The present and future of post production business and technology

How is Shake not Motion?

With the apparent demise of Shake – really nothing real now, as it seems to have been withdrawn from sale – Apple appears to be redirecting enquires to the Final Cut Studio 3 pages, suggesting that they consider Motion a substitute for Shake. I hope there’s something else coming (“Phenomenal” anyone?) because Motion is not a substitute.

Now, before I get into the reasons why they’re not interchangeable, let me say that it might make perfect business sense to drop Shake and not replace it. Shake, when Apple purchased it, had about 200 customers. That number has obviously grown dramatically but I’d be surprised if there were 10,000 true users: people who use Shake as the high-end compositing tool it was designed to be. It was also obvious that Shake, as it was, wasn’t going to be able to move forward in any serious way: no way to hook into GPU power or other such lush goodness.

Creating a replacement from scratch – all new, modern code – is an expensive operation. For a company like Apple, probably in the tens of millions of dollars to not only create the application but to test it internally (the Motion team, at time of launch, had as many QA people as software engineers), put the marketing plan into practice, run launch events, seminars, create training resources, etc. At Apple’s level, software is an expensive business.

The market for high end compositing software is small, and in the time Shake hasn’t been developed competitors have been significantly upgraded and taken market share from Shake. Maybe the decision was made to simply take what they could from Shake and roll it into Motion.

But Motion is not now, nor ever will be, a replacement for Shake. Motion is a great motion graphics tool with compositing capability. Shake is a compositing tool with some motion graphics capability. You see the problem.

Motion is an excellent motion graphics tool for video editors. It is designed to make it relatively easy for non-experts to create some fabulous looking motion graphics. Shake, OTOH, was for those individuals who were trying to track a head  shot against green screen onto a body while putting the whole body into a scene generated in 3D while adding other 3D characters.

This would be a nightmare to composite in Motion, because it’s not what Motion was designed for.

So, while it makes perfect sense to kill Shake – it was old and needed updating, and maybe updating doesn’t make economic or marketing sense – it doesn’t make sense to pretend that Motion is a suitable replacement.

I suspect that the original purchase of Shake was more for the marketing benefit of being associated with Tentpole movies rather than the income from software sales. Apple doesn’t need that so much anymore (and that’s a good thing).

I’d still like to see what the Nothing Real team would do recreating the application from the ground up with modern technologies, but I suspect Shake will never be anything real in the future.






10 responses to “How is Shake not Motion?”

  1. lin2log

    Wow… extrapolating THAT conclusion from a mere redirect seems quite a stretch. What exactly would have been YOUR solution then?


    1. The *honest* thing to do would be to redirect to a page that said “Shake is no longer available”. Not to redirect to the Final Cut Studio page suggesting there was something there for Shake users. (There’s not.)


  2. Shake on GPU? I quite like CONDUIT as an interim solution (until I can afford Nuke).

    1. The old Shake was a script-based run-time environment – the GUI was just a fancy script writer. From what I know, it would have been difficult/kludgy to attempt to graft in any GPU power to what was there. Not a good approach, so the only way forward (if at all) was to rewrite from the ground up. That was the announcement in 2006 when they announced Shake was EOL, but the replacement was due, according to that announcement, in 2008.

      We’ll know when they tell us they have a fabulous new piece of software, but until then I think the safer assumption would be that Shake is dead, and the market appears to be moving to Nuke.


  3. as I said, have you checked out CONDUIT?

  4. Yeh, I’ve been following CONDUIT since it was first released. Not quite the same though. 🙂 Nice for what it gives you though.


  5. I’ve no connection with it… but I find it a really useful piece of software. Vers 2 is out soon, and maybe that may start to encroach more fully into Shake (RIP) territory.

    All good things,


  6. The high end compositing market is a niche and simply too small for a company like Apple. I wouldn’t expect to see a Shake replacement as a standalone app.

    AFAIK the “to be released in 2008” was solely a rumour rather than any official announcement.

    To pre-announce a release date that far in advance would be a very un-Apple thing to do.

    1. You know, I would have sworn Apple gave the “2008” line, but as you point out, it’s not in the announcement. Thanks for the clarification.


  7. Jeff Handy

    I always thought they would do something outrageously awesome with Shake. Having only ever played with Shake at NAB booths, I don’t think I ever “got” what was so great. I do remember the draw at NAB among other conference attendees was Shake’s ability to handle high res node-based compositing. I confess, I never liked node compositing method much. I’m more of an AE guy in that way. But to each his/her own. That said, there is a vibrant crowd of Shake users trying to petition Apple about this.