Create A Reflection In Motion

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the November, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

OK, I confess. Motion has intimidated the heck out of me for a long time. I avoided using it as much as possible. I read the books, took the tests, but never liked the program.

However, recently, I reluctantly acknowledged that LiveType is not coming back. It was time to make my peace with Motion.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that the best way to learn something is to teach it. So I spent several weeks putting together my three Motion webinars, so that I could explain the software in ways that both you and I could understand.

NOTE: If you need help learning the Motion interface, I strongly recommend you view my webinar “Master Motion” which walks you through everything you need to know.

One of the effects I wanted to create for my training was a reflection of a moving clip of video. This is what we are going to create in this technique.

NOTE: Thanks to a quick note from Adam Sumner, I realized that this effect is in Motion 4 only.


Create a new Motion project (File > New).

In this example, I’m using NTSC DV Anamorphic as my project preset. Just as you need to tell FCP what video format you are using, you need to do the same thing for Motion. However, the techniques in this article will work for any video format you select.

Reflections require two things:

Since we generally use black surfaces for reflections, we need to change the background color of Motion from Black to Transparent so we can see what we are doing. You change this using the Color pop-up menu in the top-right corner of the Motion Canvas window.

To keep this technique simple, I’m just going to create two objects: a source and a surface. The source is a colorful video clip. The reflecting surface is what we are going to create now.

1. If you are playing your project, stop playback.

2. Position your playhead at the beginning of this project (press Home).

3. In the Motion toolbar in the top left corner of the Canvas, click the Rectangle tool located in the Create group. (I’ve found that creating reflections is easier if you create the background first, then add the source objects.)

4. Draw a rectangle so that it fills most of the Canvas. The exact size is not important.

5. Reflections can only be added in 3D space. Which means we need to switch Motion from 2D to 3D. To do this, press F5 to display the Layers pane.

6. Then, on the right side of Group bin are three gray shapes, laid side-by-side. Click them so they are stacked on top of each other. This converts the Group bin from 2D to 3D space.

If you look very, very carefully at the Canvas you’ll see that absolutely nothing has changed. This is because Motion does all its calculating in 3D space, even if you are working in 2D. This means that changing this setting won’t change any of your objects in the Canvas.

7. Go back to the Toolbar, at the top, and click the Adjust 3D Transform tool (shortcut: Q).

8. If the rectangle is not selected in the Layers pane, please select it.

Inside the image of the rectangle, in the Canvas, three white circles, a green arrow, a red arrow, and a blue dot now appear. These allow us to move and rotate an object in three dimensions:

NOTE: Think R/G/B – Horizontal/Vertical/Depth. Clever, these programmers.

9. Click in the top circle and a red line appears, which allows you to rotate the rectangle back in depth. (You can experiment with other circles in this control, but the red one is all we need to change.)

Rotate Red back until its about -54 degrees. Don’t worry if this isn’t perfect, there is plenty of time to adjust this later. Notice how the edges of the black rectangle no longer fill the frame. We will constantly be adjusting the size of the rectangle during this exercise so by the end it does fill the frame.

10. Because the rectangle stretches back into space it no longer fills the frame. Hold the OPTION key and grab either of the top two corners and stretch the rectangle until it fills the entire frame with black.

NOTE: Holding the Option key adjusts both sides at the same time.

11. Click the File Browser tab (in the extreme top left corner) to display your hard disks and file system. Using the Browser in the lower half of this window, find a video clip you want to use as your source image.

12. Select it to load it into the Preview window at the top. Click Import to load it into the Canvas.

NOTE: When the playhead is not playing, new objects are placed at the position of the playhead. If the playhead IS playing, objects start at the beginning of the project.

13. Hold SHIFT and OPTION, then drag any control dot that you see to scale the image smaller. Shift constrains the aspect ratio, while Option scales the image from the center. Make it whatever size you want, but for this, make it small enough to fit in the upper portion of the frame.

If you are like me, the black rectangle slices that image somewhere near the middle.

14. So, select the rectangle by clicking it and drag it lower in the frame. You want to see the entire video image of your clip.

15. If portions of your background appear around the edges of the black rectangle (this is the reason we switched the background display to transparent back at the beginning of this exercise), grab the edges of the rectangle and resize it until it covers the frame and doesn’t block any of the video clip.

Now the cool part starts.

16. Select the rectangle, just in case it isn’t selected. Click the Inspector tab (top left corner)

Click the Properties tab and turn ON Reflection.


Add a few points of Blur (I used 3), and turn ON Fall-off.

A very cool reflection effect!


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