NLA editor combination question

I’m just beginning to try to understand the NLA editor and I’m wondering if I could get feedback on what I’m thinking. I’m thinking i could make an action where I animate a character talking. Then make another action where, for example, the character is walking. So, then i take those two animations, layer (combine?) them together, and the character will be walking and talking at the same time?

Again, just looking for feedback, to see if I’m understanding this correctly. If this is an over-kill way of going about it, please, I’d like to know. Also, any foreseeable problems regarding what I mentioned above, I would appreciate it and really all the feedback I could get.

I’m looking to do a 2 minuteish video with lip-syncing, dancing, lots of movement. I’m posting because the alternative in my mind to using the NLA editor would essentially just be to have one long dopesheet absolutely crowded with key frames. Would I be wrong about that being the only other alternative?

No, that is also how I would go about it, as well. Remember to either Stash or Push Down the two actions you are waiting while in the Action Editor (Dope Sheet). Making new keyframes or manipulating existing ones is recorded automatically, so you don’t have to constantly Stash or Push Down.

However, when editing an action, be mindful that you’re editing the correct action, and not something like “Armature.action001”.

You probably already know this, but the numbers next to the actions indicate the number of Objects or Instances currently making use of that data. If it’s for a “0”, it’ll likely get auto-deleted on the next Close-and-Load cycle. That’s why there’s options like Stash, or Create Fake User.

Conversely, to delete an Action, just un-link it or make it so move of the Objects or Armatures are using the action. Anything with a “0” next to it will get auto-deleted later.

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thank you so much for the reply; it made my morning :slight_smile:

in the NLA editor>edit tab i’m seeing “start tweeking strip actions” and “start editing stashed actions”. I was wondering what the difference is between a “strip action” and a “stashed action”. I’m reading what the manual says, but having little experience with the NLA editor, it really means nothing to me. Could someone maybe tell me what’s the difference/ the practical application behind the idea.

Yes you can try that. When you create your actions for the NLA, you need to be thinking two diffferent ways. Linear (one after another) and Vertical (one on top of the other). Hence when you keyframe you have to be careful not to say key a location and then put another location on top of that in two strips. The NLA will nicely blend your actions with a little practice. If you have to move your animations, duplicate your animations, reverse your animations and blend like animations, (walk, stop, start walking and talking, stop keep talking etc) it will work fine. There are several good NLA youtubes out there that can help you.

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First, a heads-up that since they still seem to be working on the 2.83 version manual, some categories will have TODO for now. The 2.82 version suffices for most entries that are still missing.

Stashed actions can be either those you Push Down or those you Stash while in the Dope Sheet (Action Editor). It’s easier to tell the difference if you have both the NLA Editor and the Dope Sheet interfaces, preferably one above the other.

If you would, I highly recommend following along, as this shouldn’t take much longer than 20 minutes to go through even at a slowed pace:

  1. Open the Animation workspace layout.
  2. Replace the Timeline below with the NLA Editor, and increase the space it occupies.
  3. Create a new editor by bringing the mouse to the bottom-right corner of the NLA Editor. Once it turns into a + sign, click and drag upward. Turn this one into the Dope Sheet, and enter Action Editor mode.
  4. Create a new object or armature.
  5. Set two Location or LocRot keyframes for the object. Any two positions and any two frames will do. You will notice that the NLA editor and Action editor simultaneously have new keyframes on them.
  6. a) Push Down the action. In the NLA editor, the action literally got pushed down, and a new “NlaTrack” was created in the channel list on the left. If you click on the Action in the track, you can use G to manipulate the entire Action as you would a single keyframe. You can CTRL+Z to before you Pushed Down, but for this example just create a new Action in the Action Editor, with two Location or LocRot keyframes, different from the previous action.
    b) This time, Stash the action. You will notice that instead of creating a new “NlaTrack”, the Action got pushed to the very bottom, in a track called “[Action Stash”].
  7. In the Action Editor, pick one of your Actions from the dropdown list (it’s probably “CubeAction”, if you’re working on the Default Cube like I am). This functionally has the same result as “Start Editing Stashed Action”. Any changes to keyframes while editing Stashed Actions are automatically saved, just make sure you don’t touch the title and change the name of the Action. CTRL+Z works as you would expect it to. (Note that the NLA track was automatically Starred, and has become the only active track, basically becoming isolated during animation playback.)
  8. At this point, you probably have one action Stashed, while the other has been Pushed Down into one of the two tracks. The difference is that if you delete the NLA tracks, one of the actions in the dropdown list will have a “0” next to it. No animation data blocks reference this action, and unless it is pushed down or otherwise referenced by another data block, it will get deleted during the next close-and-load cycle. This is something to keep in mind when you’re cleaning up your library.
  9. "Start Tweaking Strip Actions" only really matters if you’re currently editing an action’s keyframes while also manipulating the actions in an NLA track or set of NLA tracks. I don’t really use it much myself, since I usually edit Actions in isolation. Experiment with moving Actions along a Track while the Green Channel is Pinned, and not Pinned.
  10. a) Finally, let’s experiment with Playback. If you don’t have two NLA tracks right now, Push Down one of your Actions. This should have both of your available actions on separate NLA tracks (probably “NlaTrack” and “NlaTrack.001”), one on top of the other. Make sure none of the tracks are Starred, and both of the tracks have their Checkbox ticked on. Use “P” in either of the Editors to set the Preview frames, and hit “Play”.
    b) As the Cube loops back and forth, uncheck one box, then alternate the checkboxes of the tracks. The effect is easiest to see when the keyframes have significantly different starting and ending Locations within the same time period.
    c) Select one of the NLA tracks, then while hovering the mouse pointer over the NLA Editor, press “N”. In particular, “Action Blending” determines how NLA tracks ABOVE this Track interact. “Add”, “Multiply”, and “Subtract” are useful for minor tweaks, the way you would use Animation Layers in other software. “Replace” is good for testing alternate or even completely different movements of objects and armatures. Feel free to experiment with “Action Influence” and “Action Extrapolation”.

By now, you probably formed your own ideas on how to do your character dance sequence. Maybe keyframe Locations for your IK, while the wrists and ankles / toes get Rotation keyframes. Lips and Eyes can get separate actions and their own tracks above the base body movement. The NLA editor and Dopesheet can help you make your animation as granular or broad-stroked as you want them to be. GL, HF (^_^)…/

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Perhaps this is what you need