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There are many times when you'll need to animate objects in very specific paths, and you can use animation paths to do that. So let's take a look at how to attach an object to a path for animation. Now in order to do this, we need to first create an animation path. Now this is called a curve. And we really haven't dealt too much with curves, but we can find them under Curve > Path. And once we have that, we can zoom in on it, and you'll see it's basically a Nurbs type of curve.
Now we can edit this curve by going into Edit mode. You'll notice we have a lot of little chunks there, but you'll see that we have individual vertices here. And just by pushing and pulling those vertices, we can reshape that curve. So if wanted to, I can move this really wherever I want. In fact, if I wanted to, I can go into my Quad view and that might make it a little bit easier to edit. So as you can see here in my top ortho view, we can go ahead and create a nice curve for this object to move around.
So I'm just going to go ahead and right-click on each of these and move them around, and you can see how the curve kind of sticks to those points here. And this is a classic Nurbs-based curve, in that the curve itself doesn't move over the points; it actually moves in between them. So the points define the outer edge of the curve rather than the curve moving through the points. So once I have this curve defined-- and you can actually put the curve into 3D space if you want.
So I'm going to go back to Quad view here, and let's go ahead and take a look at this curve. In fact, again I can select each one of these and just move them up, so let's say we want to have this go up in a little bit of an arc. Okay, so that should be a pretty good curve. So you can make whatever shaped curve you want, but the idea here is to get a curve, and once we're done, we can tab out of Edit mode. Now in order to attach the object to the curve, you need to use what's called a constraint.
Now we've used constraints a little bit, but you can find them here under this little chain link here. So I'm going to right-click on my billiard ball here and click on the Constraints tab. So we're going to add in a constraint. Now we have a number of them here. One is called Follow Path, but that's actually kind of the old technology way of doing it. The better way to do it is to use what's called Clamp To. So I'm going to add in a Clamp to constraint, so this object will be constrained to a target, and that target has to be a curve, and that curve is called Nurbs Path. And as soon as I do, it snaps to that path.
Now we can select which axis of the object we're using to move along that path. Let me show what I mean. If I select X, that means that moving the objects X translation moves it along the path; Y means if I move it along the green axis; and Z means I'll have to move it along the blue axis. So I'm going to keep this on the Y. And then all we have to do to move this along the path is just to set some keyframes. So I can move it over here and basically set a keyframe for location.
So all I have to do is hit I, and you can see I have a keyframe, move my Timeline, and again, red is what moves it. If I move green or blue, it doesn't. Red is X, so I can move this all the way over here, set it another keyframe, hit I, or I can just turn on automatic keyframing, and then I can move that wherever I want. So now I've basically just moved it and wherever it moves, it moves along that path.
Now if you want, we can go back to the constraint, and if you click on Cyclic, it will actually cycle that as well. So those are some of the basics of animating to a path. Now remember, you have to start with a pathed curve, and then once you get your curve into the proper shape, you attach the object using a Clamp To constraint.
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