Apple Motion 5: Keyframe Overview

Posted on by Larry

Keyframes allow us to change a path or parameter during playback which allows us to animate a setting. We always use keyframes in pairs – a starting value and an ending value. (We can use more than two, but the process of referencing “start” and “end” values are the same.)

We are most familiar with setting keyframes to change audio levels in our editing software, but keyframes go far beyond that simple task.

Let’s take a look at some of the options in Motion.


Here, I applied a motion path behavior to an object (Basic Motion > Motion path).

Double-click anywhere on the red line to create a keyframe, then drag the keyframe to create a curve in the motion path line. The white lines and dots are called “Beziér control points.”


Drag one of the white dots at the end of a white line to change the shape of a line into a curve.

You can add and modify as many position keyframes as you want; limited by the total number of frames in a project.

To reset a keyframe, right-click (or Control-click) the keyframe and choose Linear.


Keyframes are frequently used to control motion, but, in fact, every parameter in Motion can be keyframed, which allows us to animate just about anything.

For example, let’s say we want this butterfly to get larger during the duration of a project.

Position the playhead in the Timeline where you want the growth to stop (or change). Because you already set a keyframe for this parameter (Scale), all you need to do is change the Scale setting. Adjusting a setting when a keyframe already exists for that parameter automatically adds an additional keyframe.

NOTE: You can add as many keyframes to a single parameter as you have frames in your project. (Keyframes are assigned to a specific timecode frame.) You can also keyframe as many parameters as you like.

The red numbers indicate a parameter that is controlled by one or more keyframes.


You can also create keyframes automatically by enabling the Keyframe Record button. (In one of the less-helpful Motion keyboard shortcuts, this button is turned on using the letter A – a fact that totally flummoxes new Motion users when things start moving on their own.)

With the Keyframe Record button turned on (solid red) anything you change sets a keyframe for whatever element is selected in the Layers panel at the position of the playhead.

This is a very fast way to work in creating an animation – PROVIDED you remember to turn off keyframe recording when you are done animating.


Motion also has a keyframe editor as part of the Timing Pane. This allows you to see, modify and remove keyframes from a project. To display it, choose Window > Show Timing Pane.

To see the Keyframe section, click this icon in the top right corner of the Timing Pane. (Blue means it is displayed, gray means it is hidden.)

This displays the settings and keyframes for the project.

Right-click a keyframe to see additional keyframe manipulation options.


Motion is designed to make things move. While behaviors are easy to apply and modify, the vast precision and diversity of keyframes makes them well worth the time it takes to learn them.

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