Formations panel

With the Formations panel of the Formations tab you can create, select, deselect, update or remove and sort drones in formations, and you can add them to your storyboard.

Formations panel

Selecting the active formation

Click on the Formation button to select the formation to be edited in the Formations panel.

Creating a new formation

The + button creates a new formation. Remember that formations are essentially sub-collections in your Formations collection, consisting of (stationary or animated) markers that define the desired positions of the drones in a particular scene of your drone show.

Create formation

You can define a name for your new formation and choose how it should be initialized:

Empty

Creates an empty formation

Current positions of drones

Creates a formation that contains one empty mesh for each drone, placed exactly at the current position of the drone. You can use this option to create a "snapshot" of the drone swarm at a given frame and use it again as a formation later on in the show.

Selected objects

(Only in Object mode) Creates a formation that contains the currently selected objects. If the locations of the objects were animated, the formation will be animated as well. Removing any of these objects from the scene will also remove them from the formation.

Current positions of selected objects

(Only in Object mode) Creates a formation that contains one empty mesh for the position of each selected object. The empties are added to the formation, but the objects themselves are not — therefore, even if the objects were animated, the formation will only take a snapshot of the objects at the current frame. You are then free to remove the objects from the scene without affecting the formation.

Current positions of selected vertices

(Only in Edit mode) Creates a formation that contains one empty mesh for the position of each selected vertex of the currently edited object.

Removing a formation

Press the button to remove the selected formation from the Formations list and the Formations collection entirely. Meshes that were part of the formation but that were not referenced from anywhere else in the Blender scene will also be removed from the scene. If you want to keep them, put them in another collection first or by assigning them to a fake user in Blender.

Selecting a formation

The Select button on the Formations panel adds the selected formation to the current selection in Blender. Similarly, the Deselect button removes the markers of the selected formation from the current selection.

Since formations may contain meshes as well as vertices of meshes as markers, you may not necessarily see the result of the selection immediately. If you are in Edit mode and you attempt to select a formation that contains meshes, you need to switch back to Object mode. Similarly, if you are in Object mode and you attempt to select a formation that contains vertices a markers, you need to switch to Edit mode to be able to interact with the selected vertices.

If you are in Object mode and the formation being selected contains vertices only (i.e. no meshes or empties), Skybrush Studio will automatically switch to Edit mode.

Updating a formation

Press the Update button to update the selected formation from the current selection or from the current positions of the drones. This operation is essentially equivalent to removing all markers from the formation first, followed by the addition of the selection as if you were creating a formation from scratch.

Update formation

You can also update formations simply by moving the markers in 3D space using the standard tools that Blender offers. New markers can be added simply by creating empty or non-empty meshes and adding them to the appropriate sub-collection of the Formations collection, or by extending the Drones vertex group in vertex-based meshes. Unneeded markers can simply be removed from the formations the same way you would remove any Blender object from its corresponding collection.

Reordering a formation

Points in every formation have a specific order. This gets useful when staggered transitions are created between two formations and thus drones do not depart from or arrive to a given formation at the same time, but in a delayed manner, one after another, in the order they are represented in the formations.

Reordering a formation can be issued any time with opening the Reorder drop down list and selecting the preferred reordering operator. Note that reordering is instantaneous; using multiple reorder operators is possible, each one will take the current order and apply its own modifications to create the new order. The following reorder operators are implemented:

Sort by name

sort by the name of items in the formation (default sorting)

Shuffle

shuffle the items in the formation to a completely random order

Reverse

reverse the current order

Sort by X/Y/Z coordinate

sort the current order according to the X/Y/Z coordinate value of each point in the formation

Every 2nd/3rd/4th

pick every 2nd/3rd/4th item and repeat until all items are assigned to the new ordering

Ensure safety distance

pick the first item, then iteratively pick the next item that is far enough from all previous items picked (based on the distance limit set in the safety settings). When the list is exhausted, start from the beginning with the remaining items, ignoring the items picked in the previous round(s) in distance calculations. Repeat the process until every item is processed. The result is an ordering where consecutive items strive to respect the distance limit.

to visualize the current order of a formation, enable the Show order of formations checkbox, which will connect all points in the formation with linear line segments between each consecutive point in the current order colored from green to red.

Formation statistics

Press the Stats button to show various useful statistics about the selected formation, such as the number of markers (empties, meshes or vertices), the size of the axis-aligned bounding box of the formation, or minimum distance between its markers on the current frame.

Formation stats

Appending a formation to the storyboard

Press the Append to Storyboard button to append the selected formation to the end of the storyboard. Skybrush Studio will calculate the time needed to move from the end of the last formation to the newly added formation, according to the current acceleration and velocity limits, and set up the start time of the new formation accordingly.