS versus FCP X Trackless
on Feb 22, 2012 at 3:10:01 pm

[Oliver Peters] "If you analyze FCP X, the timeline layout is more or less a node-based process tree placed on its side. Primary storyline, Secondary storyline and Connected clips are basically nodes with diffent values, much like serial and parallel nods in DaVinci Resolve."

I'm probably being dense, but I'm not following here. Could you explain this again for me?

[Oliver Peters] "So if tracks are "good" in Motion (which many artists would question), why are they "bad" in FCP X? If the idea is to get rid of tracks, wouldn't it also have made sense to change Motion to a node-based compositor akin to Shake?"

Interesting question, Oliver. Opinion and speculation to follow.

I'd suggest that while Motion composites, it's not a compositor. It's a titler and graphics animator first: a full-motion sketchpad. Compositing in Motion is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

I don't think of Motion as tracked so much as layered. Nodes are great for complex compositing, but a layered timeline is far more accessible for animation and simple composites, because it builds on metaphors that users will already be familiar with from Photoshop or their NLE.

Setting nodes and layer/track distinctions aside for now, I do think there's a good and practical reason why FCPX and Motion might handle their timelines differently.

NLEs are designed to handle sequences of shots. Within FCPX, the notion of relative time in the magnetic timeline, although controversial, at least makes sense: it makes editorial about managing the relationship between shots, not the shots' absolute positions in time.

Apps like Motion (and AE, Shake, Nuke, and Fusion) are fundamentally designed to handle shots, not sequences. In an application designed to work on single shots, absolute time and relative time are the same. Think of the underlying shot as a single-element primary storyline. Without multiple shots to manage, there can be no relationships between shots. There's less of an imperative for magnetism if all your elements are fundamentally tied to one underlying shot, which itself ought to be changing in the NLE, not in mograph/animation/compositing.

One could certainly make the argument that individual mograph elements would be treated properly as separate shots, so magnetism would be beneficial; however, I'd see that as an argument to integrate Motion entirely into FCPX, rather than rebuilding FCPX's editorial capabilities into Motion.

Back to nodes, here's an interesting sidebar: you can see a lot of what's going on under the hood with Motion inside of Apple's Quartz Composer, a node-based visual programming system that ships with the developer tools.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
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