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LiveMotion 2.0 review:

LiveMotion 2.0

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The Good Intuitive animation timeline; superb integration with other Adobe apps; gives advanced designers access to versatile and powerful scripting.

The Bad Lacks Flash's ability to assign advanced, e-commerce-related actions to animation.

The Bottom Line LiveMotion is easier to use than Flash and turns out Flash movies that are just as snazzy and interactive. It's our top choice for Web animation.

CNET Editors' Rating

9.0 Overall

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

Familiar; intuitive; flexible
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 Illustrator. Although like Photoshop, LiveMotion lets you slather 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 these bitmap effects.

Animate with ease
LiveMotion and Flash differ in several other important ways. In particular, the two apps organize their animation timelines differently. While 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 fiddle with. Not only is this approach less confusing, it lets you independently animate more than 100 properties of a single object, for example, size, color, and bevel depth--a feat difficult to accomplish in Flash.

Playing catch-up
Clearly, Adobe has worked hard to bring LiveMotion up-to-snuff with Flash. Version 2.0's scripting support is now similar 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 modeling, 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 goodly 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 apps, including Photoshop and ImageReady. Interestingly, LiveMotion can convert layers into objects, groups, and sequences, while keeping the file editable in Photoshop, Illustrator, or ImageReady.

Limited free support
As with ImageReady, LiveMotion's tech-support options offer first-time purchasers 90 days of free phone support. Upgrading from version 1.0? You'll get only 30 days of support, after which you'll have to either pay a $25 fee per incident or sign up for a yearly plan for $149. Adobe's manuals and online help are outstanding, and you can usually find answers to questions in Adobe'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.

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To add rollover effects to your image, simply create a new state, a different image that activates when the mouse rolls over a button.

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