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Animating Lights

Lights are animated by keyframing or linking, or by assigning animation controllers to them (Figure 11.111).

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.

Figure 11.111Figure 11.111 You animate a light to follow a path by assigning a path constraint to it.

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 11.112).

  3. Turn off the spotlight. Then increase the Multiplier of the directional light to 1.5 (Figure 11.113).

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

  5. Open the Motion panel.

  6. In the Look At Parameters rollout, click the Pick Target button. Then click the highlighted object.

  7. Move the object.

  8. The lights follow the object (Figure 11.114).

Figure 11.112Figure 11.112 Linking the omni light to the hedra.

Figure 11.113Figure 11.113 The hedra is lit from above and below.

Figure 11.114Figure 11.114 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.

  3. Pan the Perspective viewport so that an object is in the center of the composition.

  4. Choose Tools > Light Lister.

  5. In the Light Lister dialog box, turn off the spotlight. Then set the omni Multiplier to 0 (Figure 11.115).

  6. The scene dims (Figure 11.116).

  7. Turn on the Auto Key button. Then drag the time slider to frame 50.

  8. In the Light Lister, set the directional light multiplier to 1.5. Then set the omni light multiplier to .5 (Figure 11.117).

  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 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 11.118).

Figure 11.115Figure 11.115 Light settings in the Light Lister utility.

Figure 11.116Figure 11.116 Start with dim lighting.

Figure 11.117Figure 11.117 As the overhead light brightens to full intensity, the fill light brightens with it.

Figure 11.118Figure 11.118 Beam me up, Scotty!

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