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In 3ds Max 2011 Essential Training, author Aaron F. Ross demonstrates how to use this top-tier application for digital content creation, widely used in diverse industries such as architecture, industrial design, motion pictures, games and virtual worlds. This course covers modeling with polygons, curves, and subdivision surfaces, defining surface properties with materials and maps, setting up cameras and lights, animating objects, and final output rendering. Exercise files accompany the course.
Now that we have linked all the parts together, we are ready to start creating our animation. Before we do, I want to talk a little bit about how 3ds Max calculates things under the hood, so that you don't get confused by strange results or apparently strange results. So when you select an object and rotate it, let's say I select this Turntable and rotate it in Local coordinates, observe what's happening down here in the Transform Type-In area. I will rotate that around. You will see it's rotating in the local Z axis by approximately 45 degrees and when I release the mouse button, huh, the Z axis goes back to 0.
Now, that's kind of strange. But what this is doing is it's actually showing us an offset value. So when I rotate in Z, it's showing me how much I am changing it. So this is actually an offset and not an absolute value. If you want to know the absolute rotation value of an object, then you will need to look at it in Parent coordinate system. So in 3ds Max, the Transforms of Position, Rotation, Scale are calculated relative to the object's parent.
So if I go up here to Reference Coordinate System and choose Parent, now we can see, aha! This object is rotated about 45 degrees relative to its parent, which is the base. If I want it to restore it back to 0, I could type in a 0 there. So parent space is how 3ds Max is actually calculating things under the hood, and that's what you will see when you look in the Graph Editor too. So parent space is pretty important. The next thing we want to look at is locking the Transforms, so that we don't accidentally rotate things in directions that we don't want or we don't actually accidentally keyframe rotations that are not relevant.
So like, for example, I am going to rotate this in Local Z, but I am not going to be rotating it in Local X or Y. So I can lock those Transforms. So to do that, I am going to go to the Hierarchy panel and I have got the Link Info panel visible here. Remember, you have got the Pivot panel. We have also got the Link Info panel. And here is where we can lock certain Transforms. So to do this most clearly, I actually want to be in Local coordinates while I am doing this. So I will switch to Local.
And then you will notice if I click Rotate X here, my Rotate gizmo changes and now the X axis is no longer there. So I can click on Y as well. So you can see, only Z is available to me. So I can only rotate in Z. And even if I change to a different coordinate system, like if I go back to Parent, I still can't rotate in that direction, even if I click on one of these other axis. It's locked. So to see what I am doing though, I do want to be in the Local coordinate system. So I would just go down the line and do that with each one of these.
So this one's going to rotate in X. And I can tell that because this red circle here indicates the X axis. X is red, Y is green, and Z is blue. So I want to rotate in X, but not Y and not Z. There you go. Go up the line, same thing here. This one I don't want to rotate in Y or Z, but only in X. Going up to the wrist here.
Looks like that one needs to rotate in Z, but not X and Y and this one looks like it needs to rotate in Y, so lock the others. And this last one here is a little bit different. You will notice that this left claw, let's see, I want to show you here. It rotates in Y only. You can see that here by this little axis line as well. So it's Y rotation for this one. Go over to this one and it actually looks like it's the Z axis.
And the reason for this is that the pivot point of this object is oriented differently. I will undo that. So I could tackle this in a couple of different ways. I could lock X and Y and leave Z open, and now I have got the result that I want. Another way I could do this would be to reorient the pivot points so they would match the other object. So that may be a more elegant way of doing it. I can go back to my pivot point, and I can see Affect Pivot Only, and this is going to show me the orientation of the pivot.
So this is telling me that Y is pointing up and Z is pointing this way. If I select this other object, you will notice that it has a different orientation. And this object, actually the pivot point is oriented with the world. So you can see the World pivot here or the World axis here. So if I want these two to be the same, it's easy enough. I can just select this and go over here and click Align to World and that will rotate the pivot point so that it's lined up with the World coordinates. So now this is a little bit more predictable.
If I go back to my Link Info. Now, you see this one is only rotating in Y, and I can do the same over here. I can lock X and Z. Cool! So I have now set up my scene to start animating. It's pretty bulletproof at this point. So to create animation, I can set up my Timeline. How much time do I want here? Maybe 10 seconds or so. I will go into my Time Configuration, and let's see. I will choose SMPTE, so I can see Minutes, Seconds, and Frames, and I will set my End Time to 10 Seconds and 0 Frames, and click OK.
I will start by moving these around or rotating them around. Select this and rotate this. I can basically create a start pose, and I can keyframe these now in a couple of different ways. Probably the most predictable way is to use Set Key mode. So going to the Key Filters, I just want to only animate Rotation. So I will turn off Position and Scale and everything else, so I am only animating the Rotation channels.
And I can create keyframes from multiple objects at a time. So I have rotated this Turntable, and I have rotated the Shoulder and Elbow, and in fact, actually if I activate Parent space, I can actually see those Rotation values. So I can select all three of those objects, activate Set Key mode, and click the big Set Key's skeleton key button to create keyframes for all three of those objects on Frame 0. Cool! So let's say I want it to turn around, but maintain a sort of static position so only the Turntable is going to turn.
So I will go let's say down to 2 seconds, grab that Turntable, and then spin that around a little bit and click the big Set Key button, and now I have got a keyframe on that one too. So I will rewind this and play this back and see what I get. So far so good. Now what I would like to happen is this is going to tilt down. So if I didn't know any better, I would just go forward to whenever I want that to happen, like let's say a couple of seconds later, and maybe tilt this downward and set another keyframe and again, the result that I want to achieve is it's going to spin around and then tilt downward. So let's try that.
I will tilt this down and click Set Keys and then play that back and see what I get. Well, actually it's not really giving me the result that I want. It has actually begun spinning on Frame 1. I don't know if that's completely obvious. Maybe if I look at in the Ortho view it will be clearer. Alt+W and look at this from the Front view. It has actually started tilting on Frame 0, but I want it to start tilting on the same frame or a little bit after the Swivel action happens.
So what's happened here is I have forgotten that my first keyframe is Frame 0, and I don't have a Keyframe here at 3 seconds in or whenever this is going to start tilting. So what can I do about this? Well, this is actually an easy fix, because all I really need to do is move this keyframe down so that the motion of the tilting happens later. So where do I want that to happen or when? Let's see. I will grab my Turntable. It looks like 2 seconds down.
So I will select that Shoulder object and grab this keyframe and move it down to about 2 seconds or maybe a couple of drames after, and we will rewind this. So it's swiveling around and then it's going to start tilting. Cool! And if I want that to happen faster, I can just move this keyframe earlier. Rewind again.
I can add a little bit more interest to this by also animating this second part of the articulation here, which is I am calling that the Elbow. So again, I have got a keyframe here on Frame 1. So if I go down here and I want it to move between 3 seconds and 5 seconds or whatever, I will want to move that keyframe down, so it will start animating at that point in time. If I just go down here, let's say to 5 seconds or so and then tilt this up or what have you and click Set Key, again, it's going to start animating at Frame 1, and it's moving in a period of time that I don't want it to.
So I will move this down, scrub through and see what I am getting here. So I am getting a pretty good result here and I can fine-tune this. So if I select multiple objects, I will see all of their keyframes at once. But I don't really know which one is which. So that's when I would want to go into the dope sheet, so I could see the Transforms of each object separately.
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