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Swinging Panels In Apple Motion 5

Check out our Motion: Creating 3D Text Fly Bys! course!

A popular motion graphic these days is a series of swinging panels. Here I’ll show you the basics of achieving this with Motion 5. Linked at the end of this article is a ZIP file containing the completed Motion project. This is an intermediate level tutorial so already understanding some of the basics is expected.

Step 1 - Setting Up The Project

We’ll start with a generic Motion Project from the template manager. Make the project 15 seconds long, 59.94 fps, 720 HD. Then name the default Group Panels. Use Shift-Z to be sure the Canvas is fit to our window size.

Step 2 - Create The Building Blocks

Use the rectangle drawing tool (R) to create the first panel, then F3 for the Inspector to give it a 2-point wide Outline. Use the Text tool (T) to center text on it. Highlight both the shape and text layers and use Shift-Command-G to place them into a new Group. Use Command-D to create 4 duplicates, and name them for easy management. These are our "panel groups". I’ll also make each shape a different color for easy visual reference while I work. Finally stack them so the upper and lower edges are touching and centered. Be sure to only move the Groups, not the actual shape/text layers.  

Building blocks

Step 3 - Anchor Point Secrets

Now I need to set my Anchor Points, the point around which an object rotates. Forcing the Anchor Point of each of the panel groups (shape + text) is the secret to this trick. Command-click each “panel group” only to select all four together. Then type Shift-Command-G to create a new Group and call it Hinge 1. Do the same for panel groups 2-4 only and call it Hinge 2. Again for panel groups 3-4 (Hinge 3). Finally, select panel group 4 and call it Hinge 4. These group hierarchies are the key to everything.

In the tool palette (left side of the Toolbar) select the Anchor Point tool (second selection in the list). For each Hinge group, move the Anchor Point to the top seam between itself and the panel above. To check if it's been done properly, go to the Inspector (F1), highlight each Hinge group, and manually drag up or down on the numerical parameter for Rotation X. You should be able to manually swing each panel group at its proper hinge point.

Anchor point tips

Step 4 - Magical Behavior

Highlight the group Hinge 1, tap F1 to open the Properties Inspector, open the Rotation controls, right-click on the X parameter (or open its Animation menu), then go to Add Parameter Behavior and select Oscillate. Set the playhead in the timeline to 3 seconds, and with the Oscillate behavior highlighted, hit O to set its outpoint, leaving the playhead there.

Set the outpoint

Press F2 for the Behaviors tab and set a keyframe for the Oscillate’s Amplitude and Speed, setting both to 0. Wave Shape should be Sine by default. Move the playhead to the start of the timeline, create two more keyframes, with Amplitude set to 100, Speed to 75, and Start Offset to -4.0. To create more realism, go to 2 seconds and set keyframes for an Amplitude of 40 and Speed of 25. This is just as starting point, you can tweak these and the ones that follow later. Playback to see the result.

With the playhead at the start of the project, create a Camera with Option-Command-C. When prompted, tell Motion to switch groups to 3D. Press F1 (Transform properties) then set Position X to -380, Y to 100, Z to 500, and Rotation Y to -50. This should give a good starting point to observe how the project has evolved from this point forward.

Continuing, Option-drag the Oscillate behavior from Hinge 1 to the Hinge 2 group. Move the playhead to 3:30 and use O to extend the new Oscillate behavior copy to end there. Reset the Start Offset to 0. Change only the first keyframes for Amplitude and Speed, setting them both to 75. Playback to see the results.

Now move the playhead to 4:00, Option-drag the Oscillate behavior from Hinge 2 to the Hinge 3 group, and hit O to extend the new Oscillate behavior. Set the first keyframes for Amplitude and Speed to 65. Playback to see the results.

Next, move the playhead to 4:00, Opt-drag the Oscillate behavior from Hinge 3 to the Hinge 4 group, hit O to extend the new Oscillate behavior. This time, set the first keyframes for Amplitude and Speed to 60. Playback to see the results. Tweak keyframes as desired.

Step 5 - Alternative Effect

For a more subtle effect, after setting up Oscillate on the Hinge 1 group, apply a Link Parameter Behavior for Rotation X on Hinge 2, set Scale between 0.5 and 1.0 depending on how exaggerated you want it, Option-drag to copy it to Hinge 3 and 4.

creating an alternative effect


This is only the very bare bones of this trick. Once you’ve gotten these few techniques and tools under your belt you can use for them for many other very common animation tricks! 

Hint: mask a video into four sections, put one one each panel.  

Finally, a special thanks to Mark Spencer for helping me over one of several humps in creating this tutorial.

Download MPVHub Swinging Panels Motion Project

Check out our Motion: Creating 3D Text Fly Bys! course!

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.


May 03, 2012
I've noticed one of the cable broadcast stations is using this trick a lot now!
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