Monday, February 01, 2010


Matthew Ingram has written up a great posting about Commotion here.  [Update: I think this site is gone so may re-post it here if I can]
Thanks Matthew!

Commotion was a software packages I wrote for myself while at ILM.
It started as 'Flipbook' and allowed realtime playback of images on a Mac II. (This would later be used as a design basis for other tools at ILM.) It also had a flowchart compositing system. You could actually setup multiple composites all types of other things.
(yes, before After Effects, Shake, Nuke, etc)

ILM had an SGI tool that did image processing but the command line interface made it less than useful for the artist. I created a Mac app that provided and interface and send the commands onto to the SGI. I had also written an app that would control Photoshop so it could be used on multiple frames. I was an VFX supervisor at ILM, not a software developer, so all this was to provide me tools so I could do my work without fighting the system and getting proper software written.

The originally released product was a bit different (roto, paint and playback) and certainly when the compositing was released it was aimed more at AE style than the original

[Update: fxGuide has an article entitled The Art of Roto: 2011that discusses the history of rotoscoping and some of the currently available tools. It also includes an interview with me talking about Commotion.]


  1. Scott, there are those of us out there like myself that miss Commotion.

  2. The ILM roto department still misses commotion...

  3. Hi Scott,
    I just finished a fantasy movie using Vue 6 Infinite, Poser and real footage.
    The entire VFX was done in Commotion Pro. Currently I don't require an other tool - and this is 2010! :-)
    A trailer of my film can be seen here:
    Sorry it's just german, quite small and some vfx are better than the ones used in the trailer. But it gives a little impression.....

    Kind regards

  4. I'm glad Commotion is still of value to a number of VFX artists. Your project looks interesting. Good luck with it.

  5. Hi Scott,
    thank you for your reply.
    Sorry, I have a question to you:
    I found out that using Commotion Pro with XP and Vista is no problem. But it seems to be a problem which quicktime version you use. As long as I had Quicktime 4 or 5 installed, everything was fine. Since I upgraded to Quicktime 7 Commotion says "Sorry, this application requires Quicktime 4.0 or later."
    I presume that Commotion has problems to identify newer versions of Quicktime. How could I "help" commotion to find Quicktime ?
    If you want, you can answer to
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Sorry, nto sure what to tell you. I don't have a Windows machine. It runs on Snow Lepoard with the the latest QuickTime.

    You could consider dealing with numbered image files. That's one way to avoid going through Quicktime. That's how most larger companies deal with shots. The downside is we leveraged QuickTime in some cases to handle still images because it could. Give it a try on a few formats and see if you have any better luck.

  7. Hi Scott,
    you are right - I did all vfx for my short with image-sequences in Commotion. That worked really fine.
    But since Quicktime 7 is installed Commotion does not start at all. It only says "Sorry, this application requires Quicktime 4.0 or later." and then shuts down. So I currently can not use it. :-(
    I really hope for a solution. There must be a reason why the new Quicktime can not be identified by Commotion....

  8. Hi Scott,
    I solved the problem by using a dual boot system now. Commotion runs on XP with Quicktime 4 - everything fine.
    And I found out, that the free DNxHD-Codec of Avid is a great help to work on HD Clips in Commotion.
    Now I export clips that need vfx from Premiere as mov files (using dnxhd codec). Then I load them in commotion and do my work using two monitors without any problems. :-)

    Kind regards

    BTW: I grew up in the seventies and my favourite movie for YEARS was Close Encounters. Nice to read that you made that great cloud effects. :-)

  9. Hi Scott,

    even more better news:
    Commotion Pro runs without any problems on a Vista 32-Bit and even on a Win7 64-Bit system, provided that
    - Quicktime (new version) ist installed BEFORE Commotion
    - Commotion 4.1 Upgrade is installed
    - Everything is set to run in XP compatibility mode

    At work we use After Effects but at home I use Commotion. I really don't wanna miss it. :-)

    Kind regards,


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