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FCPX: Using Rigs in Apple Motion 5

Motion 5, the brand-new version that ships alongside Final Cut Pro X, should feel familiar to people who have used previous versions of the motion graphics software.  Despite its spiffy new skin, the interface is still organized around the same basic elements.  At first blush, Motion 5 seems to introduce three main new ideas.  In ascending order of importance:

  • A vastly improved chroma keyer, which, all at once, makes a basic key easier and exposes much, much more control for trickier shots.
  • New project types.  Previous versions of Motion could create useful Master Templates–basically Motion projects that could be used directly from Final Cut Pro.  Motion 5 takes this to huge new levels: you can now use Motion to create Final Cut transitions, effects, and generators.
  • A new primitive type: Rigs.  Rigs expand on some of the same principles behind Parameter behaviors–in essence, they flow from the idea that dynamic systems tend to be built up from sets of attributes that change in similar and predictable ways over time.  Rigs allow you to create controls like sliders, checkboxes, and drop-down lists; then connect those controls to as many Inspector parameters as you'd like.
In this tutorial, we'll construct a Rig to control what we'll call the "Excitement" of a firey particle system.  A more "excited" particle system might involve all sorts of parameters which we'd change at the same time.  For example, when the "excitement" cranks up, we might want the particle system to create more particles, and also make each particle brighter, longer-lived, and faster-moving.

Using a Rig, one slider can do all of these things at once, even from within Final Cut Pro X.
For this project, we'll work with a plain Motion project (not a new Generator or Effect).  We'll start with a particle system from Apple's built-in Library.  To preview the finished project, download this .motn file.

  1. Open Motion 5.  From the start-up window, select a blank Motion Project, then click OK to start the new project.  The Motion interface displays.
  2. From the Library, choose Particle Emitters > Pyro > Blurry Sparks.  Drag the Blurry Sparks preset into the Layers pane of your project.  In the Timeline, click and drag to scrub your playhead forward, so that you can see how the Blurry Sparks particle system creates orange blobs over time.  
    Click to enlarge each screenshot.Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.34.49 PM.png
  3. Now, create the Rig that will control the "excitement" of this particle system.  From the Object menu, choose New Rig (Ctl+Cmd+R).  A Rig object appears in your Layers pane.Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.43.18 PM.png
  4. A Rig contains one or more Widgets.  Widgets are basically the same set of controls that regular video filters and behaviors use -- sliders, drop-down menus, and so forth.  Add a Slider Widget to your Rig.  This will be the slider that you'll use to dial in the "excitement" that you want for the particle system.  With the Rig object selected, view the Rig Inspector in the Inspector pane.  Click the +Slider button to add a Slider to the Rig.Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.47.09 PM.png
  5. The "Slider" object appears in the Layers pane and in the Rig Inspector.  As you add more and more Widgets to your Rig, you'll begin to have trouble distinguishing which Widget controls what.  Changing the name of a Widget in the Layers pane changes its name in all the menus where it appears, including Final Cut Pro.  For this project, double-click on the word "Slider" in the Layers pane (not the Inspector). The layer name "Slider" becomes highlighted.  Type a new name -- say, "Excitement" -- then press Return to lock in the new name for this slider.Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.56.00 PM.png
  6. Now it's time to connect the Excitement slider to the behaviors of the Blurry Sparks.  First, let's connect the Excitement slider to the sparks' Birth Rate--the more Excitement, the more Blurry Sparks we want to create on-screen.  Click to select the Blurry Sparks Emitter in the Layers pane.  In the Inspector, click the Emitter tab to display the Emitter Inspector.  Locate the Cell Control labeled "Birth Rate," and hover your mouse over it.  Click the disclosure triangle to the right of the Birth Rate slider, then select Add To Rig > Rig > Add to Excitement.Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.57.56 PM.png
  7. We also want the Excitement slider to affect the particle system's Speed, Life, and Color Over Life parameters.  Locate each parameter in the Emitter Inspector, and repeat Step 6 to add each of these parameters to the Excitement Widget.  (Hint: You can't add the Color Over Life parameter directly to the Rig.  You'll have to unfold it in the Inspector, click each orange-colored Gradient swatch, then add its Color subparameter to the Excitement Widget.  If you can't figure out the Color parameters, don't worry about it--you can continue without them and still get the general idea behind Rigs.)Untitled.png
    When you added each parameter to the Rig, Motion automatically remembered that parameter's value.  In other words, Motion assumes that, if the Excitement slider is at 0 (its default position), the Blurry Sparks Particle Emitter will behave exactly like it's behaving right now: orange and slow and boring.  Next, we need to tell Motion what a 100% Excited version of the Blurry Sparks would look like.  It's kind of like keyframing, since Motion will use these two extreme states to figure out what the slider should look like in between 0 and 100%.
  8. Click on the Rig object in the Layers pane.  The Rig Inspector becomes visible in the Inspector pane.  Beside the Excitement slider, note the two upside-down lollipop shapes: these are called Widget Tags.  The first (left) Widget Tag is located at the point where the slider is at zero.  It's currently blue, indicating that it's selected.  Click the second (right) Widget Tag to select it; the Widget Tag turns blue.  The second Widget Tag is located at the point where the slider hits 100 -- 100% is a convenient way to think about that for now.
    Screen shot 2011-06-24 at 12.33.50 AM.png
  9. Now that the second Widget Tag is selected, you are telling Motion what a 100% "Excited" particle system looks like.  You can do this by changing the sliders in the Rig Inspector, or by changing the controls directly in the Emitter Inspector where you found them in the first place.  Let's use the Rig Inspector for now.  Play with the controls; if you're not familiar with Particle Emitter controls, just try to match this screenshot:Screen shot 2011-06-24 at 12.41.07 AM.png
  10. Now, anytime you adjust the Excitement slider, many different elements of the Blurry Sparks particle system change at the same time.  With just one slider, you can change not just a specific numeric value, but the system's entire attitude.  You can keyframe and animate the Excitement Widget just like any other slider in Motion, or, if you plan on embedding this Motion project in FCPX, you can "publish" the Excitement slider so that it shows up in FCP's Controls pane.  To publish the slider, just click its disclosure triangle and select Publish from the contextual menu.Screen shot 2011-06-24 at 12.45.00 AM.png

Motion's Rig controls go much deeper than this manual approach.  Sliders, for example, can use several of the lollipop-shaped Widget Tags to change their associated parameters differently in different regions of slider position.  This Excitement slider, for example, might fade the flame from orange to red as you increased it from 0 to 30, then fade from red to blue as you increased it from 30 to 100.  As you start to play with Widget Tags, know that the Rig Inspector's Edit Mode toggle works sort of like the Record Animation button: it pays attention to every parameter you change, and associates all state changes with the specific Widget Tag you have selected in the Rig Inspector.  

We'll be incorporating all of these ideas into hands-on tutorials and our Motion 5 training courses.  Call today to reserve your seat, and start unlocking Motion 5's potential alongside the new Final Cut Pro X!

I created this whole music video using Motion 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxnAAwP0sqk

Scott said:

Nice tutorial. I'm a novice in FCP and I've barely run Motion. You nailed a few key points here and I can immediately see their uses. Thanks for taking the time to put this online.


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