animating textures fcpx

Want moving textures in Final Cut Pro X? Plugin building expert Fox Mahoney shows us how to construct a moving water texture in Motion and publish it to FCPX. Great knowledge that will extend the capabilities of 3D text even further. Link to the free finished moving water texture generator plugin also included!


…Motion is all about animation

So why not textures?

Below is a recipe for a very nice 3D Text effect, or more accurately, an animated “texture” or “material”. This project will serve as an introduction to creating a custom material. Hopefully, it will knock your socks off.

Motion comes with 91 materials in eleven categories for 3D Text. There are very few that are “glass” (just one actually) and none of them look like water. This project will develop a texture/material that not only looks like water, but moves like water!

wetdemo lesson confirmed


No external files will be needed, everything will be built right in the project using two of the generators that come with Motion (Clouds and Spirals), one behavior, and just the basic “tools” that are provided for 3D Text. Even though this might be considered an “advanced” project in Motion, the instructions below should be easy to follow and take even the most careful among you less than 10 minutes to finish, so fire up Motion and follow along — it’s worth it.

This project will be developed as a generator. I encourage you to publish this template to FCPX when you’re finished.


Start with a 1920x1080 project (about 15 seconds long).

Add a Camera (switch project to 3D).

Select Text Tool and click in the Canvas. Type a short word like “WET”, followed by the Enter key (you should see a bounding box surrounding the text—if not, click off the layer then back on it to highlight it).

In the Text > Format tab, center align the text. Set the Font to Flatbush and the Size to 1200. (Every user of Motion and FCPX has Flatbush available… find it… it’s in there)! Go into Properties > Transform and click the Reset button resetButton12x14 to place the text in the center of the Canvas.

If Rulers are not showing, Show Rulers (Command-Shift-R). Click in the ruler along the top of the canvas and pull down a guide and align it to 0 vertically. If the guide does not show, type Command-; to show it. When you’re done lining up the text you can type Command-; again to hide it or simply grab the guide and drag it back to the ruler to delete it from the Canvas.

In the Text > Format tab, adjust either the Baseline or the Advanced > Offset > Y parameter downward until the center blue dots on the text’s bounding box align with the guide; about -441.



Go to the Appearance tab and click the 3D Text option and set the Depth to 50.

Go down to the Substance option and click on Plastic and select Generic from the dropdown menu. Set the Opacity to 25%. Drag the Brightness down to 0%. The text will turn black and temporarily disappear.

Go to the Options: Basic line and Add Layer > Finish > Custom Specular. Set the Intensity to 200%, the Shininess to 100% and click on Specular Color: From Surface and select Solid Color from the dropdown menu.

Dial down the Specular Color > Color disclosure triangle and set Red = 0; Green = 0.5 and Blue = 1.0. (Notice how we didn’t change the Substance color)!



We’ll be adding a bump map… but first, let’s build our Texture.

First, we’ll need a 2D Fixed Resolution group. Select the Text’s parent group and click the “+” button at the bottom of the Layers List to add a new “top level” group. Double click the newly created group’s label and rename it Texture (you can call it anything you like, it’s not called “texture” out of necessity). Set 2D Fixed Resolution in the Group inspector.

With the Texture group selected, Add a Generator > Generators > Clouds. Set the Speed in the Clouds inspector to 2.0 (drag the slider all the way to the right).



Add a Generator > Generators > Spirals. In the Spirals generator inspector, dial down Color 1 and Color 2. For Color 1, set the Opacity to 0. For Color 2, set the Opacity to 0.25. Set the Tightness parameter to 14 to start (you can adjust this later to your liking).





Right click on the Rotation parameter and Add Parameter Behavior > Oscillate. In the Oscillate inspector, set the Wave Shape to Sawtooth; then double click on the Amplitude value and type in 360 (this is a parameter mismatch and the slightest move of the slider will set the values to five digit or more values)! Type the Tab key to select the Speed and type in -30. Play (don’t look at it too long)! Stop. Uncheck the Texture group to turn off its visibility.

Select the Texture group and Add a Filter > Blurs > Gaussian Blur and in its inspector, set the Amount to 50.


(Layers List - everything added)


Reselect the Text layer. Motion should put you right back in the same inspector you were using when you last left it. If not, select the Appearance tab again. Go back down to Options: Basic and Add Layer > Distress > Custom Bumps.



Drag the Texture group into the Image well. We can take a better look at our text by selecting the text’s Group and in Properties > Transform > Rotation, dial down the disclosure triangle and adjust the X-Rotation to -60.

Reselect the text layer > Text > Appearance inspector and increase the Bump Map Gain upwards to 1100% (you can stop wherever you like in between, but keep it a little extreme for now).

One of the things you’ll have to get used to when creating your own custom textures is that the “scale” of the texture is almost always going to be way too big! This is a tedious but necessary task every time!



Dial down the disclosure triangle at Placement to reveal several more parameters. Dial down the disclosure triangle at Scale. Notice Scale With Font Size which is always checked when a new Options > Add Layer is added for items with image/source wells. You can scale the texture with it checked, but it’s more meaningful when you uncheck it because 100% means 100%! Uncheck Scale With Font Size. Notice how the scale (in this project) jumps immediately to 1666.67%!! Drag the slider down to 100% (usually the closest value with the slider drag will be 100.75% — that’s okay here — if you need the accuracy, double click on the value and type in 100).

Go up to the Lighting section and set the Lighting Style to Drama Top Right (or Drama Top Left). Set the Intensity to 200%.



At the very bottom of the Finish: Custom Specular pane is a disclosure triangle for Anisotropic — dial it down and change the Geometry to Cylindrical and the Place On parameter to Object (we want the effect spread out over the entire text object and not placed on each character).

One last step. Go up to the Lighting section and dial down the Environment parameter. Set the Intensity and the Contrast to 200%.

— it’s okay… you can say it: Wow!

Parameters you might want to publish:
Text Group: Position, Rotation, Scale
Spirals.Color 2.Opacity
Text Object: Environment > Intensity
Text Object: Environment > Contrast
Text Object: Finish: Custom Specular > Color
Text Object: Finish: Custom Specular > Intensity/Shininess
Text Object: Distress: Custom Bump Map > Bump Map Gain (position xy)
Text Object: Substance: Generic > Opacity/Brightness and Color

You really should see how this project develops for yourself! If you’re truly lazy, check the links section below.



I mentioned the 91 preset materials provided by Motion for 3D Text. That’s a lot of distraction! When it comes to creating your own materials, it’s really very simple. For a fully custom material, all you need is Substance - Generic, a Custom Specular layer and optionally, a Bump Map layer.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore any option you have available but these two (or three) things will serve well for the basics. The bump map feature should be fairly self explanatory. Specular is how light reflects off a surface. It is the feature that makes mirrors reflective and water refractive and so on. It can be manipulated in many ways to create many different effects.




Bump Maps: When creating a custom bump map, you will almost always have to drill down into the Placement section, and turn off the Scale With Font Size option, then manually “reset” the Scale back down to the size needed.

Substance: If you use the same “image” for the substance (Image option) with the bump map image, you will generally need to make sure the Placement parameters match each other, meaning you will have to drill down into Placement and take the same steps with this section as well. (This wasn’t necessary in this project, but it will often be in others).

Lighting: Most of the lighting effect is from the Environment. The Environment Type: Field is usually the best general environment to use for most projects. The Lighting Style Intensity is affected by the Substance Brightness. You’ll find a give and take between a number of parameters in 3D Text. For instance, increasing the Environment Contrast will darken an object while increasing Environment Intensity will brighten it.

Don’t back away from one if you start moving away from what you want, consider finding the complementary parameter to bring it’s “level” back up. If you paid attention to what was going on in the canvas while you put together this project, you should have noticed this kind of back and forth while building up the scene. This interaction between the Contrast and the Intensity gives this project a nice deep, rich color.

Typically, when you’ve finished creating a texture or material, you would click on the Material “chiclet” and Save Material.



This works for our animated texture in Motion and in the FCPX storyline. However, there is a problem with the rendering engine in Final Cut Pro and the spirals/oscillate behavior breaks (the Clouds animation renders correctly though). This generator works as expected. It’s only when you load the material in other text that the animation breaks. Apple is aware of the problem and hopefully it will be fixed in the next update (including animation in Titles… fingers crossed). In the meantime, use this generator as created.


fox-mahoney  —F•X

 Many more templates to download on

 Take a look at for more templates & tutorials.






Water Text generator
Pixar Textures, a must have for Motion 3D Text



Generator: The reason a Generator is used instead of a Title is texture animation in 3D Text will not work in FCPX, all that is obtained is a still frame. This may change in the future (I believe Apple is working on it)!


Need a 2D Fixed Resolution: You should always put any material you use as a text in a 2D Fixed Resolution group because this helps Motion align and wrap the texture around the character’s or text object’s shape. Failure to do so can lead to some very unpredictable results, particularly when Positioning, Scaling or Rotating the texture is involved.


Turn off its visibility: For “animations” or images that are used for drop wells in Motion it is necessary for the objects to be “active,” but the group containing those objects/layers does not need to be turned on or active at all.


Anisotropic: This property has to do with how specular light is bent. Linear specular is diffuse, in all directions. Cylindrical is — shall we say — more focused. In Motion, an Image uses the highlited edges…


Bump map: If you have the Pixar Textures collection (see Links section) bump maps are handled with a different image file from the original (usually full color) image. There are two different kinds: a “bump map” or bmp file and the “normal” file. The normal is the new and improved bump map data, but the older bmp versions still work very well. If you don’t have either one of these image versions for bump maps, then the original image will work in their place although the quality might be somewhat less. I personally find it hard to tell the difference. One thing for sure, if you use an image as well as a bump map for a texture or material, you must make sure that both versions’ Placements align with each other exactly!