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Chapter 4. LightWave 7 Layout > Understanding Keyframing

Understanding Keyframing

Many of the features in LightWave 7 are discussed and used throughout the projects in this book. Because this is the first chapter to dive into Layout, it’s necessary that you understand the importance of keyframing and timing. After you’ve mastered proper keyframing, you’ll be equipped to move into more advanced techniques and concepts. Keyframing is the act of setting or marking an animatable attribute in time. When you want a ball to move from point A to point B over two seconds, you need to set keyframes to tell the computer “stay here” at this point in time. You quickly will get a feel for timing the more you set keyframes. You can set keyframes yourself or let LightWave manage them for you.

Keyframing goes beyond just animating position and rotation. It encompasses light intensity, color, various surface attributes, and virtually anything in Layout that has a value that can be changed.

Exercise 4.2 Auto Key

By default, LightWave’s Layout turns on the Auto Key button at the bottom of the Layout interface. It will adjust the values of existing keyframes. For the Auto Key feature to automatically create keys, you need to turn on Auto Key Create (General Options tab), which is off by default. Any commands such as Move, Rotate, Size, or Stretch will be remembered for selected items at the current frame. The following exercise explains this feature further.

1.
Clear your scene in Layout, and load the Capsule object from the book’s CD-ROM (Projects/Objects/Chapter4 folder).

2.
With the Capsule object loaded, be sure the frame slider at the bottom of the Layout interface is at 0, be sure Auto Key is enabled, and activate Auto Key Create under the General Options tab within the Preferences panel (o) to have keyframes created automatically.

3.
Select Modified Channels from the selection area of the Auto Key Create command. Modified Channels creates keyframes for those channels that have been changed, whereas setting Auto Key Create to All Motion Channels will create keyframes for everything in your scene.

In the Layout window you’ll notice that there is always a key at frame 0 by default. Thus, an object is locked in place, even without Auto Key. Auto Key merely lets you make an adjustment at frame 0 without having to re-create the key.

4.
Move and rotate the capsule in Layout (see Figure 4.13). It’s fine to stay in Perspective mode to do this. The Move and Rotate tools can be found on the left side of the Layout Interface, when the Items tab at the top of the screen is selected.

Figure 4.13. The Auto Key is on, and when you rotate the capsule object, it will remain in the new position without needing a keyframe to lock it in place.


5.
Move the timeline slider to frame 10.

6.
Rotate the object to a different angle.

7.
Click and drag the timeline slider forward.

The object doesn’t move. This is because Layout has automatically locked it in place at frame 10 (the previous position of the slider), thanks to Auto Key.

8.
Drag the timeline slider to frame 20.

9.
Move the object to a different position, and give it some rotation.

Note

When setting up keyframes, LightWave automatically draws a motion path. When the keyframe is set at frame 20, you will see a line appear representing the object’s path of motion, if Show Motion Paths is enabled from the Display Options panel (d).

10.
Move the timeline slider to frame 40, and then move and/or rotate the object again.

11.
Press the Rewind button (see Figure 4.14); and then press Play Forward. (The button with the right-pointing triangle, located above the step value entry.)

Figure 4.14. The Rewind button and its associated controls can be found on the lower-right side of the Layout interface. Clicking the button on the top left, takes you back to frame 0 and resets your timeline.


The three buttons underneath the Rewind button are the Play Forward, Play Reverse, and Pause buttons. You should see the Capsule object move and rotate between keyframes 20 and 40. You can shuttle through the animation by grabbing the timeline slider and dragging.

Auto Key can make your animation work go smoother, but if you’re not careful, it can damage your work. There may be situations where your keyframing needs to be precise. Having Auto Key enabled and accidentally moving the wrong object, or moving the right object the wrong way, could potentially cause you more work. Although you can undo an action like an accidental move, you have only one undo level, so be cautious using Auto Key.

Tip

A great time to use Auto Key is when setting up character animation.


Exercise 4.3 Manual Keyframing

Manual keyframing is more common than using Auto Key, but of course the choice is yours. Keyframing requires that you develop a keen sense of timing—although this can’t be done overnight, a few practice animations can get you started.

Tip

good way to work is to turn off Auto Key Create under the General Options tab (from within the Preferences panel), and work only with Auto Key enabled. Auto Key adjusts existing keyframes without the need to create them again after any changes are made.


1.
Load the LWLogo object from the Projects/Objects/Chapter4 folder on this book’s CD-ROM into a clear Layout scene. Be sure to turn off Auto Key, at the bottom of the Layout interface.

2.
Press 6 on the numeric keypad to switch to Camera view.

If the logo object is not selected, click it with the left mouse button. A bounding box highlights around the logo, and its handles show, as shown in Figure 4.15.

Figure 4.15. Selecting the LWLogo object shows the bounding box representation and the object handles. The box in the upper-left portion of the screen is a light.


3.
With the left mouse button, click and drag the green arrow up out of view, moving the logo up on the y-axis.

Move the logo until it just leaves the frame. This is where you want the object to start off in the animation. Now you need to tell LightWave to make the logo stay at this location.

4.
Press the Enter or Return key once to call up the Create Motion Key requester.

The current frame will be highlighted, as shown in Figure 4.16. You also can select the Create Key button at the bottom of the interface.

Figure 4.16. Pressing Enter or Return calls up the Create Motion Key command.


If the timeline slider was at frame 0, a 0 will appear in the Create Key at Command window.

5.
If the timeline slider is not at frame 0, enter 0 and press the Enter or Return key again.

The keyframe is now set.

There are a few things you should know about the Create Motion Key requester. In it, you can specify that you wish to create a keyframe for selected items, which you just did: Current Item Only, Current Item and Descendants for parented items, or for All Items. Additionally, you can set keyframes for specific channels of motion. For example, suppose that you have a logo keyframed to make a continuous loop. Then you realize you need to move it to a new location, while not disturbing the rotation. To solve this, you can create a keyframe only for the new position, not rotation. Try it out!

Tip

You might be in the habit of clicking in each numeric window, erasing the existing values, and then reentering them. This is not necessary. When you open the Create or Delete Key requester, the existing value is already selected. All you need to do is enter the desired value. This saves time.

Note

You do not need to move the timeline slider to set keyframes throughout an animation if you are manually setting keyframes. However, moving the slider manually helps you keep yourself organized and aware of the current animation frame.

6.
Move the LWLogo down to the grid plane where it originally was, as shown in Figure 4.17.

Figure 4.17. Move the LWLogo down to the grid, or just below.


Note

If you can’t see the object to grab it, you can switch to the Back view by pressing the number 1 on the keyboard. You also can constrain movement on the x- and z-axes by using the right mouse button for just the y-axis. Mac users, remember that Apple key for right mouse-button commands.

7.
Press the Enter or Return key to call up the Create Motion Key command.

8.
Type 60 from the numeric keypad and press Enter.

Too often, users are in the habit of using the number keys across the top of the keyboard. Although this works just as well, you will save time by using the numeric keypad.

Tip

Because you want the LWLogo to end at frame 60 where it originally was positioned, you could have created a key for frame 60 when it was in that position. You can use the single position of an object to create various keyframes by entering the desired keyframe values in the Create Motion Key dialog box.

9.
Click the Play button (right pointing triangle) at the bottom right of the Layout interface.

The LWLogo should drop into the screen and land.

Okay, that was really basic and will be the simplest thing in this book, but it’s important for you to get the hang of how to keyframe and understand what you are doing. You told the LWLogo to be at a certain position at frame 0, the beginning of the animation. Then, you moved the object to its resting position at the end of the animation. You told LightWave that the last position of the LWLogo is frame 60, creating a 2-second animation. LightWave will interpolate the frames between 0 and 60. Like magic, you made an animation.

Deleting Keyframes

You also can delete keyframes just as easily as you create them. Pressing the Delete key on the keyboard calls up the Delete Motion Key dialog box, with the cursor set at the Delete Key At requester and the current frame already selected, as shown in Figure 4.18.

Figure 4.18. Delete unwanted keyframes by pressing the Delete key on the keyboard to call up the Delete Motion Key command.


As with creating keyframes, the timeline slider does not need to be on the specific keyframe when you delete a key. Enter the key you want to delete when the Delete Motion Key command window opens. Again, use your numeric keypad to save time! And, remember, just as you can create keyframes for specific channels, you can delete them as well.

Note

You can make the LWLogo object you created in the last exercise land more gently using spline controls. Chapter 5, “LightWave 7 Graph Editor,” explains it all.


Following the Keyframing Rule

You should know a few more things about keyframing in LightWave. A common misunderstanding with keyframes is that the more you have, the more control there will be in a scene—wrong! Thank you for playing!

Setting up keyframes creates a motion path. That motion path is a curve, controlled by the keyframes you set. A good rule of thumb to use when setting keyframes initially is to make two keyframes: your first keyframe and your last one. Then set your frames that fall in-between. You want an object to move down a path, for example, and around an obstacle. The movement needs to be smooth, and trying to guess the timing might be tough to do. Set the beginning keyframe, and then set the ending keyframe to create the initial motion path. If you drag the timeline slider, the object moves between the two keyframes. If you move the timeline slider to the point where the object would move around the obstacle, you’ll have the exact frame to set your next key. By creating the keyframe at this point in time, you’ve adjusted the motion path evenly. You can load the 2Keyframes and 5Keyframes scenes as examples from the Projects/Scenes/Chapter4 folder on the accompanying CD-ROM. Also, load the LWLogoTwist scene to see a variation on the previous exercise. In this scene, the LWLogo had two mid-keyframes added, but notice that the motion is smooth and even between each of the keyframes.

Later, in Part III, “A Project-Based Approach to Animating Scenes,” you’ll have many more opportunities to work with advanced keyframe techniques.

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