Tradigital 3ds Max: A CG Animator's Guide to Applying the Classical Principles of Animation

Tradigital 3ds Max: A CG Animator's Guide to Applying the Classical Principles of Animation

by Richard Lapidus

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Finally bridge the gap between software-specific instruction and the world of classical animation with this easy to utilize, one-of-a-kind reference guide. With great relevance for today's digital workflows, Richard Lapidus presents innovative 3ds Max controls to the classical principles of animation like squash and stretch, anticipation, staging and more. Move beyond these fundamental techniques and explore both the emotion and technical sides of animation with character appeal and rigging. Features a robust companion web sites that include demonstrations, project files, links to further resources, available at

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781136126857
Publisher: CRC Press
Publication date: 11/12/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 277
File size: 37 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Richard is a Tenured Associate Professor and Lead Animation Instructor with Moraine Valley Community College. Since 2005, he has worked as an Authorized Autodesk Certified Instructor for 3ds max. Richard has worked at Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Keiser College, Palm Beach Community College and started the SE Florida 3ds Max User's group. Outside of the classroom, Richard has produced numerous forensic and game animations through his company, VirtualONE, Inc. In addition to his professional and academic experiences, Richard is a frequent presenter at SIGGRAPH.

Read an Excerpt

Tradigital 3ds Max

A CG Animator's Guide to Applying the Classic Principles of Animation
By Richard Lapidus

Focal Press

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-81731-6

Chapter One

Introduction to the Interface and Seeing Animation in a New Way

Richard Lapidus

After Completing This Chapter, You Will be Able To:

• Start to develop the basics of visualizing animation in a 3d program.

• Understand the different ways to create and control animation.

• Have several choices in selecting and editing keys.

• Control how you see and control motion.

Every few years a study is done that correlates the benefits of playing computer games and improved learning skills. I will wholeheartedly agree that there are benefits that may include improving memory, problem-solving abilities, and motor skills. Unfortunately, the areas that generally need work have to do with visualization, perception of space, and a good sense of timing. The goal is to create a world in which the viewer will be drawn in and immersed with in the reality presented to them. As we journey through this book together, hopefully you will develop the skills or at least a basic understanding of how to start "perceiving" motion and using those skills to create animation. Anyone can create motion with keyframes, but a true animator will breathe life into a character and give it some level of realism relative to its own reality. As a starting point, we will cover some of the basic tools you need to control the 3d environment you are working in. Try to think of the first few chapters as a quick start to understanding the basic workflow of 3ds MAX. Instead of giving you a fully extensive explanation of every single icon and command to start, I want to "pull you in" and get you moving toward seeing how things work. The best analogy I can give you for not expounding for 10–15 pages of parameters is relative to learning how to drive a car. Although I know one or two people who have, most of us didn't sit down and read the owner's manual of a car before learning how to drive.

The first thing I want you to do is change the user interface to look similar to the images in this book. The "dark" version, which is the default, is nice in a low-light environment, but it is hard to see the subtle changes to some of the interface as you work.

1. Start up 3ds MAX and go to the Customize Menu. Choose User Interface and select the AME Light Version. Hit OK to accept and the next time you start 3ds MAX, it will be the default color scheme.

2. Notice how some of the icons and parts of the interface have a yellow background or border. This indicates an active state. You should see the Select icon; create geometry and the perspective view as being currently active.

3. Let's start by maximizing the perspective view. There are actually three ways to do this. Those are with keyboard shortcut ALT+W, the min\max icon, or dragging the upper left corner of the viewport. You will find that there are usually three to five different ways to accomplish the same thing with the program.

4. In the Command Panel, enable the Standard Primitive called teapot and drag out an object of about 30-unit radius.

5. Right click the screen or choose one of the selection modes. (If you don't turn off Create mode, it is still active and you might endlessly be creating objects.)

6. Left click on the three select transform icons in the main toolbar and then finally on the Select and Move transform. Notice how the transform gizmo changes depending on if you are in Move, Rotate, or Scale mode.

The program gives you visual feedback as to what is active in a number of ways. The color red represents active animation state, the "X" axis, and the move transform. After creating keys (keyframes) in the next several steps, the transform keys will appear with the three basic color representations (red, green, and blue) much the same way it shows on the transform gizmo.

7. Make sure the tangent control is set to Smooth which is its default tangent type.

8. Turn on the Auto Key and move the time slider to frame 100.

9. Move the teapot across the screen on the "X" axis. (Note: You could also drag the "X" spinner down in the status line. This is preferable when an object is selected and you want to avoid having to grab the transform gizmo.)

10. Move the time slider to frame 50 and then move the teapot up on the "Z" axis.

11. Play the animation.

You will see that there are three red rectangles now located in the timeline at the bottom of the interface. Keys on a straight line represent, at least in my mind, linear motion, tranquility, or death. One of the rules of thumb for starting to breathe life into your object or scene is to start looking for the curves. Living things tend to move on curves while mechanical motion is more linear or too precisely repetitive. The best analogy for this is a heart monitor you might seem in some TV drama. What happened when the EKG line goes flat? It means the patient is dead. The inverse is also true. Ever notice when the stage has been set to see if someone can be revived? The blipping does not come back all at once. There is an irregularity in the tempo of the graphic until it reaches some moment of repetition before the camera cuts to another actor or scene. Let's look at a few ways to visualize the motion.

12. With the teapot still selected, go to the Motion Panel. It is the fourth tab in the Command Panel. Please see Fig. 1.3.

13. Click the trajectory tab.

What will appear is a red line with three white squares. The squares represent a value of the X, Y, Z position for the object in time, and the dots represent the frames in between the keys you created. Normally I will turn on the trajectory in the Object Properties because this way of displaying the motion of the object visually is only temporarily on while the object is selected. It is nice to note, however, that the motion of the object can be converted to a path which can be used for generating a 3d object or as a path constraint as just two examples. This will be done in a later chapter, but this is how I created the motion in Fig. 1.5 for one of my colleagues teaching a complex calculus problem his students were having difficulty visualizing. For any instructors using this book, a good exercise for practice is creating visuals for other curriculum.

14. Right click the viewport and when the Quad Menu shows up, choose Object Properties. Then on the left side of the Dialog in the Display Properties area, enable Trajectory.

The Quad Menu and Object Properties are two tools you will want to get very well acquainted with. The Quad Menu will change and is customizable as you make changes to your objects. Since the teapot is still parametric, only half of the menu appears. If it were converted to an editable object or had a modifier on it, you would see all four panels. The Object Properties Dialog has more uses than we would want to explore in an introductory chapter, but will be explored in more detail in later chapters.

15. Leave all these preferences in the default state for now except the trajectory on and hit the OK button.

Select the key at frame 50 and drag it to frame 70. Notice how the trajectory changes. There is a built in smoothness and stretchiness to the default tangent controller for the keys created. Move the key to frame 40 and examine the trajectory again. The teapot seems to go beyond the position it is traveling to and then through the key as it moves to the next position. There are several ways to adjust this ... but first you needed to see it to believe it. The next way to see the motion of your object is with a graphic editor. There are actually four other ways to see the motion in numeric, range, or line form. Those are Mini- Curve Editor, dope sheet, and the Curve Editor or key values. We will be using all of them through the book except for the Mini-Curve Editor. I find that it always needs panning or zooming to deal with, so I will only show you it once.

16. Click the icon for the Mini-Curve Editor in the lower left corner of the interface. You now see all the curves for your teapot. Drag a marquee around all the keys and then click linear tangent. The curve editor must be closed before the change in motion will show in the viewport. Notice how the teapot now moves on straight lines.

For changing and viewing the tangent types in the next few steps, refer to Fig. 1.2A, which shows the names of the different tangent types in the flyout. I typically will change the tangent type to the one I want before creating animation keys, but they always need to be adjusted at some point in time anyway. I find it easier to memorize as a vertical rather than horizontal list.

17. Click the Step Tangent with all the keys selected. The teapot stays in position and now snaps in one frame to the next position. Nothing I can think of moves like this except for the second hand on a clock. With the dominance of smart phones, the only second hand in my classroom this year was on the wall clock. Not a single person was wearing a watch with a second hand except for me.

18. Try the custom tangent type and then adjust the grips as you would the controls on a vertex in sub-object.

19. Return the keys to the default smooth and close the Mini-Curve Editor.

20. Hit the "F" Key on your keyboard and change the perspective view to a front view.

21. Move the time slider to about frame 35 and enable the Select and Rotate Tool or right click and select Rotate from the Quad Menu.

22. Drag the "Z" axis that should be the center circle so the teapot looks like it is sitting on its own trajectory. The "Z" axis is shown in yellow in Fig. 1.6. When the Reference Coordinate System is set to View the "Z" axis is always perpendicular to the orthographic viewport.

23. Move the Time Slider to about frame 70 and rotate it forward so it looks like it is sitting on its trajectory on the other side. Play the animation.

The teapot appears to be picking up from frame 0 and then rotates around the apex of the curve. It maintains the rotation all the way through to frame 100. Since a key isn't out in the future to interpolate to, the motion stays all the way through from 70–100. Also notice how the Rotation Keys are in green. I've shown you a key concept here that is "bracketing" your keys. By not having the Rotation Keys on the same frames as the move, you are getting a more complex and realistic motion. Everything doesn't happen at the same time. There has to be some pre- or postmovement to telegraph the action. It's like head turns and eye movements. Linear rotation would not work well with turning a head, and the eyes typically always start moving toward a target before the head. Let's take a look at another really core tool for controlling your keys. We could grab the keyframes at zero and make a copy at frame 100 with the Shift Key. But the Move Key would copy also. We will do it selectively and then I'll show you two more key features for controlling what you see.

24. Move the time slide to frame 100 and then right click the Time Slider. A Create Key Dialog will appear.

25. Uncheck the Position and Scale Radial button and then enter 0 for the source and 90 for the destination. Hit the OK button and you will see that the Rotation Key from frame 0 has been copied to frame 90.

26. Change back to the perspective view by hitting the home button on the navigation cube and then execute a CTL+C command. This will create a camera view out of the perspective view.

27. Min\Max the viewport for a moment and notice the placement of the camera and target. If you orbit the camera right now, it would be quickly out of view.

28. Hit the "H" Key to select the camera01 target by name.

29. Drag the flyout for the alignment tools for quick align (looks like a lightning bolt on the slanted cubes) and then left click the teapot. The target is now set so you can rotate around it to get a better view. Adjust your view with the icons indicated in your viewport controls to get a nice diagonal motion across the viewport.

One of the things that I like to do for visualizing motion in a still image is to take an objects trajectory and make it visible in the scene. I've also used this for creating paths out of moving objects and having these paths grow over time. When you start to think about having things appear or disappear, the options are endless. We will be looking more deeply into aspects of this in the Visibility chapter 16. For now, let's look at converting motion into a spline, which can be rendered.

30. Select the teapot again either with a left click or "H" and select name.

31. Go into the Motion Tab of the Command Panel and Select Trajectories again.


Excerpted from Tradigital 3ds Max by Richard Lapidus Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Seeing motion in a new way. Chapter 2 How do living objects really move?, Rule: Weight in Motion, Rule: Timing Chapter 3 Animated Modifiers (Morphing Teapot), Rule: Squash and Stretch, Rule: Anticipation, Rule: Staging Chapter 4 Deforming objects based on motion and relative to other objects Chapter 5 Straight forward animation with a Bones IK Rig, Rule: Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose, Rule: Exaggeration Chapter 6 Creating and animating a biped Chapter 7 The use of Overlapping Action, Weight and Drag. Rule: Staging, Rule: Timing, Rule: Exaggeration Chapter 8 Indications of speed and directing attention Rule: Timing, Rule: Overlapping motion, 2ndary animation Chapter 9 Skinning a Character Rule: Appeal Chapter 10 Rule: Arcs and 2ndary Animation Chapter 11 Reactor Real world and Exaggerated Effects Rule: Arcs and 2ndary Animation Chapter 12 The Camera as the integral part of a scene Rule: Staging Chapter 13 Timing for animation Chapter 14 Getting objects to move the way you want. Chapter 15 Does it move the way it should? Chapter 16 Tricks for automating motion and controlling timing. Chapter 17 Special effects for presence: Animating Visibility.

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