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Dated: Aug. 12, 2004

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3D Studio Max

By Grant Moore Jr. - Brought to us by Terry Ferra

The track view is often a mysterious and confusing element to "tweaking" many animation settings in 3dsmax. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit about the mysterious part, but the confusing part is true if you are unfamiliar with what the track view is all about. This tutorial will go through many aspects of the track view.

First set up the scene for animation. Create a simple object (nothing hi-poly because you want to be able to see the results in a viewport). Set the object to move from one position to another like in the image. Now when you click the play button it moves from one position to the other. You may ask your self “But I want it to look like it accelerates and then slows down, but how would I do something like that?” Well that’s where the track view comes into play. So first you need to open it up.

track view 3d Max

The image shows what the track view looks like; you can open it up by pushing the circled button.

Now you will see a whole bunch of stuff and you might have no idea what you are looking at. Don’t worry, its not that complicated. To find what we are looking for you want to open up world / objects / sphere01 (or whatever object you chose). If you expand the transform and Object (Sphere) rollouts, you will see that it has a whole bunch of stuff you can edit like the sphere’s position, rotation, scale, radius, segments, etc…Here you can add keys for these attributes.

But what we are looking for is the spheres’ position. Make sure the edit keys button is activated and then look under the transform rollout and click on position. The position track should be highlighted now. At both ends you will see dark circles. Those are the keys that you set when you moved the sphere. You should also notice that there is a bar at the bottom so you can see what frames the keys are on. (I didn’t notice that for a while when I was learning)

Now, if you wanted to make the sphere stop at frame 89 all you would have to do is drag the last key to frame 89. The track view is a much better way to drag keys than in the time track in because once you start animating many modifiers on the same object, many keys get cluttered and you can really screw things up. So my advice is to get used to using the track view to edit all of your timing. Now that the timing is set, you want to make the object accelerate and decelerate.

To do this you want to edit the sphere’s function curves. To access them click on position again and click on the properties button, or right click on position and go to properties. At the top, the number 1 with the two arrows indicates which key you are accessing. Number 1 means the left-most key and 2 in this case would mean the last frame. Time shows what frame the key is on. The X Y and Z values give the coordinates for the sphere’s position.

Now you can click on the In and Out buttons and choose from a selection of function curves. First I have to say that I will describe the function curves in relation to the speed of the object so you can understand how they affect things, but you should know that you can use these curves for anything else in the track view, like the sphere’s radius. The IN means how the objects speed will be affected before the current frame. The OUT means how the objects speed will be affected after the current frame.

For this tutorial, on key 1, you want the IN to be the standard straight line because the object is not moving to the start position and the OUT curve to be the 4 (look below for the correct curve number) curve down. This will make the object accelerate to the final speed just before the half-way point. Now for key 2, you will want the IN to be the 4 one down, this creates the slowing down before the full stop, and the OUT to be left alone. Now play the animation, you will see that the sphere speeds up and then slows down. The motion is much more realistic now.

This is a simple acceleration and deceleration. For many animations you may want to “tweak” the standard curves. To do this, click on the function curves button. You should get something that looks like the picture below. *If you don’t click on the Zoom value extents and Zoom Horizontal Extents buttons at the bottom right of the track view and you should see the whole curve.*

This shows the exact curve that is being used. For this particular curve, it is a speed versus time graph. So, say you wanted a faster acceleration, you would have to add a key like the picture below. Just click add key, click on the line to add a key, then turn on move keys, and then drag the key on the red line to where you think it looks good. The red line affects the x axis, the green line affects the y axis, and the blue line affects the z axis so you only want to move keys on the red line for this tutorial. Now, make sure you don’t have any part of the line going down, this will cause a negative acceleration, or in other words, your object will go backwards half way.

Now, just experiment with the curve to get an idea of what you can do with it. You can try to get a funny motion going, or just try to get a good acceleration and deceleration. Depends on your mood right now I guess.

Now let’s add a modifier and try some other curves. Okay, let’s add a noise modifier to the sphere. Make all of the X Y and Z values 200. Now click on the animate noise check box. Now you should have a weird looking deformed thingy that does weird stuff. ~Best Description EVER!~ Now we want to edit the noise modifier to just see what some of the other curves do.

Click on edit keys to show the keys again. Find where it says modifier objects and open up the rollout. You should see noise, so open that up now. Now, lets affect the phase. So add 3 keys at roughly equal distances. Now lets add some curves. (Key 1 : IN = 1 OUT = 4) (Key 2 : IN = 4 OUT = 3) (Key 3 : IN = (automatically because of key 2) 3 OUT = 2) (Key 4 : IN = 6 OUT = (automatically) 6 ) (Key 5 : IN = 5 OUT = 1 ) Now click on the function curves button to see the curve. You will see an odd shaped curve. But if you play the animation, or even slowly drag the time slider, you should be able to figure out what each curve does. You may even want to try adding some of the same types of curves to some keys for the position to get an idea of what they do.

I hope this tutorial gave a good idea of what can be done in the track view. If you have any questions, feel free to email me @ Happy Animating!

Now that you've gotten free know-how on this topic, try to grow your skills even faster with online video training. Then finally, put these skills to the test and make a name for yourself by offering these skills to others by becoming a freelancer. There are literally 2000+ new projects that are posted every single freakin' day, no lie!

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Lanette's Comment
Not bad at all fellas and gllaas. Thanks.
04 Wed Jan 2012
Admin's Reply:

 Thank you Lanette :)