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Say I've got a dozen meshes and I want to animate some features that any mesh can have, regardless of their topology: render visibility, number of subsurface iterations, intensity of a displace modifier, Loc Rot and Scale, etc.

But I would like the same set of pre-determined effects, expressed in terms of keyframes (e.g. "enable visibility, then rotate Z by 30 degrees while increasing the decimate ratio"), to be applied to each object at a different (controlled) time.

Is this what the NLA editor is for? What would be a step-to-step way of doing this?

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes the NLA editor can achieve some of your goals. There are many possible approaches. I will make no effort for a [step-to-step] explanation. Of some relevance is blender.stackexchange.com/questions/60398/… . Keyframed data is a curve which can be copied and translated (moved) in the frame x direction. Also modifiers can be copied from one object do the other. Yes the numerous options can be confusing. You may want to see full tutorial videos on the site which has a name that rhymes with noonoob. $\endgroup$ – atomicbezierslinger Oct 5 '17 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest as a small learning example you place two keyframes in the object [A] position and copy it to object [B]. Then in the graph editor move all points by some number of frame positions. Copy, Paste, Translate. This will help you to think about the flexibility of Blender. $\endgroup$ – atomicbezierslinger Oct 5 '17 at 1:34
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Once you have animated the first object, select the other objects, then the animated object so that it is the active object (highlighted a brighter orange). Then press ⎈ CtrlL and choose Animation Data, this will give each object the same action.

You could also select each object and set the action in the action editor.

set action for object

In the NLA editor, click the double down arrows for each object to turn the action into an NLA strip for each object.

turn actions into nla strips

You can now select and move G each NLA strip so that each object is animated at a different time. You can also set the start and end frames in the properties region N.

re-timing each NLA strip

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