Recreating the Pluto Pack (June 2020) Tour: Cinematic Effects with the Timeline Editor

This is a tutorial to teach you how to recreate the Pluto Pack (June 2020) - Content Package Release! Tour ( slide by slide. In particular, this tutorial focuses on using the WWT Timeline Editor, which allows the author to fine tune details from camera movement to layer parameters – all within a single slide. Using the timeline, you can ramp up the production value with high precision control of WWT. Download the Pluto Pack – June 2020 Tour: and keep in mind that this is intended for the Windows client and mostly does NOT apply to the web client, yet. Before starting on the first slide if you are new to using the Timeline Editor, need a refresher, or simply want additional reference you can check out this documentation: I also recorded a brief video introduction to using the timeline here: or you can reference the brief timeline overview below.

Creating a timeline

  1. Click “Add New Slide” – this will create a snapshot of all active settings in WWT at the moment it is clicked.
  2. Right click on the slide and “Add Timeline” and it will appear at the bottom of the screen.
    • Useful tip – hovering the mouse above the numbers (indicating time) in the timeline and scrolling will expand or compress the timeline view.
  3. Move the yellow bar to scrub to a desired time (not to be confused with the “Time Scrubber” attached to the bottom of the layer manager).
  4. Select “Camera” at the left of the timeline (it will be highlighted in yellow when selected).
  5. Situate the scene positioning/time as desired.
  6. Click the key icon: “Add Key” to add a keyframe at that specific time to take a snapshot of all camera parameters that are active/set.
    • The keyframe on the timeline can be selected and moved by dragging it around.
    • The keyframe can be clicked once to edit its parameters and the transition function to those parameters.
    • Keyframes can be added ad infinitum to tweak the look and feel of playback in WWT. Don’t go overboard – it is easier to edit fewer keyframes than many.
  7. A timeline must be added for each slide individually.
    • A timeline cannot be removed from a slide – the slide must be deleted.
    • A tour with a timeline slide is not compatible on the web client.
  8. Additional parameters and layers can be added to the timeline for precision control.
    • Right click a layer in the layer manager and select “Add to Timeline.”
    • Be sure that the correct parameter or layer is highlighted prior to adding a keyframe.
  9. Assets such as Text, Shapes, and Picture can be added to the timeline for control with a right click and select “Add to Timeline”
    • Edit any text and sizing prior to adding to the timeline for best results.
    • Useful tip – “Guided Tours” (pull down menu) -> “Show Overlay List” to keep track of these assets on the selected slide.
  10. SAVE and SAVE OFTEN! WWT is powerful but not perfect, things crash – SAVE!
  11. Add slides (and timelines) as desired.
    • Useful tip – “Guided Tours” (pull down menu) -> “Show Slide Numbers” to keep track of slides. Slides can also be named by clicking on the slide just above the duration.

Slide 0 – Title Slide

  1. Load the Pluto Pack Layers!
  2. Navigate (fly to) to Pluto and position/time so that the heart is mostly illuminated as seen at 00:05.
    • Ensure that the “Pluto New Horizons Enhanced Color” texture is visible.
    • Create a slide, add a timeline.
  3. Add desired text/logos and position as desired on the screen.
    • Right click and select “Properties” to carefully adjust orientation.
    • Numerical values correspond to pixels.
    • When finished, add to timeline
  4. Click the “+” to the left of “Camera” to open the layer tree and reveal all the adjustable parameters associated with Camera.
  5. Select the existing keyframe for “DateTime” at time 00:00 and increase the DateTime value by 1.
    • DateTime numerical values are represented in Julian Date.
  6. Move the yellow time scrubber to 00:10, select “DateTime” and add a keyframe, adjusting the DateTime value to 2 less than the value at 00:00.
    • Now over 10 seconds, time will go backwards two full earth days, but position will remain the same. But backwards?
    • Known bug – Pluto rotates backwards in WWT
  7. For each text/picture overlay added to the timeline, click the “+” and find the “Color.Alpha” parameter, which acts as opacity.
  8. In addition to 00:00, add a Color.Alpha keyframe for each text/picture overlay at 00:02 and 00:04.
  9. Change the Color.Alpha keyframes at 00:00 and 00:02 to Color.Alpha of 0; change the keyframes at 00:04 to Color.Alpha of 1.
    • Play the tour, text and logos will fade in around Pluto beginning at 2 sec and arriving at full opacity at 4 sec.
  10. Finally, to fade the entire tour in from black, click the transition to the left of slide 0 and select the 5th option from the left (/B). Set hold time to 1 (duration waited in seconds after the tour is started) and B time to 2 (duration of fade from black).
    • This can be also accomplished by adding the “Fade to Black” parameter from the layer manager and adding keyframes at 00:00 (opacity 0) and 00:02 (opacity 1).
  11. Bonus – if a voiceover and/or audio track is desired, they can be directly imported for each individual slide. In order to allow audio, text, shapes, or pictures to remain present throughout multiple slides (or even the entire tour), right click a slide and select “Master Slide.” The audio, text, shape, or picture assets will persist from slide to slide unless a second Master Slide is chosen.

Slide 1 – Pluto System, Pluto Enhanced Color

  1. Navigate to Pluto and position/time so that the heart is mostly illuminated and Charon is visible in the frame as seen at 00:12.
    • Ensure that the “Pluto New Horizons Enhanced Color” texture is visible.
  2. Zoom out until all of Pluto’s moons orbits are no longer visible.
    • Create a slide, add a timeline.
  3. The transition from the previous slide changes points of reference and so it is best to use the A/B transition. This will hold fade from slide 0 to black over 2 seconds, pause for 2 seconds, and then fade to slide 1 from black over 2 seconds.
  4. Note the visible white and yellow lines through the screen which represent Arrokoth’s orbit and New Horizons’ trajectory. These cannot be controlled in the timeline separately from moon orbits (they all fall under “Moon & Satellite Orbits”) nor can the layer be toggled off for one slide and not the other.
    • Desired enhancement – opacity control over all reference frame orbits/trajectories.
  5. Zoom in as far as is desired to Pluto and add a zoom or camera keyframe to the end of the timeline at 00:10.
  6. Edit the duration of slide 1 by clicking on the 0:10.0 under slide 1 at the top of the screen and change duration to 25 sec.
    • A prompt will ask to extend the timeline (Yes), which adds a keyframe-less 15 seconds at the end of the existing 10 sec, or to scale the timeline (No), which will scale the time between existing keyframes so that the entire duration is 25 sec.
    • In this scenario, choose “No” to scale it.
  7. Zooming in from beyond visible moon orbits to a close-up view of Pluto in linear fashion does not provide a good look at Pluto until ~16-19 sec.
    • To remedy, capture a camera keyframe at ~00:12 and drag it to ~00:05 on the timeline, keeping the linear transition function.
  8. To fade from one planetary texture to another, toggle the desired layer on and the layer for the transition off and be sure that these parameters are set at the beginning and end of the slide.
    • Known bug – while texture layers can be added to the timeline and manipulated with keyframes, the opacity parameter is currently broken and non-functional. A fix to this will improve the ease of fading between textures, so look to future WWT updates for this.
  9. Drag the zoom keyframe from 00:25 to 00:23 and then add an additional identical zoom keyframe at 00:25 to allow for a transition to the “Pluto New Horizons Colorized Terrain” texture.
  10. To perfect the rate of zoom, click the zoom keyframe that is being zoomed to and try different transfers functions. Experiment with the custom function and drag the curve around.
  11. Add labels, as desired.

Slide 2 – Pluto Colorized Terrain

  1. Right click on slide 1 and select “Show End Camera Position” (don’t move or zoom!!)
  2. Toggle off the layer “Pluto New Horizons Enhanced Color” and toggle on “Pluto New Horizons Colorized Terrain.”
  3. Add a new slide and select a transition type A\B to crossfade between slides (and in this case layers).
  4. Without moving or zooming, add a camera keyframe at 00:03.
  5. Zoom out and change the camera view slightly.
    • Add another camera keyframe at 00:10.
  6. Add labels, as desired.

Slide 3 – Charon Colorized Terrain

  1. In order to highlight Charon’s best imagery (with features like Chasma Serenitatis), it is desired to rotate Charon 10 degrees of longitude for the Colorized Terrain to show elevation, crossfade layers to reveal the Enhanced Color Map, and rotate an additional 10 degrees over the same period of time.
  2. Right click Charon in the Layer Manager (Pluto must be expanded to find Charon) and click “Track this frame.”
    • Known issue – tracking a reference frame orients the camera at (or at least near) the origin for that reference frame, effectively placing the view inside of the world being viewed. Zoom out until the world is visible.
  3. Toggle the “Charon New Horizons Colorized Terrain” layer on and toggle the “Charon New Horizons Enhanced Color” layer off.
    • Create a slide, add a timeline.
  4. Add a longitude keyframe (expand camera to find it) at the end of the slide, 00:08 and modify the value to subtract 10 degrees from the value at 00:00.
  5. If the starting/stopping of the longitudinal rotation seems abrupt, try using a custom transition function. Keep it nearly linear with a slightly gentler slope at the beginner and end.
  6. Add labels, as desired.
  7. The transition from the previous slide changes points of reference and so it is best to use the A/B transition.

Slide 4 – Charon Colorized Terrain +2 sec

  1. Due to the difficulties fading between layers, this slide was added to mimic slide 5 for visual symmetry.
  2. It is just as effective to add 2 seconds without movement to the end of slide 4 (as seen in slide 1), but that didn’t jive with the tour author at ~2:00 am when the tour was created.
  3. Either way, this allows for the A\B crossfade in between still layers, where movement would cause a blurring during the fade.

Slide 5 – Charon Enhanced Color + 2 sec

  1. As with slide 4, it is just as effective to add 2 seconds without movement to the beginning of slide 6 (as seen in slide 2).
  2. Again, this allows for the A\B crossfade in between still layers.

Slide 6 – Charon Enhanced Color

  1. For consistency, rotate an additional 10 degrees of longitude in the same direction over 8 sec.
  2. Use the same custom transition function for longitude, if desired.
  3. Add labels, as desired.

Slide 7 – Arrokoth

  1. Track the Arrokoth reference frame.
  2. Toggle off “Moon & Satellite Orbits” to prevent a white wiggly line in the background and set by adding to the timeline with an opacity of 0.
  3. Zoom in to find a nice viewing angle for the keyframe at 00:00 and zoom in a little further changing the lat/lon slightly to find a better viewing angle at 00:20.
    • Tweak keyframe parameters as needed, add keyframes as needed.
  4. Add labels, as desired.
  5. Use that A/B transition to get from Charon to Arrokoth and then Arrokoth to New Horizons.

Slide 8 – New Horizons

Slide 8 uses the same techniques that are outlined on other slides. Try recreating it without instructions and see how much you learned!

Slide 9 – Title Slide (but static, and at the end)

Congratulations – you made it! You have a recreated Pluto Pack (June 2020) Tour with your own added flourish. Share it with us in the forum or with whomever you like. Render it out and put it on YouTube to compete with ours… How to render to video? Here’s a handy guide:

I hope this was helpful to you. Let me know what you think and please ask any questions!


Great tutorial David. Can you put a reference to your statement “outlined on other slides” for Slide 8 - New Horizons? Which other slides or tutorials?

Thank you - I hope it is helpful for you!

Slide 8 - New Horizons was meant to be a test of what is outlined in this tutorial for the prior 7 slides. So if you have the Pluto Pack layers already loaded up:, you can track the New Horizons frame and manipulate the timeline to produce the desired results.

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