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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.
As with all feature sets in 3ds Max, understanding how to locate and work with the various user interface elements that make up our MassFX toolset is going to be a critical factor with regard to our ability to work quickly, efficiently, and to a high standard in our MassFX simulations. In this video we are going to take a few minutes to become familiar with the variety of ways that we can access MassFX tools inside the 3ds Max UI. The first interface element that we want to take a look at is the MassFX toolbar.
By default, this toolbar may be turned off in 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design, so our first goal will be to make it visible. We can do this by coming up to the main toolbar at the top of the 3ds Max user interface and then in an empty area of the toolbar--so not on the bottom or the UI element-- we want to right-mouse-click and then select the MassFX toolbar option from the dropdown list. This brings up a floating toolbar that we can now dock anyplace in the user interface.
We can go to the top, bottom, left, or right. I am just going to place it here underneath the main toolbar. From this toolbar we can perform a number of important tasks, such as setting up scene geometry as rigid body or mCloth objects, we can set up Constraints and Ragdolls, as well as run, step through, and reset our simulations. You will notice that a number of icons on the toolbar have a little downward- pointing triangle in the lower-right corner. As it does elsewhere in the 3ds Max UI, this denotes a flyout as opposed to just a single clickable button.
This will appear if we left-mouse-click and hold. The very first button found on the MassFX toolbar can itself be used to access a much more extensive and much deeper set of MassFX tools. If we simply left-mouse-click on the button, you'll see that we launched the MassFX Tools dialog. This, as with the MassFX toolbar, comes up as a floating window that, again, can easily be docked in the 3ds Max UI. The difference here is that we have to keep this dialog in a vertical alignment.
So unlike the toolbox, we can only dock to the right or left of the user interface. In the Tools dialog, as you can see, we have four tabs, each housing controls that govern particular aspects of a MassFX simulation. Just note the name of each tab as I hover over them. Because if I just close this dialog for a second and then go back to the MassFX toolbar, you'll see, if we access the flyout, that we actually have the ability to open the Tools dialog straight to any one of those four tabs.
Our first tab, World Parameters, provides a number of important global settings and controls that will affect all objects inside the MassFX simulation. The Simulation tools tab houses options and buttons that not only control the simulations themselves, but that also provide access to utilities such as the MassFX Explorer. The MassFX Explorer itself is an interface element that gives us the ability to quickly review and, in a limited and yet still extremely useful way, edit MassFX elements in our scenes.
The Multi-Object Editor tab lets us specify local dynamic settings for objects-- that is, rigid bodies and constraints--found in the simulation. The main difference between editing here and over in the Modify panel is that the Multi-Object Editor lets us set properties for a group of selected objects simultaneously, regardless of whether or not we are working with Instance modifiers. Whereas over in the Modify panel, we only get to work on a single object's properties at a time, unless of course we are working with Instance modifiers.
Now do note that although we can alter the settings for any number of selected rigid bodies or constraints in the Multi-Object Editor, we cannot edit both object types at the same time. If a selection consists of different types of objects or even no objects at all, then an appropriate message will appear in the Multi-Object Editor panel. The Display options tab includes controls for toggling viewport display of physical meshes, as well as for enabling and working with the MassFX Visualizer.
This is a very powerful tool that can help us visually debug our simulations. In fact, this particular tool is one we would do well to develop a habit of using each time we set up and work with a new simulation scene. As always, the 3ds Max menu system found at the top of the user interface provides an alternative method for accessing tools available when working with the MassFX system. To get to these we need to go come up to our Animation menu, down to the Simulation - MassFX section, and then as you can see from the flyouts, we gain access to a wide range off MassFX tools.
Alternatively, if we just need to quickly access some of the more commonly used tools when working with our MassFX simulations then 3ds Max's Quad menu system could be a great help to us. To access a MassFX-specific Quad menu set, all we need to do is hold down the Shift and Alt modifier keys on the keyboard whilst right-clicking anywhere in the 3ds Max viewport. Clearly then, as with all major tool sets, 3ds Max gives us plenty of options when it comes to accessing and working with MassFX.
So now that we are somewhat familiar with the user interface elements, let's move on to understanding the actual workflow, or steps involved in creating a MassFX simulation in 3ds Max.
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