Motion: Animate a Beating Heart

Posted on by Larry

logo-Motion5In this lesson, I’ll show you how to animate video using audio – more specifically, how to animate visual movement by the beats in an audio clip.

While I’m going to animate a beating heart, this effect can use any video clip or any audio clip. Read this article to learn the technique – then substitute whatever audio or video clips you need for your project.


Create a new Motion Project, or Final Cut Pro X Generator, whichever is appropriate for your work.

Click the Library tab, Shapes category and drag the Pink Heart into the Viewer.

NOTE: Just to be really clear, you can use any image you wish.

Pressing both Shift and Option, drag a corner of the heart to make it smaller. The two modifier keys constrain the aspect ratio (Shift) and scale from the center (Option) of the select object. Then, drag the heart toward the left side of the Viewer.

NOTE: You can toggle Safe Zones on or off by press the apostrophe ( ) key. For the rest of this example, I’ll turn them off.

Make sure the Heart is still selected, then, from the Behaviors pop-up menu in the lower right corner of the interface – it looks like a gear – select Basic Motion > Motion Path.

A red line extends from the Heart to the right. The speed of horizontal movement is determined by the length of the line; the longer the line, the faster the movement.

NOTE: If you don’t see the end of the line, go to the Viewer scale pop-up menu in the top right corner of the Viewer and reduce the size of the Viewer. The red line always extends to the right and, sometimes, you need to make the Viewer VERY small to see the end of the red line.

Grab the dot at the right of the line and drag it to where you want the final position of the heart to end up. The red line represents the movement of the heart from the beginning of the effect to the end. If you play the project, you’ll see the heart move smoothly along the line.

The left dot is the starting position and the right dot is the ending position; both dots can be moved anywhere on or off the screen to determine the movement.

NOTE: You can constrain the movement of a dot as you drag it by pressing the Shift key as you drag.


Click the File Browser tab in the Utility window. Then, near the top of the panel click the name of the hard disk that contains the audio file you want to import. Next, in the lower portion of the panel navigate to the file you want to import. (Here, I’m importing the Drum Beat.aif clip.)

Click the Import button at the top right of the File Browser panel.

The audio file is imported into the Project – as indicated by the green bar in the mini-timeline, but it does not appear in the Layers panel. (Be sure that the audio clip starts at the beginning of the project. Drag the green line, if it doesn’t.)

This is because the Layers panel only shows visual effects. Click the Audio panel and you can see and adjust the audio clip.

EFFECT OPTION 1 – Size / Scale

Select the heart image, either in the Viewer or the Layers panel. Now, think about what you want to change as the audio plays: the size of the heart? the position of the heart? the color of the heart?

In this example, we’ll first animate the size, then the position of the heart.

NOTE: Here’s an article that talks about how to animate the color of an object.

With the heart selected, go to Inspector > Properties and click the small gray right-pointing triangle to the right of parameter you want to animate; in our example, I’m animating the Scale parameter.

Slide your mouse down to Add Parameter Behavior > Audio.

Click the To popup menu and select the audio clip you want to use for animation. In our case, its the Drum Beat clip we just imported.

I want the size of the heart to vary by drum beat, so at the bottom, for Apply To, click the To popup and choose: Properties > Transform > Scale > All.

This varies the size of the heart during playback based upon thumps from the drum (amplitude).

If you want to emphasize the size, increase Scale, just above the Apply To menu. Here, I am doubling the size of the heart. (Scale = 2.0)

Also, to slightly shift the timing of this effect, adjust the Delay slider. I found dialing in a small negative number for the delay makes the effect look more believable; in this case, -2.0.

Now, as the clip plays back, the heart bounces with the drum beat.

EFFECT OPTION 2 – Position

To avoid confusion, I removed the scaling effect to illustrate this next setting. However, you can apply multiple parameter behaviors all running at the same time on the same clip, affecting different parameters – for example, scale, position and rotation.

With the heart selected, go to Inspector > Properties, click the small gray arrow on the right and apply Add Parameter Behavior > Audio.

Go to the Behaviors tab and, just as before, click the To popup menu and add the Drum Beat audio clip.

At the bottom of Audio parameter, set the Apply To to Properties > Transform > Position > Y. This means that only the vertical position will change due to the audio.

NOTE: To change horizontal position, set Position to X. Z-position controls the depth of the heart in 3D space.

Drag the Scale slider to change the vertical position of the bouncing heart, this needs a fairly large value to create the vertical bounces.

You can see the results of changing the Scale slider by watching the Motion Path line change in the Viewer.


Parameter behaviors allow us to animate individual settings within Motion without using keyframes. The effects they create can be really complex, but the process of creating them is quite easy. Give yourself permission to play and you’ll see what I mean.



This effect does not allow you to publish the audio file into Final Cut Pro X. This means that you can see the animation, but not hear the audio that generates it. Instead, you would need to add the audio twice: once in Motion to generate the animation then, again in Final Cut so that the audience can hear it.

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