When Adobe first released LiveMotion 1.0 (see
September 2000), software for designing interactive Web animations, it marketed the program as a simplified approach to creating SWF content. It lacked the scripting power of its rival, Macromedia Flash, but offered an interface that many designers already felt comfortable with.
Adobe is hoping to change all that with the release of LiveMotion 2.0. Thanks to the addition of full-featured scripting tools, OS X compatibility, and a long list of impressive enhancements, version 2.0 is at last a mature program–even if it’s still playing catch-up to Flash.
LiveMotion’s ace in the hole has always been its tight integration with the rest of the Adobe suite, including Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and GoLive. The new version builds on this strength by adding support for nested layer sets in native Photoshop 6 and Illustrator 9 and 10 files. After you’ve imported your PSD file, LiveMotion gives you the option of converting nested layers into separate objects, groups, or an animation sequence. And as with version 1.0, these objects can automatically update in LiveMotion when changes are made to the source file.
Adobe After Effects users will appreciate the changes to LiveMotion’s timeline, which now bears a closer resemblance to the one in After Effects. For example, it now offers the ability to hide, shy, and lock objects, making it easier to organize and navigate a complex timeline. And by using the AMX export option in After Effects 5.5, users can import After Effects compositions directly into LiveMotion 2.0. This is great for video pros who want to output their files to the Web.
Capitalizing on the fact that its timeline is measured in seconds–not frames, as in Flash–LiveMotion 2.0 also makes good use of another After Effects feature: time stretching. You can now speed up and slow down animations simply by dragging their endpoints in the timeline. All the keyframes adjust to match the new pacing.
In addition to creating the space-efficient vectors for which the SWF file format is famous, LiveMotion also excels at creating and editing bitmaps–something Flash doesn’t do. For example, you can apply effects such as textures and drop shadows to objects by applying a style from the Styles palette. Text handling is improved in LiveMotion 2.0; it uses the same type engine as Photoshop 6. And users of previous versions will be happy to note that the program no longer exports text as vector paths, which seriously bloated the files in version 1.0. And unlike previous versions, LiveMotion 2.0 lets you zoom out past the actual size of the canvas.
Unfortunately, LiveMotion still lacks any sort of automated bitmap tracer for converting bitmaps into Web-friendly vectors. And the program still doesn’t offer any native shape-tweening capabilities, although there are some convincing workarounds.
LiveMotion 2.0’s script editor features a structured approach to script writing–including syntax color-coding–while a debugging utility helps to track down scripting errors. While it’s not quite as easy to add interactivity as in Flash, an excellent scripting guide helps you master the basics.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
LiveMotion 2.0 is a strong product that at last provides a viable alternative to Flash as an authoring tool. With a vastly improved feature set, this version will appeal to many users who approach building interactive Web content with trepidation.
Ultimately, the decision over which Web animation tool you choose may hinge on the other products you use. While Flash has great integration with other Macromedia products and remains a step ahead in programming capabilities, LiveMotion’s killer integration with other Adobe tools and lower price may lure Photoshop and Illustrator users into the world of Web animation and interaction.