Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Sequencer Getting Started
Previous Page: What's It For Anyway?
As you probably know by now, a good window layout in Blender is very important for workflow, Figure 1 provides a good starting layout for Sequencing.
I'll quickly run through the work areas shown in Figure 1, just in case you're unfamiliar with them. Starting at top, going left to right.
- IPO Curve Editor - set to 'sequence' mode.
- Video Sequence Editor - with the tiny 'face' icon pressed.
- Video Sequence Editor - That's right, we've got two of them, I'll explain why in just a moment.
- Buttons Window - You're probably familiar with this one.
But this is Blender, so you're free to set up your layout however you wish. Now all we need is some media to play with in the sequencer.
For this fairly short example I've created a simple 80 frame animation featuring an asexual humanoid-like thing that waves at you from within Blender, I know it's frightening, but this is for learning purposes. If you view the full sized version of Figure 2, you may notice a few important settings on the button window have been circled.
- Output - I set the filename to //waveguy so that will be the filename we're looking for when we begin sequence editing.
- Frame Range - 1 to 80, so we're rendering an 80 frame animation.
- Format - Notice I've selected a reasonable animation size of 720x480, when you render animation clips for sequence editing it's good practice to stay consistent with your output resolution, otherwise you'll end up with funky looking resampling jaggies in the final animation. I also chose AVI Jpeg since it has a very minimal quality loss and saves a lot of disk space compared to AVI Raw, and is far easier to manage a single AVI file than a huge pile of numbered PNG or JPG images, also blender has no trouble reading this format back in for sequence editing, which is a problem you may run into if you attempt to load some other type of video format directly into blender.
You should also know that the Sequencer can handle quite a few different types of content. Here's a rundown:
- Audio - fairly self explanitory, throw audio clips directly into your sequence, you can also adjust volume and panning.
- Scene - include Scenes directly in your sequence, this is extremely useful if you're compositing 3D objects on top of video or pre-rendered backdrops, lightsaber duels, etc.
- Image - great if you need to key some text over your sequence.
- Movie - pull in your pre-rendered animations, either numbered image sequences or AVI files.
Our First Sequence
We'll start by loading a clip into the sequence window and then learn how we can manipulate it. From within the sequence window, begin by clicking Add, then Movie, use the file selector to choose our movie file and hit Select Movie.
If the file loaded successfully you should notice a colored bar hovering below your mouse cursor inside the Sequence window. A single click of the left mouse button will drop it down onto the timeline, don't worry if you put it in the wrong spot because you can always move it later by right-clicking the strip and pressing the G key (or just hold RMB and drag), which is probably familiar now that you're becoming a seasoned Blender user.
In Figure 3 the movie strip has been given the name "Wave Guy" by opening up the Strip Properties mini-window by selecting the strip and pressing the N key. There's also a couple options in the mini-window such as Mul which allows you to adjust the brightness of the clip, experiment a little. Also, rolling the mouse wheel adjusts the viewable area of the Sequence window.
If you hold the left mouse button and move the cursor left and right inside the Sequence window you can quickly shuttle around your sequence, notice this also changes the current-frame adjuster on the Buttons window. As we mentioned earlier, our example window layout contains 2 Sequence windows, the difference between them is that one of them has the Preview button selected ( it looks like a tiny face ), if you have this pressed, you should notice as we shuttle between frames, the preview window will update itself and display our movie clip, it is often a good idea to set your rendering resolution to a lower setting while doing work in the sequencer, you can easily do this by selecting the 50% or 25% buttons located in the Render mini-window inside the Buttons window, just be sure to switch it back to 100% before performing your final render.
Now we'll render a single frame of our sequence to see if everything is working properly, shuttle to a position in your sequence where our movie strip should be visible (so the vertical green line is intersecting the movie strip in our timeline), and press F12. If you don't see your movie, don't be alarm, you probably don't have the Do Sequence toggle button enabled in your Render mini-window on the Buttons window. When this option is enabled, Blender uses your sequence as a rendering source rather than your 3D scene like we're all used to. Enable the button, perform another test render, and your movie clip should be visible.
Duplicating the clip
Now we'll try duplicating our movie strip and adding an interesting transition effect.
- Right click the movie strip to select it.
- Press Shift-D to make a duplicate.
- Move your mouse cursor to place the duplicated movie strip on the line above the original, and also drag it to the right a few frames so it is offset from the original.
Go ahead and shuttle around again, notice the skip in the animation because when one clip runs out, it switches to the other clip in the Sequence, layers are numbered starting with 1 at the bottom and increase as you go up, the lowest layer is always displayed before higher numbered layers, except when the higher layer is an Effect.
Adding a nice transition
Next we'll add a Cross Effect between our two movie strips, this causes a nice dissolve effect from one strip to the other.
- Right click the strip that comes first in the Sequence.
- Hold Control & Right Click the second strip, so both strips are selected. * note - the order in which you select the strips determines which strips our Cross Effect uses as a source and destination. Also, not all Effects require more than 1 strip.
- At the bottom of the Sequence window go to Add, then Effect>, then click Cross.
- A new strip will appear under the mouse cursor, place this above both your movie strips. Notice you cannot change the length of the Effect, only the layer which it is placed, the length of transition effects is determined by the area in which the two related strips overlap each other.
Keying a graphic
Our alien-like humanoid is waving at us, so we may as well add some text to the animation that makes sense. When using Blender it's usually a good idea to have a good 2D graphics application within reach for making textures and things, the graphic in Figure 5 was made in Gimp and saved as an RGBA (The A stands for Alpha, or Transparency, if you didn't know that) PNG.
Next, add the graphic to your current Sequence in the same way you added the movie strip previously. Click Add, then Images, find your image in the file selector and load it. Once again, you should see a differently colored bar hovering under your mouse cursor. This time, place it on the second or third row above our first movie strip. The next step is to use utilize the alpha channel in the image and make it appear above our movie strip. If you haven't figured this out already, you can use the right mouse button to drag the arrows located on either end of the media strips to adjust the number of frames they cover in the Sequence.
We will now add an Alpha Under Effect using the image and movie strips, this is very similar to what we did previously when adding the Cross Effect between the two movie strips.
- Select our new image strip (Right Mouse Button).
- Hold Ctrl and Right Click the movie strip below the Image Strip.
- Finally, click Add, then Effect>, and then choose Alpha Under from the list.
- An Effect strip will appear under the mouse, place it above the Image Strip in the Sequence.
Now shuttle around a bit and notice our text appears above the movie strip in the Sequence preview window as shown in Figure 6.
But you may ask, "What happens when we get so many strips that sequences become unmanagable" or perhaps "But how can I use this Alpha Under effect on a series of movie strips, it seems to only work on one strip at a time?", and perhaps you didn't ask that, but you're going to get an answer either way.
Meta-strips to the rescue
Meta-strips add the ability to take a group of strips and smash them into a single strip which we can move, resize, and trim as if it were a single strip, but we keep the ability to enter it at a later time if we need to make changes to its components contained within, or we can expand the meta-strip back into the multiple strips we created it from. Let's get started.
In this step, we'll convert our two movie strips and Cross effect into a single Meta-strip so we can apply the Alpha Under effect to the whole length of our Meta-strip, this feature can be extremely useful and keep Sequences manageable even when they get fairly complex.
Currently, our first movie clip is associated with the Alpha Under effect so it cannot be part of a Meta-strip without also including that effect, so we will delete the effect but not the image strip, then make our meta-strip, and add the effect back. If it sounds complicated, just take a breath and follow the steps.
- Select the Alpha Under effect in the sequence, and press x to delete it.
- Highlight all the strips that will be part of our new Meta-strip, to do this Ctrl + Right Click each strip we want to add, in this specific case: our first movie strip, the duplicate movie strip, and the Cross effect strip.
- Once all the strips are selected, press m, a Make Meta Strip? requester will appear, click Ok.
Alternatively, you can select Strip from the header, then Make Meta Strip if you forget the keyboard shortcut.
You should now see a very interesting looking strip appear in the place of our three strips. You can press n and assign our new meta-strip a name if you desire. You may also notice that you can move the meta-strip around the Sequence like any regular strip, you can also add Effects to it, but before we do that, we'll check out a very nice feature of the Meta-strip.
- Select the meta-strip.
- Press tab.
Notice the background of the sequence editor changes color and we see our original movie strips and Cross effect. By selecting the Meta-strip and pressing tab, we've essentially entered inside of it and can now make changes to it if we need to, it's probably obvious that this is far superior than rendering out a sequence and then importing it back in as a movie strip to add additional effects to it. Press tab again to exit the meta-strip. You can also break the meta-strip apart by selecting it and pressing Alt + M, but we don't want to do that now.
Now we'll add our Alpha Under effect to the "Hello There!" image and our meta strip, this time our graphic can span across the whole length of the meta-strip rather than just over a single movie strip.
- Select the image strip.
- Additionally select the Meta-strip by holding ctrl while clicking.
- As we did earlier, click Add > Effect > Alpha Under.
- Place the new Alpha Under effect strip above the image strip.
You can now drag the corners of the image strip as shown to the same length of the meta-strip and our text will be keyed over the length of the whole meta-strip, as shown in Figure 7. This is a very important skill when making complex Sequences in Blender.