CAP 201a - Computer Animation I

Lesson 2 - Overview Lab


This lesson continues the introduction to the software used for the course. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Creating objects
  2. Using materials
  3. Creating lights
  4. Second animation exercise

The second lesson does not begin with new "lecture" material, but jumps right into a hands on lab.

Exercise Notes and Questions

Note: Exercises should be carried out in the classroom. You will not get very much out of them by just reading, nor will you learn what is required by just experimenting on your own. Each exercise is meant to cover specific content that you will be required to know.

Work through the exercises and turn in your answers to all questions below as part of the homework for this assignment.

Exercise 1: This exercise starts by showing you the end result: an AVI file. This is a simulation of reality: when you start a project, you should know where you want to go with it. Proper planning includes making notes, developing a script, and making a story board for the animation before using 3DS Max.

After viewing the .avi file, load the .max file indicated in the exercise. Create a cylinder in the top view as directed. Get used to the idea that you can create an object, then modify it to make it fit the scene.
Move the object as needed to place it where indicated.

Exercise 2: Scenes in 3DS Max can be full of objects, making it hard to work on any one of them. This exercise begins by showing you how to select an object, right-click it, and hide it. Once you do, you create a horizontal member for the sign post, using the front view panel.
Question 1: When you create the sign post hanger, you will not see it in all views. According to the text, why is this so? (Remember to think three dimensionally.)

Move and size the sign post hanger as needed. Create the sphere for the top of the sign post, and move it as needed.

Exercise 3: This exercise begins with changing a viewport to show a different view.
Question 2: Where do you click a viewport to make this kind of change?

The exercise asks you to create two new rectangles close to the three objects you just made. In between creating the first and second, you must turn off the Start New Shape option.
Question 3: What is the effect of turning off this option as directed?
You use the Extrude modifier to complete turning the rectangles into one object.

You are told to create a box object inside your frame, then clone it by holding a shift key down while dragging a movement arrow for the initial box. You should remember this clone/copy method. (Note that the interface allows you to set the number of copies. We will see more on this interface later.) After you adjust the length and placement of each of the four boxes (sign planks) to simulate real world random errors, you region-select the sign frame and planks.
Question 4: How do you region-select several objects?

Exercise 4: In this exercise you merge an existing file into the one you are working on, to add a new object to the scene. When you merge a file, you first open one file, then merge the second file into it. This modifies the open file, but does not change the second file. Once you merge the new object into your file, you will need to move the object into position in the scene.
Question 5: Which menu is the Merge command on?

Exercise 5: This exercise is about materials. You are asked to modify a material sample, changing its glossiness and specular level. Think of specular level as a measure of how shiny light reflected by the material is. Think of glossiness as a measure of how big the shiny spot you get on something is.

The exercise shows that you can ctrl-click multiple objects on the screen to select more than one object at a time.
Question 6: Compare ctrl-clicking to region-selecting. What different circumstances might make each the right choice?

The exercise asks you to apply a metallic material to the sphere on your sign post. This material may not be located where the text specifies. We will discuss this in class, if it is not.

Exercise 6: This exercise presents a lesson on lighting. You are introduced to the Light Lister tool on the Tools menu. Note that smaller light values mean a darker scene, higher values mean a lighter scene.

You are told to create an omni light (omni directional light) in the new sign post lamp. An omni light is a standard light in 3DS Max. When you click the Create button, and the Lights panel icon, you will see that the current value in the dropdown box is "Photometric". Open the dropdown box and choose "Standard" to gain access to standard lights.

Note that this object works like any other new object created by these instructions: you may have to move it after making it. You will probably have to look at more than one viewport to make the change.
Question 7: The exercise tells you to use the Quick Render button. It is no longer called this, but it is still the button furthest to the right on the button bar. What is the icon on it?

Exercise 7: This exercise begins with a completed version of the lesson file, including the features up to now. You will animate the sign using a series of key frames. Some information about frames is in order:

  • frames, key frames, and in-betweens - Computer animation is based on movie animation. A movie is composed of a series of still photos, frames, that are shown to the viewer rapidly.

    In the image on the right, photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge are shown rapidly, one after another. Each frame (an individual image is a frame) is numbered. They are of historical significance. Muybridge made these photos, and became one of the inventors of movies, after he settled a bet about whether all four feet of a running horse are ever off the ground at the same time. By developing a method to display a series of such pictures in rapid succession, he was developing a form of animation.

    In computer animation, we don't usually take photos, but we compose frames. We create frames that show objects at different stages of motion, like the frames on the right. Each of them becomes a key frame. We place each key frame on a timeline, indicating the amount of time that should pass between successive frames. In-betweens are frames that 3DS Max creates to fill in the gaps between the key frames.

    It might be argued that we could have an infinite number of in-betweens to create, since motion is often continuous, and each frame is a still. As you can see by viewing this loop of 16 frames, an infinite number of frames are not necessary to create the illusion of motion. The viewer's mind participates in the illusion, creating many in-betweens to smooth out the perceived motion.

In this exercise, click the Auto Key button to automatically set a key frame every time you move an object. This means that you move an object to a new position, and 3DS Max determines how the object must move in the animation to get from the last position to the new one. When you create an animation, you can watch it in a loop in the viewports. The next exercise shows how to render it in higher resolution.
Question 8: When you look at the timeline, how do you tell where the key frames are?

Exercise 8: This exercise asks you to render the working file. You are told to click the Render Scene Dialog button. You will probably have to drag the tool bar to the left to see this button. For this exercise, you will render the scene in 640 x 480 resolution.
Question 9: What are the available rendering resolutions on the four default buttons in the Render Scene Dialog box?

Do not render directly to a USB drive: the bandwidth is a little narrow for rendering well. Render to your student data drive. You will see the frames as they are rendered in a Rendered Frame Window. This is a preview window. It is not showing you the scene quite as it will appear in the AVI file you are creating.