Chapter 2: Creating a Motion Book


Creating a Motion Book

It’s much easier to create a motion book if you understand the structure of a Madefire Motion Book as it’s created by the Motion Book Tool. It also helps to know the typical steps a motion book builder takes to plan and build a motion book.

Motion Book Structure

The Madefire Reader sees your creation from the top down: a motion book that contains pages that each contain elements like panels, characters, word balloons, and text. When you create a motion book using the Motion Book Tool, you work from the bottom up: you start with assets—images and sounds—that each appear within its own layer with one or more effects. Layers with effects are collected into pages, and pages are collected into a project that you can publish as a motion book.


Figure 1:    Build a motion book from assets placed in layers controlled by effects. Pages assemble multiple layers and effects, and a project collects multiple pages into a motion book.


Assets are the images and sounds you see and hear when you read a motion book. The Motion Book Tool works with two kinds of assets:

l  Uploaded assets are created outside the Motion Book Tool. The tool uploads these assets to the Madefire cloud where you can incorporate them into a motion book. Typical uploaded assets include graphic art, custom text and balloons, sound effects, and music. They may also be fonts used to create text within the Motion Book Tool. The Motion Book Tool accepts images stored in PNG, JPEG, and GIF file formats and sounds stored in the MP3 file format.

l  Created assets are created within the Motion Book Tool and saved to the Madefire cloud whenever you save a page. Typical created assets include text, word balloons, and simple drawings saved within pages and projects. Created assets have the advantage of being easy to revise within the Motion Book Tool and of clean resizing because they’re vector-based instead of pixel-based.


Once you upload assets to the Madefire cloud, you incorporate them into a motion book by creating a layer for each asset. Each layer contains and controls an asset. The Motion Book Tool provides a set of layer controls that size and place an image on a page, set a layer’s transparency, set a sound’s volume and looping, and set other static properties of assets—that is, asset properties that don’t change over time.

Layers come in different types that include image layers and sound layers. Some layers such as panorama and parallax layers assemble multiple image assets to help create special effects on the page. Other layers such as drawing and text layers let you create graphic assets within the Motion Book Tool.

You can bunch layers together for group layer control instead of controlling each layer individually. Nested layers provide a hierarchy of layers: one layer (the parent layer) may contain a set of one or more nested layers (child layers). Each child layer can contain its own set of nested layers, and so on to multiple nest levels.

Figure 2:    Nested layers provide a hierarchy of layers where parent layers control child layers.

When you set a parent layer’s properties either by using layer controls or by adding an effect, those properties affect all the parent layer’s child layers and any child layers contained in those child layers. Nested layers are a very convenient way to provide group control of multiple layers.


An effect controls a layer’s properties over time, defining how the layer changes as a reader plays a motion book. As examples, an effect might fade a layer in slowly or quickly to catch the reader’s attention, move a layer aside to make room for another layer to appear, or shrink a layer to keep it visible but free up space.

An effect defines not only how a layer changes, but the time span in which the change occurs. You can set an effect to take place over a short or long span of time, and can control how abruptly or smoothly an effect starts and ends.

Effects may group. Grouped effects are linked effects that execute simultaneously. You can group effects to combine different effect types—to simultaneously move and enlarge a layer, for example.

Most effects must each be tied to a layer. The single exception is a tap point, a special type of effect that is not attached to a layer, but simply specifies a time at which to pause for a user tap before continuing. Tap points are critical for making a motion book interactive.


A page is the working area within which you assemble your layers and add your effects. Use the page controls to create layers containing assets and to define effects for your layers. View and hear your assembled layers on the page’s workspace.

As you create layers within a page, they appear within a layer stack that places later layers above earlier layers. When you look at a page, higher image layers cover lower image layers. Lower layers only peek through where higher layers are transparent or where higher layers are moved aside or reduced in size to reveal lower layers.

Figure 3:    Higher image layers in the layer stack cover lower image layers in the stack.

You can change the order of layers within a page’s layer stack to control what assets cover other assets. You can also set layer size, location, and transparency through layer controls and effects to reveal lower layers.

A page also controls your motion book’s display characteristics. You can choose one or more canvases on  which to assemble your layers. Each canvas defines a different resolution and aspect ratio to match devices on which a reader can view a motion book. You can choose between an iPad, an iPhone, or an iPhone 5, and can set orientation to portrait or landscape. If you create a page using multiple canvases, you can optimize your motion book to look good on whatever device the reader chooses to view the motion book.

Pages serve a narrative and project management function. Although it’s possible to create a long motion book with a single page, multiple pages break a narrative down into dramatic chunks. Multiple pages also make take the complexity out of a project by dividing what could be a formidable collection of layers and effects into more manageable sets that are easier to create, maintain, and revise.


A project assembles one or more pages into a motion book, names the motion book, and—when you’re finished—publishes your motion book to the Madefire cloud or to deviantART. You can change the order of pages within a project if you need to and can set other project characteristics such as the thumbnail that appears to represent your motion book in the Madefire Reader or on deviantART.

Building a Motion Book

Every motion book creator approaches motion book building differently, adopting a work style that best suits their creative and personal habits. What follows is a general description of the steps that go into building a motion book. As you learn more about the Motion Book Tool, you may develop your own different approaches. Here’s a typical order of motion book construction.

Start With a Story

Before you can begin building a motion book, you have to have assets to assemble. And before you can create assets for your motion book, you need a story to tell. You may write a story from scratch, adapt one from an existing work, or have a really strong narrative in your head. However you come up with it, you’ll need a narrative from which to hang the motion book elements.

Plan Your Motion Book Elements and Pacing

With your story in mind, plan what elements you’ll need to tell your story: panels, characters, objects, dialog in word balloons, background music and sounds, and so on. Your plan might be story boards, rough sketches of pages, or a simple list of elements.

Keep in mind that a motion book is a moving and sounding medium, not a set of still pages, so include pacing in your planning. A single page can contain more panels than a still page because you can fade panels in and out, move them around, and resize them. Word balloons don’t have to follow a left-to-right sequence because you can make them appear in the order you want them read. And you should plan tap points to let a reader pause to soak in what’s in front of them.

Plan to separate elements as necessary to accommodate pacing. You may, for example, create a background graphic for a panel as one asset, a foreground object as another asset, a set of separate characters as more assets, and a series of word balloons to present speech. As separate assets you can present them sequentially and manipulate them separately to reinforce your narrative. If the assets are all present in a single panel you lose flexibility in presentation.

Don’t forget sound effects and background music. They can add considerable impact to your story.

Create Assets Using Outside Tools

Create your planned assets outside the Motion Book Tool using the tools that work best for you: pen, brush, and ink scanned digitally; drawing in deviantART muro, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, or other software; recording sound effects; combining techniques—anything that results in image or audio files that you can upload to the Madefire cloud. Be sure to name your files so that it’s easy to tell what they contain.

You have a choice with word balloons and lettering. You can create balloons and lettering within the Motion Book Tool, in which case you don’t have to create them externally for upload as assets. The internally created word balloons are simple in style, though, and the lettering has the uniformity of whatever font you choose. If you want custom balloons and lettering, you may choose to create them externally and import them as image assets. Or you can mix and match, creating custom balloons, for example, and filling them with internally-created lettering.

Once you upload an asset and use it within a Motion Book Tool page, it takes a bit of time to modify the asset if you need to change it. You must open the original file in your external software tool, make changes, save the changes to a file, upload the file again as an asset, and replace links in your project to the earlier version of your asset with links to the new version. It saves time to make sure your assets are in finished form before uploading and using them in a motion book project. It’s also something to consider when deciding whether or not to use externally-created word balloons and lettering. Internally-created word balloons and lettering are much simpler to change within the Motion Book Tool.

Upload Your Assets

Once you’ve created assets, you can start the Motion Book Tool and upload the asset files to the Madefire cloud. You can arrange assets in folders if you’d like to help you handle a large number of assets.

Create a Page

Most of the work within the Motion Book Tool takes place within a page. Your first step after uploading assets is typically creating a page. A new page presents you with an iPad canvas in portrait mode, but you can change the canvas to landscape mode for horizontal orientation or to a different device for a different aspect ratio. You can, if you want, work on multiple canvases at the same time for more advanced motion book creation.

Adding and Placing Layers

Create a layer for each asset you want to place on a page and place the asset in the layer. It’s easiest to start with background assets that appear early in the page and work your way to foreground assets that appear later in the page. That way they appear from bottom to top in the layer stack so foreground assets appear over background assets, and later assets appear over earlier assets. You can always drag to change layer order, though, if necessary.

As you create layers, set their properties to size them and place them on the canvas or—if they’re sounds—to set volume and number of loops to play. These are static properties that control how the layer first appears on the page. Effects can change these properties over time as the page plays.

Add Effects to Your Layers

Add one or more effects to each of your layers to control how and when they appear on the page, how they change while they’re present, and how they leave the page if you want to remove them later. Adding effects creates a page timeline that displays where effects start and end. You can change effects once in place to modify their timing and execution.

Add tap points to allow user pacing in your motion book.

Play Back and Revise Your Page

You can play back a page at any time once you’ve placed at least one effect. You’ll probably want to modify effects and possibly their layers once you see how everything works together in playback.

Assemble a Project and Publish It

Most motion books include multiple pages. After you’ve created one or more pages, you can create a project to contain those pages and set their order. Once you’ve named your project and provided a thumbnail to represent your motion book, you can use project controls to publish your project as a motion book on the Madefire cloud or on deviantART. The Motion Book Tool returns a URL to a web page that presents your published motion book in a Flash-enabled web browser. You can also view your unpublished motion book drafts privately in an iPad or iPhone.

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