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Commotion Pro 4.0 Reviewed

Improvements and low price make this software a steal By Stephen Schleicher
Box shot of Pinnacle System's Commotion Pro 4.0With the huge number of blockbuster movies set to hit the market during the coming holiday season, techno-geeks and movie buffs are sure to be talking about all of the special effects and how they were created. There is no question that compositing actors with computer generated imagery, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces will play a big part in the success of many of these films. In order to achieve these composites, CG artists will be using a variety of different software packages to help complete their work.

Packages from Adobe, discreet, and Nothing Real are certainly ones that might initially spring to mind when talking about pulling off fancy film foolery, but there are other packages that should be thought of too. One such under rated product is Commotion Pro 4.0 from Pinnacle Systems.

Designed by award winning special effects and film makers, Commotion Pro 4.0 can do everything from simple compositing and color correction, all the way up to motion tracking and matte work. I have previously worked with - and reviewed - Commotion Pro 3.1 for Digital Media Net, and have always thought that it was more powerful than one might initially believe, and now that Pinnacle Systems has released version 4.0, I know it is.

It should be pointed out that there are two flavors of Commotion 4.0 - Standard and Pro. While the standard version has the capability of doing compositing, painting, and Rotosplines, to really enjoy the full power of Commotion 4.0, one needs to purchase the Pro version. Features like time remapping, motion tracking, and advance compositing effects are just a few of the advanced functions only available in the Pro version.

Whats New?
Commotion Pro 3.1 seemed very complete, but Pinnacle was able to find ways to improve. One of the first improvements to the software is the ability to import Adobe Photoshop layers. This feature preserves all layer information including transfer modes, transparencies and masks. This makes it much easier to create an initial image and then manipulate, refine, or animate it in the software.

Commotion Pro 4.0 has also added Time Remapping into its arsenal of tools. The ability to speed up or slow down motion gives the user precise control over the timing of effects and clips.

If you have ever had to click and drag a filter or matte on layer upon layer, then you know that this can quickly turn into carpel tunnel madness. Commotion Pro 4.0 has new grouping controls that allow the user to group multiple layers together. When a matte or filter needs to be added, simply applying it to the group applies the effect to all of the layers thus saving time and headache.

If you have ever had a great pan or tracking shot ruined by a shaking camera, you know how frustrating it can be. Commotion Pro 4.0 includes a very powerful motion tracker to help stabilize these shots. To put it to the test, I purposefully shot some footage off the shoulder during a windy day, and then added my own shaking to create a truly awful shot. While intended to be used with footage with occasional or slight shakes, Commotion Pro 4.0 did a very good job at removing most of the induced errors. By way of comparison, I also tried to stabilize the same footage in Adobe After Effects. Commotion Pro 4.0 came out on top in this contest, as Adobe After Effects returned results that were nowhere near as good. The motion tracking options in Commotion Pro 4.0 also allows for easy corner pinning so elements track perfectly with background footage.

The interface has also undergone transformations making it easier to move windows, work with clips, and tweak effects and filters. Editors who use programs like Apples Final Cut Pro should notice many interface similarities, which will allow the end user to migrate between the applications with ease.

The Commotion Pro 4.0 Interface has undergone several transformations making it easier to work with

Other key features include:
Working at a composition size of 30000 x 30000 pixels
Working with an unlimited number of resolution independent layers
Applying pixel accurate camera-real motion blurs
Changing effects settings without leaving the timeline
Removing wires, boom mics, video drop outs, and scratches with the Wire Removal tool
Creating an unlimited variety of natural media and texture brushes such as charcoal, crayon, and neon with the FX Brush
Animating text on a bezier path

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Related Keywords:Commotion, Commotion Pro 4.0, Pinnacle Systems, compositing, animation, graphics, high-end, Pinnacle, Stephen Schleicher, Digital Animators


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