Animation > 
Animation Concepts and Methods

With 3ds Max, you can create 3D computer animation for a variety of applications. You can animate characters and vehicles for computer games and produce special effects for film and broadcast. Additional applications include medical illustration and forensic presentation in the courtroom. Whatever reasons you have for producing animation, you'll find 3ds Max a capable environment for achieving your goals.

The basic method for creating animation in 3ds Max is quite simple. First you turn on the Auto Key button, then you move the time slider, and last you transform an object to change its position, rotation, or scale over time.

You can employ animation throughout 3ds Max. You can animate the position, rotation, and scale of an object, and almost any parameter setting that affects an object's shape and surface. You can link objects for hierarchical animation, using both forward and inverse kinematics, and you can edit your animation in Track View.

This section covers the basics of creating animation. It briefly compares computer animation with classic hand-drawn animation, and then describes the creation of keyframed animation.

  • Animation Concepts

    Animation is based on a principle of human sight called persistence of vision. If you view a series of related still images in quick succession, you perceive them as continuous motion. Each individual image is referred to as a frame, and the illusion of motion comes from the fact that your visual system retains each frame for a short time after you see it.

  • Using Auto Key Mode  

    To start creating animation, first turn on the Auto Key button, use the time slider to go to a particular frame, and then change something in your scene. You can animate the position, rotation, and scale of an object, and almost all other settings and parameters.

  • Using Set Key Mode

    The Set Key animation method is designed for the professional character animator who wants be able to try out poses and then commit those poses to keyframes intentionally. It can also be used by any animator to set keys on specific tracks of objects.

  • Spinner Right-Click Menu

    To open the spinner right-click menu, right-click the editable field of an animatable parameter. This menu provides options for cutting, copying, and pasting values, wires, and animation tracks between various object parameters. It also allows you to show the parameter in Track View or in the Parameter Wiring dialog.

  • Viewing and Copying Transform Keys

    The viewports display white brackets around objects that have transform keys at the current time. These key brackets only appear in viewports using the wireframe shading method.

  • Controlling Time

    You create animation by changing your scene over time. You can exercise great control over time, including: how time is measured and displayed; the length of the active time segment (the part of the animation in which you’re currently working); and how much time is covered by each rendered frame of your animation.

  • Setting Time Segments

    The active time segment specifies a block of working time. You might think of it as a window in time that you use to focus on a specific part of your animation.

  • Moving Through Time

    You can move to any time in your active time segment by using either the time slider or the Current Frame field in the time controls area. You can also move through time using the playback control buttons.

  • Choosing a Frame Rate and Playback Speed

    The frame rate of an animation is expressed in frames per second (FPS). This is the number of frames 3ds Max displays and renders for every second of real time. Because 3ds Max stores your animation keys using real time using an internal precision of 1/4800 of a second, you can change the frame rate for your animation at any time without affecting your animation timing.