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This course introduces basic physics simulation principles in Autodesk 3ds Max using MassFX, a system that makes it cost effective to animate rigid body objects, cloth, and particle systems. Author Brian Bradley introduces basic concepts such as gravity, drag, volume, and density, and how Newton's Laws of Motion can help you understand the interaction of objects with these unseen forces. Using the purpose built scene, Brian walks through the tools and features of the MassFX (PhysX) system, applying the principles discussed as he goes. Along the way, discover how to combine rigid bodies and constraints, mCloth fabrics, and mParticles geometry to create fairground-style effects.
Although we have now baked our MassFX simulation down to standard 3ds Max animation keyframes, there is still another step we need to take before we can be certain that we're reviewing the motion completely accurately. As with a live simulation, animation playback in our 3D application's viewport is dependent on both power and setup of the hardware and software we're using. For this reason, it will always be safest if we review our motion after having rendered out a preview animation. In 3ds Max, this is just a fast way of capturing animation playback using viewport settings.
The brilliant thing here is that we can match our final frames-per-second output requirements without getting anywhere near the time needed to create a final render. Rendering out an animated sequence file, or preview as it used to be called in 3ds Max, is very easy in the 2013 version. All we need to do is come up to the Tools menu, come down to Grab Viewport, and from the flyout, choose Create Animated Sequence File. Now, something worth noting here is that along with changing the name of this function in more recent 3ds Max versions, this tool has also moved around in the menu system quite a bit, so you may need to do a little bit of searching around before you come across it, if you're not using 3ds Max 2013 with the subscription update as we are.
Getting back to our menu option, when we click on this, we get a dialog that opens up, offering a variety of options for customizing the preview file that we will be creating. Again, complexity of the scene, length of the sequence being rendered, processing power and RAM available to us, all of these things will need to be weighed out carefully and will influence the options we choose here. In this particular instance, we're just going to make a couple of tweaks to the default settings. In the Frame Rate options, we want to set 24 as our frames-per-second playback rate.
This of course matches the frames- per-second setting for our scene. For our Image Size, I'm just going to leave this set at the maximum value available to me at this moment, which is 65% of my current 1280 x 720 render output settings. We also have the option of choosing the visual style we want to render in. If we just access this dropdown, you can see the options here correspond exactly to the viewport styles available to us in 3ds Max. In fact, when we set this up, that's what we're doing: we're telling the Render options to use this particular 3ds Max viewport style to create the render in.
Realistic of course is the highest quality setting. That is what we're going to be using here, but more often than not it will also be the slowest to render, so just keep that in mind. In the Output area, I want to make certain we're rendering as an AVI. I want to set my Codec to Microsoft Video 1, at 100% quality. This is just a nice safe codec to use for a preview animation. With the options set up, we can hit the Create button and 3ds Max will now work away on our preview video.
One other interesting snippet of information here is that unlike some of earlier versions of Max, whilst a preview animation is being created these days, it is indeed fine for us to pull up other application windows to work in. In the days when Max used to essentially just do a sequential screen grab of the viewport this really was a big no-no, unless of course you wanted to capture a video of your Word document or email client. As we say though, that isn't a problem these days. As soon as the preview is completed, 3ds Max will open up our AVI file in our default media player.
What we can do now is carefully review the motion that we've created. Straight away, we can see that there is quite a difference in the timing of our motion here as compared to what we were seeing inside our live simulation. One thing that immediately strikes me is that the pauses or gaps between the individual launches of spheres are really nowhere near long enough. This seems a little bit too rapid-fire. Now, this would be something that I would most definitely want to go back and alter.
Doing that of course would be a simple matter using the Unbake All function in MassFX and then going and adding a little more spacing between the groups of keys for our animated discs. One other anomaly that strikes me in this preview is the motion of the single can that ends up on the right-hand edge of our stand. In fact, if we just close our animation preview and then just scrub the timeline and keep an eye on that particular can in the viewport, we can see that its motion does seem to be a little bit confusing.
It does seem to do some odd things, getting a little mixed up with other motion inside of the simulation. And I'm not really too keen on how that is looking, or the position that it ends up in. Thankfully, applying a quick fix to this is a very simple thing to do in 3ds Max, by means of animation layers. So, let's move into our next video and see how we can do just that.
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