Secrets of Timeline(s) in Captivate – Intro

August 13, 2017
Lieve is a civil engineer (ir) and a professional musician. After years of teaching and research (project management/eLearning/instability) she is now a freelancer specializing in advanced Adobe Captivate as trainer and consultant. Her blog is popular with Captivate users worldwide. As an Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Education Leader, she has presented both online and offline. Since 2015 she is moderator on the Adobe forums and was named as Forum Legend (special category) in the Wall of Fame. In 2017 Adobe Captivate users voted for Lieve as a Top Content Experience Strategist.
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Secrets of Timeline(s) in Captivate – Intro

Lieve is a civil engineer (ir) and a professional musician. After years of teaching and research (project management/eLearning/instability) she is now a freelancer specializing in advanced Adobe Captivate as trainer and consultant. Her blog is popular with Captivate users worldwide. As an Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Education Leader, she has presented both online and offline. Since 2015 she is moderator on the Adobe forums and was named as Forum Legend (special category) in the Wall of Fame. In 2017 Adobe Captivate users voted for Lieve as a Top Content Experience Strategist.
Legend 37 posts
Followers: 38 people
August 13, 2017

Intro

Happy New Year 2017 to all Captivate users!

Quite a while ago I wrote an article about Timeline secrets in Captivate 5: Tiny Timeline Tidbits

Since the change in the UI with Captivate 8 , the newbie User Interface minimizes the Timeline panel by default which is really a pity (personal opinion). Some of the questions I read, at least partially due to that decision to hide the Timeline:

  •  ‘I want to get rid of the timeline, don’t need it at all
    (user thinking that Captivate is just a Powerpoint clone).
  •  ‘Why is the timeline not showing the whole project, so user unfriendly’
    (user supposing Captivate is a mini video application)
  •  ‘Why do I see all the objects on the slide, even when the playhead is in a part where some objects shouldn’t be visible, not intuitive’
    (user with  an Animation background)

For those reasons I suspect it is Time to update that old article, to explain the ins and outs of the Timeline panel including features like CPVC-projects and slides, Effect Timelines, Drag&Drop, which were added in more recent versions.

Timeline panel, in collaboration with the Timing Properties panel is at the core of the Captivate application(s). Personally I’m persuaded that it should be a top priority in the skills-set of any Captivate developer, whatever its level.

Since I cannot offer you a ‘digestive’ (limoncello, grappa, schnapps, single malt…) I will split up this (broad) subject in several articles. You are reading the introduction. Following posts will treat the topics: ‘Timeline in a cpvc-project’, ‘Timelines in a cptx-project (master slides and normal slides)’, ‘Color coding and Shortcut keys for Timelines’, ‘Why/how to pause a timeline?’.

Why do you need a Timeline?

Many users talk about the output of a Captivate project as ‘a movie’. Although this is only completely true for a file published to a video format (MP4), this indicates well that Captivate is related to video applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects.

No one will have doubts about the importance of ‘time’ for video. A movie has a playhead, which moves at a certain speed. That speed is usually indicated by the term ‘frames per second’, or FPS.

Frames remind me always of the traditional way of producing cartoon movies: each frame, drawn by a graphic artist, was slightly different from the previous and the next frame. By playing those frames at a certain speed,  movement could be simulated: the slowness of our eye/brain made it possible to see fluid movements from those frames.

Captivate has two types of ‘raw’ files: the cptx-files (slide-based) and the cpvc-files (less-known, Video Demo files). Both types have a Timeline panel but with some differences as I will try to explain in this post. Let us start with those features that can be found always in the Timeline.

Common features

If you prefer watching an interactive Captivate (slide) tutorial instead of reading static text click on this link. This portal only allows passive media until now (image, audio, video).

The detailed screenshots below are taken from these two timelines, the upper timeline is from a cptx-project (slide-based) and the lower timeline is from a cpvc project.

.Timelines

Some items are available in all Timeline panels, for both cptx- and cpvc- projects:

  1. Contrary to some video or animation applications, the Timeline ruler in Captivate is always in Time units (seconds), cannot be changed to frames (look at the horizontal ruler in the top of the Timeline panel). The smallest increment in the timeline is 0,1 seconds. With a default rate of 30FPS (which can be changed) 0,1seconds = 3 frames.RulerPlayhead
  2. The Playhead is represented by a red rectangle. When you use the play button in the control panel (see 4), you’ll see its movements. You can also drag the Playhead to a certain position on the timeline. There is a slight difference in size for the playhead in the cptx project (upper screenshot) and the cpvc project (rectangle is smaller).
  3. In the first column of the panel, on top you’ll see the Eye button, and each track (horizontal line in the panel) in the Timeline has a dot (blue stroke, orange fill) under this button. Look at the detailed screenshots. When clicking the Eye button on top, all objects in all tracks will be hidden on the stage. This is only meant for editing reasons, will not affect the published file. To hide objects in the published file you need to use a similar eye button situated in the Properties panel of that object. Then meaning of that Properties Eye button is ‘Hidden in Output’. When clicking on a dot under the Eye button, the objects on that track will be hidden. In the example on the screenshot, the second track from the top has been hidden in both the cpvc and the cptx project, a red cross sign indicates the hidden tracks:EyeLock
  4. Next to the Eye button is a Lock button,  with similar dots for each track. When you click the button at the top, all objects on all tracks will be fully locked. Fully locked means not available for selection, nor for editing any property.
    However, if you click a dot next to a track, there are two states. The first state is activated after the first click:  it will lock only size and position, but you can still select and change the other object properties. In the screenshot for the cpvc project, the Objects track just above the Video/Audio track is in that state. Look at the arrow indicators around the Lock symbol. Same for the uppermost track in the cptx-project (Highlight box). Clicking a dot twice results in fully locking, no selection is possible, no editing of any property. This is the case for the top track in the cpvc-project, and for the Zoom object in the cptx-project. Watch the look of the lock icon.
  5. The Control panel at the bottom of the first column (see screenshot below) has the classical (video) buttons, from left to right:  ‘Move Playhead to start‘, ‘Stop‘, ‘Play‘, ‘Move Playhead to the end‘. Play and Stop can also be activated with the space bar if the timeline panel is active.ControlPanel
    Warning: Play Slide under the button Preview has the same function as Play in this control panel. Although it is under the Preview button it is NOT a preview at all! It is just meant to be used for editing, will not show how the slide will look after publishing. This is a common misunderstanding.The last button on the control panel: ‘Audio‘ is a toggle, will mute/unmute Audio when watching using the Play button. Like the Eye button, this will not affect audio when publishing. The state of this button will apply to all open projects. You see the muted state of that button in the screenshot for the cptx-project.
  6. In the second column at the same vertical position as the control panel described under 6 and the horizontal scrollbar, you’ll find 4 tiny icons in all normal slides (they have no sense for the Master slide which has no real duration)TinyIcons
    1. Hourglass icon: indicates the location of the playhead from the start of the track; its tooltip is ‘Elapsed Time‘; this indicator is always available, even when no track nor object is selected.
    2. Vertical line + right arrow (Selected Start Time) will only have a value when a video clip or a static object is selected; it will indicate the start time of the selected video/object
    3. Vertical line + right arrow + vertical line (Selected duration) will show the duration of the selected clip/object, is only available when a video/object is selected on a track
    4. Chrono icon: Total duration of the slide

The Zoom slider to the right of this total duration,  allows the timeline to zoom in/out.

Same subject, more posts:

Specific features of the Video Demo timeline (cpvc-project) and the cpvc-slides: Timeline panel for cpvc-project

Specific features of timelines in a cptx-project (master slides and normal slides): All you have to know….

Most important post about Pausing the timeline: How and Why…

And for the developers who want to save time: Shortcuts and Colors in Timeline

 

9 Comments
2017-01-09 18:26:11
2017-01-09 18:26:11

What a great in depth look. Thanks!

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2017-01-09 20:41:58
2017-01-09 20:41:58

You're welcome. More to come, there is so much to tell about the Timelines.

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2017-01-13 15:44:47
2017-01-13 15:44:47

Nice article Lieve! The Timeline is one of the most powerful features in Captivate, but only if you really understand how it works. Cheers Steve

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(1)
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StevePixel
's comment
2017-01-13 20:49:53
2017-01-13 20:49:53
>
StevePixel
's comment

Thanks Steve, in any Captivate training I always spend a lot of time explaining the Timeline. It couldn't be done in one article, 4 more are ready for publishing! Hope that this will help some Captivate users.

Like
2017-01-17 15:27:26
2017-01-17 15:27:26

Great, in-depth look at the Timeline and the critical role/functions it plays. I use it all the time and can't do certain things easily without it. This article is a keeper! Thank you! Andrea

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2017-01-17 17:57:42
2017-01-17 17:57:42

Be sure to check out the other 4 articles: 2 of them are already published, 2 more to come.

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2017-08-22 19:59:30
2017-08-22 19:59:30

See everything on the timeline when you are not scrubbing is akin to an onion skin. This would be a great feature if you could shut it on and off. Hoping this is on the Captivate Development teams radar because it is badly needed. Timing things is just plain whacky as it is now. Having said that there is a lot in Captivate to appreciate!

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2017-08-23 20:53:22
2017-08-23 20:53:22

Sorry to disagree, but I never miss the oninon skin (know perfectly what you mean). It is very useful for long timelines, but Captivate's design is meant to be used with shorter timelines, since the transition between slides doesn't have to be visible to the user. What do you mean by 'timing things is just plain whacky'? I find it pretty easy with shortcut keys, and using short slides. Did you read the article about shortcut keys in the timeline?

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(1)
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Lilybiri
's comment
2017-08-28 19:01:54
2017-08-28 19:01:54
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Lilybiri
's comment

I inherited some slides with complex timeline based animations and interactions and not being able to see the timeline in the same way that Flash or AE or numerous other timeline based animation tools work was tough. Since then I have been dividing more complex slides into multiple slides and it has been almost a non-issue. I would still like to be able to shut this on and off so that you only see what is under the playhead at all times. Would be a nice to have!

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