A long time ago I did motion graphics and I mean a long, long time ago. Way back before some readers even knew what digital art was. It was fun, paid great at the time and I always looked forward to working in the 2D world because it was fresh. Fifteen-second spots were hot and if you booked a full one-minute gig then you might just be able to get that new software or PC you’ve had your eye on.
We had two pieces of software back then… Photoshop (of course) and After Effects. I think Aldus owned After Effects before Adobe bought them and at the time… After Effects was the most powerful software I had ever seen in terms of sheer unbridled openness. By that I mean you could do a lot of things with it that simply couldn’t be one in any other app, so I was star-struck by it. It made my work look good and that made me look good… and brought more work.
After a time, I drifted out of Motion Graphics into 3D asset work and have to admit, to this day, I miss motion graphics somewhat. When done properly, Motion Graphics can say a lot in a short time. It can implant an idea you have no experience with and make you enjoy it while it’s educating you. No small feat in itself.
I jumped at the chance to take a look at Cavalry… a motion graphics application… to see what was packed into the thing. Surely motion graphic software had come a long way since my time with it and I wasn’t disappointed.
To start with there are three tiers: Free, Professional, and Teams with professional costing £16 monthly and a request to contact them for teams pricing. The website is clean and like most modern websites… makes a little information look like a lot. I downloaded the Windows version and was pleasantly surprised with a very professional-looking interface when the thing opened.
The default layout is attractive and easy to scan. A lot of information presented in a way that eliminated confusion. Things are where you would think they would be… timeline at the bottom, assets, and attributes on side menus.
Some items like keyframing are not intuitive as I had to find a tutorial to see how to set one since right-clicking and other things I tried came up empty. Now mind you I’m not familiar with this software and may have overlooked something obvious but the search to set keyframe led to a frustration-filled quest till I scrubbed to the right spot on the right tutorial.
The Cavalry User Interface
Once I had that down I could proceed to add primitives and all sorts of things then get them to dance to whatever I manipulated on the timeline. This part was intuitive. Like a lot of us, having a couple of decades or more with a timeline makes it easy to swing into other animation apps and Calvary proved the point.
Cavalry also has lots of built-in helpers and tools and uses the node type hook-up between actions and resources. For example, to mimic the animation of another object you hook that parameter up to the object you want to be manipulated by dragging it over and hooking it up directly.
The only real flaw or rather con on this software is a lack of clear and coherent tutorials that can lead a motion graphics newbie to complete their first project without a heaping dose of frustration. Don’t get me wrong here. There are a lot of tutorials out there, but they are how to do specific things instead of how to get your first project off the ground. I did find a Getting Started series, but it didn’t get me started as I hoped.
In fairness, not being well versed in motion graphics didn’t help. I can see anyone with experience with this kind of software jumping right in but in my case… since I really didn’t have a real-life project like I do on other articles… I was a bit lost, and the provided tutorials added to the frustration. They were strangely paced and at times difficult to follow. Generally, too fast with lots of backing up and listening again.
Apologies to the person doing the tutorials as this is not meant to be a slight just an observation and certainly not an insurmountable problem. There was great effort made to provide these tutorials and that needs to be appreciated.
With all this said I’m very glad to have the opportunity to try out the application. It’s slick, quick, and has a strong user interface. Once you get past a few basics you’ll be twirling, spinning, and rocking those motion graphics.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.