at a Glance

Publisher: Adobe Systems
Price: $299

Overall Impression: Very nice interface; easy to use; powerful animation features; lacking some important interactive features.

Key Benefits: Great for presentations on the Web; fantastic Photoshop plugin support; much easier to use than Flash 4.

Disappointments: No support for QuickTime; scripting capabilities are weak; no Control-click capabilities.

Recommendation: If you want to create animated Web presentations, it's a strong buy; if you want to create interactive Web applications, wait for the next version.

Adobe LiveMotion Tool Palette
The LiveMotion tool palette includes familiar icons to get users up and running quickly.


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REVIEW August 2, 2000
Adobe LiveMotion 1.0

Interactive animation and presentation package

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

You can't review Adobe LiveMotion without comparing it with Flash. So here's the spiel: I'm not a Flash guy. I can get around it when the need arises, but, fortunately, it doesn't arise very often. I love what Flash can do; don't get me wrong. I just don't like using a program that takes 12 steps to accomplish what should take one or two. If you have a Web site that's not going to change much in the next six to 12 months, it's certainly worth it to invest the time to learn the program and create an interactive presentation built to please visitors who come to your site maybe once or twice. But if you update your site regularly, forget it. It would take a dedicated staff of designers to manage that site. LiveMotion is basically Flash for people who don't want to use Flash. Sure, Flash 5, due out later this year, is supposed to change all this, but for now, you either get LiveMotion or Flash.

What you choose will depend heavily on what, exactly, you want to accomplish because LiveMotion doesn't have all the functionality of Flash, but, for designers, it's a much more friendly and understandable interface—and one that takes a lot less effort to get the job done.

So let's get into it.

Overall impressions
LiveMotion looks and feels like the of all the best interface elements for the Mac packaged neatly into one application. That's because it is: Adobe essentially invented what it means for a program to look and feel like a Mac program, and this application takes the definition of elegance to the next level. It looks like a combination of After Effects and Photoshop, with a little bit of ImageReady thrown in for good measure. The toolset is complete; menus are well organized; and palettes offer convenient and logical access to some of the most-used design features. This being release 1.0, it certainly bodes well for future releases.

That said, once I got working in LiveMotion, two big negatives struck me right away. First, this program feels like it's holding back on me. It's as if the mandate at Adobe was not to cut into the market share of either Photoshop or After Effects—and also to save a few important features for the next release. Now, I know this is a first release. But the company that owns the technology to Photoshop and After Effects can't use that as an excuse. Adobe's development staff knows how to write code. So why, for example, can't I import a QuickTime movie into LiveMotion? I can import an image sequence, and I can import sound files, but I can't import them together in a single step. I also can't animate filter effects or use After Effects plugins. If I want to create an animated fire effect, for example, I'd have to render it in After Effects, export it as a QuickTime, bring it into QuickTime Pro, export it as an image sequence and then import the image sequence into LiveMotion. That's just silly.

The second negative is interactive functionality. Granted, creating interactivity in LiveMotion is truly easy. A lot of effects can be applied through a simple drag and drop interface, the settings for which can be edited to suit my specific needs. But what if I want to go beyond the presets? In Flash 4, you can take an adult education course and be proficient in scripting in a couple weeks. In LiveMotion, you can use Javascript to add custom behaviors to objects, which has the potential for infinite expandability. But the implementation is buggy; documentation is almost nonexistent; and Adobe's tech support is utterly unprepared to help. (We'll look at this in a little more detail later in this review.)

Still, in the area of presentation, LiveMotion has Flash beat in several ways.

Plugin support
You have to appreciate programs that accept Photoshop filters. And LiveMotion's one of them. What's more, it handles Photoshop filters better than Photoshop itself. This is because when you apply a filter in LiveMotion, it's rendered in a non-destructive way. In other words, your original bitmap image will always remain nested beneath whatever effects you apply to it. You can do a blur, craquelure, mosaic and texture, and you'll still always be able to get rid of those effects—in any order or entirely—and get back to your image without any loss. Each filter that you apply to an image within your LiveMotion composition appears in the Photoshop Filters palette with a little check mark next to it (similar to the Effects palette in Macromedia Fireworks 3). These can be checked and unchecked at will, even after closing and reopening a file. Unlike Photoshop, there's no "History" involved, so you're not wasting RAM and disk space recording hundreds of actions. What's more, you can even double click on an effect in the Photoshop Filters palette to go in and make changes to the settings you've selected. You can even edit the image in its original application without any of the LiveMotion filters brought in and update the changes in LiveMotion, keeping all of your original filter settings.


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