I need help to set up a Non-Linear Animation

I’ve made a complete model of an ancient Athenian style trireme. Unfortunately I don’t know how to animate a rowing cycle for it. The oars of the ship are seperate objects, I don’t know if I need to change this as the only use of NLA that I’ve seen in tutorials has been using armatures. If someone could explain how to do this it’d be very helpful.

Can you post a .blend? If you’ve already animated the oars, you could just go into the properties bar in the NLA, and up the ‘Repeat’ value.

You could animate one oar and have copy rotation constraints on all the rest. Once you set up one, constraints can be copied and pasted between objects. You may have to have slightly different constraint mappings for oars on the left right…( should i say port starboard) depending on the oars orientation in your set up.

This way you will only have to deal with one oar in the NLA

I’ve not animated anything yet, I’ve just finished the modelling and rendering. I would have uploaded the .blend file but apparently 16MB is too large a file to upload. So is it possible to simply animate normally and then make it repeat? And if so can I then use that cycle within another animation? As in, it will continue the rowing cycle while I animate the ship?


P.S. thanks for the tip batFINGER

To answer your questions, yes, yes, and yes. You’ll need to learn how to use the f-curve/IPO editor and I’m at a loss to finding a good beginner type of tutorial on this… Here’s one that might help somewhat:

BTW, what version of blender are you using, 2.49 or 2.5x? There’s been a few changes between them. But yes, basically you create an animation for one oar, and use constraints to get the other oars to follow and it can be repeated forever and be independant of animating the boat. If I knew what version your using, I could whip up a small sample file showing you all this…


Since I can’t actually upload the .blend file, here’s a rendered image of the model, if that helps at all. I’m currently using blender version 2.55. I’ll have a look through the tutorial you linked, any other help would be much appreciated, thanks.

small example blend (for blender-2.55)
moving a oak object
with pivot-constraint
and damped-track-constraint

in the blend-file, just move the second cube around and you see the oak
follow with its rotation-point at the first cube.
To duplicate the animation for multiple oaks of the same row,
setup the same thing for every oak - and if you dont want to see
the cubes, then use empty-objects as animation points.
Or bake the finished animation for one oak of a row and attach
this action to every other oak of the same row …

for looping an action add a cycle-modifier …

edit again, for duplicating one action, it might be possible (depends on the object)
to setup a transform-constraint to use the animations from one actor-oak …


MoveOakWithPivotDampedTrack.blend (60.3 KB)


here is a simplistic approach with a basic row cycle and copy rotation constraints. I grabbed the oar out of test-dr’s sample and used its object centre as a pivot point. I’d suggest moving the origin of your oars to the desired pivot point to make it simpler. One oar is keyframed over 250 frames. I have used the NLA to repeat the cycle.

Note i did this quickly … there are only 5 keyframes for the cycle … more will make it more realistic.

Thanks you all very much. I think these will be enough resources to finish this project. You’ve been a fantastic help