eZediaMotion, by eZedia
Posted: 26-Jan-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: eZedia Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Diane Love Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
You can edit your home movies, you can burn them to DVDs - what next ? You may want to learn to do picture in picture effects, superimpose pictures over your video, or do blue screen effects so you can make a Star Wars movie. You may already have considered one or more of the eZedia plug-ins for iMovie which do all of the above. Their sister plug-in, eZediaMotion lets you superimpose movie, graphic and text layers while rotating, changing opacity, and changing size and shape.

Review system

OS X 10.3.2, iMovie 3.0.3, iMac 1Ghz G4, 1GB memory.


Installation
Installation was a matter of downloading a 6.9 megabyte file, double clicking on the installer and then entering the license code. This resulted in a folder appearing in my home folder's Library/iMovie/Plug-ins folder. When I open my iMovie Effects panel, eZediaMotion is now one of the available effects.

It's worth noting that
www.ezedia.com contains a number of example and instructional videos giving a good feel for the capabilities of each product.

As part of the installation of any eZedia product, a common eZedia framework is also installed. My initial installation failed to work for graphics layers until the updated patch for the framework was separately downloaded and installed.

I was somewhat surprised to end up with an installation that was good for my regular user account only, rather than any user on my machine. This may be due to the plug-in architecture of iMovie, but my preference is always to execute installations from my admin account and end up with consistent applications on all user accounts.

Starting out
eZediaMotion refuses to play until you have a clip in the timeline. With a clip, selecting the eZediaMotion effect and pressing the configure button will display a dialog containing your clip, and allow you to create layers. Each layer can be one of a movie, graphic or text, and each can be hidden or shown via its own checkbox. The manual warns that layers can't be reordered once created. I also couldn't find any way of deleting a layer. Hiding an unwanted layer works, but there is a limit of ten layers.

Having created a layer, you may size and position it, draw a path for it and have it move along that path. By identifying and editing key points on the path, you can also make the movie or graphic change size, shape and opacity, and rotate as it travels.

Creating a movie or graphics layer opens a file selector where you can choose a movie or image file respectively. eZediaMotion allows you to select image files from anywhere, in contrast to iLife applications' notion that photos must come from the current iPhoto library. This is jarringly inconsistent with iLife applications, and in fact makes it all but impossible to find a photo that is in your iPhoto library. For those who are not iPhoto users, this method works well, but for users that keep all their photos in the iPhoto library, a direct connection to that library within eZediaMotion is a needed option.

A particular use of graphics layers can be used as a mask; thus, creating the effect of a moving cutout containing your video on a black background.

Creating a text layer allows you to type in text and define its font, size and color. The resulting text motion effects are more varied than you could achieve with iMovie titles.

Usability
The first time I tried to draw a path, it was very shaky and uneven, and the resulting motion was jerky. However, this is very easily remedied: You can smooth the motion temporally by clicking the thoughtfully provided "equalize points" button in the path editor. You can also collapse the path to a vertical or horizontal line, although you can't straighten a wobbly diagonal line.

If you define different opacity, rotation and size at two key points, eZedia will interpolate the values for intermediate points, resulting in smooth changes to the parameters. These usability features were pleasantly surprising, but overshadowed by some puzzling deficiencies.

The usability bugs start at the very beginning - the eZediaMotion configure button is always enabled even when it is not usable due to there being no clip in the timeline. This is not a functional problem, but an interface inconsistency that needs to be fixed.

With regards to layers, not only can you not delete or reorder layers once you create them, you can't change the contained movie, graphic, text content or text attributes either. All of this seems unnecessarily restrictive.

As another example, there are two separate functions for editing a path - you can select the path and hit the "Edit Path" button, which will result in the path editing buttons appearing. From here you can edit individual key points. On the other hand, if you read the manual, you may discover that double clicking on a path opens another dialog where you can edit the duration, direction and looping of the path. This contravenes the usability principle of visibility of functionality in the user interface - I sum it up as "no short cut without long cut". The only way to access the path dialog is to double click on the path. The only way you find this out is by reading the manual or by accident.

I was also puzzled that when I have a path with tens of points in it, there appears to be no quick way to jump quickly to an arbitrary point, say in the middle of the path. You have to click the step forward button tens of times. Once you have a key point set at the desired position, you can jump to it instantly, but there seems to be no quick way to get there in the first place. If you select a point and then select the key point editor, the key point editor obstinately opens at the first point.

Path editing is a further departure from standard graphical user interface principles; in this case, the principle of avoiding modes in the user interface. To begin editing the path, you must select the path, which causes a disabled "New Path" button to change to "Edit Path". Clicking this "Edit Path" button enters path editing mode and causes the path editing buttons to appear (up till then they are invisible rather than just disabled). It's less obvious that you must exit path editing mode before doing anything else. The button for leaving the path editing mode is an extremely incongruous red stop sign, which has no parallel in any other application I've used.

Summary
eZediaMotion is another tool in the armory of the amateur video enthusiast. Designed to superimpose movies, graphics and text layers on your iMovie video clips, eZediaMotion includes options for rotating, changing opacity, and changing size and shape. There are some interface problems, such as difficulty getting to specific points on a path, and the inability to remove and reorder layers. Despite the usability issues, it does the job it sets out to do, producing some dramatic motion effects that you can't get with iMovie alone. I recommend eZediaMotion for any iMovie user looking to enhance their toolbox of cool effects.

Pros

  • Can change opacity, size and rotation of a layer as it moves on an arbitrary path
  • Paths can be evened out
  • Good information and examples on eZedia.com website


Cons

  • Usability issues
  • Does not use iLife linkage to iPhoto
  • Installed for each user rather than with iMovie


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice