To begin the animation you should export and link an FBX file from Revit as described in a previous post on exporting files from Revit to 3D Max. Once you have set your materials and lighting to your satisfaction you can begin the work, but first lets briefly talk about what you can animate together with a basic overview of the essential elements of the 3D Max interface needed for this.
Either a change in the model itself or changes in the camera position at key frame points can be animated. 3D Max is smart enough to animate between these changes. So for example if you set a frame range of 100 for this animation, this would create 100 rendered still images compressed together to make a video. Within this range you can create a camera viewpoint at high level at frame 0 and then move the cameras position to ground level at frame 100 and it will animate smoothly the movement of the camera between theses 2 points.
In addition to animating the movement of cameras you can also animate elements of the scenes such as a car pulling into a driveway or lights slowly coming on in a house at dusk. The greater the frame range the smoother and less jerky the video will be but this is inversely proportional to the speed of the rendering time. A smart way of overcoming the shortcomings of low powered computers is to render the animation in segments and then stitch it together using your PC or Mac default video editing software.
Learning The Basic User Interface Of 3D Max:
Below we’ll explain some basic functions of Max that you might use in your animation but feel free to skip past this section if you’re already familiar with the interface. The toolbar at the top of the screen in Max contains the Move, Rotate, and Scale buttons. These allow control over the position, angle, and scale of objects you may want to animate. The control panel on the far right is used to create and modify shapes. The viewports in the center of the screen can be plan, elevation or perspective views as required. Press the shortcut ‘C’ to cut to a camera view or alternately click on the title of the viewport in the upper left hand corner of each viewport. Think of them as cameras pointing from different places to the center of the scene. A few helpful buttons to control how the views are displayed are located on the bottom right hand side of the screen. These icons allow you to move, rotate, or zoom the focus of the cameras.
3D Max General Interface- Creating An Object For Use In Your Animation:
To create a rectangle, go to the control panel on the right, and find the button labeled Box. When you click this button, the control panel will change. You now have an option of the Creation Method. After you select Cube, click and drag with the mouse inside any viewport and voila you have an object. You can also import an object library item such as a car or trees etc to animate but it’s good to have a rough idea of how to create basic geometry in max in case the need should arise.
3D Max General Interface- Using Object Modifiers:
After creating geometry, it can be modified in different ways by adding modifiers. Open the Modify tab at the top of the control panel on the right hand side of the screen, and use the drop-down Modifier List. Under Object-Space Modifiers, find and select Twist. Notice that in the object list, the box you created now has modifier Twist attached to it. The control panel should now be working with the Twist modifier. Increase the angle, and watch what happens. The cube will twist around itself.
3D Max General Interface- Adding Materials
The Material Editor ( shortcut ‘M’) allows the user to customize, and apply different materials to objects. By default, all the materials are gray. To make things a little more interesting, lets decrease the Opacity under Blinn Basic Parameters to 50. This will decrease the solidity of the material. This is only a very basic example of materials, as they can become much more complex. For now, you will assign this simple ‘ghostly’ material to the cube using the Assign Material to selection button (Third from the left, just below material spheres).
3D Max General Interface- Manipulating Objects:
To manipulate objects you will use primarily 3 buttons: Move, Rotate, and Scale. These allow the user to change the position, angle, and proportional size of the shape along the X, Y, and Z axis’. The axis’ will change depending on which viewport you are working in. It is not possible to move along the Z axis in most standard views, because it would involve moving along the line of sight, which is parallel to the view. To use these tools, hover over the cube with your mouse to display the axis’ indicator. Now click the axis you want to use, and drag in the direction you want to move.
3D Max General Interface- Rendering
To render a scene, you can use the Quick Render button located on the right of the upper toolbar. You may have to slide the toolbar to the left to find this button. A render allows you to view the final product of the scene, including materials and effects . You will use the full render function to create a video output file for your animation later.
The Animation Interface – Key Frames
Key Frames are the ones, where you define the animation for a parameter by specifying its exact value at a given set of times. The computer can then work out by interpolating what the value should be between the keys.
The Animation Interface – Time Controls
Time Controls can be found on the lower interface bar between the key controls and the Viewport Navigation Controls. The Time Control buttons include buttons to jump to the Start or End of the animation, or to step forward or back by a single frame. You can also jump to an exact frame by entering the frame number in the frame number field. The Time Controls also include the Time Slider found directly under the viewports.
The Animation Interface – The Time Slider
The Time Slider provides an easy way to move through the frames of an animation. To do this, just drag the Time Slider button in either direction. The Time Slider button is labeled with the current frame number and the total number of frames. The arrow buttons on either side of this button work the same as the Previous and Next Frame (Key) buttons.
The Animation Interface – The Track Bar
The Track Bar is situated directly under the Time Slider. The Track Bar displays a rectangular marker for every key for the selected object. These markers are color-coded depending on the type of key. Position keys are red, rotation keys are green, scale keys are blue, and parameter keys are dark gray. The current frame is also shown in the Track Bar as a light blue transparent rectangle.
The Track Bar shows key markers only for the currently selected object or objects, and each marker can represent several different keys. When the mouse is moved over the top of these markers, the cursor changes to a plus sign, and a marker can be selected by clicking on it. Selected markers turn white. Using the Ctrl key, you can select multiple keys at the same time. You can also select multiple key markers by clicking an area of the Track Bar that contains no keys and then dragging an outline over all the keys you want to select. If you move the cursor over the top of a selected key, the cursor is displayed as a set of arrows enabling you to drag the selected key to the left or right. Holding down the Shift key while dragging a key creates a copy of the key. Pressing the Delete key deletes the selected key.
The Animation Interface – Key Frames Modes
Keys define a particular state of an object at a particular time. Animations are created as the object moves or changes between two different key states. The easiest way to make keys is using the Key Controls. These controls are located to the left of the Time Controls.
Max includes two animation modes: Auto Key (N) and Set Key ( ‘ ).You can select either of these modes by clicking the respective buttons at the bottom of the interface. When active, the button turns bright red, and the border around the active viewport also turns red to remind you that you are in animate mode. Red also appears around a spinner for any animated parameters.
With the Auto Key button is enabled, every transformation or parameter change creates a key that defines where and how an object should look at that specific frame.
To create a key, drag the Time Slider to a frame where you want to create a key and then move the selected object or change the parameter, and a key is automatically created. When the first key is created, Max automatically goes back and creates a key for frame 0 that holds the object’s original position or parameter. Upon setting the key, Max then interpolates all the positions and changes between the keys. The keys are displayed in the Track Bar.
Each frame can hold several different keys, but only one for each type of transform and each parameter. For example, if you move, rotate, scale, and change the Radius parameter for a sphere object with the Auto Key mode enabled, then separate keys are created for position, rotation, scaling, and a parameter change.
The Animation Interface – Set Key Mode
The Set Key button ( ‘ ) offers more control over key creation and sets keys only when you click the Set Key button (K). It also creates keys only for the key types enabled in the Key Filters dialog box. You can open the Key Filters dialog box, by clicking the Key Filters button. Available key types include All, Position, Rotation, Scale, IK Parameters, Object Parameters, Custom Attributes, Modifiers, Materials, and Other (which allows keys to be set for manipulator values).
The Animation Interface – Time Configuration
Time configuration is used to determine the length of your time segment and scale your animation. It is also simple and does not require much time and knowledge to accomplish these tasks. Right-click anywhere in the time settings area, or click on the time configuration button at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Then a Dialog Window saying Time Configuration will pop up. To change the length of the active time segment, either adjust the “end time” or “length” spinners. To scale the animation contained in the active time segment, click the “Re-scale Time” button in the Animation section of the Time Configuration window. Another window will appear, in which you select the new length of the animation. This will slow down or speed up the entire animation to fit whichever new time you enter.
The Animation Interface – Track View
With Track View, you can view and edit all the keys that you create. You can also assign animation controllers to interpolate or control all the keys and parameters for the objects in your scene.
Track View uses two different modes, Curve Editor and Dope Sheet.
Curve Editor mode lets you display the animation as function curves. Dope Sheet mode displays the animation as a spreadsheet of keys and ranges. Keys are color-coded for easy identification. Some of the functions in Track View, such as moving and deleting keys, are also available on the track bar near the time slider, which can be expanded to show curves as well. You can dock the Curve Editor and Dope Sheet windows beneath the viewports at the bottom of the interface, or use them as floating windows.
The Animation Interface – The Motion Panel
The Motion panel provides tools to adjust the motion of the selected object. Key timing and easing in and out of a key are parameters that you can adjust with tools on the Motion panel, for instance. The Motion panel also provides an alternative to Track View for assigning animation controllers.
The Parameters button on the Motion panel lets you assign controllers, and create and delete keys too. Controllers are custom key-creating algorithms that can be defined through the Parameters rollout. These controllers are assigned by selecting the position, rotation, or scaling track and clicking on the Assign Controller button to open a list of applicable controllers that you can select.
How to Create a Simple Animation:
I include the step by step walkthrough fior animating BIM models below. For this instruction you will use the Auto-key function.
On the bottom toolbar, make sure the animation bar is at 0/100. Press auto-key, and the large key button to the left of it. This will initialize the starting key (where everything is at the beginning of the scene). Drag the animation bar to 10/100. Now move the cube around, using the buttons from Step 6. After you have changed the position of the cube in frame 10, drag the bar back to 0/100, notice that it will regress back to the original position. This process allows the user to specify exactly how the object will change at a certain frame, and auto-animate the steps in between. These points are called key frames as in they are frames of a movie in which a key change occurs .
Adding Modifiers to Animation:
Now that you can animate movement, try adding modifiers to the cube. Begin at frame 0/100, and add the Twist modifier – use an angle of 0. Now go to frame 10 and increase the angle. The arrows beside angle will show red corners around them. This means the angle has been changed since the last key frame. Scroll back to frame 0/100 and notice the change.
Adding Lights to Animation:
Adding lights is as simple as creating shapes. Under the Create tab in the control panel, look beneath the tabs. The small buttons here allow the creation of different types of objects (Geometry, Lights, etc..). Select Lights here and choose Omni. An omni light creates light at all angles (think of it as a mini sun). Click once anywhere in the view ports to create an omni light. Arrange the light however you like, to add shadow or contrast to objects (see Figure 6). You can animate this light to move through the scene as well.
Saving Your Animation:
The final step is to save the animation into a file to view it later. From the top menu bar, find Rendering > Render, or press F10 from the main interface. This will bring up the Rendering Options window (See Figure 7). Setting Time Output to Active Time Segment or Range allow an output of the full scene, or a range of frames. Choose Range, and specify 0-10 to make this go more quickly. Scroll down further to find Render Output, and click Files. Specify a name for your animation ending in .avi (Cube.avi). This will send the file in avi format to the specified path. Choose Render in the lower right corner of the window to finish.
You can use the Compressor drop-down list to choose a particular video compressor, or codec. The available choices depend on your system setup. Many codecs let you use the Quality slider to adjust the quality of the output (primarily the output resolution). For the default DV Video Encoder, this control is not available. On the Render Setup dialog, Save File is now on and the output field shows the location of your animation.
Always check to be sure you’re rendering the right viewport. In most cases, you will render the camera viewport. Click Render to begin the rendering process.Watch a few frames to make sure that the rendering gets off to a good start. The Time Remaining estimate gives you an idea of how long the rendering will take.
Play the rendered animation:
When your animation is finished rendering, choose Rendering menu then View Image File and Navigate to the \sceneassets\animations subfolder. Highlight ‘yourmovie.avi’ and click Open to display the Media Player. In the Media Player, you can then play your animation.
Congratulations you’ve just animated your file!