Reading Operator Anatomy

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A large part of working with TouchDesigner is manipulating operators. TOPs, CHOPs, SOPs, MATs, and DATs have many shared characteristics and anatomy. Let’s first look at the location and types of connectors you’ll find on these operators. All operators have single output connectors. These outputs can be connected to the input connectors of the same family. 

Some operators have multi-input connectors (for example the Composite TOP, the Math CHOP, the Merge SOP and the Merge DAT) that allow multiple simultaneous connections to that operator. Single- double- and multi- connectors have a slightly different appearance. 

Additionally, every operator has a set of flags that are used to control some behaviors of the operator. Flags are located both on the left hand side of the operator, and on the bottom right hand side of the operator. On the bottom right hand side of the operator there are family flags, and the Viewer Active flag. Every operator has a Viewer Active flag (this looks like the + symbol). When an operator is Viewer Active it allows for additional manipulation when clicking in the operator’s viewer. Each family also has its own set of one or more family flags displayed to the left of the Viewer Active flag.

Components (COMPs) have a slightly different anatomy. These operators can hold entire networks inside of themselves, and have top and bottom connectors by default. Top and bottom connectors are used for hierarchical organization (in the case of panels, and for inherited transformation in the case of 3D objects. COMPs only have a single Output for their Bottom connectors, but some COMPs have multi-input top connectors (the Blend and Camera Blend COMPs).

When a Component is Viewer Active it allows for direct interaction with COMPs – in the case of 3D Objects that involves tumbling the 3D viewport; for Panel COMPs this allows for interaction with the 2D panel UI elements. 3D Object and Dynamic COMPs also have family-specific flags located next to the Viewer Active flag.

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