Master Sequences, Shots, and Takes

Edit your cinematic in a non-linear form by using Master Sequences, Shots, and Takes.

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In Sequencer, you can organize your cinematic content to be shot-based by utilizing Master Sequences and Shots. A Master Sequence is a sequence which contains multiple other sequences. These sequences are laid out as shot clips, similar to what you might see in other non-linear editors such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

Content can be added to shots, such as cameras, Characters, and other Actors. Shots can be trimmed and moved anywhere in the Master Sequence, enabling a full non-linear editing experience. You can also differentiate shots from one another using the Take system, and can be used to experiment with different shot contents without modifying the original shot.

This guide gives an overview of the Master Sequence, Shot, and Takes systems.

Prerequisites

Master Sequence

Fundamentally, there is no difference between a Master Sequence and a Level Sequence. A Level Sequence is referred to as a Master Sequence when it contains a Shot Track and Shots. When shots exist in a sequence, additional behaviors and features become enabled to support shot-based workflows

Creation

To create a Master Sequence, you can simply create a Shot Track. Click the Track (+) dropdown and select Shot Track.

create shot track

You can also click the Cinematics menu in Unreal Editor's main toolbar and select Add Master Sequence. A dialog window will appear afterward, where you can set properties for the creation and management of the master sequence and its shots. Clicking Create Master Sequence will create both the Master Sequence, its shots, and automatically arrange them in the timeline.

add master sequence

Name

Description

Name

The name assigned to the Master Sequence asset being created and its folder.

Suffix

Additional text to apply after the main sequence name for the master sequence asset.

Base Path

The base file directory in which to create the Master Sequence and shots. The Master Sequence will be stored in a subfolder relative to this, and its shots will be stored in shot-named folders relative to the Master Sequence folder.

Number of Shots

The number of shot sequences to create alongside the Master Sequence. Each shot will be automatically added to the master sequence, and will be automatically named, lengthened, and incremented based on the Shots settings you are using.

Sequence to Duplicate

If you already have a Level Sequence with cinematic content, you can assign it here and its contents will be copied and duplicated over the number of shots you have specified. If no sequence is specified, then all shots will be created with only a Camera and Camera Cut Track. This is useful if you want to automatically populate your shots with Actors and cameras.

Sub Sequence Names

An array in which you can add Subscenes to be created within each shot.

Instance Sub Sequences

Enabling this will only create a single subscene asset for the first shot. The rest of the shots will reference that sub sequence, instead of creating a unique subscene per shot.

An overview of the other properties in the dialog box can be referenced in the Editor Project Settings Page.

User Interface

When viewing a Master Sequence, there are two main areas for navigation and interaction.

master sequence

  1. Breadcrumbs

  2. Shot Sections

The breadcrumbs area of the toolbar expands when using Master Sequences and Shots, it can be used to navigate between your shots and the master sequence. Clicking the folder dropdown will display a tree view list containing the Master Sequence and Shots contained within. Selecting any of these items will open that sequence.

master sequence folder button breadcrumbs

When viewing a shot or subsequence, the sequence name area will also display the Master Sequence. This is done to provide the ability to navigate back to the Master Sequence by selecting it. It also displays the viewing context, meaning that content from the Master Sequence is influencing the content you are also seeing in the Shot view.

master sequence breadcrumbs

The Forward and Backward buttons can be used to step through your sequence view history, similar to an internet browser.

master sequence forward backward breadcrumbs

Shot Sections

Your Shots are displayed in Sequencer's timeline area. Each shot section operates similar to most Sections, and can be moved, trimmed or edited. Double-clicking a shot will open it.

move edit trim shot

When multiple shot tracks are being used, shots placed in the top tracks will be prioritized. This means that if their sections overlap with other sections below, the section range on the top-most tracks will evaluate instead of the bottom tracks.

shot top track overlap

Shots

Shots are individual sequences used by the Master Sequence to create the complete cinematic sequence. Each shot typically corresponds to its own sequence asset. In typical content setups, you would be placing your Actors, cameras, and other cinematic contents within shots, so that you can perform top-level edits to the whole sequence in the Master Sequence.

shot sequence asset

Creation

You can create shots a few different ways.

When clicking the Shot (+) dropdown, you can choose to Insert Shot, Insert Filler, or add a currently existing sequence as a shot.

create new shot

When selecting Insert Shot, an asset creation dialog window will appear, asking you to save the shot sequence asset to a location. By default, the directory will be relative to the Master Sequence, and placed in a shot subdirectory if one is defined in your Editor Project Settings.

shot create folder path

When selecting Insert Filler, a shot section is created without binding to a sequence asset. A typical use case for filler is when creating a proxy shot or timing that will later have a sequence assigned to it.

insert filler

Shots can also be added by dragging Sequencer assets from the Content Browser to the Shots timeline.

add shot content browser

Details and Interaction

Right-click a shot section and navigate to the Properties menu to see its details.

shot properties

Name

Description

Start Frame Offset

The number of frames to offset the start time of this clip. This value provides a similar effect to Slip Editing, as it adjusts the playable region of a clip without affecting the duration.

Holding the Shift key and dragging along the clip provides a shortcut to changing this property using your mouse.

start frame offset slip edit

Can Loop

Enables the shot to be looped when extending its section beyond its default playable region.

loop shot sequence

End Frame Offset

When Can Loop is enabled, this property can be used to offset the loop region end time.

First Loop Start Frame

When Can Loop is enabled, this property can be used to offset the first loop start time.

Time Scale

Controls the playback rate of the shot. A value of 1 is normal speed, larger numbers are faster, and smaller numbers are slower.

Hierarchical Bias

Controls the Hierarchical Bias of the shot. Larger numbers will cause this shot to take priority over other sources when referencing the same Actors.

Sub Sequence

The sequence asset this shot is playing.

Right-clicking a shot and navigating to the bottom of the context menu will reveal shot-specific actions.

shot context menu

Name

Description

Thumbnails

Opens the Thumbnails menu for controlling the image preview on the shot section.

Takes

Opens the Takes list for switching your current take for the shot.

New Take

Creates a new Take based on this current shot.

Insert Shot

Creates a new shot at the playhead's location.

Duplicate Shot

Creates a new sequence asset from the shot's data.

Render Shot

Opens the Render Movie dialog window. If Movie Render Queue is enabled, then a Movie Render Queue window will open instead and will assign that shot to be rendered.

Rename Shot

Renames the shot.

Thumbnails

Thumbnails are images that are displayed on the shot sections to provide a preview image of the shot. Thumbnail images update when zooming in on the timeline in order to show an accurate preview of any specific area of a shot.

master sequence thumbnails

You can customize the thumbnail display by right-clicking any shot and navigating to the Thumbnails menu.

thumbnail menu

Name

Description

Refresh

Regenerates the thumbnails for this shot. This is useful if the thumbnail images are out of date or are displaying incorrectly.

Set Thumbnail Time to...

If Draw Single Thumbnail is enabled, then selecting this will pick a specific frame of the current shot to use as the single thumbnail image.

Refresh All

Regenerates the thumbnails for all shots. This is useful if the thumbnail images are out of date or are showing incorrectly.

Draw Thumbnails

Controls the display of thumbnails for all shots. If disabled, then no thumbnails will display, and the track size will reduce.

disable thumbnails

Draw Single Thumbnail

Enabling this will cause only a single thumbnail image to display, which is anchored to the start region of the shot. This mimics the thumbnail display found in other editors like Adobe Premiere.

single thumbnail

Thumbnail Size

Controls the width and height of thumbnails. Adjusting the height of your thumbnail will increase or decrease the shot track size.

Quality

The quality used to render the thumbnail images.

Master Sequence Context

When a shot is opened from a Master Sequence, it will be displayed within the context of the Master Sequence. This means the shot is including elements from the Master Sequence and other neighboring shot sequences in order to provide the full scene context.

When viewing shots from the Master Sequence context, start and end times will be displayed for both the base shot sequence, and the actual trimmed shot. In this example, you can see a shot with both the Start and End times being trimmed in the Master Sequence, and how that information is displayed in the shot view.

shot trim view

  1. The trimmed area. This is the region that will be played from the Master Sequence.

  2. The full sequence playable area. This area is being edited out, and will not play.

Conversely, you can also trim the Start and End times within a shot and observe the trimmed region on your shot from the Master Sequence.

trim shot master view

If Keep Cursor in Playback Range While Scrubbing is disabled from the Playback Menu, then you can further utilize the Master Sequence context by scrubbing outside of the bounds of the trimmed area and see the previous or next shots. This is useful when aligning your current shot with the edits of your adjacent shots.

keep cursor in playback range master sequence

You can disable this context view by enabling Evaluate Sub Sequences In Isolation from Sequencer's Playback Menu. This option is useful if you want to isolate a specific shot sequence from its master sequence, as any tracks not in this sequence will no longer evaluate alongside the sequence you are currently viewing.

evaluate sub sequences in isolation

Hierarchical Bias

Due to the nature of the Master Sequence, Shot, and Subsequence systems, there may be cases where the same Actor is being referenced by both the shot and the master, which can cause conflicts. Hierarchical Bias can be used to arbitrate which reference of that Actor should be prioritized to evaluate over other sources. This property is found when right-clicking Shots or Subscenes, navigating to the Properties menu, and locating Hierarchical Bias.

hierarchical bias

Increasing the bias number on a source will cause that source to "win", decreasing the number will cause it to "lose", and having equal bias between sources will cause all sources to evaluate together and blend (if possible).

The default value for Hierarchical Bias on the top-level (master) sequence is 0, while for subsequences it is 100. This causes shot sources to take precedence over master sources. Bias also compounds for each subseqeunce layer added, so if a shot sequence contained a child subscene, then it would have a total bias of 200 (100 + 100), causing the deepest level of influence to "win'' by default.

This effect is demonstrated in the image below, where:

hierarchical bias visualized

  1. The root sequence, which has a default bias of 0, and cumulative bias of 0.

  2. The first child sequence, which has a default bias of 100, and cumulative bias of 100.

  3. The second child sequence, which has a default bias of 100, and cumulative bias of 200.

Bias Example

The following example demonstrates how to utilize Hierarchical Bias values in your sequences.

A Light Actor is placed in a Level, and is referenced by three different sequences:

  • The Master Sequence references this light, and its color is keyframed to red.

    master sequence hierarchical bias

  • Within the Master Sequence is a Shot, and its color is keyframed to green.

    shot hierarchical bias

  • Within the Shot, is a Subscene, and its color is keyframed to blue.

    subsequence hierarchical bias

By default, the Subscene, and blue light take priority, because it has the largest cumulative bias. For reference, each sequence's bias value is listed below:

  • Master Sequence = 0

  • First child sequence = 100

  • Second child sequence = 200 (100 + 100)

low hierarchical bias

If you right-click the subscene section and lower its hierarchical bias to -50, then that will cause the Shot, and green light to take priority. This is because the subscene's cumulative bias is now smaller than its parent, causing the green light to have the largest bias.

At this point, each sequence's bias value would be:

  • Root Sequence = 0

  • First child sequence = 100

  • Second child sequence = 50 (100 - 50)

medium hierarchical bias

Setting all the bias values to 0 will cause all sequences to evaluate together and the results will be blended. In this example, the red, green, and blue light color values are combined, becoming white.

At this point, each sequence's bias value would be:

  • Root Sequence = 0

  • First child sequence = 0

  • Second child sequence = 0 (0 + 0)

equal hierarchical bias

Takes

When creating cinematic content, there may be cases where you want to experiment with your shots without modifying the original shot. Takes can be used to create separate copies of shots, allowing you to edit those copies without disturbing the original.

To create a Take, right-click a shot and select New Take. A new asset window will appear, with the directory pointing to the same folder as the original shot. Click Save to save the new Take.

create take

By default, new takes will be named after a shot, with a numerical postfix. You can customize this postfix in the Editor Project Settings Page.

When a new take is created, the shot will switch to using it instead of the original shot. You can change between the original (Take 1), and other takes by right-clicking and navigating to the Takes menu. The active take is denoted by a star icon next to the entry.

change take

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