Pinnacle Systems’ Commotion Pro is a complete effects and retouching tool aimed at all professionals who work with moving images. Version 4.0 adds some solid new features, but more interesting is the product’s steady migration into digital effects and multilayered compositing, long a stronghold of Adobe
After Effects. Commotion Pro has a strong tool set for creating mattes and compositing footage, and it can perform some sophisticated video painting that After Effects cannot. It has a comprehensive set of natural-media brushes for just this purpose, as well as a friendly, intuitive interface. As we went to press, Commotion Pro 4.0 was available only as a Mac OS 9 application, but Pinnacle Systems plans to release a free upgrade for Mac OS X users in the fourth quarter of 2001.
New in Commotion Pro 4.0 is the ability to import layered Photoshop files to add animated effects to images. While Commotion Pro doesn’t import Photoshop 6.0 layer features such as Sets, Layer Styles, and Adjustment Layers, it does render text layers. But you can’t save changes back to Photoshop, a real inconvenience that limits the claimed integration between the two programs.
Commotion Pro has its own layer-grouping system that lets users create nested compositions, similar to those you can make in After Effects. It uses folders to group layers, making it easy to manage a multilayered composite and to add effects, a matte, or color adjustments to a group folder. Another new feature, time remapping, lets you stretch or shrink a clip so that a 100-frame sequence, for example, can span 200 frames or 50 frames (or any value).
When you are viewing clips, Commotion Pro uses RAM to play them back in real time. To maximize speed, you should try to load only as many frames as will fit in available RAM. When working with multiple layers, Commotion Pro must render the composite and load frames to RAM in order to maintain real-time playback, and this can hamper performance.
In general, Commotion Pro relies on a lot of RAM. If you try to use it on anything but the fastest Mac, performance can be sluggish. Pinnacle Systems suggests that users allocate at least 128MB of RAM to Commotion Pro.
Where Commotion Pro excels is in cleaning, retouching, and stabilizing footage. It includes tools for removing wires from effects shots and creating composites, and it has some advanced chroma keying. Commotion Pro includes the world-class Primatte Keyer, for extracting a subject from a background of any color, and the program’s Composite Wizard filters produce perfect mattes, even from less-than-perfect footage.
Commotion Pro has some excellent features for effects work, including the True Camera Blur filter, which re-creates the iris artifacts of a camera-lens system, and Real Shadow, which can create a realistic shadow at any angle–essential for compositing blue-screen elements onto backgrounds.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Creating sophisticated composites and retouching are Commotion Pro’s primary purposes, and it performs them brilliantly. If you work more with effects and 3-D, After Effects may be a better option–but for dealing with real footage, Commotion Pro is hard to beat.
Commotion Pro: Same Style, Different SubstanceCommotion Pro 4.0’s user-friendly interface looks a lot like Adobe After Effects’. However, its retouching and matte-creation tools are far superior.