How does Motion compare with After Effects?

How does Motion compare with After Effects?

After Effects is the software from whence a new art form, motion graphics, was born.

Motion offers many advantages and disadvantages to AE. The two can work together, AE users can use Motion to generate layers for their AE compositions.

Owners of both, before starting many projects, will have to pause and consider which program to use.

So when would you use Motion?

  • projects involving interaction between elements (attracting, repelling, orbiting, bouncing much easier in Motion)
  • users needing something cool-looking quickly without having to create it from scratch (because of the large library of text behaviors, particle emitter presets, replicator presets (LiveType also good for this)
  • particle emitter design (because of real time playback)
  • Designs with repeated elements (because of Replicator)
  • prototyping (because of Motion’s real time capability with simple projects)
  • easier integration with FCP (don’t have to render a movie)
  • matching motion to audio (due to real time playback)
  • With complex motion, using Motion behaviors and stacked behaviors is simpler than keyframes

When would you use AE?

  • projects needing high quality keying (greenscreen/bluescreen)
  • projects needing high quality resizing, rotation, changing tracking, etc.
  • as projects get more complex, the AE interface handles projects with dozens or hundreds of layers better when moving or scrubbing the playhead, manipulating objects, adding filters etc.
  • there is such a huge variety of AE plug-ins, some projects depend on them, so a project requiring a special AE plug-in will need to be done in AE
  • AE is happy running on any semi-decent Mac or PC made in the last few years, Motion really requires the fastest possible computer with the very fastest video card and a lot of of RAM to be viable in a professional environment
  • some features, like Motion Math, offer power to do things Motion cannot
  • 2K or 4K projects for filmout
  • output to .swf

This is not a comprehensive list, just a general guide. All in all, both programs are so deep and offer so much no one will ever come close to exhausting their potential.


  1. Thanks, Josh, this is exactly the kind of precise features, function, overhead, and purpose comparison I was looking for. Do you have any further thoughts based on developments, if any, in the two apps over the last year and a half?

    All the best,

  2. Cole McDonald 16 years ago

    Seems looking at the list of why to use one or the other, the this list was the to-do list for the next version of motion coming out in may ’07 🙂 I think apple hit all of them in order in their presentation on their website…including specifically driving the scale of an object in a layer via specific audio.

  3. Josh 15 years ago

    I updated the article to be current just now.

  4. smeg's 15 years ago

    I new to the editing world, and looking that the apple site and saw Shake, this look like it does all that AE does and is native to FCP ? granted reading and watching the promos on apple it make it to be the greatest thing since water, but I’m nit sure how this fit into the product line. It look cool but do I need it?

  5. Thurston 14 years ago

    I’d agree with the points made about when to use/not to use AE or Motion – we have both and they’re great at different things.

    Shake though is a different animal – both in its user interface and capabilities.
    Shake is node-based….. which means you string lots of little boxes together in a sort of map of effects to create your end composite.
    It handles greenscreen excellently and allows easy layering and painting-out operations …. it was really made for this kind of work.
    It’s fantastic at high-end video compositing – it can easily use Z- depth and handles 3d compositions very well. Also – it has great rotoscoping abilities – ie it can cut-out and isolate parts of a picture to allow for manipulation in post.
    One thing it is not very intuitive for is editing…. neither are AE and Motion i hear you say, but at least AE gives you an easily accessible timeline from which you can edit/shorten elements. The shake timeline is poor at this.

    All in all I’d say that if you want to create motion graphics, great text effects and cool looking interactions between elements then do so in Motion or AE. Leave Shake for colour correction/compositing/3d layering – serious dedicated compositing.

    • Richard Thomson 14 years ago

      I am french speaker .i am not good at english but i can do my best.I am a user of apple motion, After effect , combustion and shake. after effect cs4 is rich and powerfull. Motion is confortable than after effect because of his real time playback, his particules and replicator system. his paint tool is sofisticated. the problem is that his has not good tool for keying. in his 3D environnement, you must generate layer’s shadow manuelly.i think in the nest version this probleme will be solve. but apple must think about the quality of motion render. if the quality of his render is amelioreted. i will prefer it than after effect.

      Combustion and shake are the high quality compositing tool.combustion is very easy to use

      and his has 3 advantages. I like his paint tool . his has also a hight quality particule generated system. it is confortable when you work with 3D element and light.

      Shake is the gourou of all of them. But you must be very intelligent and have some experience with after effect befor you can andestand and exploit the power of shake. because now i do evrything i do with after effect in shake.

      when you use a tool in after effect ask yourself how to make the same things in shake.

      You can animate text in shake like you do in motion or after effect.

      you can find free plugins on this site for Shake

      you will see the power of shake.

      and if you don’t want to be disterbed with the others aplications by sapphire plug in for shake and say good by to the others.

      according to me use Photoshop and SHAKE.

      sometime you can use combustion to generate hight quality particule and importe them in shake.

      Remember if you have no experience in compositing and visuel effect go back with after effect, motion or combustion. there are easy to use.

      and when you have experience , you can move to shake and then you can created beautifull things in hight quality with shake. Shake is for the pro wich has already experience

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