Switching Layer Order

I have a question about technique.

I’ve been adding multiple transparency modules to characters and keyframing their visibility to switch their layer order in a scene. It works but I was wondering if this was a common technique for doing this or if there was a better way that I’m not aware of.

It’s not a big deal to set this up but is there a module that accepts a single input and allows you to keyframe switching between between multiple output branches? That would be much easier than managing keyframes for multiple transparency module, especially in scenes with many characters that move around a lot.

Thanks in advance for any helpful answers.


Hmm…it’s not doing anything here. When I enabled Maintain Scale, select the peg and use Alt up/down, nothing is nudged. The key combo does work with Translate but of course then I see the scale change. Weird.

Although, from reading the docs, it does sound like Maintain Scale only works at a single layer level and not downstream from pegs. I hope I’m wrong about that but I wish someone from tech support would pop in to confirm how it should work.

TBH, the scale shift wouldn’t be a big deal in many situations but it’s really noticeable in the particular scene I have at work.

Thanks for the tip though. The key combo will certain come in handy in other situations.


It works with any “Master-Peg-Layer” or else:

Thanks for posting that! Maintain Scale on a Peg certainly appears to be working in your video. I think that was the confirmation I needed.

For some reason, I still can’t get it to work with this scene (with keyboard or mouse) but now I suspect something must be something off in the scene structure or the rigs in this scene. That wouldn’t be too surprising–the scene network has gotten pretty convoluted. I’m going to try a simple test scene to check if it’s working on this computer at all. If it works in the simple test, then I’ll know.

Thanks again for your help guys. I’ll write again when I have something new to report. :slight_smile:


I did a series of simple tests and you guys are right, I can move Pegs on Z with Maintain Scale working down through the child layers. I was even able to get it to work with Pegs nested under other Pegs.

Something about how to select a Peg before I can nudge it that I’m not quite understanding yet because it seems to sometimes work and sometimes not. I know it’s me though…I’ll figure out what I’m doing wrong soon. :stuck_out_tongue:

Still not sure why this doesn’t work in that character heavy scene but it’s really not too important now since I’m nearly finished with it.

Thanks again for your help guys! This will help the next time I need to do this.


I think I’ve narrowed down some of the problems I was seeing. I needed to go back to tweak a limb for one of the characters in that scene and the Alt + Up/Down with Maintain Size worked on the limb as expected! I quickly checked with another character in the scene and it was still ‘broken’. I think this tells me that there is something odd about some of the rigs in this scene (maybe double transforms occurring?) and not the Maintain Size tool. Next time I need to animate these guys, I’ll take a closer look at the ‘problem’ rigs before animating them.

Thanks again guys. Your info and advice was a great help!


Not sure, if this is what you"re looking for…?
Try the “Image-Switch” Module”: Connect (line-in) all your characters to the Image-Switch and then the “Switch” to the Composite.
Then change the “Port Index” to switch between your characters.

Thanks for the tip! I’ll check that out this morning at work.

If it works for me it sounds like it might be easier than keeping track of several transparency nodes.


Does this tool only work with individual layers? I can’t seem to get it to work properly with groups parented to a peg–I’m still getting scale changes relative to camera.

It does work when repositioning individual layers within the character but I have dozens of layers for each character, and there are as many as seventeen characters in this scene. It’s going to become impractical to animate hundreds of parts this way.

Or am I using the tool incorrectly? (Very possible.) Thanks again for any further info.

For now, it’s back to multiple transparency nodes for changing layer positions. I guess it’s not sounding so bad now but I hope the devs will consider the inverted switch tool idea for a future release. :slight_smile:


if all you are trying to do is alter the layer order for animation purposes (for example an arm going in front of and then behind the body) you can just nudge it in Z using the Transform tool, and hitting Alt+down/up. it only nudges it in Z space by .001 with each key press, so there will be no apparent scale issues. hope that helps.

It’s whole characters that need to switch layer order but I’ll give it a try.

Last week, I was dialing in z values manually for whole characters but even with what I thought were tiny values the shift was pretty noticeable…it’s probably because the lens setting. It’s too late to change that now but since I don’t really need a parallax effect for this scene I probably should have given the lens a narrow setting. Live and learn.

But it could be that the values I entered weren’t small enough. I’ll try the hotkey trick you mentioned.

At this stage, the transparency switch I’m using is being used throughout the scene so I’ll just stick with it (it’s a very long scene and I don’t want to break it,) but for future reference I’m curious to see if the method you mentioned will work for me. Thanks for the tip. :slight_smile:


It works very well with Cut-Out-Characters. Select the Master-Peg and off you go.
Either mouse-drag or use the arrow-keys. Shift+arrow for bigger increments.

The “Maintain Size Tool” is really useful when one has to keep the visual scale of objects
regardless of the distance to the camera.

Otherwise, alt+up- or down-arrow will move selected objects or whole characters in z-space in very small increments.
Shift+alt in larger increments. “Frank Summers” explained it all in detail.

you can definitely do it with whole characters (or anything). just select their master peg, and hit alt+up/down to nudge them.

Thanks. I think what I want is the inverse of the existing Image Switch.

The IS allows multiple input and a switch for a single output from the module, but I want is a switch with a single input that can switch to any single one of multiple outputs channels.

For example, character A and B are fed into a Composite module, with B behind A, and I need B to move in front of A, and then behind A again. If I have B fed into this ‘inverted’ switch, I can switch between outputs from that go behind and in front of A in the Composite, and then back again. Ideally, there would be the possibility for more than two outputs from the switch in case I need to switch to other layer positions relative to other characters.

Currently I do the layer order switching by using multiple transparency modules on multiple outputs from each character in order ‘enable’ (0% transparency) and ‘disable’ (100% transparency) the inputs to different layer positions in the Composite module. This works fine for a couple of characters but when you have many characters moving back and forth, it quickly becomes a lot of extra nodes and keyframes for something that could be reduced to a single channel switch for each character. I guess this doesn’t exist then?

Anyway, that’s just an idea for a tool. All I really want is an easier way to keyframe layer order in a Composite module.

Thanks for any additional info.


(Note: I know I can move an item in front and behind another item by moving it in z-space but I want to avoid the apparent scale change relative to camera.)

Try the “Maintain Size” button. Then use the Top- or Side-Views
to move the characters back and forth.