3D Studio Max


3D Studio MAX Animation Basics


3D Studio MAX (or 3dsmax) is a modeling, rendering, and animation program.

3DSMax is divided into basic functions:

        Create (for creating solids, shapes, lights, cameras, warps, and systems)

        Modify (for changing the parameters of objects created


        Motion (controls the animation parameters)

        Display (adjusting display parameters such as colors, hide/unhide, select, etc.)




The top bar menu (below) contains commands for selecting and changing objects in the scene:

        Select allows one to click on an object and make it active

        Region determines the area of selection (rectangular, lasso, etc.)

        Selection filter allows one to select only categories of objects (geometry, lights, cameras, etc.)

        Select by name allows to type or select from a list of names

        Move allows one to move object(s) (change their xyz position)

        Rotate allows one to rotate object(s) around a pivot point (see below)

        Scale allows one to scale object(s) around a pivot point (see below)

        Pivot is a point around which transformations occur (can be the centroid of each object or the average)

        X Y Z XY YZ, ZX are directions along which transformations will occur




The viewing parameters allow one to change the position of view:

        Zoom changes the distance of view

        Pan slides the viewer

        Rotate rotates the viewing position

When using these tools the only thing that changes is the viewing position

The xyz coordinates of the objects remain the same.


Time is measured in frames. Shown below 100 is the total number of frames and 0 is the current frame. By dragging the cursor allows the slider to slide along its path showing one frame at a time and creating the effect of animation.



These tools control the animation process. The video buttons control beginning, end, play ff, and rwd. The time setup allows one to change the overall number of frames and add or subtract more.

The animation mode button when pressed becomes red and anything that happens in the scene is recorded as change.


Creating a simple animation

        Save the model in formZ as 3DStudio.

        Run 3DS Max and use Import... to read-in the .3ds file.

        Create a path (2d shape), a camera, and some lights (to illunimate the model)

        Move the path (shape) and make sure its where you want your camera to go.

        Increase the number of frames to 500.

        Attach the camera to the path:

        Select the camera

        Select the Motion section

        Select the Assign controller rollout then Position then the Assign Controller button

        On the pop-out window choose path and exit

        On the Path Parameters rollout select Pick Path and pick the 2d shape

        Render the scene (one frame initially to make sure everything is OK and then all frames)


Creating a path

        Goto Create Shapes and uncheck the Start New Shape

        Create two or more closed shapes

        When done go to Modify, select Edit Spline and then choose Vertex on as the Sub-object

        Boolean (union, intersect, difference) the two shapes( (splines):

        Select a boolean operation, then the first object then click the boolean button and then the second object

        Edit the new path in space

        Select Vertex as the Sub-object

        Select the vertices you want to move

        Choose move from the main bar and move the vertices in space

        Path is ready to be assigned a camera


Creating combined movements

        If during the camera's move you want to also move the camera's target:

        Go to the frame you want the movement to start

        Press the Animate button (lower left)

        Move the target to the desired position

        Uncheck the Animate button



        Images (640x480) are about 25K

        Avi flicks are about 1 MB per 100 frames (so 500 frames will be about 5 MB)

        Production time will vary (from 1 hour to 4) The more elaborate each frame is (shadows, reflections, environmental effects) the more time it will take to render.


Fly- through in 3D studio max


To create a fly-through one needs a model, a camera, and a path.

The model can be imported from another modeling program, formZ for example. When exporting in formZ make sure to turn the textures on.




Also have in mind that only texture maps are exported. Procedural textures are not exported.

Note: a procedural texture is a texture that is created through an algorithm, as opposed to, through sticking an imagemap on a surface. For example, the brick generation pattern in formZ is a procedural texture.

After importing the model in 3Dsmax you need to check if

1)      the texture did go through and

2)      whether the lighting conditions are correct.

Do a rendering using the Render menu command and then adjust textures and lighting.

When you are happy with your model create a camera. There are two types of cameras: a target and a free one. The target will always focus to a target whereas the free will follow the path head-on. Choose the one you want.

Make a path. Use the circle or line creation tool.





Create a path (in this case a circle) and attach the camera to the path:

        select the camera

        go to motion folder

        select Assign Controller

        Choose the Position

        Click on the assign controller button

        A dialog box pops out. Select path.

        Then go down to the motion folder and select pick path.

        Go to the viewport and select the path.





Your viewport should look like this:




The camera is positioned at the beginning of the path. Move the path up or down to adjust the height of the camera. Use the Camera01 viewport to see what the camera sees.

Open the Track view. It is an icon that looks like this

You should be seeing the following window:




Read the section Adjusting Speed in the class notes for more on this device.

When done with path and movement adjustments render a few frame positions to see if what you expect is there. If things look OK then select the rendering menu and choose render. Make sure all frames and that you are saving the .avi file to some place on your disk Saving it locally (that is, C: or D:) may save you some time. Only make sure that there is plenty of space on the local disk.

See the avi information for more hints.




The production of a clip and vary in time ad size depending of the complexity of the scene and the number of frames. have in mind that a normal film speed is 60 frames per second. That means that 5 seconds require 5x60=300 frames. Each frame (640x480) can be about 100K. Therefore the whole clip can be 100x300 = 30,000K or 30 MBytes.

Animation: Controlling Speed  

Problem: Camera (or object) is on a path and has to stop for a while and then continue.

        Open the track view and set two key frames: one where it will start to stop and one where it will resume speed.





        Then change to the function curve mode





        Bend the curve at the key points till it become horizontal in-between.  This means that the speed will become 0 between these two times.

        Check the result:



        The camera (or object) moves, then stops, and then continues...

Animation: Expressions 

Problem: Object (box) must rotate around other object (sphere) using expressions.

        Open the track view the parameter of the object to be changed.





        Assign Position Expression to inform the system that this object will have an expression associated




        place the cursor on the object's track and click on the left button (or select properties).  A window appears:





        Create a vector variable and call it possphere.  Assign to it the position of the sphere.

        Type in the Expression input area the expression.  You can use any of the predetermined functions and any new variable you create (i.e. possphere)

result: the box rotates around the sphere in a 50-point radius.