Problems Editing "Blocks" of Cells

I’m having fun using ToonBoom Studio, but there appear to be a whole range of inconsistencies that are making the progress slower, and more confusing, than I think they need to be. I’f I’m missing something here, then just let me know.

Here’s one example of what I’m trying to do:
1) I create multiple cutout characters, configure each (pegs etc.), animate, and then, save as templates
2) I create new project with 10-20 characters (from templates) all dancing
3) Add a music track for them to dance to

I then notice that some of the characters need to be ‘speeded’ up in parts, and others slowed down. That means that I need to keep the drawing elements and peg keyframes lined up but I need to delete frames. In some cases, I need to delete frames across ALL characters, in other cases, only across a subset of the characters.

This brings to light a number of inconsistencies in the way ToonBoom treats the Edit features.

My first inclination is to select the top left peg cell, press shift, and then select the bottom right (drawing cell) of a range of cells, covering a range of frames. I’d then expect to right-mouse-click and get a context menu (as for drawing cells) that lists things like “Cut, paste, insert etc.” However, if any of the cells include a peg cell then the context menu does NOT include any edit options. That gives you the impression that you can’t cut/paste a mixed range of cells, especially if they cover a range of elements and frames.

That’s inconsistency 1. The peg cell context menu doesn’t include any edit options.

You then find out that you can select the Main:Menu:Edit menu to perform “Cut/Paste” etc.
This menu, mysteriously, contains 2 “Cut” options. The second brings up a pop-up window identical to the “Paste Special” option. (Maybe the second cut option should be labeled “Cut special”?)

Now the ToonBoom UI designer has obviously decided to cut a few corners, and used the identical pop-up window for BOTH the cut and paste special options. This seems little odd, because the “Cut Special” pop-up window includes options like: “Create additional keyframes at beginning and end of session”. I’m scratching my head, because I can’t see how/when this option would be used when you’re trying to “Cut” cells. Even the “Automatically extend exposure” option seems counter-intuitive, until you realize that it effectively replaces the cut drawing-cell with the drawing-cell immediately to the left. If the drawings are the same (often the case for cutout), it appears that ToonBoom does nothing.

That’s inconsistency 2. The “Cut special” option should have a more cut-centric pop-up window. Even a Help option on this window would be useful.

So, let’s ignore this issues and simply use the “Cut special” (Shift Ctrl X) option. However, when this option is used, only the drawing cells are removed and NOT the peg cells. You run through the different options in the pop-up window, and none give the result you’re after.

That’s inconsistency 3. The “Cut Special” option should work across Pegs and Drawings (or at least notify the user that the operation could not be completed and why). The bigger question is why wouldn’t a person want to cut (and later paste) both drawing cells AND related peg cells?

So, maybe it’s not Cut that you need to use but “Delete”. Again, this is only on the main menu. The only problem is that it performs much the same operation as “Cut”, i.e. it removes only the drawing cells. What’s worse, is that it leaves an “empty drawing cells” on the timeline, rather than removing the cells and shifting the cells on the right over one cell to the left.

That’s inconsistency 4. If you delete a cell you’d expect all the other cells to the right are shifted over to the left, so there is no empty cell: That’s how a video or word editor would work. If you simply want a cell removed, but don’t want the cells to the right shifted over, you’d use the “Cut” option.

So, none of these options seem to do the trick, so you try the keyboard option “E”. Low-and-behold, it does kind of what you want. It deletes both Peg AND Drawing cells. Great. Oddly, though, there is no equivalent option on the Main:Edit:Menu

That’s (minor) inconsistency 4. There’s no Main menu:Edit option that’s equivalent to the keyboard shortcuts “E” and “R”.

Not to worry, at least we’re making progress. But there are other problems here. The keyboard shortcuts “E” and “R” only delete one cell (or vertical group of cells) at a time. Even if you collapse the character down into it’s parent peg.

This makes it very time consuming to remove blocks of cells. In my case, I need to remove blocks of cells that maybe 10 cells wide. In a sequence that is over 5,000 frames long, I may need to get a new “E” key for my keyboard (and a new finger).

Tidying up the above inconsistencies would make things clearer, faster and more consistent. But I think the following changes would also help (at least in the projects I’m working on):

A) Make it possible for the user to select one or more frames on the actual Timeline “Ruler”. Doing so would select ALL cells in those columns. You could then select one of the edit options (delete, cut, insert etc.) This would make it much easier and quicker for a user to insert or remove frames across ALL elements.

B) Allow the “E” and “R” shortcuts (or some other shortcut) the option to remove blocks of cells that are more than one cell wide.

I won’t address your perceived list of operational inconsistencies. I don’t even want to waste time discussing the history and evolution of this software. But before you get too critical at least learn the difference between a cell and a peg. A cell is a drawing. A peg is a collection of peg containers used to hold data and instructions for the render engine. Cells are parts of drawing or image elements. Drawing or image elements can include cells and they also can include peg containers (since V3.5). Elements can be attached to other elements by means of pegs. A peg is not a cell. There is no such thing as a peg cell. There are peg elements that only contain pegs and not drawings or images. Cells are assigned to frames. Keyed parameters can be assigned to frames and contained in peg containers. Render engine instructions can be assigned to frames and contained in peg containers. The software has significant power and control capabilities and all of that is accessed graphically without user coding being involved. Can the software be improved, absolutely, will it ever be perfect, never. But if you are going to be so particular and critical, I suggest that you at least learn and use your terminology correctly.

By the way, are you aware that by collapsing a peg element that all operations done to that collapsed peg element ripple down and are applied to all attached elements in the hierarchy. This is typically how mass adding or deleting of frames is accomplished in hierarchies. Collapsing a hierarchy does significantly more than just expose or hide elements from view in the timeline. -JK

The post wasn’t a ToonBoom “bashing”, nor, in my opinion, was it critical. It’s positive feedback. Who knows, maybe others have the same problem. If I’m wrong, ToonBoom can simply point out the error of my ways. Hopefully it will help lead ToonBoom to better, improved versions of ToonBoom Studio and/or the associated help file. (I’m always the optimist).

Regarding terminology. I appreciate your effort to educate me, though not your tone. Just keep in mind the following: ToonBoom does not, in either application or help file, refer to the term “peg containers”. In fact, if you select a peg “container” and select Main Menu:Edit you can then copy and paste the peg “container” using the commands: “Copy cell” and “Paste cell”.

I even took the extra step to clarify further by using the term “peg cell”.

Regarding the “collapsing” elements into a parent peg. Yes, I do know how to do this. However, that’s part of the problem. There is no way that I can see, to remove or delete a column of “mixed boxes that could be drawing cells or peg containers”. The only thing that comes close is the keyboard short cut “E”, but that only deletes one column of “mixed boxes that could be drawing cells or peg containers”.

On a personal note, here’s some friendly advice. Please don’t try to patronise people you do not know - especially people who are too old and busy to have the patience to put up with it.

I apologize if I came off harsh. I must have been having a bad day. That’s not usually a problem for me. But it does happen from time to time.-JK

I was interested by this remark, and I tried to use it in relation to a problem I have with the “change loop” feature. Suppose I have many peg elements in my scene. I want to loop all. So I have to run the “change loops” procedure for all, one after the other : long and tedious. But, by attaching every element to a parent peg, I hoped, as suggested, that the “change loop” would apply to every peg element children. But no. The duration is extended for every element at once, which is a progress… but not the loops. I have been having this problem over and over. I wonder if there is a solution.
Thanks from Robin.