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Motion: Fixed Resolution and Vector Art
Iain Anderson on Fri, April 5th 0 comments
If you’ve ever enlarged a logo only to watch it become pixelated or blurry, then you need to know about the hidden switch inside Motion, which is critical for serious animators.

An important switch is hidden deep inside Motion which is critical to many types of animation. If you’ve ever enlarged a logo only to watch it become pixelated or blurry, then you need to know about it. To participate, you’ll need Illustrator, to create and save some vector art, and Photoshop, to save a layered Photoshop document.


1 - Import Vector Art

The standard File > Import command, or the File Browser pane will do fine for this. A native Illustrator .ai file will do, as will an Illustrator file saved as a PDF, but EPS is no good. One minor difference: if your file uses CMYK rather than RGB, they’ll be slightly darker in a PDF than a native Illustrator .ai. Ideally, you should use RGB for screen applications anyway.

An Illustrator and a Photoshop file ready to Import.

An Illustrator and a Photoshop file ready to Import.


2 - Importing Photoshop files with layers (the right way)

Be careful not to lose the layer structure of the original Photoshop file. If you find a file in the File Browser and press Import — no layers. Instead, use File > Import, then choose the Photoshop file, and look carefully at the next dialog box.

Be sure to choose All Layers here.

Be sure to choose All Layers here.


If you choose Merged Layers, you get the same result as with the File Browser: a flat file. Choosing All Layers creates a new group with all the layers inside. Normally, this is quite helpful, but it might not be a good idea if you’ve made use of adjustment layers, or if you just don’t need the layers at all. When importing multiple layers like this, blending modes are retained, but Adjustment Layers are lost, as are any layer styles or folders, so you may have to flatten them down to a single layer to maintain the original look.


3 - Issues with scaling and movement

Both of these strategies suffer from a similar problem: resolution is limited in one way or another. Take the vector art first. Select it in the Layers pane, then open the Inspector and increase the scale to 400% or more. The image gets bigger, but pixelates.

Before: pixelated text below and cropped layers above.

Before: pixelated text below and cropped layers above.


While you’d expect the Photoshop layered file to pixelate after scaling — and indeed it would — another issue is evident. A typical reason you might import a Photoshop file is to animate the various layers independently, perhaps flying part of the logo in from the edge of the screen. So give it a shot: select one or more of the original Photoshop layers in your group, and move them sideways. As soon as a layer exits the original frame that bounded the Photoshop file, it disappears. Why?


4 - The Media panel

The long-ignored Media panel holds the truth. Select your vector art, then press Command-5 to open the Media panel, next to the Layers panel. In the Inspector, select the now-accessible Media tab. Uncheck Fixed Resolution. For vector art, this should always be unchecked if you plan to scale up.

Turn the Fixed Resolution checkbox off.

Turn the Fixed Resolution checkbox off.


Now, flick back to the Layers tab, and select the group that encloses the Photoshop layers — it should be named the same as your Photoshop file. The Group tab in the Inspector should now be active, and you’ll see a Fixed Resolution checkbox here too, possibly along with a small R in a box that indicates Rasterization.

And again, turn the Fixed Resolution checkbox off here too.

And again, turn the Fixed Resolution checkbox off here too.


Unchecking the box restores parts of the layers that have strayed outside the bounding box, for a small cost in speed. Not planning on moving any layers around? Leave it as is, for slightly improved speed. Working in 3D? This option is unavailable, and so not a concern.


5 - Set the quality

Finally sorted and still having issues? Be sure to set Best Quality under the Render menu. This trick can avoid the occasional minor render glitch, at the cost of render speed.

After: smooth text below and uncropped layers above.

After: smooth text below and uncropped layers above.


At the end of the day, the default Fixed Resolution options make Motion faster, but they can cause trouble. Know your options, and be sure to uncheck Fixed Resolution if you want to do something a little bit fancy.

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