CSV to Motn is an app for creating videos out of data from a CSV file. The app uses data from a CSV file and turns it into motn files, these can then be rendered with either Compressor or a droplet from Compressor. 

Why would I need a app for this you might ask. Well, think about making 150 bumpers for a conference, one bumper for each speaker. Now, what if you need to make them in two different versions, one 5K and one in 3K. And then the customer want to change the bumper a little bit?

Buy CSV to Motn on the Mac App Store

Well that was how it all started back in August 2016. The ONS (Offshore Northern Seas) exhibition in Stavanger Norway, was about to kick off and that year we introduced a new conference style. A really big main screen, a lot of speakers and the customer wanted to let each speaker have their own bumper/opening video for the stage.

It started with just 4 text fields, now, fast forward to present version, it can now handle 30 text field, 6 fields of video, audio and pictures. 

I wanted to have a workflow for handling large amount of video files, and when the customer wanted to make a change, as they always do, it was just a matter of changing one Motion file. Then let the app create all the motn files from the csv again, now based on the new template. This way I could please the customer with last-minute changes to a lot of videos.

I can only imagine what it can now be used for.

The app makes it easy to create large amounts of lower thirds, bumpers, openers, info posters, well even whole commercials. Think about doing a year book for you school, each student can have their own info poster, saying something nice about that person. It would be nice to insert a lot of those in a video showing the whole school year. 

What about personalised videos for your company? This way it would be easy to produce a couple of hundred or even thousands of videos. Or for a house of worship, a great way to make today's readings into videos. And so many many more things you can do with such an app.

How easy is it you might ask. You basically follow these steps. 

  • prepare the data
  • prepare the assets
  • make the template
  • do the patching
  • generate the motn files
  • and then render the files

Below is an example of a complete patched and ready job.
 (Click for larger image)

Complete patch showing audio 

Preparing the data is just a matter of collecting the text needed, clean it up, give the columns a informative heading and output it as a CSV file with UTF-8 encoding. This way it will be well readable for the app. Remember you need to put in some special naming for media assets. You put img at the beginning of a heading if you want to use it for pictures, vid for videos and aud for audio. Thats it, it's no more complicated than that!

CSV file made from AppleNumbers 

Next step is to prepare your assets. For text, it is all done in the CSV file. For media it is a little different. You need to think about automation. i.e. each picture must be the same size, this way it is easier to build the Motion template. All video files needs to be of the same size and length, the same goes for audio.

To keep each item the same and help the process, I found that DaVinci Resolve is really nice for video, as you can output each video with its original source name as the filename. When all assets are done, put them into folders, and put these folders into the master output folder for the Motion files to be created.

Motion uses relative position for files, so this needs to be carefully done. Motion is happy with files from all over your hard drive, but Compressor / droplets are not. So test, test, test.

Now take all the filenames and copy them into the CSV file and put them into the right place. A good tip here is to just do a 'select all files' in a folder window, and paste into a new plain text document in text edit. This way you get all filenames as text lines. Now copy those clean names into your spreadsheet and put them where you want them.


Selected files in finderList of files in textEdit

Making a Motion template is just like making any Motion project. Just have the automation process in the back of your head. Think about long names and make text fields large enough. Drop in all media assets as temp assets. The names of these assets will be used later for patching, so choose some relevant ones.

Do all animation, use videos and audio. Use masks for assets as well if you like. Things that are going to stay the same can be left in the template, and maybe rename them to help as well. This way you can differentiate between what should be possible to patch and what should not be used.

Time for the patching. After you have dropped the CSV file and the motn file into the app, the patching is now the next step. This is where the fun begins! Now you patch up, what goes where. Each text field will be available for patching, and you choose which CSV text field goes to each Motion file field using a popup menu, showing you the available objects.

Green picture Patching

For patching of media assets you also have to point to a folder containing the actual assets to be used. So for a green successful patching you need to input two things. Folder and matching Motion field. If one is not done, it will stay orange. This way you can easily see what you have started and not finished. Remember you don’t have to use all the fields of the CSV file, but you need to use all Motion fields, otherwise they will show up with any text you had in the template itself.

Two types of patching 

Generate the motn files. When all patching is done and the master output folder is chosen, the Generate motn files button should show up. Hit it and wait. It will tell you when it has finished and you are ready to render.

Complete screen 

Start either Compressor or a droplet, and drop in the motn files. If you want to use Compressor, it is a good idea to first make the setting for the file, and make that setting the default one. This way you don’t have to do anything after you have dropped all the files into Compressor. Now hit Start batch and take a break, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and let the computer do all the work for you!

All selected motn files ready to drop into a droplet 

The droplet ready

You should then have a output folder with all assets, motn files and the finished video files.

Total of files output folder 

Now you have all your videos rendered and you can now send them and then invoice your customer. :) Nice.

Finished movies

The whole idea is to concentrate on the creative part and let the computer do all the boring repetitive work.

Buy CSV to Motn on the Mac App Store

For tutorials, Ripple Training has done one and YourFilm has also published one. Both of them for the older versions with just text. So it will be very exciting to see how the new version of the app will be used.

For future versions, I would like to add rigging, randoms or maybe even direct rendering using Compressor from the app itself. Only time will tell how and what to put into it, let me know in the comments below if you have any requests.

It has been a really nice app to develop, and hopefully many Motion users can benefit from the automated workflow.

Disclaimer; I am the developer of the app, and also I have developed other app for Mac as well. I work as a technical manager and sound designer in a film dept. in a company doing events for the corporate business. We have been with FCPX since day one. I do all audio work in Steinberg’s Nuendo, so FCPXML and Roles are my good friends. I think optimal workflow is key to business, and what can be automated should be automated. 

I have been with mac’s since 1994, started with Avid media composer, Adobe Photoshop v2.5 with no layers and Macromedia Director. Sure it has been quite a ride, and comparing 1994 with 2021, well I’ll never ever go back. But the journey has thought me a lot of how to, and how to not, do things.


Written by

Living with my wife and to kids in Oslo, Norway. I've been in the video industry since 1994, done all transitions from 1"C format to file based editing. Stayed with Final Cut since day one. Both legacy and X.

I do sound design in Nuendo, edit in FCPX and color in DaVinci. Also programming in Xojo for MacOS and WebApps. I do workflow enhancement wherever people are open for change.


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JoeEditor's Avatar
JoeEditor replied the topic: #112011 11 Jan 2021 14:45
Such a great time saver! Glad to see it get more recognition.
peteramwiggins's Avatar
peteramwiggins replied the topic: #112013 11 Jan 2021 15:37
I can see this saving bunch of time for multiple graphics.
Davide Battistella's Avatar
Davide Battistella replied the topic: #112014 11 Jan 2021 16:35
Awesome tool.
Just bought this thank you.
4dFlow's Avatar
4dFlow replied the topic: #113685 26 Mar 2021 12:52
Well, the old version did work once but now (March 2021) V2 does not work anymore. I'm on Mojave. First of all, It actually creates .moti files instead of .motn files. Secondly, when sending such .moti file to a droplet or directly into Compressor, it seems like it is actually going to render the file but, in about 2 seconds, Compressor reports the following error: "Failed: Video rendering error: -50 (ProMSRendererTool error -50: renderVideoFrame failed).

I started developing a software that was supposed to do the exact same thing and I quit when I saw Csv to Motn appear on the App Store. Perhaps I should have continued...

Has anyone got this error? Any suggestion?
helge.tjelta's Avatar
helge.tjelta replied the topic: #114460 12 May 2021 18:46
hm, this just does not sound right. Could you please send me a copy of the files you are trying to use?