• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Chapter 4. Rigging the Bones > Customization Tools

Customization Tools

Although it now has bones and IK chains, animating your character at this point would still be unweildy. To illustrate this concept, let's consider the character's legs.

To lift the foot and bend the leg, you can move the IK chain at the heel. That's easy, so there's no big problem there.

But suppose you wanted the character to stand on tip-toe. You would have to rotate the foot and toe IK chains individually. Then, if you wanted to swivel the knee outward, you would have to animate the IK chain's swivel angle.

Imagine having to select each of these controls and animate them separately. Now imagine doing this for a long animation. You would quickly become frustrated. And that's just the legs! The problem would be compounded as you animated the spine, head, arms, and fingers.

This is where customization tools come in. Custom attributes and parameter wiring are two important customization tools that professional riggers use all the time. In this book, you will learn to use them for your character rig.

Custom Attributes

A custom attribute is a parameter you can add to any object in the scene. Custom attributes don't do anything on their own, but you can make them control other parameters. Custom attributes are very handy for controlling different parts of a character rig.

To add a custom attribute to an object, select the object and choose Animation > Parameter Editor. The Parameter Editor dia log appears. Here you set the parameter type, name, and range. When you click Add, a custom attribute appears on the Modify panel.

A parameter can be added to an object's base level or to a modifier on the stack. Then you can connect the custom attribute to another value used in the character rig.


You'll need some extra objects to control the rig, and shapes are an excellent choice. They don't render, so you don't have to remember to hide the controls when you render the animation. In addition, they don't use up as much memory as geometry. This becomes important when you have many characters or objects in a scene. The less memory each character uses up, the faster the screen will refresh.


The decision of whether to use shapes, helpers, or primitives to create a character rig is a personal choice a rigger makes. We'll use shapes here, but in your own scenes, you can use whichever object type you prefer.

If you wanted to, you could use helper objects such as Point or Dummy objects to control the character. Like shapes, these objects don't render and use little memory. But for our rig, we'll use shapes only. This will allow us to use the selection filter during the animation process, which limits your selection possibilities to one type of object, such as shapes. You'll learn more about the selection filter in the Animation section of this book.


When setting up and testing the rig, you'll need to animate it to some degree. If you're unfamiliar with the animation process in 3ds max, or if you just want a refresher, you can read the first part of Chapter 6 (up to the first tutorial) and do the tutorial itself. This will familiarize you with basic animation terms such as key and time slider.

PRACTICE K: Create a Custom Attribute

In this practice exercise, you'll create a custom attribute and a new object to hold it.

Set up the Scene
Open the file Practice_Gong01.max from the Practice folder on the CD.

This file contains a simple mechanical version of the gong game found at carnivals. Instead of a person swinging the mallet, the mallet is linked to a swiveling mechanism that allows it to swing down and hit a pad.

You'll set up a new custom parameter that will cause the mallet to hit the pad, and make the bell (sphere) rise up the pole. This new parameter has to be associated with an object in the scene, so you'll create a new object to hold the parameter.

In the Top viewport, create a small rectangle next to the ground box. Name the rectangle GongControl.

Add a Custom Attribute
Select the object GongControl.

Go to the Modify panel.

Choose Animation > Parameter Editor.

The Parameter Editor dialog appears.

The Parameter Type drop-down menu has several options, and the default is Float. This simply means a number that can have decimal places. This is what we want for the custom attribute, so leave the Parameter Type set to Float. Most other options can also be left at their default values.

Change the Name to Ring_the_Gong.

Expand the Float UI Options rollout, and set the Range to go from 0 to 200.


When you name custom attributes, always use underscores instead of spaces. If you need to use the parameter with advanced tools such as MAXScript and parameter wiring later on, you might run into problems with spaces in parameter names.

In the Attribute rollout, click Add.

On the Modify panel, you can see the new parameter Ring_the_Gong in the new Custom Attributes rollout.

Close the Parameter Editor dialog by clicking the X at its upper right corner.

If you change the Ring_the_Gong value on the Modify panel, nothing happens. That's because the value hasn't been connected to anything yet. Be sure you change the Ring_the_Gong parameter back to 0 before continuing.

Save the scene as Practice_Gong02.max.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint