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LiveMotion 2.0

Although many programs create simple Flash files, only Adobe’s LiveMotion can compete directly with Flash MX from Macromedia. LiveMotion 1.0 didn't make much of an impact, but version 2.0 nearly surpasses Flash, the current ruler of Web vector graphics. LiveMotion is much easier to use than Flash and is considerably cheaper. Thanks to its intuitive interface, animation timeline and elegant integration with the Adobe product family, Web designers will find LiveMotion 2.0 a compelling alternative to Flash.
Written by Susan Glinert Stevens, Contributor
livemotion-2-lead.jpg

LiveMotion 2.0

9.0 / 5
Excellent

pros and cons

Pros
  • Intuitive animation timeline superb integration with other Adobe applications gives advanced designers access to versatile and powerful scripting.
Cons
  • Lacks Flash's ability to assign advanced e-commerce-related actions to animations.
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

Although many programs create simple Flash files, only Adobe’s LiveMotion can compete directly with Flash MX from Macromedia. LiveMotion 1.0 didn't make much of an impact, but version 2.0 nearly surpasses Flash, the current ruler of Web vector graphics. LiveMotion is much easier to use than Flash and is considerably cheaper. Thanks to its intuitive interface, animation timeline and elegant integration with the Adobe product family, Web designers will find LiveMotion 2.0 a compelling alternative to Flash.

Those familiar with the Adobe interface will settle right into LiveMotion. This Web graphics creator adds a large TimeLine window, where you create animation, and its own set of tabbed floating palettes. LiveMotion also contains a comprehensive set of bitmap-editing tools and integrates with Photoshop for more advanced pixel editing. Any changes you make in Photoshop automatically update the LiveMotion file.

LiveMotion's vector-handling capabilities match Flash's; so, for example, both programs make it easy to turn basic shapes into buttons. But LiveMotion's vector toolbox can't match that of a real drawing program's, such as Adobe’s Illustrator. However, like Photoshop, LiveMotion lets you adorn bitmap graphics with editable effects, such as drop shadows, glows and bevels. Flash's vector toolbox is similarly deficient, and can't reproduce most of LiveMotion’s bitmap effects.

LiveMotion and Flash differ in several other important ways. In particular, the two applications organise their animation timelines differently. Whereas Flash forces you to plot changes to each layer frame by frame, LiveMotion plots changes to object attributes over time, so if you set a blue ball to turn into a red ball in 10 seconds, it'll happen -- no layers to manipulate. Not only is this approach less confusing, but it also lets you independently animate more than 100 properties of a single object (for example, size, colour and bevel depth) -- a feat that’s difficult to accomplish in Flash.

Clearly, Adobe has worked hard to bring LiveMotion up to Flash’s level. Version 2.0's scripting support is now similar to, and in some cases identical to, Flash's ActionScript. Both are based on JavaScript and allow programmers to develop elaborate Web content, such as mathematical modelling, online user manuals, games and chat rooms.

But LiveMotion takes scripting one step further than Flash: it now allows you to apply scripts to Flash movies and to the design environment in general. This flexibility means you can automate tasks inside LiveMotion -- for example, batch-processing any task you need to perform repetitively -- and add plug-ins called LiveTabs, which solicit user input while the script is running. To give you a head start, the LiveMotion CD includes a good selection of sample scripts for special effects as well as a collection of LiveTab plug-ins -- Slideshow Maker, Text Effects and Grid Maker, to name a few.

As you might expect, LiveMotion integrates tightly with other Adobe applications, including Photoshop and ImageReady. Interestingly, LiveMotion can convert layers into objects, groups and sequences, while keeping the file editable in Photoshop, Illustrator or ImageReady.

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Free telephone support is available for registered LiveMotion users. Adobe’s manuals and online help are also outstanding, and you can usually find answers to questions in the company’s online support forums.

LiveMotion 2.0 is ideally suited for complex Flash animation, especially if you take the time to learn a little scripting. The program is much easier to use than Flash, which will particularly appeal to Web graphics designers who work in an Adobe environment.