Damaera's Animation Tutorial (3dsmax)

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Taken from my thread on the NNK forum.

Alright, I have no idea how many people are interested in learning how to animate, but there aren't any tutorials that I know of that teaches you the basics, so here you guys go. I highly recommend that you use either 3ds max 2009 or 2010, since I use both of those programs to animate. Any other version is fine, but I'm recommending either of those two versions since they're both similar. Knowing the basics of 3ds max is required, as I'm not going to baby you through each and every part of the UI. I will eventually have a rigging tutorial, a video tutorial, and will hook you guys up with a biped. For now, bare with me and look for a rig on the internet. There's plenty of them around.

So, let's get started.

First, take a look at this picture below



you're going to want to know the very bottom part of the UI. So, I'm going to start explaining the important stuff on the UI before we start animating.



The track bar. In this bar, you will be placing markers, also known as key frames. The red marker represents the position key. The green marker represents the rotation key. The light blue transparent marker represents the current frame. To select a marker, simply hover your mouse over one, and the mouse icon will turn into a plus. Click the marker, and it will turn white. That means the marker is selected. To move the marker, simply drag it to another frame. To duplicate a marker, hold shift, and drag it to another frame. To select multiple markers, either hold control and click on them separately, or simply hold left click and drag your mouse over the markers. This will select all of the markers you dragged your mouse over. The delete key will delete the selected marker(s).



The time slider. An easy way to move through the frames of your animation. To do this, simply drag the slider in any direction. The digit(s) on the left represents your current frame, while the digit(s) on the right represents the max frames. The arrows on the left move frame by frame.



Key controls. The icon on the left creates key frames, the icons on the top and bottom right are animation modes. I recommend that you animate with "Auto Key". You will know that an animation mode is activated when some of your UI turns bright red. You must animate with one of these animation modes activated.



Time configuration. The image is pretty self explanatory.

Now that I covered most of the UI, you'll need to know what tools to use. Here is a list of them, and what key I have them assigned to.

Play/stop animation - A
Auto key - N
Rotate - R
Select - S
Alt+X - Make model transparent
F4 - Edged faces
Set key - S

I don't have these assigned to anything, but I highly recommend binding Freeze and Unfreeze to a key.





The bone structure that you see above is called a biped. You will be using this to animate your character. Before starting to animate, make your mesh transparent, freeze it, and activated edges faces. Also, be sure to either hide the pelvis, or make it transparent and freeze it, since you won't be using that to move your character around. I highly, highly recommend that you have your mesh frozen and have edged faces on at all times.

Learning how to animate is mostly trial and error, so there isn't really much to teach, but you're going to need to learn the basics of animating.

So, let's make a simple animation. Activate auto key, and start at frame one. Select the right (or left) arm, activate the rotate tool, rotate the model upwards, and set a key.



Your model should now look like the image above. Now, drag the time slider to the half point. Select the rotated arm, rotate it downwards, and set the key. You should now have two keyframes.



Now duplicate your keyframe, and move it to the final frame. You now have a looping animation.



Now that you know the basics of animating, you're now going to learn how to freeze a bone. Simply click the left or right foot, go to the Motion tab, click Key info, and click the red circle with an arrow going through it. You have now set a sliding key. This will freeze the foot in place, which helps make idle animations and run/walk animations for the foot sliding. To unfreeze the foot, simply click the red circle next to set sliding key. If you don't freeze the other foot, and move the biped around, the other foot won't be in place, as you can see in the picture above.

That's about it. I might do a run/walk tutorial later, but for now, search around on google for run/walk cycles.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, please either send me a PM or post in this thread. Stickified!
 
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Hey very nice start, ty for all the info.. are there any reference pics for like animating low poly models that show how all the joints should be placed to deform correctly? Like animating a mouth for talking.
 
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this is a hell of a lot better than reading the help text manual.
 
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Puppetshop looks very nifty, will have to check that one out.
 

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