Mode: all modes
Hotkey: ⇧ ShiftF12
The Action Editor window (⇧ ShiftF12) enables you to see and edit the Ipo datablocks you defined as actions in the Ipo Curve Editor window. So it takes place somewhere in-between the low-level Ipo curves, and the high-level NLA editor. Hence, you do not have to use them for simple Ipo curves animations – and they have not much interest in themselves, so you will mostly use this window when you do NLA animation (they do have a few specific usages on their own, though, like e.g. with the Action constraint, or the pose libraries…).
This is not a mandatory window, as you do can edit the actions used by the NLA directly in the Ipo Curve Editor window (or even the NLA Editor one). However, it gives you a slightly simplified view of your Ipo datablocks (somewhat similar to the “key” mode of the Ipo window, even though more powerful in some ways) – and, more interesting, it can show you all ”action” Ipo datablocks of a same object at once.
Additionally, it also allows you to affect timing of the different keys of the layers created with the grease pencil tool.
- Object (i.e. mostly the transform properties).
- Pose (in fact, these ones are always actions!).
- Shape (i.e. relative/absolute shape keys).
Each “action” Ipo datablock forms a top-level channel (see below). Note that an object can have several Constraint (one per animated constraint) and Pose (for armatures, one per animated bone) Ipo datablocks, and hence an action can have several of these channels.
The Action Editor interface is somewhat similar to the Ipo Curve Editor one, it is divided in three areas:
- The header bar
- Here you find the menus, a first block of controls related to the editor “mode”, a second one concerning the action datablocks, and a few other tools (like the copy/paste buttons, and snapping type).
- The main area
- It contains the keyframes for all visible action channels.
- As with the other “time” windows, the X-axis materializes the time. The Y-axis has no mean in itself, unlike with the Ipo curve editor, it’s just a sort of “stack” of action channels – each one being shown as an horizontal colored strip (of a darker shade “during” the animated/keyed period).
- On these channel strips lay the keyframes, materialized as light-gray (unselected) or yellow (selected) diamonds.
- One of the key feature of this window is that it allow you to visualize immediately which channel (i.e. Ipo curve) is really affected, and when: when the value of a given channel does not change at all between two neighbor keyframes, a pink (unselected) or yellow (selected) piece of strip is drawn between them.
- The left “list-tree”
- This part shows the action’s channel “headers” and their hierarchy. Basically, there are:
- “Top-level” channels, which represent whole Ipo datablocks (so there’s one for Object one, one for Shape one, etc.). They gather all keyframes defined in their underlying Ipo datablock.
- “Mid-level” channels, which seem currently to have no use (there’s one per top-level channel, they are all named IPO Curves, and have no option at all…).
- “Low-level” channels, which represent individual Ipo curves, with their own keyframes (fortunately, only keyed Ipos are shown!).
- Each level can be expended/collapsed by the small arrow to the left of its “parent” channel.
- To the right of the channel’s headers, there are some channel’s setting controls:
- Clicking on the small “eye” will allow you to mute that channel (and all its “children” channels, if any!).
- Clicking on the small “lock” will allow you to prevent this channel and its children to be edited (note that this is also working inside the NLA, but that it doesn’t prevent edition of the underlying Ipos…).
- A channel can be selected (text in white, strip in gray-blue color) or not (text in black, strip in pink-brown color.), use LMB clicks to toggle this state.
- You can access some channel’s properties by clicking CtrlLMB on its header.
- Finally, you can have another column with value-sliders, allowing you to change the value of current keyframes, or to add new ones. These are obviously only available for low-level channels (i.e. individual Ipo curves). See below for how to show these sliders.
Apart from the classic window options, we have:
- Show Seconds/Show Frames (CtrlT) – Whether to show the time in the X-axis as frames or as seconds…
- Show Sliders – A toggle option that shows the value sliders for the low-level channels (Ipo curves, see the The Action Editor window, Action Editor mode, with a group and sliders picture above).
- Show Hidden Channels – I guess this should show hidden channels (!), but I don’t know how to hide a channel…
- Use Group Colors – Again, I don’t know what it does…
- Cull Out-of-View Keys (Time) – …?
- AutoMerge Keyframes – It seems to be the same option as for the Ipo Curve Editor window…
- Lock Time to Other Windows – This is the same option as found in the View menu of the timeline: it allows you to synchronize the horizontal (time) scale of all “time windows” that have this option set.
- Update Automatically – Fine, but update what?
Then, you have navigation/playback options:
- Jump To Next Marker, Jump To Prev Marker (PageUp, PageDown) – Moves the current frame (green cursor) to the next/previous marker.
- Jump To Next Keyframe, Jump To Prev Keyframe (CtrlPageUp, CtrlPageDown) – Moves the current frame (green cursor) to the next/previous keyframe (in the whole action, not in a specific channel).
- Play Back Animation (AltA) – Starts the animation playback (same as “play” button in the timeline)…
- Set Preview Range, Clear Preview Range (CtrlP, AltP) – These entries allow you to define/clear a temporary preview range to use for the AltA realtime playback (this is the same thing as the Pr option of the Timeline window header).
- Preview Range from Action Length – Automatically sets the preview range to playback the whole action.
This menu controls some aspects of the action channels:
- Expand One Level, Collapse One Level (CtrlNum+, CtrlNum-) – Expands or collapses selected channels.
- Show Group-Hidden Channels (⇧ Shift~) – …?
- Toggle Show Hierachy (~) – …?
- Delete (X) – Deletes the whole channel from the current action (i.e. unlink the underlying Ipo datablock from this action datablock).
- The X shortcut is area-dependent: if you use it in the left list part, it’ll delete the selected channels, whereas if you use it in the main area, it’ll delete the selected keyframes…
- Settings » Toogle/Enable/Disable a Setting (⇧ ShiftW/Ctrl⇧ ShiftW/AltW) – Enable/disable a channel’s setting (selected in the menu that pops-up) – currently, “lock” and/or “mute” only.
- Ordering – This allows you to move top-level channels up/down (⇧ ShiftPageUp/⇧ ShiftPageDown), or directly to the top/bottom (Ctrl⇧ ShiftPageUp/Ctrl⇧ ShiftPageDown).
- Grouping – This sub-menu allows you to add selected top-level channels to a new (Ctrl⇧ ShiftG) or active (⇧ ShiftG) group, or to remove it from its current group (AltG). Groups, as usual in Blender, are materialized as super-level green-colored channels, and obviously exist to help you organize your work, see the The Action Editor window, Action Editor mode, with a group and sliders picture above. I don’t know what does the last Synchronize with Armature option…
- Note that when you already have bone groups defined in an armature, they will directly appear in the Action Editor window, with the bones’ Pose Ipo datablocks put in the right groups…
See the Markers page.
Action Editor Modes
The Action Editor window has three “modes”, available through the first Editor Mode drop-down list:
- Action Editor is the default, and most useful one. It’s here you can define and control your actions.
- ShapeKey Editor is dedicated to the Shape Ipo datablocks. It uses/edits the same action datablock as the previous mode. It seems to be an old and useless thing, as the Action Editor mode handles Shape channels very well, and this mode adds nothing…
- Grease Pencil is dedicated to the grease pencil tool’s keyframes – for each grease pencil layer, you have a strip along which you can grab its keys, and hence easily re-time your animated sketches. As it is just another way to see and edit the grease pencil data, this mode uses no datablock (and hence has nothing to do with actions…). Note that you’ll have as much top-level grease pencil channels as you have sketched windows (3D views, UV/Image Editor, etc.).
As everything else in Blender, actions are datablocks. Unlike Ipo ones, there is only one type of action, which can regroup all Ipos of a given object. You’ll find its usual datablock controls in the Action Editor header.
However, there is one specificity with action datablocks: they have by default a “fake user”, i.e. once created, they are always kept in Blender file, even if no object uses them. This is due to the fact that actions are designed to be used in the NLA, where you can affect several different actions to a same object! Yes, this is the only way to use different actions (and hence, different Ipo datablocks of the same kind) to animate a same object. But as you have to assign an action to an object to be able to edit it (and an object can only have one action datablock at a time), to have “fake users” guaranties you that you won’t lost your precious previously-edited actions when you start working on a new one!
This window shows, by default, the action datablock linked to the current active object. However, as with Ipos, you can pin an Action Editor to a given action with the small “pin” button to the left of the datablock controls, in the header. This will force the window to always display this datablock, whatever the current selected object is…