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lightweight timeline tools for openFrameworks
C++ C Objective-C Shell
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ofxTimeline is a simple to use openFrameworks add on for creating a user interface to an editable timeline. The framework allows you to compose sequences of change over time, controlling the variables in your openFrameworks application to create time based interactions.

If you're familiar with timelines from programs like After Effects, Final Cut, or Blender then ofxTimeline should feel comfortable. With just a few lines of code you can add a visual editor to smoothly interpolate curves, colors, video, oscillators, audio, and 3d cameras.

You can also extend ofxTimeline with custom tracks to work with other types of time based data. Check out Designing Custom Tracks

Copyright 2011-2012 James George co-developed by YCAM InterLab

Licensed under the Apache License

Philosophy of Reusable Tools

ofxTimeline is part of my reserach into how creating GUI based tools within creative coding environments can open up new ways of creating and interacting with media.

Interface based timeline systems are most commonly found in expensive big box applications like After Effects or Cinema4d, which can be prohibitively complex and aren't open source. There are open timeline implementations are tied up in huge projects like Blender, VLMC and Audacity. Even very talented programmers have trouble extracting reusable pieces from these applications for creative reuse. Moreover their GPL licensing have commercially restrictive licenses, a deal breaker for inclusion in creative coding platforms like openFrameworks, Processing, and Cinder.

If the community were to build many small components for creating small and intuitive applications, what new possibilities would we uncover? What collaborations between creative coders and other designers and artists would emerge?

Major features

  • Very few lines of code to include in openFrameworks project
  • Precise millisecond level timing and drift-free playback
  • Several track types built in, such as curved, colors, and video tracks with thumbnail previews
  • Convenient controls for efficient editing, such as multi-select, copy+paste, arrow keys nudging, and snapping to points
  • Zooming in for detailed control and editing timelines with long durations
  • Saving and loading of values to XML
  • Adding multiple pages
  • Ability to set beats per minute measure marks conjunction with snapping
  • Easily extended for implementing your own tracks

Getting started

Here are a series of video tutorials for getting started:

Anatomy of ofxTimeline


1 Pages

You can divide the timeline into pages, each page containing its own set of tracks.

2 Ticker and Playhead

The header displays tick marks at minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. Clicking inside the header allows you to scrube the playhead time. The green line extending down the height of the timeline indicates the current time, while the red line displays the hovering time.

3 In/Out Handles

The bar below the ticker allows you to drag the in and out points on the timeline. The region defined by the in and out point is all that is included during playback.

4 Tracks

The main body of the timeline is a list of tracks that are editable and resizable.

5 Zoomer

The control at the bottom of the track allows for zooming in and precisely editing time.


Simple Curves

Simple Curves shows how to use two keyframes and a switcher to animate and color a cube SimpleTween

Audio Waveform

Audio Waveform shows how to add an audio track to a project. AudioWaveform

Video Renderer

Video Renderer shows how to build a simple video effects app using the timeline and a shader. Drag & Drop a video into the application, edit and export the modified frames as an image sequence VideoRenderer


Muli-timeline shows how to use Flags to trigger start and stop the playback of other timelines in the same application. MultiTimeline


ofxTimeline has a few hot keys built in

Enabling Hotkeys on OS X

On OS X, GLUT overrides COMMAND+C, COMMAND+V, and COMMAND+S behavior. ofxTimeline has a function to remove these default bindings in order that the key commands in the timeline work. Add the following line of code to your setup function:


All Hotkeys

Note on OS X the COMMAND key is used, on Linux and Windows the CTRL key is used

Cut Selectioncommand+x
Copy Selectioncommand+c
Paste Selectioncommand+v
Select all keyframes in Focused trackcommand+a
Add all keyframes in Focused track to selectioncommand+shift+a
Delete all selected keyframesdelete or backspace
Nudge keyframes a littlearrow keys
Nudge keyframes a little moreshift+arrow keys
Expand Focused trackalt+e
Collapse all tracksalt+c
Evenly distribute track sizesalt+shift+c

Including ofxTimeline in your openFrameworks project

Clone ofxTimeline and dependencies

to download the timeline open up the terminal and type

$cd of_0073_osx_release/addons
$git clone
$cd ofxTimeline/

This will download the necessary addons, but won't overwrite any changes if you already have some of them installed

Create a new ofxTimeline project

  • Open the ProjectGenerator in of_0073_osx_release/projectGenerator/
  • Give the project a name
  • Under the addons tab select the following addons
    • ofxTimeline
    • ofxTimecode
    • ofxMSATimer
    • ofxTextInputField
    • ofxRange
    • ofxTween
  • Generate project
  • If you are in Windows VC2010, go to Project Properties -> Configuration Properties -> Build Events -> Post-Build events -> Command Line and paste in the following build event

        xcopy /e /i /y "$(ProjectDir)..\..\..\export\vs2010\*.dll" "$(ProjectDir)bin" & xcopy /e /i /y "$(ProjectDir)..\..\..\addons\ofxTimeline\libs\sndfile\redist\*.dll" "$(ProjectDir)bin"
  • If you are on OS X, you'll need to add the OpenAL.framework to your project in order to use the AudioTrack

Add a timeline to your code

in your testApp.h file add:

#include "ofMain.h"
#include "ofxTimeline.h" //add timeline include

class testApp : public ofBaseApp{
  ofxTimeline timeline; //inside of the class add a timeline

in your setup of testApp.cpp file set up the timeline

void testApp::setup(){

  timeline.setup(); //registers events
  timeline.setDurationInSeconds(60); //sets time
  timeline.setLoopType(OF_LOOP_NORMAL); //turns the timeline to loop

  //add a tracks, etc
  timeline.addCurves("MyCircleRadius", ofRange(0, 200));

in your draw or update function, read the value

void testApp::draw(){
  //the value of changingRadius will be different depending on the timeline
  float changingRadius = timeline.getValue("MyCircleRadius"),
  //use the value for something amazing!
  ofCircle(mouseX, mouseY, changingRadius);
  //don't forget to draw your timeline so you can edit it.

Track Types

ofxTimeline has several built in track types for doing standard timeline tasks.



A bang is a simple time marker that sends an event when the playhead passes it. To use a bang track you need a class that listens to bang events, like so:


  ofxTimeline timeline;
  void receivedBang(ofxTLBangEventArgs& bang);


void MyClass::setup(){
  timeline.addBangs("trigger particles");
  ofAddListener(, this, &testApp::receivedBang);

void MyClass::receivedBang(ofxTLBangEventArgs& bang){
  ofLogNotice("Bang fired from track " + bang->track.getName());
  if(bang.track->getName() == "trigger particles"){
    particleGenerator.start(); //some example response


Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLKeyframes -> ofxTLBangs



Curves change a value between a min and max range smoothly over time, edited with keyframes that have interpolation.

Right clicking a keyframe on the timeline brings up a selection window to change the interpolation value. These are based on the Penner equations found in ofxCurves

Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLKeyframes -> ofxTLCurves



Flags are like Bangs but allow the user to enter text on each flag. The value can be read in the event

void MyClass::receivedBang(ofxTLBangEventArgs& bang){      
  ofLogNotice("Bang fired from track " + bang.flag);


Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLKeyframes -> ofxTLBangs -> ofxTLFlags



Switches provide a simple control to turn regions of the timeline on and off.

Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLBangs -> ofxTLSwitches



VideoTracks let a user interactively scrub through a video and sequence effects in time with the playback. When a video track is added the video playback will control the playback of the entire timeline.

ofxTLVideoTrack* videoTrack = timeline.addVideoTrack("Video", videoPath);
if(videoTrack != NULL){ //in the case the video load failed check against null
    timeline.setTimecontrolTrack(videoTrack); //video playback will control the time        

, Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLImageTrack -> ofxTLVideoTrack



AudioTracks let a user interactively scrub through an audio track and sequence effects in time.

In your .cpp file add the track and load a file

void testApp::keyPressed(int key){
    //... setup stuff
    timeline.addAudioTrack("Audio", "myAudioFile.wav");

void testApp::update(){
    //check the FFT data
    if(key == ' '){
        //calling play on the waveform controls the timeline playback
        ofxTLAudioTrack* track = timeline.getAudioTrack("Audio");
        for(int i = 0; i < track->getFFTSize(); i++){
            track->getFFT()[i]; //FFT data


Inheritance: ofxTLTrack -> ofxTLImageTrack -> ofxTLAudioTrack



The color track let's you sequence smoothly changing colors. It uses a provided image as a sample palette, each keyframe specifies a position on the palette to sample from. Between keyframes the image is traverse to create smoothly changing colors.

LFO (experimental)


The LFO, Low Frequency Oscillator, track defines simple repeating sine waves and noise functions.

3rd Party Custom Tracks

ofxTimeline can be integrated with other addons or time based media, below are examples of just a few

DepthImageSequence // RGBDToolkit

MidiTrack // ofxTLMidiNote

Designing custom Tracks

The track system is designed to be extensible. There are two empty track templates that are the best place to get started building your own track


Use this template as a starting point for visualizing time based data in ofxTimeline or creating a unique type of interactive track.


Use this template for creating a custom keyframe based track. It already has copy+paste, multiple selection, saving and loading.

Supported By

ofxTimeline is a project by James George, co-developed by YCAMInterLab during the Guest Research Project v.2

Additional support

Additional Support

Playmodes who graciously funded and shaped the project in it's early stages for BlueBeams .

The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry who have supported the RGBDToolkit project.

Eyebeam Who's community has prompted many of the thoughts provoking the development of ofxTimeline during my residency in Spring 2012.

Also a huge thank you to Creative Applications for publishing the initial experiment which brought a lot of interested people together to get this to where it is now.

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