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Animating Lights

Lights are animated by keyframing or linking, or by assigning animation controllers to them.

Any numerical parameter of a light can be keyframed, including intensity, color, contrast, hotspot, falloff, attenuation, and shadow density. You can also keyframe the position and orientation of a light using the Move and Rotate transforms and the Light window controls. However, parameters that use checkboxes cannot be keyframed.

Linking a light to a moving object ensures that the light will illuminate the object or objects nearby—think running lights or headlights on a car. If the light is linked to a camera, the light will shine wherever the camera is pointed.

The Look At constraint turns a light into a searchlight that always points at a target object. Moving the target over time is an easy way to animate the light. (Use a non-rendering helper object such as a dummy or a point if you do not want the target to be seen.) 3ds max automatically assigns the Look At constraint to spotlights and directional lights, so all you need to do is tell the light where to look.

To make lights follow an object:

  1. Open Practice03.max, and close the ActiveShade view. (Note: The scene may shift a little when you close the view.)

  2. Link the omni light to the object above it (Figure 11.115).

  3. Figure 11.115Figure 11.115 Linking the omni light to the hedra.

  4. Turn off the spotlight. Then increase the Multiplier of the directional light to 1.5 (Figure 11.116).

  5. Figure 11.116Figure 11.116 The hedra is lit from above and below.

  6. In the Modify panel, convert the directional light to a Target Direct type.

  7. Open the Motion panel.

  8. In the Look At Parameters rollout, click the Pick Target button (Figure 11.117). Then click the highlighted object.

  9. Figure 11.117Figure 11.117 Pick the hedra to be the Look At target.

  10. Move the object.

  11. The lights follow the object (Figure 11.118).

    Figure 11.118Figure 11.118 When you move the hedra, the omni light and the target light follow it.

By animating the intensity multiplier, you can make lights dim and brighten over time.

To animate light intensity:

  1. Open Practice03.max.

  2. Close the ActiveShade view. Then pan the Perspective viewport so that the hedra is in the center of the composition.

  3. Choose Tools > Light Lister.

  4. In the Light Lister dialog box, turn off the spotlight and set the omni Multiplier to 0 (Figure 11.119).

  5. The scene dims (Figure 11.120).

    Figure 11.119Figure 11.119 Adjust the light settings in the Light Lister utility.

    Figure 11.120Figure 11.120 Start with a dim illumination.

  6. Turn on the Auto Key button, and drag the time slider to frame 50.

  7. In the Light Lister, set the directional light multiplier to 1.5. Then set the omni light multiplier to.5 (Figure 11.121).

  8. Figure 11.121Figure 11.121 As the overhead light brightens to full intensity, the fill light brightens with it.

  9. Drag the time slider to frame 100.

  10. Set the intensity of both the directional light and the omni light to 0.

  11. Play back the animation.

  12. The lights brighten and dim to darkness.


To animate a light turning on and off, change the tangent type of the Multiplier keys to Step, or assign an On/Off controller to the Multiplier track.

By cloning the directional light and adding volume and a projector map, you can create a transporter that beams up your objects (Figure 11.122).

Figure 11.122Figure 11.122 Beam me up, Scotty!

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