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In the terminology of 3ds Max, a controller is a program module that can vary some parameter, such as an animation track. Controllers can create procedural animation. It's an alternate way of making things move, instead of the traditional keyframing. To illustrate this, I'll make a bouncing ball using a Waveform Float controller. I'll just create a small sphere in my world and just to make it a little bit easier to see on the screen, I'm going to go into my Time Configuration.
I want to use a custom frame rate of 15 frames a second, because that's the capture rate that this movie is being delivered at. And I also am going to turn off the Active Viewport Only option. That way I'll be able to see the motion in all the viewports. Click OK. Now I'm ready to assign a controller. One way to do that is through the Curve Editor. With the ball selected, I'll go up to Graph Editors > Track View - Curve Editor. The elevation or vertical position of the ball is the Z Position.
I'll select the Z Position track and you'll see currently it's flat. It's a constant value of 0. To assign a controller, I'll go up to the Edit menu and choose Controller > Assign. Now I've got a list of all the possible controllers that could be assigned to this track. The one with the little carrot in front of it is the currently assigned controller. Bezier Float is the default controller for all transforms, and in fact for most tracks in 3ds Max.
In this case, I'm going to choose Waveform Float, and I'll click OK. Now I get a child window popping up, that gives me control over the Waveform properties, such as its Period and so on. I'll minimize the Curve Editor for a moment and play back my animation so you can see that, in fact, now I've got a procedural animation. It's oscillating back and forth. Stop that, go back to the Curve Editor, and I'll make some changes, like for example, instead of a sine wave, as we can see here, I'll do a half sine, and that means it will bounce up and down, and it won't oscillate in that same way.
It will look a little bit more realistic. I'll change the Period, which is the length of the cycle. Let's make it 20 frames, and let's see what that looks like. I'll minimize, rewind and playback. Wow, we're getting a pretty cool bouncing ball effect for free. You'll see however that it's going through the floor. I can just go back into those parameters, and I want to position my time on frame 0, so I can see what it looks like at the very bottom of that curve, and I've got a manual bias here I can adjust.
So I'll just drag this spinner out, until the ball is right on the floor at frame 0. Maximize the view and play that back. Now you'll see the ball is bouncing up and down, and it will actually bounce up and down infinitely, because the Waveform controller is now taking full control over the Z axis. That's a very basic example of how you can use a controller to produce procedural animation.
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