Blender: Tips, Tricks and Techniques

– [David] In this week’s Blender’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques, I’m going to show you how to use one of the most underutilized tools in all of Blender, the NLA Editor. Now, first you might be saying, well what is the NLA Editor? And if you come up here and you go to Animation, you don’t even see it. You see the Dope Sheet and the F-Curve Editor, but you don’t see the NLA Editor. So, let’s go ahead and go to Default, let’s split this open here, and using our little cube, let’s go ahead and hit I, and go to Location. Now down over here, I’m going to switch this to the NLA Editor, and I’m going to go to say frame 20, bring it forward, hit I, Location, let’s go to frame 10, let’s pull it up on to see, Location. Now I can hit N, with my mouse over the NLA Editor, and push this down to create a clip. Once you’ve created a clip, you’ll see a couple of new things appear. First, you have this Track, that’s kind of like a Track in say editing or a layer in say Photoshop, it’s just a way to collect a whole bunch of clips or actions. Now you can see one action right here, CubeAction, and officially this is considered an Action Clip. So if I scroll down, you can see I have a few options, such as Repeat. If I just drag that out, I can hit plus, or hit Alt + A on my keyboard, and now I have a bouncing cube, that’s pretty cool. I can stop that with Alt + A, set this to one, and then drag up the Scale and play that. And as you can see here, I’m just dragging out one simple action. So I can pause that, set this back to one. Another thing I can do is set my Start Frame to say negative 10 or so. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to start my action 10 frames later. So that’s really handy if you want to delay something really quick, but you don’t want to shift around all of the keys and everything. You can also set your End Frame to something later, but because I have no animation at the end, nothing’s going to happen. And if you forget, you can always just sync up and set the correct frame range to the beginning and the end of your animation. Okay, so now let’s say you wanted to have your little cube bounce forward a little bit. Well, what you’re going to want to do is hit Shift + D, and drag it forward. Now, I can imagine you were thinking, well why don’t we just use Repeat? Well unfortunately, there’s no way to layer on animation with Repeat and having it go forward, so instead what I’m going to do is just duplicate this action. And then pull this over here, and I’m going to demonstrate on how to use the Add ability of a clip. So let’s bring this over here, and without doing anything else, let’s just switch Blending to Add. Now be careful, there might be a few other Adds in here, so you’re going to want to look for the one that is right underneath Active Strip, Blending, Add. Alright, so without doing anything, I have my cube bouncing, I switched this to Add, and hey it works! But now, you may have an issue, where if you animated your cube in a weird way, so I’m going to come over here really quick, maybe you had your cube shifted back a little bit. So what you would see in this case is it pops backwards. Now why is that happening? Well, it’s because you’re Adding, and if you shifted your cube back when you were first starting this Tips, Tricks and Techniques video, you were actually adding a negative value. And that’s why it pops back because you’re effectively just subtracting the value. So you want to make sure that you’re starting basically at zero. Now, if you went ahead and keyed, say the Scales, for example you might have gone to LocRotScale, and you keyed the Scales, well you might see something that looks a lot like this. Your cube instantly grows in size, now this becomes a quirk of the whole NLA Editor because what you’re effectively doing is your cube is now adding Scale one on top of Scale one, thus equaling two. So that’s the weird thing about the second action here, you want to make sure that you’re literally just adding what you need. So, let’s just go ahead and delete the Scales, scrub this, and if it still looks a little bit weird, that value might just be set by default, that’s okay. And you can come up here and just send ’em to one and one, and you’re good to go. So that’s just a quirk about the NLA Editor, if you’re using the Blend Adding Mode, it literally adds the values, and it’ll set things a little bit weirdly. Okay, so now hit Tab to get out of this, and you can just go ahead and duplicate this a few times. Unfortunately, you can’t necessarily repeat them, as you’ll see here it’ll just reset the action every time it repeats, it doesn’t add onto itself. So, the only thing that you can actually do here, is to scroll down and set the Repeat to one, and just duplicate it, and there we go. Now, let’s say that you had this nice bouncing little cube and you’re like, oh man, but I want him to come over here to the right. Well that’s actually fairly straightforward to do. What you’re going to want to do is hit I, and let’s hit Location. Now, scroll all the way up to the top and you want to open up Animation Data. And then what you want to do is come all the way towards your end, switch this to Add, so scrub it, there we go. And then hit I again, Location. Now be careful, ’cause if you do this, it might look like he’s bouncing out way into infinity. And again, that’s because it’s adding onto itself. So, if that’s too weird, you can always delete that, and then go to I, Delta Location. And it will actually add nothing, which is good, that’s what we want. And from here, what you’re going to want to do, is go to Delta Location, and let’s just make sure that there’s a Keyframe at the beginning as well. I, Delta Location, there we are. And I want to grab the Delta Location, and I’m going to just shift it over. ‘Cause remember, we’re adding in it, so we want to add it and get it to about the right spot. So, looks like I was visually aiming for something over there, that looks pretty good. So now I can go ahead and play this. And look my cube is bouncing all the way to screen right. But again, you want to be careful to not use the regular location because if you do, I’m just going to literally hit I here, it’s going to add those values, and it’s going to send them super far away. So, what you’re going to want to do, delete those, it shows to use Delta Locations. And I highly recommend just fiddling with it inside the Graph Editor, to get more or less, the position and look that you want. And there you go, that is how you can use the NLA Editor in your workflow. You could conceivably have a walk cycle at the bottom, and then maybe animate a head turn or something similar up on the top action right here, under Animation Data. And if you want to, you can even just push this down, and just create it as a new action. And there you go, now it’s on it’s clip, it’s on it’s own Track, and you can even animate again on top of all of this. But just be careful, remember you have to use Add, or if you want to Multiply and Subtract, and just be really cognitive of what you’re adding in the right. Because even if you just I, Scale, you’re going to double the Scale because you’re literally adding one on top of one. So with that, I’ve presented the NLA Editor, I recommend playing around with it as it is a little quirky but it is an awesome tool, especially if you’re doing game animation inside of Blender. Until next time, this is David for Blender’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques.

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