3ds Max Getting Started – Lesson 19 – Basic Animation
Let’s look at basic animation in 3ds Max. Animation is a series of still images that are shown in succession fast enough to be perceived as motion. In traditional animation, to animate the hand of a character moving up above its head, an artist draws two key images, called keyframes, one with the hand down, the other with the hand raised. He or she then draws in-between images to make the movement smoother, interpolating between the two main poses. When using a 3D application such as 3ds Max, you set keyframes to record the state of an object in the scene, and the application interpolates the in-between frames. Most animation is done on the transforms of objects, basically moving, rotating and scaling objects, but you can animate most values on objects in 3ds Max such as animating colors of a material, or the brightness of a light. This lesson shows how to basically animate objects in the scene using two animation modes called Auto Key and Set Key. Start by opening the Animation_Start.max file. To begin with, let’s understand frame rates by going to the Time Configuration. Here you can see, by default, 3ds Max is set to NTSC or 30 frames per second. You will want to know your desired output to set you frame rate here. We’ll stay at 30fps. You can change your frame rate at any time, and 3ds Max will adjust existing animation to fit the new frame rate as long as you enable the Adjust Keys option. You can also set your time range to define your Start Time and your End Time, which again, can be adjusted at any time. The Playback section allows you to set the playback speed of your animation when you play it back. Of course, we’ll leave it at 1x speed. Back in the scene, select standPerson001 and press W for the Move tool. Turn on Auto Key, the interface turns red, reminding you that you are in Animate mode, and that most things you do at this point will be animated. The Timeline allows you to change to a different frame in time as well as scrub through the animation by dragging the mouse. If you move to frame 30, which is 1 second of animation, and move the standPerson object toward this barricade, Auto Key records the change, setting keyframes at frames 0 and 30 to mark the move’s start and end. Auto Key always records from the beginning of the animation. If you scrub the animation, you’ll see the interpolation between the two keyframes, moving the standPerson001 object. If you want standPerson001 to stay in place for a while, say between frames 30 and 60, you can simply copy this keyframe. Shift-drag the keyframe to copy it, then move the copy to frame 60. The two keyframes are identical, so the standPerson remains stationary between them. The barricade would open at this point, and you can animate that in a moment. Go to about frame 90 and move the standPerson001 object into the train station. You can turn off Auto Key at this point. Take a look at the animation. The standPerson001 object moves, pauses at the barricade, and then goes in. However, notice how standPerson001 accelerates and decelerates. It makes sense that he slows down before stopping at the barricade, speeds up again as he enters the train station, and slows down again before he stops. But there’s an acceleration right after the first keyframe, which looks wrong if you assume standPerson001 is coming in at a constant speed. It looks like it’s accelerating from a stop, but you can change that by using the Curve Editor. With the standPerson object still selected, open the mini Curve Editor with this icon, then click the Filters button. In the filters, click None, then select Hierarchies, Objects, Transforms, Position X, Y and Z to make the view a little less cluttered in the mini Curve Editor… Then, drag to resize the panel. The left panel shows the selected animated object, and its various transformation tracks. In this case Position in each X, Y and Z tracks. Click the X-Position track to view its animation curve. Use the Horizontal Extents and Value Extents buttons to fit the curve to the display. Animation curves show a track’s animation as a function curve of the value over time. A flat curve (e.g. Z-Position track) means there’s no real movement in the Z-Position since there’s no vertical change to the values of the curve. Go back to the X-Position track and click Value Extents to see the curve again. You navigate in the Curve Editor by dragging with the middle mouse button. To zoom, use the magnify icon to zoom in or out as needed. Lastly, simply drag the yellow bars to scrub the animation. The red, green, and blue curve colors correspond to the X, Y, and Z axes in World Coordinate Space. In this case, only the X-Position track has animated data on it, since you only moved the standPerson001 in that direction. The curve illustrates the animation by charting the time and value of each keyframe, and by showing the interpolation between these keyframes. So, you can see that the red curve shows acceleration, deceleration at the barricade, a pause, then an acceleration and deceleration again. Select the first keyframe. There are a few ways you can change the interpolation that follows it. You can drag its Bezier tangent handle up and down. You can also use one of the Key Tangent presets to change the interpolation to Fast, Slow, and so on. Click Linear tangent preset to move the object at a constant speed until it decelerates near the barricade. Play the animation to see the result. Next, you can animate the barricade so that it opens for the character. This type of barricade rotates, and notice that its pivot point is in the right location. This time, animate using the Set Key mode, which favors pose-to-pose animation and is a little different than Auto Key. Like Auto Key, it turns the interface red, but it doesn’t create keyframes on the fly. In the Key Filters dialog, you can choose what type of keyframes you want to create. In this case, you only need to rotate the gate, so you can turn off everything except Rotation. First, select a frame, such as 40, then click the Set Key button or press K to record the state of the barricade manually. Notice that it didn’t automatically set a key at frame 0, and gives you control over each keyframe instead. Go to frame 60. Where the standPerson is passing through, rotate 30 degrees, to raise the barricade, and set a keyframe. Remember that a keyframe records the state of an object at a given time. So, if you forget to set a keyframe, and move the slider, you’ll lose the change that you made. The Barricade should stay open for a moment, so at 75 you can set another keyframe for it. Copying the keyframe by Shift-dragging will also work. Then as the character slows down, at about frame 90, rotate the gate closed at -30 degrees, and set a keyframe. Turn off Set Key, go to frame 0, and play the animation. Save your progress, as we’ll pick up in the next lesson from this point in this scene.