Action Editor improvements

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Action Editor Highlights

The Action Editor has been rewritten to have a more flexible codebase that is more future-proof and extendable. This has enabled tools to be shared between the editing modes for Actions and ShapeKeys. This has paved the way for a number of powerful new tools. Highlights include:

  • Action Channel Groups
  • Pose Markers (see Pose Libraries for details)
  • Copy/Paste Abilities
  • Improved transform tools
  • Various selection + editing tools for keys and channels
  • Timing displayed in frames or seconds

Action Channel Groups

Action Channels can now be grouped, to arrange them for easier finding and management. An Action Channel can only occur in one Action Channel Group at a time, as Action Channel Groups function as folder-like entities.


Action Channel Groups appear as green channels. The active group is drawn with a brighter background colour than other channels. Meanwhile, selected groups have their names printed in white instead of black.

Each Action Group Channel is also drawn a 'summary' of the keyframes in all the channels under that group. These are drawn beside the channel, with faint green backgrounds to help distinguish them from other channels. Keyframes which appear in these summaries can be edited, just like any other keyframe.

Action Channel Groups can be expanded/collapsed to show/hide the Action Channels which belong to them, thus hiding channels which are not relevant at a particular point in time. All of a group's channels can also be protected from editing, by toggling the 'lock' icon for the group.


The following hotkeys can be used to group / change the grouping of selected Action Channels:

  • Shift G - adds selected Action Channels to the active Action Channel Group (a new one is created if none exists)
  • Ctrl Shift G - adds selected Action Channels to a new Action Channel Group
  • Alt G - removes selected Action Channels from their groups

If a Bone belongs to a Bone Group, its corresponding Action Channel will automatically be placed in an Action Channel Group with a matching name, when inserting keyframes.

Action Channel Groups automatically created when keyframing bones, will inherit the bone's Bone Group's color-scheme at the time of creation. When the 'Use Group Colors' option in the 'View' menu is enabled, Action Channels (and their subsidiary channels) will be drawn with their Action Channel Group's color scheme. Currently, this color cannot be changed once set.

Transform Tools

The transform tools in all the Animation Editors have been recoded to work through the Transform System. This means that a few useful features from the standard transform tools are available for use in these editors. In particular, numeric input is now available for these transform tools.

Auto-Snapping

Another useful feature is Auto-Snapping of Keyframes during transforms. To change the auto-snapping mode, click on the combo-box beside the action selector block of buttons. When auto-snapping is enabled, keyframes are automatically snapped to the nearest relevant point (depending on which snapping mode is used), without the need for holding down a modifier key.

The various snapping options available are:

  • No Snap - auto-snapping is disabled. (same as using no modifier keys)
  • Frame Step - keyframes are snapped to 1.0-frame intervals, regardless of NLA-scaling. (same as holding down the Ctrl key)
  • Nearest Frame - keyframes are snapped to the nearest frame. This is the default mode for all newly created Action Editor instances. (same as holding down the Shift key)
  • Nearest Marker - keyframes are snapped to the nearest marker.

They can be toggled during transforms using the same modifier key that enables them when Auto-Snapping is off, resulting in 'No Snap' behaviour.

Post-Transform Duplicate Removal

In the View Menu, there is an option 'AutoMerge Keys', which is enabled by default. When enabled, keyframes which exist on the same frame as one which was just moved there (as it was selected) are removed. This prevents buildups of keyframes on certain frames without any warning.

'Extend' Keyframes

This transform tool, activated with the EKEY, acts like GKEY (Grab), except that it only moves those selected keyframes on the same side of the time-cursor as the mouse-cursor are moved. All new tools available for the other transform modes are available for this too.

Timing Display

Timing can be displayed (in the horizontal scrollbar) and edited (Transform and other tools) in terms of frames or seconds, like the TimeLine and Sequencer can. This is useful for some people who find it easier to animate in terms of seconds instead of frames. Simply use the Ctrl T hotkey, or find the 'Show Seconds/Frames' entry in the 'View' menu to change between time representations.

Selection Tools

Many selection tools have been added/improved for this release. Also, a few often requested selection tools which have existed for a while, but are quite obscure, are included here for reference.

With quite a few of these, there may be a duplicate hotkey for keyframes and channels. In these cases, the hotkey will work for channels if the mouse is over the channels part, and for keyframes if the mouse is over the keyframes part.


Channels in Action Group

If Ctrl Shift LMB (left-mouse-button) are used to click on an Action Group channel, all of that group's Action Channels are automatically selected.

Inverse Selection

It is possible to invert the selection of keyframes, markers, or channels (Action Groups, Action Channels, Constraint Channels). The following hotkeys apply:

  • Ctrl I - Invert All Keys/All Channels
  • Ctrl Shift I - Invert All Markers

Ahead/Back in Time

This tool only selects those keyframes on the nominated side of the current-frame. This can be accomplished by holding the AltKey and using the RMB (right-mouse-button) to click on the relevant side of the current frame.

Column Select Keyframes

The following tools for selecting keyframes which occur on the same frame as some other item include:

  • KKEY - select keys on same frame as selected keys
  • Ctrl KKEY - select keys on same frame as current frame
  • Shift KKEY - select keys on same frame as selected markers
  • Alt KKEY - select keys between selected markers

Obscure Frame/Channel Select-All

Many users are not aware of these long-standing (and somewhat hidden) features. Thus, they have often been requested.

If you RMB on:

  • Horizontal Scrollbar - Selects all the keyframes in every visible channel, that occur on the frame that the click occurred on. Other keyframes are deselected.
  • Vertical Scrollbar - Selects all the keyframes in the channel that occurs where the click occurred. Other keyframes are deselected.

Also, if you start border-selecting keyframes (BKEY) over:

  • Horizontal Scrollbar - All the keyframes in every visible channel, which occur within the start/end frame range in the border-select region are selected.
  • Vertical Scrollbar - All the keyframes in the channels that occur within the vertical range of the border-select region are selected.

Miscellaneous Changes

  • Bake features have been removed (including the 'BAKE' button on the header). This is because they were not really functional anyway, and should really belong exclusively in the NLA (and/or 3D view). If and when they are reimplemented, they should not be added back to the Action Editor.
  • Add New - this now acts more intuitively:

o When an ObIPO exists, the ObIPO is automatically added to a new action. This is the same as going into the IPO Editor and pressing the 'running man' icon o When a ShapeKey IPO exists, the ShapeKey IPO is automatically added to a new action. o When no ObIPO, ShapeKey IPO, or existing Action exist, an empty Action will be created. If any Object-level keyframes are subsequently added to this empty Action, these will not get automatically added to such this Action, but to an ObIPO instead.

  • Fake Users - a fake-user toggle is now shown beside the X button for the Action, so that you can avoid having to do Shift F4 to clear fake-users of Actions
  • Pinned Actions - when trying to add a new Action to a pinned Action Editor, a new Action will now be created (instead of nothing)

Copy + Paste Tools

It is now possible to Copy + Paste keyframes, using the new Copy/Paste buttons on the header of the Action Editor. All selected keyframes are copied to a buffer, with information about where they came from. The way they are applied depends on a few things:

  • If there is only one Action Channel with/without a Constraint Channel, with keyframes to paste, in the buffer, the keyframes are pasted to all selected channels.
  • Otherwise, channel names must match up before keyframes can be pasted.
  • If no matching IPO-curve is found, a new curve is made (if blocktypes match).
  • Keyframes are pasted offsetted by the distance between the first keyframe in the buffer (calculated when copying keyframes) and the current frame.

Inserting Keyframes

Insert Key

It is now possible to insert keyframes using the IKEY from the Action Editor. Where possible (i.e. if the Action isn't pinned), the current value of a setting is looked-up and keyframed.

The following options are available for choosing what gets keyframed on the current frame:

  • All Channels - as the name suggests, this means that all channels (only visible ones though) are keyframed
  • Only Selected Channels - only selected channels (Action and Constraint Channels) are keyframed
  • In Active Group - if there is an active Action-Group, all Action Channels in that group get keyframed

Sample Keys

This tool, activated with the hotkey Alt-O, adds keyframes on every frame between each pair of selected keyframes. One of the uses of this is for tweaking overlapping motion.

One-Step Keyframe Tools

Snap Tools (Shift S)

In addition to the existing tools (Snap Keys to Nearest Frame/Current Frame), two new tools have been added:

  • Snap Key -> Nearest Marker - this tool snaps keyframes to the marker which are closest to it
  • Snap Current Frame -> Key - this tool snaps the current frame to the mean time of the selected keyframes. It is useful for making sure that the current frame is set to a frame that has keyframes, when preparing to make adjustments to poses or such.

Mirror Tools (Shift M)

It is now possible to mirror keyframes in a variety of ways (some of which originated from the IPO-editor):

  • Current Frame - the selected keyframes have their times 'flipped', using the current frame as the mirror-line
  • Vertical Axis - the selected keyframes have their times 'flipped', using frame 0 as the mirror-line
  • Horizontal Axis - the selected keyframes have their values 'flipped', using 0.0 as the mirror-line
  • Selected Marker - the first selected marker (in chronological order) found, is used as the mirror-line for the times of the selected keyframes

Channel Options and Tools

Muting

In addition to the ability to lock/protect channels from being edited, they can now be 'muted'. This means that the channel's keyframes are not evaluated while it is muted. This is useful for isolating the cause of some unwanted motion, and also to help animators focus on the movements of certain parts only.

To mute a channel, simply toggle the 'eye' icon beside the lock, to the right hand side of the channel's name. These toggles are available for the following channels:

  • Action Channels - mutes all the IPO-curves in the IPO-block associated with that channel (Note: IPO-blocks can also be muted from the header of the IPO-editor)
  • IPO-Curve - mutes the IPO-curve that is represented
  • Constraint Channels - mutes all the IPO-curves in the IPO-block associated with that channel (usually this block will only have curve - 'Influence')

Visibility

In the 'View' menu, there is an option whether Action Channels which correspond to bones which are not visible should be shown. By default, such channels are not visible. However, it is useful to be able to see all the channels (or at least their keyframes) when adjusting global timing when blocking out animations.

Expand/Collapse Levels

A few tools (similar to those in the Outliner) have been added to expand/collapse levels of channels. These can be found under the new 'Channels' menu (only available when there is an active Action)

  • Expand/Collapse One Level (Ctrl Numpad +/-) - these two tools allow for one level of the selected channel to be expanded/collapsed if possible
  • Show Hierachy (~) - this tool expands out all channels
  • Show Group-Hidden Channels (Shift ~) - this tool expands any group that has a selected channel

Channel Rearranging

In order for some other tools to be more consistent, the hotkeys for rearranging channels have been changed. The new hotkeys are:

  • Shift Page Up/Down - Move Channel Up/Down one step (within the Action Group it belongs to)
  • Ctrl Shift Page Up/Down - Move Channel to Top/Bottom of Action Group it belongs to

Batch Setting Operations

Also under the 'Channels' menu, there are a few new tools which act on selected channels, editing the selected setting for all of them at the same time.

  • Toggle a Setting (Shift W) - this presents a menu to select the setting which would have its states reversed (if applicable) from the selected channels
  • Enable a Setting (Ctrl Shift W) - this presents a menu to select the setting which would be enabled (if applicable) from the selected channels
 Disable a Setting (Alt W) - this presents a menu to select the setting which would be disabled (if applicable) from the selected channels

Playback + Display Issues

Hotkeys for Playback

  • Ctrl Page Up/Down - Jumps between keyframe columns (i.e. 'poses')
  • Page Up/Down - Jumps between markers
  • Alt (Shift) AKEY - as with all animation editors, this now plays the animation in all 3D-views regardless of whether Shift is pressed. This makes more sense than seeing a green-line move from left to right

Display Notes

The display of various things has been optimised, so that items (keyframes and entire channels) which are vertically out-of-view are not drawn at all.

There is also an optional optimisation for the display of keyframes which are horizontally out of view. This setting can be found in the 'View' menu, and is labeled 'Cull Out-of-View Keys (Time)'. By default, it is enabled. It gives significant performance improvements when working on large sets of keyframes (aka mocap data) when zoomed in, however this comes at the cost of visual artifacts with long-keyframes flickering in/out of visibility.

Preview Range

Preview Range (available in Blender since 2.44) is a useful tool for animating (especially on longer timelines). It allows you to only run through a limited set of frames to quickly preview the timing of a section of movement without going through the whole timeline. It means you don't have to set/reset start/end frame for previewing animation everytime you wish to only preview a region of frames. For more info, see this page.

Now it is possible to quickly set the preview-range extents to be the length of the active Action. The Ctrl Alt P hotkey can be used to do this.

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