Commentary: A Love Letter to LiveType

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the November, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

As you may know, starting with the release of Final Cut Studio (3), Apple no longer ships LiveType as part of the suite. Recently, on an Apple Trainers listserv that I subscribe to, a discussion began on LiveType vs. Motion. its no secret that I am a fan of LiveType, so I added my two cents to the discussion.

As it progressed, Charles Meyer, the Product Manager for Motion at Apple, joined in. He made two comments that spurred this commentary:

As the Motion Product Marketing Manager I want to make sure that I help our design and engineering team build the best possible product for the market. We will never have enough resources to build everything we want to build, or everything that you want to see in the product so we have to keep making tough decisions. I can however definitely say that making sure that we provide the best titling environment for Final Cut Pro users is at the top of my list.


I read some of your feedback that Motion did not do everything that LiveType did. I hear the general feedback that LiveType was easier to use (IMHO – in part because it had a whole lot less that it could do) and I welcome feedback you might have about specific of the Motion experience that you feel might not make it as easy to use for LiveType qualified type of work.


What is it really about Motion that make it scary to LiveType Users?

I immediately sent Charles a note thanking him for his interest and willingness to participate in the discussion. It is always reassuring when Apple indicates it is actually listening.

Then, I started thinking. I use LiveType almost daily. I use Motion only when forced. Why?

So I thought I’d answer Charles’ question in this newsletter. If you have points you want to add, or disagree with, I’ll add those as well. Then, I’ll send this all to Charles as one more set of opinions from Final Cut editors.

There’s no question Motion is the application of the future. LiveType is supported by FCP 7, but not bundled with it. There’s no doubt this support will disappear in future versions of FCP. So, it is in all our interests to make Motion as good as it can possibly be.

It is also true that Motion does FAR more than LiveType ever did. Motion is a full-featured motion graphics software. LiveType animates text. However, many times, animating text – either full-screen or lower-thirds – is all I need.

LiveType and Motion are very similar in how they approach text animation. However…

Here’s what I’d like Motion to do that will approach the simplicity of LiveType:

1. Provide the same distinction between Foreground and Background as LiveType does; so that I can easily import a graphic, freeze frame, or video, place it on the background, animate some text on top, then have the choice to either export the background or not export the background.


2. I’d like all loopable, full-screen backgrounds to be stored in their own Library folder, called “Backgrounds,” and sorted into categories similar to the way backgrounds are categorized in LiveType. In Motion currently, all backgrounds are in a single folder in the Content folder.


3. I’d like the ability to easily see which projects are open, similar to FCP and LiveType, where I can click between them to make sure I am consistent in the look and feel of my projects. I don’t want a performance hit for having more than one project open at once.


4. When you search for Backgrounds in the Library search box, I’d like all backgrounds displayed. Currently, entering “Backgrounds” into this search box displays no animated backgrounds.


5. I’d like a keyboard shortcut that, when pressed, displays the Library > Backgrounds folder, opens the Timeline window, and selects the Text tool. in other words, a layout similar to LiveType.


6. I’d like an easy way to loop a background to extend its duration.


7. I’d like an easy way to find the two controls I use most often for text effects in LiveType: Sequence and Speed.


8. I’d like an easy way to matte video into text, similar to the matte pop-up menu in LiveType.

I’m sure, as LiveType slowly fades away, I’ll start using Motion more and more. But, for now, I find Motion intimidatingly complex. This complexity is important when you are creating opening animation for Monday Night Football. But it gets in the way of creating simple text animations on a moving background, quickly and easily.

I’m interested in your comments. Email me your suggestions and I’ll add them below.

UPDATE – Dec. 27, 2009

Philip King writes:

Just read your post. I can’t even imagine how I would go about doing something so easy to do in Live Type in Motion instead.


Rather than kill it, they need to bundle it back with Final Cut Express and leave it. I know that would mean people having to own both FCP and Express to have Live Type, but I’m one of those people who do. I use Express on a laptop and its great for doing simple one camera work remotely.


I just opened Motion to look at how I might start doing titles in Motion. Just a little intimidating….

Gray Jones adds:

I have built up many templates in Livetype over the years (in other words, older Livetype projects that I tweak and replace text in for use in newer jobs). It bugs me to no end that while the newest Motion/FCP can OPEN livetype projects, they see them as uneditable flattened video footage. This forces me to go back to Livetype to edit the text or make any changes.


If Motion could actually edit the Livetype projects (or at least translate them into editable Motion projects), it might encourage me to stay around in Motion longer and not go back to Livetype as much.

Loren Miller writes:

[When you wrote] “1. Provide the same distinction between Foreground and Background as LiveType does…” — this might need just a touch more thought!


WHICH foreground; WHICH background? Motion as you indicate is far more than LiveType. It lives by layers, often many deep. To pigeonhole these into foreground/background? Not sure that works.


I guess layer groups for FG or BG could be stored in these which helps organize large projects, rather like PreRenders and PreCompose in AfterEffects. But it seems a limited way to think about more elaborate Motion projects. Maybe user-defined folders do the trick and basic FG/BG already established would do no harm as long as veteran users can generate any number of storage folders for project purposes– like adding a “MIddleground” folder? Or tthree? And each supporting easy render-output.

Ben Balser sent me a long email, which I’ve edited to include here:

The unacknowledged first drawback in removing of LiveType (from my perspective as a trainer, both AATC and independent such as yourself) has caused Final Cut Studio 3 to have an increased learning curve, removing some of the “ease of learning to get things done” FCS was always known for….


The second unacknowledged drawback is that we miss the wonderful library of animated backgrounds, elements, and templates in LiveType….


As a Certified Apple trainer; Motion is VERY intimidating for my consulting clients, students, and user group member to try to learn…. It is not only “perceived” as tougher to learn and use than LiveType was, it actually is.


Thus my wish list is very similar to yours:

  1. Incorporate LiveType’s separation of foreground/background tracks, including the option to not include backgrounds in the final export/render (as you’ve pointed out).
  2. Give us project tabs in Motion to keep track of multiple projects (as you’ve pointed out).
  3. Clean up the confusing Library folders (as you’ve pointed out).
  4. Package all elements, animated backgrounds, and templates from LiveType into Motion so we don’t “lose” functionality and convenience.
  5. Create a “Text In Final Cut Studio 3” APTS book and class, so folks can learn to do text quick and easy like in LiveType, and not have to learn the other 99% of Motion, when all they want to do is fancy animated text.
  6. Be more clear about Motion’s graphic card requirements, its very confusing as to what “realistically” works, this was never an issue with LiveType, and even some “standard” graphics cards cause Motion to crash

Mike Krause adds:

Like you, I’m a fan of LiveType. And, like you, I’m more than a bit disappointed with it being dropped from the Final Cut Studio bundle.


I truly expected to see a revamped version of it available as a plug-in style text tool for FCP, like Boris. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Apple will choose to do something similar in future updates of FC Studio, or even offer it up to developers so some third party will do just that. Probably not, but one can always dream.


Another group of things I really like(d) about using LiveType is that the round-tripping with FCP is seamless, and its clips render much more quickly than similar Motion clips.


I think it’d be a waste of a useful program for LiveType to fade away – the capabilities of Motion notwithstanding – and I really hope to see it resurrected as a low-cost plug-in for those of us who know when we need to use Motion and know when we need something simpler to save time.

Alan Hartman adds:

Although I have had LiveType for a while, I never fully investigated it until I started purchasing some Digital Juice fonts. I am not sure you are familiar with the company or the products, but they have a plug-in for their font products which enable you to export their massive font libraries to LiveType. It is seemless and gives LiveType a “kick-in-the-pants” as far as to the range of beautiful styles of fonts available.

UPDATE – Dec. 28, 2009

Terry Solenberger sent me his thoughts:

I agree that Motion’s Library needs better organization and take could take a few lessons from how LiveType’s content was presented in its application. But as far as the background issue, that is what always confused me with LiveType. Final Cut Pro has channels of video which act very much like layers. In Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects, you work in layers. Why Apple separated the background layer from the foreground is beyond me.


Maybe it is because I come from a Graphic Design background rather than a traditional editorial background, layers make more since. In Motion you can designate a background layer, lock it and do any title work on top. Then turn it off when exporting, thus mimicking LiveType’s export option. At least that is a work-around.


Also performance must be improved in Motion. There needs to be better multi-processor support, support for more than just 4GB of total system RAM, and 64-bit support in future versions. Otherwise all that hardware and system architecture is really going to waste on what potential Motion has.

Timothy Barksdale writes:

Totally agree with the value of Livetype.


A story might help to get this across to the folks at Apple. Long ago (10 years) there was a small but very elegant program called Microsoft Word. Some where around Word 4 or 5 ( for Mac) it began to grow. Suddenly, the small elegant program became a monster. It became more difficult to use because the software engineers at Microsoft decided to add many more features. Certainly, that would make every users life better- right? The size of the program bloated and the reviews were not great. I switched from a program I loved to a new one because in the cycle of development of MacOS basic functions and machines -it stopped working. WordPerfect became my Word processing program for several years until it too abandoned its Mac customer base.


This seems to be the cycle of Livetype and Motion as well. I won’t even mention the frustration about an elegant program within Final Cut StudioPro- DVD and how Blu-ray is still basically ignored .


I see a huge market developing in Blu-ray for the nature customers I create programming for. But Apple continues to ignore many repeated requests to maintain and allow us to create a Blu-ray DVD simply, using a program we are familiar with.


One of the 20th Centuries most important business leaders was a man named Peter Drucker. Of the five major principles he encouraged all of us to constantly stay in touch with, one of the most important was : What does the customer value?


When i come home from 1 month or 6 months filming around the world the last thing I need is more complication. That is why I will end up with a dedicated Mac G-5 Workstation running things in the simple early stages with programs like Livetype. When newer programs will not allow the incorporation of materials from this it will be time to examine what works and what has become bloated again.

Tamar writes:

I am a big fan of LiveType as well, and sorry to hear it will not be included in future versions of FCS.


One major advantage of LiveType that Motion lacks, which is crucial for me and I guess for many other users around the world, is compatibility with Right to Left (RTL) languages.


In LiveType there are two different controls regarding the way an animtion will play: from right/from left, and forward/backward. In RTL language, such as Hebrew, I can choose “from right” and an animation will start from the first letter in a Hebrew word and still play farward, choosing “backward” does a different thing, and plays the animation in reverse.


In motion there’s only one control – direction, in which there two options: from left to right and from right to left, but it behaves as forward/backward in LiveType. There’s no option to start the amination from the first letter on the right, and still play it forward.


So basically there’s no possibility to animate text properly in RTL languages.


Editors who work in Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and other languages are affected from this major downgrade in the FCS bundle features.


I hope you’ll be able to help and pass Apple the frustration that this situation causes.

Remy Deveze writes from Paris:

I prefer LiveType when I have to put (text + textures+ background) in a FCP project. Specially when I am in a hurry and dont have time to personnalise the presets.


This is unfortunatly most of the time.


For any other animation, I choose Motion. And even for text, when I have time, I do prefer Motion because I think its more easy and confortable to customize presets, play with all parameters, set new keyframes…

Richard Osso adds:

I read your newsletter and the article on Live Type really hit home. Your suggestions were all the thoughts that I need and want in any adjustment that Motion may make.


I would love to see a TAB in Motion that takes you to a TEXT world. There in this TEXT WORLD within Motion, it should have all the items you mention.


Once upon a time, when I needed to clean up audio, I played with BASS & TREBLE. It was simple and I was done.


Then authors thought they were doing us a favor by giving us CONTROL over a million features and the evolution of SOUNDTRACK PRO and others came about. It got complicated. No, let me say that again. It got VERY complicated. Fixing problems now took too much time and playing with several controls, and the audio got worse in some instances.


As you mention, I am not making a feature intro for ESPN or the movie Titanic. I need a few steps to get to titles I can use.


I am an event videographer. I don’t have a lot of time to PLAY, LEARN or CREATE something new each time. I have a few favorite fonts and backgrounds I use. SIMPLE – DONE – ELEGANT


So how important is it for me NOT to lose LIVE TYPE with a complicated Motion interface that is so full of controls and steps to make SIMPLE ELEGANT text for my video, that I have NOT upgraded to FCP7 or Leopard.


I do not want to lose LIVE TYPE for a more complicated replacement. Until I see something that works as easy as LIVE TYPE, I refuse to upgrade until I have to.


ASK APPLE to allow us to keep LIVE TYPE within FCP so I can use all my favorites.

Jeffrey Singer adds:

I think Livetype is highly underrated as a general animation tool. It is far easier to use than Motion, and almost as flexible. In Livetype, I use it for object animation, not just animated text.


In Livetype, letters are called “Glyphs.” In essence, they are “objects” that look like letters. These “Glyphs” can be animated (effects) as a group (a word) or individually.


If you import another graphic object (using the “place” command), such as a logo or picture or even a movie file, you can animate them using the effects normally used on letters and words.


If you have aftermarket effects (such as Livetype Central’s packs) you have many, many, premade, customizable effects, that are easier to use and faster to render than anything in Motion.

Larry replies: Thanks, everyone, for all of your comments.

And, Ben, thanks for reminding me that Motion requires special graphics cards, while LiveType does not.


UPDATE – September 2010
Dick Osso writes:

I have a reason to upgrade to FCP 7. Need to create BLURAY DVDs from Hi Def footage.




I REALLY LOVE my store bought fonts I now have in Live Type in FCP6. I don’t know how or where and it may have been in your discussions, but other people have raised the same request.


HOW DO I SAVE MY LIVETYPE CURRENT SETTINGS and not lose them when I upgrade to FCP7 ?


Can I just download FCP and MOTION and not LT ?


If you have or know of a printed WORK AROUND on this issue, that would be mostly appreciated.

Larry replies: Dick, this isn’t a problem.

When you upgrade to FCP 7 it does not remove your LiveType application, fonts, or textures from your system. So, go ahead and upgrade.

If, for any reason, you need to reinstall LiveType, you can do so on an FCP 7 system by installing LiveType from your Final Cut Studio 2 disks.

I’ve done this on several systems, all with no problems.

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3 Responses to Commentary: A Love Letter to LiveType

  1. Larry,

    We used FCP 6 for the longest time, then the video card went out on our Mac. We’ve just gotten a newer Mac and FCP 7. It was NOT an upgrade. Can you give an easy explanation for me to be able to install LiveType only and use with FCP 7 and NOT mess up the install I did for FCP 7. Thanks.

  2. Roy Dunstan says:

    I am using Final Cut Express 4 And I have Live type I have only what Apple gave with Live type and I wish I could purchase the Expansion packs. Could any one tell me how I could find them I am very disappointed that it as been discontinued it is very good

    • Larry Jordan says:


      LiveType was discontinued so long ago – about five years – and since then has been totally supplanted by Motion, that I don’t think anyone is selling expansion packs today. There just isn’t a market.

      My best advice is simply do a Google search and see what turns up.


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