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Creating Billowing Fabric in Apple Motion

Using generators and filters to make a banner blow in the wind By Dave Nagel
Today we're going to take a look at creating a billowing fabric effect in Apple's Motion 2. Using a combination of filters, generators and even particles in Motion, it's possible to create a pretty wide range of effects that add depth and movement to otherwise boring 2D objects. Case in point: a banner stretched across the crotch of the Arc de Triumph announcing that today is my birthday and inviting folks around the world to "bring beer."

The basic idea here is that we're going to take an object--in this case a banner--and use a displacement filter to make it wave and billow. And we'll use nothing more than stock elements in Motion to do this: a generator and just a couple filters.

Here's the basic banner effect on black.

And here's the sort of thing you can do with that when you composite it onto some footage.

You may not want to accomplish this precise effect, but this tutorial should at least help give you some new ideas for ways to add interest to still elements in your compositions. Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, it really is my birthday today. Send cards, gifts, cash, risque home videos and/or beer to:

Dave Nagel
The Nagel Birthday Stockpile
Digital Media Online Inc.
2500 Campus Drive., Ste. 608
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Okay, well, on with the tutorial.

Step 1: the base object
We begin with a still image that I've created in Photoshop. This particular element has a texture effect applied to it using some displacement maps that I made available earlier this week. (You can download those by clicking here.)

There are two critical things you need to keep in mind about the image you choose to use for this effect:

1. The overall canvas size of your Photoshop image should be the same size as your composition in Motion.

2. The object should be smaller than the overall dimensions of you Photoshop canvas. It should not touch any edges of the canvas, and you should leave plenty of transparency between the object and the edges of the canvas, just like in the sample image above. In my case, the overall canvas size is 720 x 480, and the dimensions of the banner itself are 587 x 352.

If you would like to download this particular image just to have something to work with, you may do so by clicking on the link below:

Download: 03-fabric-sign.zip (812 KB)

Step 2: Import the object into Motion
Now we move into Motion itself. Before we create the displacement effect, we'll first prepare our Motion project.

Begin by creating a new project, making it exactly the same size as the dimensions of the image you'll be using for this effect.

Then import the image into Motion. Once you do that, click on the layer that contains the image. Then go over to the Inspector palette. Click on the Layer tab, and then check the box labeled "Fixed Resolution."

All of the layers in this project need to use the fixed resolution option in order to keep the displacement layer lined up properly with the object that it's displacing.

And while we're on this particular element, let's go ahead and apply the all-important Displace filter to it. In this case, we're not going to apply the displacement directly to the object; instead, we're going to apply it to the layer that contains this object. Do that simply by dragging the Displace filter from the Library (Library > Filters > Distort > Displace) onto the layer in the Layers palette,

Your project so far should look like this.

Good? Good. Time to create the elements that will make our banner wave.

Creating the displacement layer
Now, there are tons--simply tons--of elements that you can use to create displacement maps. The one that we'll be using here I chose simply because it seemed to give me the effect I wanted; but feel free to experiment.

Here's how to do it my way.

1. To begin, create a new layer (Shift-Command-N).

2. Send this new library to the bottom of the layer stacking order by choosing Object > Send to back.

3. Once again, go into the Inspector palette, click the Layer tab and check the "Fixed Resolution" box.

4. Then go back into the Library and drag the generator called "Clouds" onto your new layer. This is located at Library > Generators > All > Clouds. It's basically a fractal generator much like Photoshop's Clouds filter, but this generator is self-animating, which will save you a lot of time.

5. With the Clouds generator selected in the Layers palette, go into the Inspector palette, and click the Generator tab. Here you'll see all of the options available for this generator. I left my settings pretty much stock, except I boosted the base Speed parameter to 2.00. You can experiment with these settings to find something that works for your project or just leave them alone altogether.

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