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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.
The process of linking objects together is a simple one. However, you do need to make sure that the pivot points of the objects are located properly, so that your hierarchy will animate correctly. In other words, that objects will rotate around the correct center. So if you select one of these guys here now, you'll see that in this version of the robot arm, the pivot points have not yet been set. I'll undo that. So you'll note that these objects are spinning around their sort of geometric center, when in fact what we want them to do is to spin around these ball joints.
So we're going to move the pivot points. What you'll do is you'll select an object and go over to the Command panel and you're looking for the Hierarchy panel. So I'll click on Hierarchy. You'll see the first rollout there is Adjust Pivot. So to move the pivot, you'll actually click on this button that says Affect Pivot Only. Now, what you should see is a great, big tripod that indicates the position and orientation of the pivot point.
So what I want to do here is move the pivot point so that it's in the center of this ball joint. So I'm going to choose the Move tool. Now what you see here is the move gizmo superimposed over the pivot point. So in fact that should be an illustration to you that the fact that the pivot point and the move gizmo are not the same thing. Usually, the move gizmo is located at the position of the pivot point. But in fact, they are two different things as indicated here by two different graphics.
So I can move my pivot up and down, but I want to be more precise about this. So I will go to one of my Orthographic views, Alt+W. So the Front view is what I want here. I'm going to activate the Front view by right- clicking in it and press the Z key, zoom in. Maybe I'll hit Alt+W and make that Front view larger. I'll just zoom in here. So middle-mouse to move the view and I'll just dolly forward with the mouse wheel.
I'll just move that pivot point down until it's in the center of this sphere here. So then to test it, I'll exit Affect Pivot Only. I'll hit Alt+W and go back to my Perspective view, and grab my Rotate tool in Local coordinate system, and see what I've got. So that's turning correctly. It's spinning around this ball joint. Very good! So Ctrl+Z to undo and just repeat this process for the next object down, so I'll select the shoulder object, Affect Pivot Only, go to my Front view with the right mouse button, press Z. I'll grab my Move tool, and then move that pivot point down.
I'll need to get in closer. I want to place that right in the center of that sphere. Exit Affect Pivot Only, go back to my Rotate tool and test it to make sure it's turning correctly. Ctrl+Z to undo, to reset it back to a neutral pose. So I want to do that for all of the objects in this assembly to make sure that they actually do all rotate correctly. So the claw, for example. Also, I'll need to move the pivot point for these claws. Ctrl+Z to undo.
I'll go to my Front view once again and press Z, Affect Pivot Only, and move that pivot, maybe to around here. This is a lot less precise in this case. It doesn't need to be as precise. I can go to the other object with Affect Pivot Only still enabled and move that one as well. Disable Affect Pivot Only, choose the Rotate tool, and test it to make sure that it's doing what I want. There you go! That's how we set up our pivot points.
It's very critical that you set pivot points before you create any animation. The position of the pivot point cannot be animated. So if you want to change the pivot after you've created your animation, then you're in real trouble, because basically, all your animation keyframes are going to break, because now things are moving and rotating around a new center and everything is going to break apart and go crazy. So it's very important that you set the pivot points first before you even bother linking anything up and certainly before you animate anything.
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