Purpose: To understand setting keys and creating the Pixar Lamp animation.

Objective: To further grasp the basics of animations.


In the Last module we covered the Auto Key feature; we will now work with setting manual Key Frames in addition to using a few animation tools such as the Animation Editor/FCurve Editor.

  • Create a new scene (save the last if you like)
  • Create a Sphere with a Radius of 1, enable shading and again translate the sphere to:

X: -18, Y: 1 (as we did in the last module)

  • Set the Timeline to 60 (as we did in the last module)
  • Set the Initial Key Frame 1 by Pressing (K)
  • Translate the sphere to the right and slightly up (X: -15, y: 4)
  • Slide the Timeline Marker to Frame 10 and press (K) to set a new key frame.
  • Translate the sphere back down to the floor (Y:1) and slightly over to the right (X: -13)
  • Slide the Timeline Marker to Frame 20 and press (K) to set a key frame.
  • Repeat this process until you reach frame 60, with 3 complete bounces.

Frame 30: X:-10, Y: 4 | Frame 40: X:-8, Y: 1 | Frame 50: X: -5, Y: 4 | Frame 60: X: -3, Y: 1

Deleting Key Frames

To delete a key frame you set in the Timeline hold Shift and LMB click on the key frame in the timeline. Now right click the key frame and select Delete from the Context menu. Or simply select the key frame to delete in the timeline and press (Shift K)

Animation Editor

The animation editor is where you control the animation of the currently selected element using a number of different editing tools:

  • The fcurve editor (the default editor)
  • The dopesheet
  • The expression editor
  • The scripted operator’s editor

To display the dopesheet in a floating window, choose View > Animation > Animation Editor (0) from the main menu bar. You can move and resize this like any other window.

FCurve Editor

When you open the animation editor, the fcurve editor is displayed by default; the fcurve editor is where you control the animation of the currently selected element by editing its function curves.

By editing the Function Curves of a selected element you can fine tune its animation and thus make the animation appear more natural and not so rigid.

Contained in the FCurve editor are the following parameters under our sphere object:

  • posx
  • posy
  • posz

Selecting any one of these axis’s will allow you to edit the slope handles (tangents) of each key. The slope handles indicate the rate at which an fcurve’s value changes at that key.

Editing a Function Curve’s Slope

The fcurve’s slope determines the rate of change in the animation. By modifying the slope, you can change the acceleration or deceleration in or out from a key, thus making the animation change rapidly or slowly, or even reversing it. The steeper the slope’s orientation, the faster the values change.

By modifying the handles’ length, direction, and orientation, you can define the way the curve moves to and from keys.

We will use this information to make our next animation appear more realistic – the Pixar Lamp.

Animation Hotkeys/Workflow

  • Navigation Camera (s)
  • Transform Tools (x c v)
  • Save Key (k)
  • Remove Key (shift k)
  • Practice basic Sphere animations & editing them

Animating Properties

In addition to animating an object across our scene, we can animate its size and shape (using the Transform scale Tool, or Duplicate Polygon technique we discussed earlier), its material phong color, or even cycle/scale textures across our object.

Activate the Auto Key button:

  • Assign a colored Phong Material to a new sphere in a new scene (save the last scene if you like). (with sphere selected, Render Menu > Get > Material > Phong – check the color box and slide the bars to a value you like)
  • Activate the Translate Tool (V) so that we can set Key Frames on our sphere. Set a starting Frame with your Phong color selected on frame 1 by pressing (K).
  • Drag the slider to Frame 10; then drag the color sliders to a new position and press (K) again to set a new Key Frame at Frame 10.
  • Repeat this process until you reach frame 100 and press play, your sphere should now change its color 10 times. And just as the in between frames interpolated the information for us, so too will the colors gradually change for us in between frames! Very cool.

Note: Depending on the order in which you change the color, move to a new frame, and assign a key, the color may not always “stick”. If this happens it’s easy enough to select the offending frame, change the color again, and press (K) to set the frame to that color.

Exercise 1:

Create a new scene with 2 or more original animated objects. Animate as many properties of the objects as you can to create a visually interesting scene.

Remember you can use any of the Model editing tools we’ve covered so far. Transform Tools (translate, rotate, scale), Duplicate Polygon/Point/Edge, Add Edge, Material color, Texture scaling, etc.

Also remember to be sure to turn off the Auto key feature if you are not using it.

  • Feel free to save your work in the Scenes Directory under the Haus of Mapping Curriculum Project Path.

The Pixar Lamp

For this next section we will load a Pixar Lamp model which is already created for us, assign a Parent/Child Hierarchy to the various components of the lamp, setup it’s Rig (bone structure) and animate it bouncing across our scene.

Note: You may want to reference the NOESIS Pixar Lamp Tutorial for additional information. And though the video is using an older version of the MOD Tool, it may help to cover small gaps in this written adaptation/update of the video.

  • Load the Pixar Lamp Scene (from classroom scene directory)
  • Evaluate the various model components and observe nothing is connected if you move any of the pieces around. IE it would be impossible to animate in this state.

Note: If you move any components of the lamp around either undo all changes before proceeding forward or reload the scene without saving your changes.

  • Maximize the Front View and open Explorer
  • Expand Lamp in the explorer

Begin Rigging

Get >Primitive> Null

  • Place it towards the left edge of the base
  • Press enter and change Primary display to rings
  • Make it smaller, about .5
  • CTRL D to Duplicate and move a copy to the right side of the base.
  • In the Explorer window, MMB drag null onto null1 (Parent child relationship)

This created a Parent/Child relationship. If we select null1 in the explorer, and rotate it in the front view, you will see that child rotates with the parent. If you select null (child) and rotate, nothing else rotates with it (for now).

  • Return to Object select mode, select the base model, and in the explore window MMB drag the highlighted polymsh1 onto the 2nd null (the child to null1).

Note: Now when you rotate the parent null it moves the base as well.

For the rest of the elements of the scene we are going to create an IK chain (Inverse Kinematics)

  • If you haven’t done so already, change the far left Model toolset to Animate.

Create > Skeleton > Draw 3D Chain

  • LMB click on the center of the pivot ball on top of the base. LMB on the middle pivot point of the 2 arms, and finally LMB on the top of the arm connecting to the lamp head, like so:
  • MMB to create a new chain

  • LMB click on the top of the lamp head and LMB click just outside the lamp bell.

Now we have 2 chains!

Note: The end of a chain is called an effector. If you select an effector and translate it (by its origin for free movement), you will notice the entire chain moves based on how you translate the effector. For a moment try this out on the 2 effectors from the 2 chains we just created.

Note: Undo any changes you make to the chain positions when you are finished.

Now we must parent the objects to the bone chain we created.

  • Select the lower bone in the Front View
  • Make the explorer window active by clicking on it anywhere and press F to find it in explorer.
  • Select the middle joint, and while holding shift, select the lower arm and the lower sphere (zoom in to your scene to easily select the sphere)
  • In the Explorer window, use the MMB to drag them onto the bone we just located in the explorer.

Note: If you MMB select this bone in the explorer window, the child objects will be displayed.

  • Now select the second part of the arm and make this a child of the 2nd bone (bone1) by MMB dragging it onto bone1 in the explorer.

Now when we move the effector of our first chain, we get an arm-like movement throughout the entire stand!

Now let’s take the lamp and light bulb and parent them to the third bone (bone2).

  • Select the 3rd bone running from the top of the lamp to just outside of it

  • Make the explorer window active and press F to locate it.
  • Now that we know where this bone is located, select the lamp and light bulb in the front view (holding shift), and in the explorer window, MMB drag the highlighted polymsh and polymsh2 objects onto bone2 (under root1).

If we move the effector of our 2nd chain, now the lamp head and light bulb move as one.

  • MMB Select this bone chain (root1) in the explorer window and drag it onto the effector of our other bone chain (root > eff)

The last thing we must do is parent the entire root.

  • MMB the root and drag it onto the polymsh1 (under null1 > null)

Our Rig is nearly complete! However, if you look closely while you move the effector at the top of the arm around, the lamp head moves in an unanticipated way. This is an easy fix, so let’s get to it.

  • Select root1 in the explorer window (under null1 > null > polymsh1 > root > eff)

Root1 is the base of our lamp head and we want to remove its kinematics orientation.

  • Single click on the square next to Kinematics under root1 in the explorer menu
  • Under Local Transform select the Options Tab and uncheck the Orientation check box

This time if we move the effector at the top of the arm, the head will be stationary.

We also need to make the root stationary for the rest of the lamp; otherwise the following happens if we attempt to rotate the base:

  • Select the root from the Explorer window, single click on the square next to kinematics.
  • And just as before remove the Orientation checkbox under Local Transform > Options.

Now we can rotate the base without activating the other components.

Now that we’ve got our model all ready to go, let’s have some fun animating!!

Exercise 2:

With our fully rigged Lamp:

  • Set Frames to 60
  • Select right null object, press V to translate, and set a key frame at frame 1.
  • Translate the right null object about 20 units to the right and set a key frame on frame 30
  • At frame 15 translate up

We now have a basic jump; however it’s not very natural.

  • Turn on Auto key
  • Around frame 5 rotate the right null like so, and set a key frame:

  • At frame 1 set the rotate Z axis back to 0.

By editing the null rotations at various frames we can begin to personalize our Lamp character. Spend as much time as needed to fine tune the animation to your liking. You can set key frames at any point “on top” of one another if you have issues with any key frames “sticking.”

Remember, we can also edit the effector at the end of the lamp to mimic the head movements we might expect in real life.

And finally, for more granular control over any fine tuning to our animation key frames, be sure to experiment with the Animation / FCurve Editors as we discussed earlier in this module.

Feel free to save your work in the Scenes Directory under the Haus of Mapping Curriculum Project Path.

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