Anim8or - Basics to Advanced/Printable version

Anim8or - Basics to Advanced

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Part 1: Modeling


Welcome to Part 1 of the Anim8or - Basics to Advanced QuickStart. This first part of the Quickstart will show you how to model the shape of a Gingerbread man. Many of you may be familiar with the Gingerbread man modeling from the Blender book. This article will show you how to do exactly that with similar results, except we are going to use Anim8or, not Blender. So go ahead and open up Anim8or and let's start.

Creating the Body


First off, start up the Anim8or program. Make sure you are in front view by pressing (NUM – 5). Also make sure you are in Object Edit mode by pressing (SHIFT – A).

We are going to draw a cube, which we will edit to form our gingerbread man. Select the Cube draw button by pressing (SHIFT – C). Move your mouse pointer to the workspace and click and drag the mouse to form a cube. Next, get the Select tool (A) and double-click the cube you just drew. Make sure the location of the cube is in the center by setting the x, y, and z parameters to 0. Then in the Divisions, set them to 2 in each direction. For the size, set x, y, and z to 20. Then hit the OK button:

PreReq 1

Prerequisite 1: Understanding OpenGL


OpenGL is an interesting topic to cover, since the Anim8or program and many other commercial 3D modelers run on OpenGL.

What is OpenGL

OpenGL is an API (Application Programming Interface) which interacts directly with the video hardware in your computer to produce different types of graphics very fast. This approach to graphics is much faster than what’s called software-based graphics. The main problem with Software-based graphics is that it is not using the full potential of your video card. Usually, the software-based approach is used to create simple graphics such as the user interface in Microsoft Word. But for 3D graphics to run at full speed you need direct contact with the video hardware for optimal performance. That is the purpose of OpenGL.

One more thing to discuss is how OpenGL makes the programmer’s life a little bit easier. OpenGL takes care of interfacing with the video hardware by itself without the programmer writing any code to do that. In the early days of graphics programming, programmers would sometimes have to write a lot of code just to interact with the video hardware. Now they don’t have to worry about that. They can just concentrate on drawing graphics.

PreReq 3

PreRequisite 3 - Downloading and Installing Anim8or


Here we are going to cover how to obtain the Anim8or program and how to run it.

First go to the Anim8or main website at Click on the spinning “Enter” text on the bottom and you will be at the main page. From the menu at the left, select the “Download” link. When you get to that page, select the zip file right under the header “Download Anim8or Executable” and download the zip file to a target folder. Optionally you can go a little bit below that header and download the PDF manual for Anim8or in zip format. Once you have all the files downloaded, unzip the Anim8or zip file and look in the unzipped folder. You should only see just one item in the folder called “Anim8or.exe”. Double-click that to open it. Congratulations on obtaining and running Anim8or.

User Interface Overview

When you first start up Anim8or, after the splash screen goes away, you will get a grid in front of you with a bunch of buttons surrounding it.


Let's go over the buttons first. Here are the set of buttons on the left of the screen when you first start Anim8or:


These set of buttons are part of the Object/Edit mode in Anim8or. These tools allow you to create basic objects such as cubes, spheres, and other primitives. You can also do basic manipulation on these objects such as rotation, moving the object, and scaling the object. We will now go over all these buttons to understand them more.

Next: Object/Edit buttons

User Interface Overview/Object Edit

The Object/Edit button set


The first button we will go over is the arrow button all the way at the top of the toolbar:
This button puts you in Object/Edit mode. There is also an arrow button below this one. Don't confuse the two. The top one puts you in the Object/Edit mode while the other one is the Select button.

The button immediately to the right of the Object/Edit mode arrow button is the Object/Viewpoint mode button:
This button puts you in a mode where you can change the way the camera views

your 3D objects.  When you are in this mode you can zoom in the view, move around 

the camera, and also rotate the camera.

The button below the Object/Edit button is the Object/Axis mode.
Object/Axis mode will allow you to move the XYZ arrow so an object will rotate about itself. First select the problem object in top menu under OBJECT, select its name (if you haven't named it, will likely be something like object01, object02 etc.). Now the object will be isolated. You must be in WIREFRAME view mode to see the red and blue arrows. Click the object/axis button, then immediately click the move tool below it and you will now be able to drag the blue and red arrows to the center of your object. Don't move your object when moving the red and blue arrows for your pivot point, you will see in the very center of the grid (turn on grid ) very large red and blue arrows. Your object will located on the grid where it is supposed to be in relation to other objects (in the world) so it wont be centered on master grid. OKAY, back to moving your arrows: With the MOVE TOOL selected - Move the XYZ arrow into the center of your object then choose LEFT VIEW so you can see it from the side and move the XYZ arrow center once again to the center. Use the ARCH ROTATION viewing gizmo as well to immediately rotate your view in all directions to be sure XYZ arrow is dead center of object. To get back to a dead on straight view, exit the arch gizmo and choose from the TOP MENU bar "VIEW" and then choose "FRONT". Save often your work often. ((CAREFUL! Each time you change the VIEW to center your XYZ arrow, you must AGAIN select the object axis button and then move tool, or you might move your object if you don't pay attention.))

If you were having trouble with an object darting off screen each time you attempted to scale, this will likely solve that problem as now the pivot point (arrows) is within the object. It is desirable in most of your pieces, to have an object pivot in place - especially when building up items - as this will allow you to rotate and scale an object so it fits onto another without the object arching off into the distance. In other cases, you might wish to have the pivot/axis point in another spot on the object. If you had a foot, you might want to move to pivot closer to the ankle, so the foot would rotate around the ankle area, as in real anatomy (Im NOT talking about bone/figure mode). Or if you have a door, the pivot could be moved to the edge where hinges are normally, and the rotation would be real world physics correct. Pivot/axis points are a concern when you are turning objects around to see them and move/attach them.

Later in your 3D project the pivot/axis point will be important to you if you animate that object across a timeline in a movie. Again, a leg should rotate at the hip socket, hands of a clock would need to rotate from the end where they attach to the center, etc. Those old action figure GI JOE dolls with the ball joints, where you can bend the legs, arms, neck... that's a good way to think of pivot points. There are even quite a few action doll animations on Youtube where people animate the figures to look alive. Same concept in your 3D world.

Lastly, keep in mind that, for example, a toe might have its own axis/pivot—but once you JOIN SOLIDS and attach the toe to the foot—you are now dealing with the pivot/axis of the foot. The toe has been absorbed by the foot as far as pivot/axis is concerned.

The button immediately to the right of the Object/Axis button is the Object/Point Edit mode button:
This button puts you in a mode that allows you to edit the properties of the 3D object's vertices, faces, and edges.

Below those main 4 buttons you will see three buttons with the letters "X", "Y", "Z":
These buttons restrict movement in 3D space to certain axis.

Right below those buttons are the Screen Coordinates option buttons:
With these buttons, you change which type of coordinate system you want the program to go by. Options are world, object and screen.

Rendering Movies

Rendering a movie: see Anim8tor help file.

Exporting a movie with an alpha mask: Anima8tor allows you to export a movie with an alpha channel. This option allows you to create very advanced professional effects once the footage is imported into a video editing program such as AfterEffects. You can export your movie in three ways: AVI, BMP sequence or JPG sequence. It is recommended you export your 3D movie (with alpha) as a BMP sequence with alpha. In the render movie window, make sure you have checked the box Movie with Alpha. With a BMP sequence each frame will be exported with no compression at the highest possible quality. Always import raw footage into a video editor with no compression. Compress you movie out of AfterEffects, but not going into AE. All source footage and images should be extremely high resolution.

NOTE: In the SAME folder you have selected to accept your BMP sequence, there will be two sets of files. This is not evident at first, so look carefully. On a PC choose LIST from window viewing option. If you scroll down there will be a second sequence of BMP pics, but these will be the ALPHA channel pics. They will be black and white. They will have nearly the same name as the movie bmp sequence and this can trip you up if you don't look carefully. It is the reason I have taken time to get online and write this page. I want to save others two days of wasted time.

You will have two sequences in the same folder. Recommend you drag-select and cut-paste the second BMP alpha sequence to its own folder, to avoid confusion.

In the editor, we will use AfterEffects as example, create a new file and new composition. IMPORT FILE and navigate to your folder where you saved your anim8tor sequence. RIGHT CLICK on the first name001.bmp file and then BMP SEQUENCE will become an option in that window. Repeat and now import your alpha (black and white) bmp sequence. The two names will be separated only by one letter, pay attention. Drag your movie onto the timeline. Drag your alpha on top of that layer. You can now use the AE track matte feature to turn the alpha sequence into a mask. Google 'track matte' if you are not sure how to do get that going.

Anim8tor is not a complex 3D program overall, there is no argument with that fact - however, the creator of Anim8tor, Steven, is/was a coder involved in 3D video card drivers - so interestingly his particular approach involved putting many basic, powerful functions into Anim8tor.

Using Modifiers in Anim8tor: The Anim8tor help manual is thin when it comes to explaining MODIFIERS so I'd like to share some of my trouble solving research and hopefully save you some time. Please read the basic tutorials on modifiers available in the anim8tor manual and within online tutorials and refer back to this article later if you find something not obvious with those guys.

There are probably two basic reasons to use the modifier. When building your model, perhaps to get an exact shape or angle of a piece. Secondly down the road when you have finished your model and you want to animate the object so it moves and bends realistically in the SCENE MODE time line.

Select the MODIFIER tool. The yellow modifier grid box will begin to grow exactly at the tip of the cursor arrow. As you drag the mouse the yellow box will grow but if you position the cursor in the middle of an object and click-drag, note that you will not see the yellow box until you have dragged it to be large enough to see outside of object. Don't get fixated on drawing the modifier yellow grid box too exactly. Its quite adjustable after and I recommend you draw it next to the object or part of your object to be modified so you can see the box growing as you drag. After you finish click-dragging out the modifier box you can select the MOVE TOOL and move the yellow box around as you would any object. As well you can select either one of the SCALE tools. Try selecting the NON-UNIFORM SCALE tool as this will allow you to adjust the width of the modifier box. To scale the height, grab the uniform scale tool, and then again the non-uniform to tweak the width. Move the yellow modifier box over the area to be modified. Use the ARCH ROTATE viewing tool to rotate your view, so you can get the yellow box exactly in place. One thing to keep in mind when sizing your modifier box and placing it over the area to be deformed, is how completely the modifier box encompasses the object. You may need to experiment and what I have found is that you may get strange results if you put the modifier box over a portion of an object and not all. Which may result only part of the object deforming and leaving some jagged artifact bits stretched out. Again, it just depends so experiment and if all else fails just put the box over the whole portion, so all of the mesh moves together.

Another note about the modifier box, in BEND mode I have noticed that after you have positioned and scaled your yellow grid box, you might want to ROTATE the grid box so you it bends in the direction you want. The modifier box can be rotated in place easily. Select VIEW and then LEFT from the top menu so you are looking at the side of the object now. Select the modifier box and then select the ROTATE tool and rotate the modifier box one quarter turn. Remember you can deselect any of the XYZ buttons so that the modifier box will only rotate about its axis, so it wont get all wobbly when you try to rotate it around a bit. Don't forget to toggle XYZ back on if you turned one off, btw.

After you have drawn a modifier box, moved it into position and rotated the box if needed, you can grab the SELECT tool and drag the marquee over the modifier box and the object so they are selected together and turn white - then choose BUILD at the top menu - then MODIFIERS and in the sub window you select BIND MODIFIER. Now the box is locked to your object, but nothing has happened. Next double click your modifier box and a window will pop-up allowing you to enter values. After you enter your values and hit OK, the modifier will bend, twist, or whatever you have chosen. To have an object bend in the opposite direction just put a minus before the number, example -45. Save often and experiment with different values. If you find that your box doesn't seem to be oriented right, you can go back to the top menu and choose UNBIND MODIFIER, now the yellow box will separate from the object as it was in the beginning and you can move the box around, or rotate it, or scale it. After you tweak, don't forget to BIND AGAIN. A subtle, quirky thing is to make the yellow box wide enough so even though the box may end mid portion of the object, if you imagine its lines continuing down, and you ensure that all of the object falls within the box (by scaling the box wider, taller etc.) you will probably be able to get the right bend you want without any weird left over distortions. It seems that the cubical influence of the modifier box extend further than the visible yellow lines, so just make sure everything in the zone of the box sort of falls within it. So why not just extend the modifier box entirely over the area to be bent - the problem with that is that everything within the box will bend uniformly. Imagine you've made a snake. Its straight as a stick after you model him. You could use the bend modifier to put some smooth bends in his body at various points, but if you put ALL of the snake inside the yellow box, he will bend in one big crescent arch. So you have to position the box over a portion of him, but as I explain making sure the although only a portion is within the yellow box, all of the snake is within the yellow box zone. What I do is use the ARCH ROTATE view tool, and move around so I can peek down into my yellow modifier box, like looking down a gun barrel, to make sure all the bits of the object fall within this box scope. As I say, you might not have problems with your modifier box and areas outside of it, but if you do, try the above.

After you have entered your values and hit OK and the object deformed, you need to finish up the modifier session by selecting again from the TOP MENU, BUILD, then choose MODIFIERS then choose EFFECT MODIFIERS. Now you have closed the that particular modifier session and the object will forever retain that shape. You can move on to another part of your object and repeat the process.

Someone posted an interesting tutorial on using a combination of MODIFIERS and MORPH TARGET so that you can create little movement groups and use the MORPH TARGET clips within the SCENE time line, thereby creating some sophisticated and ordered movements. Movements can as well be done with bones and joints, but using MODIFIERS and MORPH TARGET bundles is another animal and may suit your needs in particular cases better.