Single axis direction constraint

As you’ve noticed there isn’t a one click solution to limit the direction constraint to a single axis. However there’s no need to despair as we’ve supplied you with two different methods to tackle the problem.

Open the scene Surveillance_Camera.scn from this issues DVD. The first method requires two null objects, one which can be moved in any direction and one that will be used for the actual direction constraint. Create a null object, name it Direction_Cns and move it somewhat in front of the surveillance camera. Create another null object, name it LookAt and move it in front of the camera as well. Press [Ctrl] + [K] to pen its Local Transforms PPG and click the Lock icon to pin it to the screen. Select the Direction_Cns object and press [Ctrl] + [K] to open its transform PPG as well.

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Animating a cable using Softimage cloth

The project files used in this tutorial can be found at:

Softimage Cloth
Start by open the scene cabel.scn from this issues CD. Select the Cable_Cloth object and press [T] to set the selection filter to points and select the two vertices at the right end of the object. From the Edit menu choose Create Cluster with Center. Press [4] to switch to the Simulate Toolbar. Select the Cable_Cloth object and from the Create > Cloth menu choose From Selection. Different types of cables obviously has different characteristics. Use the values in the above screenshot as a starting point and experiment on your own.

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Animating frost growing across the surface

This is a very common question. Okay perhaps not the frosted effect, but the part about changing the textures or materials for an object over time. You obviously need a surface for the material so start a new scene and create a simple object. Or just open the scene frost.scn from this issues DVD. Select the frost object and from the Get > Material menu choose Phong and Press [7] to open a Render Tree. Get a Gradient node from the Nodes > Texture menu and a Mix 2 Colors node from the Nodes > Mixers menu. Connect the gradient node to the Weight input of the Mix_2colors node and the Mix_2colors node to the surface input of the Material node. Double click on the gradient node to open the PPG and switch to the Texture tab. Click the New button and from the menu choose Planar XY.

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Animating a mechanic billboard in Softimage XSI

Start by opening the Billboard.scn scene from this issues CD. The scene contains a bunch of trilons or triangular prisms, 300 to be precise. Using a couple of thousands would obviously be more striking but for the sake of demonstration the number is keep low. While any of the prisms could be used to animate their rotation, it’s a good idea to separate the animation parameters from the actual billboard. Start by selecting the null object named Prisms_Rotation. Press [C] to activate the rotation tool and press [K] to set a keyframe at frame 1. Go to frame 16, rotate the Prisms_Rotation 120 degrees on the Y-axis and set a new keyframe. With the rotation still at 120, set another keyframe at frame 80. Press [0] (zero) to open the Animation Editor and select the function curve for the Y rotation (roty). From the Curves menu choose relative Cycle. To change the pace of your mechanic billboard, just move one of the 3 keyframes.

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Animating Growing Vine

Start by creating a cone from the Get > Primitive > Polygon Mesh menu. Set the Length to 30 and the Base to 0.2. Increase the U Subdivisions to 12 or so and the V to 50. Name it Liana. Click the Center button in the Select menu and in the front viewport, move the object’s center all the way down to the bottom of the liana. This will create the effect of the liana growing from its base rather the center of the object. Since lianas usually don’t grow in perfectly straight lines, you’ll need to give it a bit more organic shape.

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Offset in Time


If you don’t have a deck of dominoes of your own, start by opening the dominoes.scn scene from this issues CD. Select the stone object, from the Main Command Panel > Constrain menu chose Curve (Path) and chose the dominoes_path curve when prompted. In the Path Constraint PPG, switch to the Tangency tab. Check the Active checkbox and click the –Z button to align the stone. Leave the PPG open, because you’ll return to it in just a few seconds. With the stone still selected, press [Shift]+[Ctrl]+[D] to open the Duplicate Multiple PPG. Enter 30 as the number of Copies and press OK. Press [8] to open an Explorer. Select the stone object, hold down [Shift] and select the stone30. This is important as the order in which the objects get selected will determine in what order they’ll get distributed. Return to the Path Constraint PPG and enter L(100) in the Path %age. This will distribute all the selected stones evenly along the curve. Once that is done you no longer need the path constraint, so with all the stones still selected chose Constrain > Remove All Constraints.
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Cartoon Explosion

Even though it’s just about impossible to find a Hollywood blockbuster these days that doesn’t include its fair share of special effects and explosions, people just don’t seem to ever grow tired of them. On the contrary; take a poorly written excuse for a story, add a couple of nice, rich explosions and some other FX while you’re at it, and people will still see it. Let’s not single out a specific film because there’s just too many to choose from. Nevertheless, in all fairness sake, the sheer fun of blowing things up just might vindicate an otherwise totally uncalled-for explosion, or possibly even a bunch of them.

Without getting to scientific, let’s have a quick look at what we are about to create. Everything explodes differently, so depending on what’s causing it the result can range from a massive eruption of fireballs to a modest puff. Even so, they do share the same elemental course of events. The abrupt and violent release of energy sets of the explosion from a small or limited area and will aggressively grow larger. As the explosion or cloud travels away from the point of origin it loses its energy and will settle down and gradually fade away.

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Getting Started in Animation Part 1

While having the largest box of crayons in class may have been thrilling when you were a kid, ithad little or nothing to do with the quality of the images you drew. Although we doubt thatanyone would seriously argue with this, it’s something people often forget when it comes to 3D. With the manuals of modern 3D applications weighing more than the contents of a schoolsatchel, it’s as easy to be dazzled by the number of features available as it was by the number of crayons. But the basics of 3D are exactly that – basic enough for anyone to follow.

During this four-part tutorial series, we’ll introduce you to the fundamental concepts of 3D animation. While primarily aimed at newcomers, we also encourage more experienced users to drop by our 3D kindergarten; no matter how well you know your software, there’s no substitute to an understanding of the principles of weight and timing. At the end of the day, animation is all aboutbringing things to life, not marvelling at the tools employed to do so.

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Getting Started in Animation Part 2 and 3

One of many files lost when my old backup decided to crash, was all the images for the 2nd and 3rd part of the Getting Started in Animation. I should have a second backup somewhere tucked in the closet, so if anyone asks me to I’ll have another go at finding them.

In the meantime, both articles can still be found at 3D World’s website
and Getting Started in Animation part 3 at

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Getting Started in Animation Part 4

With the summer vacation just within your grasp, our 3d kindergarten are about to come to an end with this very issue. Throughout this four part tutorial series we’ve been focusing on the concept of animation, rather than fancy features offered by any given 3d software. With topics ranging from boxes of crayons to green peas we’ve surely had an odd mix of metaphors for the fundamental ideas, but this hopefully helped you getting the bigger picture.

During the course our hopper has evolved from just being a lifeless object to a joyful character with a will (and rig) of his own. Until now, we’ve put together the animation by directly moving and scaling the geometry of the hopper at different frames. While this approach is very straightforward and time efficient you don’t have any real control of the hoppers posture or any specific expression, even less the ability to change them over time. Using the rig from last issue enables us to continue working in the same manner as before, but with the power to add additional details to the poses and the animation as a whole.

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