Setting Up A 3D Walk Through – Fly Through in 3DS Max

January 4, 2010 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured by admin

Setting Up A 3D Walk Through – Fly Through
( Autodesk 3dsmax 2010)

In this tutorial we will go about the process of setting up a "Walk Through" or "Fly Through" animation in Autodesk 3dsmax. This Tutorial can be followed by users of other applications as well, since most of the functions can be transferred. The concept I am about to teach is pretty universal.

For those that are a bit more advanced I will spill the beans early… animate your camera along a path.

This tutorial is not meant to be a modeling guide for creating your environment. It is meant to teach you how to set up your animation after modeling the environment. Simple… maybe… maybe not… let’s take a look.

Author: Ryan W. Knope

Ryan W. Knope is a freelance 3D / 2D Artist / Consultant with 13 years experience in the 3D and 2D industry. His main artistic love lies with interior and exterior rendering although he takes on just about every type of graphics work. Ryan is also the architectural / interior voice for 3D Artist Magazine’s Question and Answer Panel. He lives with his wife Krista, in sunny Denver, Colorado.

Tutorial Details

  • Programs: Autodesk 3dsmax 2010
  • Difficulty: Easy (Prior Knowledge of 3dsmax interface is a plus.)

Supplied Data

Step 1: Drawing The First Wall

Start by opening 3dsmax. Draw a spline (Line) as shown below. (You can find this tool by going to Create > Shapes > Line)

Renderable is turned on. The spline has a thickness of 6", has 4 sides and has an angle of 45 degrees. The angle is set to 45 degrees to rotate the profile to be flat instead of diamond shaped.


Step 2: Raising The Wall To Proper Height

Now that the spline has been drawn we need to bring it up to 10′ in height. To do this go to the "modify tab" and add an "edit poly" modifier. Next draw a box that is 10′ in height. This box will act as our measuring guide.

Go back to the "modify tab" and
go to the "vertex" editing level. Pull the top vertices up to your 10′ measure mark. Now you have completed 1 wall.

Step 3: Laying Out The Rest Of Your Walls

In this step we will "instance" the walls to create a maze. You can create it as large or as small as you need to serve your purpose. Select your wall and SHIFT + Move the object to bring up the "Clone Options." Select instance and press OK. We used instance because if we edit 1 wall, it will make the same changes to the rest.

Next we will mirror the wall. You can access the mirror tool by going to TOOLS > MIRROR or by pressing the button at the top of the layout. Mirror the wall along the, axis. You should have a hallway at this point.

Now repeat this step again by mirroring both of the wall objects. on the Y axis. Continue instancing and mirroring until you have a large enough wall layout.

Note: Keep in mind that in any planar viewport, is a horizontal mirror and Y is a vertical mirror.


Step 4 – The Floor

For the flooring you can simply create a plane and line it up to the bottom of the walls.

You can create the plane by accessing the create panel. Change the width and length segments to 1, because we do not need the extra geometry.


Step 5 – Mental Ray And Sun

For this tutorial I am using Mental Ray as my rendering engine and MR Sun and MR Sky as my lighting system. You can use whatever you prefer. I would also add a wall material. I chose a light gray.

You can read in more detail how to set up your sun system with step 11 and 12 of the Master Plan Tutorial.


Step 6 – Drawing Your Path Spline (Camera Path)

Draw a spline (Line) in the middle of the hallways in the directions that you would like your camera to move along. Now move the spline up so it is at about eye height. A height of 5’5" to 6′ should work well

Varying the height of your spline in different locations can make for some interesting camera shots. This can be both good and bad depending on your use.


Step 7 – Smoother Turns

We now need to smooth out the turns a bit… otherwise your camera will look like a soldier doing right and left face drill commands.

Select your spline and go to the "modify" panel. Select the "Vertex Level" and select all of the vertices
(CTRL A). Now scroll down along the modify panel and find "Fillet". Use a 3’8" fillet or whatever you prefer. Your camera path should now be smoother along the turns, making it a bit more realistic.

You should have something similar to what is below.


Step 8 – Creating Your Camera

To create your camera go to Create > Cameras > Target Camera. Click and drag it out at the start of your path spline. Position it close to you spline and raise it up to eye level. I used a 35mm camera lens. You can use whatever you desire, although keep in mind that with a smaller lens, your hallways will appear very long and often the walls will not be straight up and down.

Now you can check your camera by going to your perspective viewport and pressing "C". This will change the view to the camera.

At this point it is also wise to set your time configuration. For example, how long you want the animation to be as well as how many frames per second (FPS). You can find the "Time Configuration" button in the lower right corner of the interface. It has a clock on the button. Keep in mind that much of the time a frame rate of 29.97 or 30 is used.


Step 9 – Assigning A Path Constraint Controller

Select your camera and go to the "Motion Tab" and expand the "Transform Rollout". Select the position line and click the box with the check in it. This will bring up the "Assign Position Controller" dialogue box, select "Path Constraint" and hit OK.

This has now assigned the path constraint controller to your camera.


Step 10 – Adding Your Path

While in the motion tab roll down, click add path and select your spline in the viewport. This will attach the camera to the spline. This also moves the camera along the path from 0% to 100% in regards to your time line.

If you move the time slider while the top and camera views are open you will see that the camera moves along the path, but the target does not.


Step 11 – Deciding Not To Use A Camera Target

One way to make your camera target work for you is not to use one. Your camera will only follow your path, you will not be able to look from left to right.

To use this method, select your camera and move down the motion rollout until you see the "Follow" option, select it. You may need to change your,YZ Axis orientation, test them with the camera viewport open for the proper axis.


Step 12 – Deciding To Use A Camera Target

Using a target camera gives the user much more control, such as looking up, down and all around. Using a target also takes more time, as you have to keyframe your target for the duration of the animation.

As you drag your time slider you will notice that the camera follows the path, but the target does not.

To keyframe your target, turn on "AutoKey". This will automatically set a keyframe if you move an object, in this case, you will be moving the camera target. Move you time slider so that you camera goes around a corner, then move your target into a desired position, repeat this until you have a smooth flow around corners.

You should be doing all of this while using the top and camera views. By the end you should have many keyframe ticks on the time line.


Step 13 – Corner Troubles

If you rendered out a test at this point, you can probably see a problem with turning the corners. The corners are probably too tight if you are using a 28mm lens and up.

To fix this you can do a few things… widen your hallways, which if you are working on a commercial job, you probably cannot.

Second, you can lower the lens size, while this is not a great option, it does work.

Third, you can edit your path so that it hugs the far wall (opposite of the turn), giving you more space. You can see the difference between my path splines below. To edit your path spline, select it and go to the modify tab.

Remember to turn "Auto Key" off before editing your spline. Your path spline will be animated if you do not.


Step 14 – Rendering

Now it is time to render. Press F10 to bring up the render properties window. Mental Ray should already be set up as your renderer.

Set your size,select "Active Segment" under time output, scroll down and find the render output area and select your folder and file name / type. Go to the "Indirect Illumination Tab" and double check and make sure "Finalgather" is turned on. You should be all set to render now.


Step 15 – Conclusion

With this tutorial, you hopefully learned a bunch of tools and topics regarding setting up a fly through animation. I went over a very basic set up, this can get much more complex. To finesse each turn can be very consuming. Patience is the key when setting up the movement.

It would benefit you greatly to check out a bunch of professional fly through animations, taking note of their movement, height and composition.