Altium Designer Documentation

PCB 3D Movie Editor

Modified by Susan Riege on Mar 9, 2018

Parent page: PCB Panels


Use the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel to create a 3D movie.

Summary

The PCB 3D Movie Editor panel is used to create a 3D movie of a PCB. This is done by defining a series of key frames, which the software then interpolates between to create a smooth and engaging movie of your board. A 3D movie can be published to a variety of video file formats, such as MP4, via an OutputJob file. 

Panel Access

To display the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel, click the Panels button at the bottom-right of the workspace when the PCB Editor is active and in 3D mode. From the pop-up menu, select the PCB 3D Movie Editor entry. Alternatively, you can access the panel through the View » Panels » PCB 3D Movie Editor command.

The workspace must be in 3D mode for the panel to populate and function.
Panels can be configured to be floating in the editor space or docked to sides of the screen. If the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel is currently in a group of docked panels, use the PCB 3D Movie Editor tab located at the bottom of the panels to bring it to the front.

Creating a New Movie

A PCB 3D Video is generated from a sequence of key frames, i.e. snapshots of your board that, when published in a video format, result in a smoothly interpolated movie that can be used to highlight and showcase your board and key elements of it.

New movies are created and the title is defined at the top of the panel. To create a new 3D movie, either click the drop-down of the 3D Movie button then select New, click the New button, or use the New command from the right-click context menu for the region. A new entry for the movie will be added to the region, initially entitled PCB 3D Video. The entry will be selected, ready for you to type in a meaningful title.

The title of a 3D movie can be changed at any time. Select the movie's entry in the panel then press Enter or right-click on the movie's entry then choose Edit from the context menu. The currently selected 3D movie is highlighted. Type the new movie title as required, then press Enter again or click away to effect the change.

To delete a 3D movie, select it in the list then either click the  button or use the Delete command from the right-click context menu for the region.

A new movie can also be created or an existing movie name edited using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+N and Ctrl+E, respectively, provided the upper region of the panel is the focused region.
The 3D Movie button provides access to all controls available for this region of the panel, similar to the right-click context menu.
3D movie definitions are saved in the PCB file. Note that the definition detail is the orientation and zoom level of the board for each key frame and the key frame duration.

Movie Configuration - Key Frames

The basis of a PCB 3D Movie is a series of key frames, each a view of the 3D board as positioned by the designer. Remember that each key frame is a snapshot in your movie. By defining a number of these snapshots – the key frame sequence – the final, generated video output is made by smoothly interpolating the n-1 intervals between your n key frames.

Key frames are managed in the central region of the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel with each frame in the sequence having its own row.


Key frames are defined and detailed in the panel.

Each key frame has the following attributes:

  • Name – the name of the key frame. By default, frames will be named in the format Key Frame, Key Frame 1, Key Frame 2, etc. You can change this if you want to identify the frame with a more meaningful name. For example, the name could reflect the content of that particular snapshot of the board, such as U4 Zoomed.
  • Duration(s) – this is the length of time for transitioning between each key frame in the sequence. In an exported video, the total number of frames is based on the duration of each key frame, and the Frames Per Second setting specified as part of the publishing options. Note that the initial key frame at the top of the list – with the default name Key Frame – is a special case. Since it is the starting frame for the video, it has no duration.

Adding, Removing and Ordering Key Frames

Adding key frames to your 3D movie is straightforward. Position the 3D view of your board in the PCB Editor as required then click the New button beneath the key frame list area (or select New from the Key Frame button drop-down). From the button's menu, choose where in the sequence to add the new frame – at the end (Add) or insert the new frame before the currently selected key frame (Insert). 

The initial key frame – the start of the movie – will have a duration of 0 seconds. Each additional key frame is given a default duration of 3 seconds. This can be edited as required by selecting the frame and clicking on its Duration entry then entering the new duration or by using the up/down arrows to select. Note that the initial (starting) key frame cannot be deleted. A new key frame cannot be inserted in its place, nor can an existing key frame be repositioned above it.

To delete a key frame from the sequence, select it in the list and either click the  button or press Delete on the keyboard.

Useful key frame shortcuts:

  • Ctrl+N - insert a New key frame at the end of the video
  • Ctrl+I - Insert a new key frame before the selected key frame
  • Ctrl+E - Edit the current key frame 

The Key Frame button provides fast access to all controls available for the region, similar to the right-click context menu. 

The order of key frames can be changed using the  buttons or by dragging and dropping a key frame in the list.

Adding Key Frames Directly from the PCB Editor

Key frames can also be added to a specified 3D movie directly from within the PCB Editor. This allows for more streamlined creation of a key frame sequence in the middle of the action without having to change focus to the panel.

Right-click anywhere within the workspace (in 3D Layout Mode) and from the context menu that appears, choose the Add Key Frame to 3D Movie sub-menu. This sub-menu is also available as a direct pop-up menu using the Ctrl+Alt+K keyboard shortcut. The menu lists all currently defined 3D movies for the active PCB with the movie currently selected in the panel distinguished by a check. Up to 20 movies will be listed by title in the menu. If your PCB has more than 20 movies defined, you can click on the More 3D Movies entry to open the Choose PCB 3D Movie dialog in which you can select the movie to add the key frame to. Clicking on a movie name will add a new key frame based on the current view of the board in the workspace to the end of the key frame sequence. 

To add another frame to the same 3D movie, set up the board as required and click on the entry for that movie again in the menu. To add a frame to a different movie, click on that movie's entry in the menu.

A key frame added from the PCB Editor is always added at the end of a key frame sequence. It cannot be inserted at a specific position within a key frame sequence. This can only be achieved from within the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel.

Editing a Key Frame

Within the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel, only the Name and Duration fields for a key frame are visible and editable (with the exception of the duration for the first key frame). To change the view of an existing key frame in terms of the zoom and orientation of the board is a case of making the required adjustments to the board in the PCB Editor, and then updating the key frame with that new information. To do this:

  1. In the PCB 3D Movie Editor panel, select the key frame you wish to modify. The board will display in the PCB Editor in accordance with the attributes for that key frame.
  2. Change the view of the board as required in the PCB Editor.
  3. Once the board is set in the required 'pose,' click Update in the Key Frame drop-down menu beneath the key frame list area.

The selected key frame will be updated with the new 'snapshot' of the board.

3D Movies of a Rigid-Flex Board

If your board is rigid-flex and it has a folding sequence defined, you can also include the fold/unfold action in your PCB 3D movie. To do this:

  • Position the board as usual and set the fold state as required by sliding the Fold State slider in the PCB panel. The slider is available when the panel is in the Layer Stack Regions mode.

  • Insert a key frame and set the duration as required.
  • Position the board ready for the next key frame, setting the Fold State slider as required.
  • Continue to reposition and add new key frames until the movie is complete.

When the movie is played, the software will not only interpolate between the key frames, it will also fold/unfold the board to satisfy the Fold State settings in accordance with the Sequence defined in the PCB panel. 

Keeping the Board Stationary

When the movie is played, it will arrive at and leave a key frame without pausing. If you need to hold the board at a specific key frame:

  • Click on the required key frame in the panel.
  • Press Ctrl+I to insert a new key frame; it will be added before the selected key frame with the Duration field ready to be edited. It is easier to consider this new frame to be the transitioning key frame, replacing that function for the existing key frame you initially selected, therefore you should enter a suitable Duration value for the transition from the previous key frame.
  • The following key frame can now become the stationary key frame; edit its Duration to the value you want the board to remain stationary. 
  • Repeat this process for any other key frames that require the board to remain stationary.
Do not forget the end of the movie. If you want the final position to remain on screen, you will need to add a stationary key frame to the very end of the movie.

Interpolation

When you play a video, the software defines the motion between the defined key frames by interpolating. This is a process that calculates a suitable zoom/orientation/rotation for each frame, where the total number of frames between key frames is defined by Frame Rate x Duration till next key frame


Select the required Interpolation method.

There are two methods of Interpolation available:

Key Frame to Key Frame – uses spherical linear interpolation between key frames and additional smoothing that results in a subtle slow-down at each key frame.

Velocity between Key Frame – uses quadratic-spline interpolation between key frames and also divides the range in rotations to be smaller than 90 degrees. The result is a more seamless transition between key frames with a constant speed between frames rather than any noticeable slow-down. Using this option, you will not notice the actual key frames when the video is viewed.

Playing a Video

Use the play controls at the bottom of the panel to play the selected 3D movie. A slider bar shows the progress of the movie in play.


Use the controls to play and review your movie.

Generating a Movie File

Movie generation is performed by adding a PCB 3D Video as an output in an OutputJob file and attaching it to a Video output container. This container supports a broad range of output formats, including, but not limited to, AVI, WMV, MP4, and FLV.  

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