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TouchDesigner Tutorial: Creating Operators

TouchDesigner Tutorial 3: Creating Operators

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Now that you know about mouse navigation and how to move around a little bit, let’s talk about creating operators, which are basically the bread and butter of what we do inside of TouchDesigner. There are multiple operator families inside of TouchDesigner, and we’ll go into more detail on those in tutorial 7, but for now let’s learn about the basics of adding operators into your TouchDesigner network. 

Creating Operators: Option 1

All the operators we have, the little nodes you’ll see, each one does a specific thing and we’re able to achieve really complicated functionality by chaining together lots of individual nodes.

So, let’s say we want to create a node. There’s two different ways we can do this. The first is to put your mouse over the grid background, double-click, and you’ll get this little pop-up dialog here:

A TouchDesigner interface exhibits a 3D object manipulation workspace with nodes, controls, and a timeline at the bottom. A yellow cursor navigates across the screen.

OP Create Dialogue

We call this the OP create dialogue or the OP create menu, and it has lists and lists of the many operators you can make.

Essentially all you have to do is pick one and click on it. You’ll see that there’s a highlight around the mouse because it’s waiting for you to tell it where you want to put that operator. Click again on the background and it will add in that operator.

Creating Operators: Option 2

The second way to create a node, which is usually the more preferred way, is to use the keyboard shortcut ‘tab’. When you hit tab, you’ll immediately be presented with that same OP create dialogue. And instead of looking around and clicking through, you can start typing the name of the operator into the search box in the top left. TouchDesigner will then grey out all of the other options:

A computer screen displaying a 3D model with multiple nodes and graphs in a TouchDesigner visual programming environment. A cursor highlights and manipulates different components of the model.

Here we typed in “edge”, and the nice thing is you don’t even have to use your mouse to then go back and click on the Edge TOP. Simply hit enter and an Edge TOP, in this case, will be created right under where your mouse was.

Similarly Named Operators

If you type something with multiple entries, like typing in “movie”, you’ll see that Movie File In TOP and Movie File Out TOP are both highlighted and all other operators are greyed out.

No Need to Finish Typing

This makes it really easy to go through: you hit tab, you open up the OP create dialogue, you start typing what you want, and you don’t even have to finish it because as you can see here below, I typed “channe”, and I didn’t finish channel or mix, but Channel Mix TOP becomes the only one highlighted. If I were to hit enter here, it would create a Channel Mix TOP.

A computer screen displaying TouchDesigner software for visual composition, featuring a 3D object with a texture and a menu with various options.

Creating Multiple Operators at Once

There are two more useful key commands when working with the OP Create Dialog: ‘control’ and ‘shift’.

Using Control

If you open the OP Create dialog, then press and hold down ‘control’ on your keyboard, you can begin to select multiple operators in a row, and each one will be added to the network below the last. This is useful for quickly populating a network with a few different operators.

Using Shift

Similarly, when you open the OP Create dialog and press and hold the ‘shift’ key, you can also begin to select multiple operators. This is different than pressing ‘control’ because the operators will be wired together in series, so this key command can be used to quickly create small or large chains of pre-wired operators.

Wrap Up

So those are the ways that you can go about creating operators in TouchDesigner. I highly recommend getting into the habit of using the tab key to open up the OP create dialogue and right from the get-go trying to search for the things you want by typing for them.

Next up in our TouchDesigner Beginner Series is Network Navigation!

About The Author
Picture of Elburz Sorkhabi

Elburz Sorkhabi

I possess a deep knowledge in many professional fields from creative arts, technology development, to business strategy, having created solutions for Google, IBM, Armani, and more. I'm the co-founder of The Interactive & Immersive HQ. Yo!