Matthew Ingram has written up a great posting about Commotion here.
Commotion was a software packages I wrote for myself while at ILM.
It started as 'Flipbook' and allowed realtime playback of images on a Mac II. (This would later be used as a design basis for other tools at ILM.) It also had a flowchart compositing system. You could actually setup multiple composites all types of other things.
(yes, before After Effects, Shake, Nuke, etc)
ILM had an SGI tool that did image processing but the command line interface made it less than useful for the artist. I created a Mac app that provided and interface and send the commands onto to the SGI. I had also written an app that would control Photoshop so it could be used on multiple frames. I was an VFX supervisor at ILM, not a software developer, so all this was to provide me tools so I could do my work without fighting the system and getting proper software written.
The originally released product was a bit different (roto, paint and playback) and certainly when the compositing was released it was aimed more at AE style than the original
Puffin Designs, the software company I started with Forest Key to sell and support Commotion, was sold to Pinnacle Systems, which focused most of the engineering efforts on their home video editing products. Pinnacle in turn was sold to Avid, who in turn didn’t do anything with it.
I’ve been asked a LOT about bringing it back but that would take a lot of work since I’d have to re-build it from scratch since the software hasn’t been updated. Version 4 does still run even on Snow Leopard.