3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 96: MAX for Character Animation
Lesson 96 - MAX for Character Animation - Part 1
I feel like I'm on a bit of a lucky streak.
Last month, I did a couple of columns highlighting some high-end features of the Mental Ray 2.1 renderer, using Softimage 3D. I noted that this fabulous tool was soon to be released for 3D Studio MAX. It's been more than a year since Mental Ray for MAX has been promised, so I was thrilled to receive word that the product is finally available. At $2,995, the price is about as steep as I expected for a single standalone unit. But the arrival of this product promises to impact the 3D landscape quite a bit.
MAX has always had a hard time getting respect in film-quality work, and its renderer has been one of main culprits. Now, those users who need the highest-quality rendering tools can team MAX up with Mental Ray. This is going to be tough for Softimage, because its exclusive relationship with Mental Ray was one of its major competitive features. Those who use MAX for games or other realtime work, or those who do video work that doesn't require Mental Ray quality, can get by with the standard MAX package.
I can't help but feel, as I know many others do, that the professional 3D world is funneling down to MAX and Maya right now. Softimage is no longer perceived as a leader. Lightwave took far too long to get it's Version 6 release out and, as impressive as it is, it does not have the scope of MAX at a roughly similar price. Both MAX and Maya are growing in scope and ambition, and are taking the lead. The next MAX, due in the first quarter of 2001, will be another major upgrade - from R3 to R4. But Maya has been setting a hot pace that will be hard to catch.
With this in mind, I'd like to take a look at character modeling and animation issues in MAX in the next few lessons. This was the area that MAX was traditionally weakest in, and those who are especially interested in this subject might feel that they should gravitate toward Maya. But MAX 3 made major improvements in order to establish itself as a respectable platform for character work, and I'd like to assess it.
The original, and incomprehensible, vision of MAX was to treat true skeletal deformation as outside the standard package. Those who wished to do character work were forced to purchase the Character Studio plug-in. This idea was ridiculous and, to make matters worse, Character Studio is about the most unpleasant tool imaginable. Discreet (or Kinetix, or Autodesk Â you choose the name) rectified this situation in MAX 3 by implementing the Skin modifier. This tool provides classic skeletal deformation within the main package.
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Created: July 3, 2000
Revised: July 3, 2000