This 3ds Max Car Animation HTML tutorial assumes you know the basics of 3ds Max; ie, you can create boxes, apply materials, you’ve had a little practice with creating animations using Auto Key, and you’re familiar with the Select and Link tool.

Here is the Car Animation 1 Video Tutorial.

Scroll Down for the HTML Tutorial.

Here is the car we will be animating. This can be as simple as a box for a chassis, a box for the car body, and four cylinders for the wheels. Build your car by making a box in the perspective viewport, kind of facing to the left, as shown in the above image. The reason for this is that it will save you trouble on wheel rotation later. Doing it this way guarantees your wheels will be in the proper orientation for Y rotation with the equation. Once the car body and chassis is created, make the front left wheel by drawing a cylinder with AutoGrid turned on (AutoGrid allows you to draw 3d geometry upon other geometry such as the car body). Then copy that first wheel to create a back wheel, and then copy both left wheels to the right side of the car.

Here is the hierarchy for the car – name the objects so you can tell what is linked to what. You will need to use the Select and Link tool on the Standard Toolbar to connect these parts together. Everything, ie, all four wheels and the car body, are all parented to the chassis. If you haven’t ever used the Schematic View interface, try it out. It is an excellent way to deal with hierarchical links.

Here is the path for our car – a simple line drawn with Smooth set up as the default vertex type. For realistic turns, our car needs a smooth path.

Select the car chassis and then go to the Animation menu and select Path Constraint as shown above. Then click on the car path. This will put the car chassis, with all its children, on the path. The chassis will move to the height of the path, so you may need to move the path higher so the car isn’t under the surface of your street (assuming you have a street!).

You will need to make some adjustments in the Motion Panel. Set the chassis to Follow the Path in Path Options. Also, adjust Axis and Flip until the car is moving the right direction on the path. Notice here that we are using the Time Slider at the bottom of the Max interface to see what the car is doing at different frames of the animation.

As the car goes along the path, does it seem to have the right speed? My car seemed to be going a little fast, so I clicked the Time Configuration button on the lowest part of the screen – it looks like a little stopwatch. In the Time Configuration dialog box, click Re-scale Time (don’t you wish we could do that in real life?). In the Re-scale Time dialog box, click the End Time value and change it to 150 frames (or whatever you need). By changing my number of frames from 100 to 150, and then hitting OK on both dialog boxes, I ended up making the car movement around the path 50% slower, just what it needed.

Here we are in the Top view. This is a good perspective for rotating the car body on the chassis to create realistic lean when the car hits the curves. Here, at frame 29, we are nudging the car 5 degrees and then right back again to 0. Why? To create a frame that keeps the car from rotating until we are past the straightaway. Later, when we add a rotation to the car body at frame 35, it will not start the actual rotation of the car body until frame 29. So this little "nudge" is critical. Notice that the Angular Snap tool is turned on, so we can be precise in our rotations. Also notice here that the car body rotation method is set to Local (see the Standard Toolbar – this is important). If you don’t set your coordinate system to Local, you will end up with a car that rotates on some other XYZ axis than its own, and it won’t look right.

Now we’re in the heart of our first right turn. The car should be leaning heavily. Rotate the car body 15 degrees to the outside of the path. Go through this process all the way around the track. For right turns, rotate the car body left, and for left turns, rotate the car body right. Make sure to use a "nudge" if you want to control when the car is rotating.

Next we are going to make the wheels turn using an equation, which is easier than rotating the wheels by hand with Auto Key turned on. In order to see the wheels turn properly, they need a material on them. We will apply a checkered material for this simple example. Select a wheel and launch the Material Editor by pressing the M key. Select a free material slot, and name your material Checkered. Click the button next to the Diffuse parameters, and when you see the Material/Map Browser, double-click on Checker. This will generate a checker material for you.

When applying a material to an object, make sure the object is selected, and then press the Apply Material to Selection button to apply the material. Make sure you also turn on the button called "Show Material in Viewport". Notice in this screenshot that the front wheel is looking pretty good, but the rear wheel material isn’t quite right. That’s because your wheels need a UVW Map. The next screenshot will address this.

Select the rear wheel, and from the Modifiers list, select UVW Map. The default map type of Planar will work just fine here.

Now to make the wheel turn, select the wheel, go to the Motion Panel, and click under Transforms on Y Rotation as shown above. Then click the "?" as shown. When the Assign Controller dialog box comes up, choose Float Expression. This should bring up the Expression Controller, shown below.

In the Expression Controller above, enter the formula 360*sin(S*5) or something similar to suit your needs. In this equation, 360 is for degrees, sin is for a trigonometry expression called sine, the capitol S is for Seconds, and the number 5 or whatever you use is for turns per second. Then, hit the Evaluate button on the Expression Controller dialog box. Keep the box open and run the animation to see how well it works. Do you need less rotation? Lower the number 5 down to something like 2. Are the wheels going the wrong way? Put a – in front of the 5 or 2. When the motion of one wheel looks good, copy the equation and repeat this process for the other 3 wheels.