Up & Animate 'Em - A Guide

Recording Modes#

You know your old friend the Action Recorder, right? It’s the easiest way to animate some things in your scene. Open the Animate menu, stamp an Action Recorder, start moving things around like a puppeteer and bosh! Everything you do gets recorded in the gadget and plays back exactly the same when you hit play.

Video of Action Mode... in action. The Action Recorder, but better.

But what if you want a bit more control over the animations you create? Enter (drum roll please) the animation update, where we’ve introduced a whole menu of recording modes for the Action Recorder, not to mention the shiny-new Animation Canvas, giving you heaps more ways of recording and controlling your animations!

1 - Keyframe Mode

Scope into an Action Recorder and hit Keyframe Mode. When you grab and move something, a single keyframe will be recorded at the position you dropped the thing, so you can precisely pose an object at a specific instant in time.

What’s more, you can choose exactly where in the animation you want to put said keyframe - just move the playhead on the recording bar! Use the playhead control buttons in the menu, or the shortcuts +/ and +/.

Video of Keyframe Mode. Keyframes, but with heaps more control.

2 - Possession Mode

This works just like Record Possession does, where you take control of a character and act out your animation, but with the added flexibility of all the yummy new Action Recorder features. Scope into an Action Recorder and hit Possession Mode. Press on your character, perform your actions, and hit + to stop recording. It’ll all be saved in the Action Recorder.

Video of Possession Mode. Possession recording with knobs on.

3 - Physics Mode

Got some expensive physics going on? An object following a logic-driven path? An old timeline with keyframes animation? What if you could record those in an Action Recorder instead? You can!

Select the objects you want to record and hit Physics Mode. Time will start running - just press to stop recording when you're satisfied. All the motion of the objects you selected will now be saved in the Action Recorder. The payoff is that you can now improve performance! Just tweak your recorded objects and turn off Moveable, or delete your expensive logic or legacy animations.

It’s important to note that Physics Mode only records the position, rotation and scale of the selected objects, not stuff like squashyness, the fleck motion in a painting, or movement inside a group.

Video of the all-new Physics Mode. Your thermo will love you.

Looking for something specific? How about…

5 Secrets of the Animation Canvas#

While scoped into an Action Recorder, press + on the gadget and you’ll open up the Animation Canvas, where you can select, move, clone, or delete footage*. It’s a bit like editing notes and slices in the Piano Roll or Slice Mapper View in Sound Mode.

*Footage - the animation data you record.

A clip of the animation canvas in use. Look at that thing go.

Let’s explore some of the powerful features of this magical thing!

1 - You can split or merge footage

Action-recorded footage shows up as long continuous blocks in the Animation Canvas. You can break these up by hovering them and pressing +. Conversely, you can combine blocks of footage (note that they must be right next to each other) by selecting them and hitting the Merge Footage button in the context menu.

Clip shows footage being split and then merged.

2 - You can tweak the way keyframes blend

Between keyframes on your canvas you’ll see a line. This is the blend between them. Just like with keyframe gadgets on a timeline, you can tweak the Blend Type, Ease Strength, Smoothing and Springiness.

You can even create automatic stop motion blending! Just press + while hovering a blend region: once to move on every other frame; again for every 3rd frame; and one more time for every 4th frame.

Select some keyframes and you’ll get some contextual buttons, where you can read the more info tooltips for how to use these tweaks.

Tweaking the blending between keyframes to produce stop motion animation.


Turn off Motion Blur using a Grade & Effects gadget to improve the look of stop motion blending!

3 - You can make keyframes "empty"

Need an empty keyframe? Maybe you want your animation to blend smoothly with its non-animated state? Whatever the reason, you can make a keyframe empty with + while hovering it. This gives you a keyframe representing the non-animated state you can blend the rest of your animation with.

Emptying a keyframe to create a seamless blend between animations.


Check you don’t have Keep Changes on in your keyframe’s tweak menu. Otherwise the non-animated state is updated while the animation is running, so empty keyframes may not behave as you’d expect!

4 - You can organise your animation rows

When you animate lots of different things in an Action Recorder, you can end up with a lot of rows in the canvas. For an easy way to identify different rows at a glance, hold over the row name and press to choose a row colour.

Changing the colour of animation rows.


The name of a row reflects the name of the animated object, so naming your objects well will make it easier to find the row you need.

Naming animation rows.

If you still feel like you have too many animation rows in a canvas and want to be all organised about it, why not animate using multiple action recorders and put them together on a timeline?

Sharp Shortcuts#

Animation is a time-consuming discipline, so get to know some shortcuts to save time and stay in that flow state.

1 - Scope in using the canvas

You can only edit an animation canvas while scoped into its Action Recorder. A quick and easy way to start editing a canvas is to just press + while hovering it.

Quickly scoping into the animation canvas.

2 - Playhead shortcuts

When animating in Keyframe Mode you’ll find yourself repositioning the playhead a lot. You can use the playhead control buttons in the menu of course, but a much more immediate way to hop around is using controller shortcuts.

Scroll the playhead with +/. Jump between blocks of footage with +/. And step frame by frame by tapping the left or right side of .

Scrolling, jumping and step-framing through the playhead with shortcuts.

3 - Deleting or emptying footage

You can delete keyframes in the canvas using , or make keyframes empty using +, but it can be quicker to do these without even opening the canvas.

Position the playhead over the footage you want to affect. Now hover the relevant object and press (to delete the footage) or + (to make it empty).

Deleting and emptying footage with shortcuts.


If the playhead isn’t positioned over any footage (i.e. it’s at the beginning of the animation), will de-animate the entire object instead of selectively deleting footage.

4 - Insert and remove time

The quickest way to retime or shift footage is with Insert/Remove Time. To make it even quicker, use the shortcut - position the playhead where you want to insert or remove time, hover the recording bar, and use + or .

Inserting and removing time with shortcuts.

5 - Zoom to target object

If you want to find an animated object while working on the canvas, hover the row name and press +. The camera will zoom over to the object.

Zooming to a target object with the shortcut.

The FK/IK Shuffle#

With jointed objects, you can move them using FK (forward kinematics, for which you use the grab); or IK (inverse kinematics, using the grab). FK and IK are useful for making different types of motion look natural. If a character is freely moving their arm, you might want to move the arm with FK; but if something is pushing on the character’s hand, it can look more natural to animate the hand with IK.

What if you want to use a bit of both in the same animation? It can be a hassle to make the switchover manually. Well rejoice, for you can do this automatically! Position the playhead where you want the animation to flip from IK to FK (or vice versa), select the jointed object, and hit Convert to IK/FK in the context menu.

Converting from IK to FK and vice versa within a single animation.

This won’t convert the entire Action Recorder to use one form or the other - it simply creates a switchover point. In other words, after performing the conversion, everything before the playhead will behave the original way, and everything after will behave in the converted way.

Smoothing out FK/IK conflict using the animation canvas.

Note that FK and IK often don’t work well when the same object uses both at the same time. If, say, you’re animating a hand using IK, you likely won’t want the hand and forearm to be animated in FK at the same time.

Watch out for the dashed lines that highlight the animated object: green downward-slanted lines indicate an FK pose, and orange upward-slanted lines indicate an IK pose. If you see two unwanted overlapping poses, you can add empty keyframes to one of the animation rows to smooth over any conflict.

Thermo Thoughts#

The upgraded Action Recorder can be a great thermo-saving tool. Let’s look at how animation gadgets affect several sub-thermometers in Dreams.

1 - Gameplay (Things)

An Action Recorder counts as 1 Thing regardless of how many objects it’s animating and how much footage is in it. So you can make long, complex animations using an Action Recorder, without really having to worry about the Things cost.

This is heaps more efficient than timelines with keyframe gadgets, where every keyframe gadget you stamp down counts as one additional Thing.

Demonstrating the efficiency of action recordings where Things thermo is concerned.

2 - Gameplay (Wires)

Every property you animate with an Action Recorder only uses 1 invisible wire. To see how these wires correspond to the animation rows, open your Animation Canvas and turn on the Invisible Connections in the Show/Hide menu. The amount of footage in each row doesn’t matter here either - only the number of animated objects contributes to this thermo.

Showing how each row corresponds to invisible wires.

This is another way Action Recorders beat using multiple keyframe gadgets - every keyframe gadget requires its own unique set of invisible wires, regardless of how many are animating the same thing.

3 - Graphics (Shared Memory)

Footage counts towards Shared Memory in the graphics thermo. The more footage you have, the higher the shared memory usage. Note that blends don't count towards anything, so it's cheaper to blend between 2 keyframes than to use action recording, for example.

Sometimes animation rows can be shared by multiple objects. You know how cloning sculptures saves on graphics thermo? Well if you clone an object with animated tweaks, both objects will end up connected to the same row by different invisible wires, instead of also cloning the row. Savings!

Cloned Action Recorders also share all of their footage (i.e. no additional shared memory cost), until you edit one of them. So you can emit animated objects without having to worry about the shared memory cost going up!

Of course, if you edit any of the clones they’ll stop sharing the row/footage, just like when you edit a cloned sculpture, so bear that in mind.

Demonstrating the use of cloned objects to share animation rows.

The Dreams User Guide is a work-in-progress. Keep an eye out for updates as we add more learning resources and articles over time.