Motion 5.3: Add Automatic Animation to Text

Hidden deep inside Motion is the ability to animate text without keyframes or behaviors. I wrote about one of these a while ago, explaining how to create animation that is linked to the sounds insides an audio file.

NOTE: Here’s the link to that audio animation article.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you three more ways to animate text using parameter behaviors:

You may find it helpful to read this tutorial with Motion open. Because there are so many possibilities here, and all of them are impossible to show in still images, that you’ll want to play along with me.

NOTE: Some of these effects are really cool. Others are train wreaks. All of them will make you smile.


If you search the Motion help files you won’t find a section devoted to parameter behaviors. In fact, just finding a definition is almost impossible. So, here’s my definition:

It is this ability to animate specific parameters that make these animation settings so much fun to work with.


I created some text that we’ll use in this tutorial. Notice, in the lower-left corner of the text box, a circle with a dot in the middle of it? This indicates the Anchor Point for that text.

The Anchor Point is that position in an object around which it revolves or scales. All objects in Motion have anchor points.

NOTE: In case you are curious, the font I’m using is “Medieval Sharp.”

There is no way to move the anchor point with the mouse, but we can change it in the Inspector by first selecting the text clip, then going to Inspector > Properties > Transform.

In this screen shot, I’ve twirled down the Anchor Point setting and manually adjusted the anchor point so that it appears to be in the middle of the clip. These numbers will change based on the size and shape of the object.

You can see in this screen shot that I moved the anchor point to the center of the clip. You can position an anchor point anywhere – even outside the area of the clip itself.

In the examples I’m creating below, I want the clip to move or scale from the middle, not the lower left edge. The only way to do that is to move the anchor point first.


“Oscillate” means to “move or swing back and forth at a regular speed.” So, in this example, we will oscillate the size of the text, as though it were breathing.

Select the text clip, then go to Inspector > Properties > Scale and on the far right side, click the small downward-pointing triangle. (This triangle only shows up when the cursor hovers over it.)

This displays a whole range of settings that can be applied to this setting, or parameter. Choose Oscillate.

Immediately, the Parameter Behavior is displayed in the Behaviors pane. Play the clip and notice that, now, the size of the text regularly grows and shrinks.

The best way to see what these settings do is to play with them and watch the playback.

Apply To, at the bottom, opens up a whole new range of possibilities. This allows us to change which parameter this behavior is applied do.

We originally chose to change the scale, or size, of the text. Here, I’m applying the Oscillate parameter behavior to its Type On property. This means that the text will oscillate between typing itself on and off the screen.

The amount of the Type On effect is controlled by the Amplitude setting. The speed it types on is controlled by the Speed setting.

NOTE: To delete a parameter behavior applied to an object, select its name in the Behaviors panel and press the Backspace/Delete key located above the Return key.


Let’s take a look at a different setting: Randomize. This generates random behavior that can be applied to an object; for example, Position. In this screen shot, I’m applying it to all three dimensions: X, Y and Z. However, you could twirl down the Position setting and apply Randomize to only one – for example, just the X parameter – so the text moves horizontally without moving vertically.

The three settings that are most helpful in these effects are:

To induce motion sickness in your audience, crank Amount, Frequency and Noisiness all the way to the right. Because I want my audience to survive watching my videos, I tend to set these more conservatively.

The red lines in the Viewer indicate the path of the anchor point for the animated text.


One of my favorite settings is Wriggle. This is because the eye is attracted to movement, but I don’t want the movement to be so severe that it makes the overall video unwatchable. Wriggle solves that.

Here, I’ve applied it to Rotation, pivoting the text during playback.

Using the settings in the previous screen shot, my text is gently rotating in a never-ending, random fashion.

As before, Amount, Frequency, and Noisiness determine how big the effect will be.

Three other settings to play with are:


Parameter behaviors are great ways to create animation that can be changed in an instant without using keyframes and without wasting a lot of time tweaking. (However, I HAVE wasted a lot of time changing settings and giggling, just enjoying watching what happens….)

Another cool feature is that you can apply multiple parameter behaviors to the same clip, even the same setting, to get wildly interactive – and interesting – results.

Have fun playing!

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