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DES312: Basics of Animation in 3D Max – Bouncing Balls, Simple Hierarchies

To start animating your model, click the AUTO KEY button near the timeline. Choose a frame, eg frame 30, then move your model or tweak it. Now when you play the animation the model will move between frames 0-30.

To affect the Easing press the Curves Editor button next to the layer manager in the scroll bar. This will bring a graph showing x,y, and z position (and scale or other modifiers as they are applied) on a frame by frame graph. The curves can be adjusted by right clicking the square tabs at the keyframes, and choosing different options, or by just pulling the point around (similar to photoshops pen tool).


You can then insert keyframes directly onto the graph and tweak the curve, rather than animate the model directly.

VIEWS > SHOW GHOSTING – this will show frame by frame animation (similar to Flash’s Onion Skinning).

Red +blue- position keyframe red position, blue scale

To duplicate keyframes- select a frame, hold shift and drag the frame to its new position


1 Create a plane and a sphere hovering above it. Turn on Autokey and select the Sphere. Change the View Scrollbar to ‘World- it makes editing graphs easier.

2. Go to frame 12, move the ball to the ground plane. Go to frame 22, and move it back up to about 2/3 of its original height.

3. Frame 32, move it down to the plane again. Preview the animation and see how the speed looks- if the bounce is too fast or too slow,  just drag your keyframes forward or back along the timeline. Continue bouncing the ball, with heights getting smaller and smaller each time, finishing with a tiny 1 frame bounce before the ball comes to a complete stop. (As the bounces get smaller the keyframes will get closer together on the timeline).

4. Turn off autokey, then shift drag a second ball beside the first (this is to adjust the second ball but leave the first to see how the animation progresses.  Open the curve editor on the second ball. The curve will show a smooth sine wave, not like how a ball bounces. on the bottom edges of the curve, change the curve to ‘fast in’as shown in th diagram below.

5.Ensuring Autokey is still off, copy ball 2 to make a ball 3 as before. Turn Autokey back on, then move to the keyframe where the ball first hits the floor. Go to the scale tool, but hold the mouse button over it, and select the bottom option that comes up- ‘squash and stretch’. This option means when the ball hits the ground, you can squash it downwards, but it will also automatically get wider, maintaining the same volume. At each frame where the ball touches the ground, squash the ball, and move it to make sure it still touches the ground.

6.Now- the animation doesnt quite look right, as the ball is squashing as it falls, not when it actually hits the ground! To fix this, simply go to each frame  before the one where the ball hits the ground, and with Autokey switched on, stretch it back to a spherical shape.

7.Now we have a reasonably realistic looking bouncing ball. To really sell the animation, we want to make it cartoony- on the upwards movement of the ball, stretch it slightly vertically. just after it leaves the ground.

8. Now we want to make a cannonball, instead of a bouncing rubber ball. Switch off Autokey, and copy our second ball (before all the squash and stretch was applied.) Select and delete all the keyframes for the previous animation. Now move to say frame 9 (a few frames less than before) and move it to the ground. This will make it look heavier as if its falling faster. now add a small bounce to the end, without any squash or stretch.


SHIFT+F: ‘Safe Frame’ By pressing this, you will get a yellow box on your viewport- this will show you what exactly will be rendered if you choose to render your file.

**jason ryan***

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