3ds Max and Motion Builder Workflow (and a bit of Kinect)

Posted by Louis Marcoux, 18 February 2011 7:00 pm

In this post, you’ll see how to work with 3ds max and Motion Builder in an animation pipeline. You’ll see how to deal with Biped rigs, CAT rigs and custom Max Bones rigs when going to Motion Builder. Using Motion Builder as an animation hub lets you use animation from a wide variety of sources. Motion Builder is not only for Motion Capture, it can really become the central hub for all your character animation work. Also, in the last video, you’ll also see how to hook a Kinect to Motion Builder to turn your living room in a live motion capture set. Enjoy!
This post is an extension of a webinar I did this week. You’ll find the same content from the webinar here but with a few more videos to go deeper into certain subjects.


This is a general introduction to the workflow, covering the basics of the interoperability between 3ds Max and Motion Builder. It starts with a generic intro to animation products at Autodesk then jumps into the heart of the workflow.

Part 1: Biped-Motion Builder

First case to look at is the workflow between Biped in 3ds max and Motion Builder. It is the simplest workflow so it’s a good way to start. I am using assets from Ubisoft (Splinter Cell) that they have shared with us a few years ago when the first game was release. I’d like to thank them. They have always been very generous to share some of their content with us for presentation purposes.

Part 2: CAT-Motion Builder

CAT (Character Animation Toolkit in 3ds Max) can create all sorts of creatures and is very flexible. But, because it is so flexible, we need to pay attention to a lot of details when going to Motion Builder to get animations for our CAT characters. We’ll see how to maximize this workflow with naming templates in the next video.

Part 3: CAT-Biped Workflow Using Motion Builder

Now that we know how to work with both Biped and CAT, let’s see how we can use Motion Builder to transfer animation from one type of rig to another and get perfect motion retargeting.

Part 4: Max Bones Rig – Motion Builder

Max Bones rigs can be animated and rigged in an infinite number of ways. So, when dealing with Motion Builder, you need to plan carefully how you will go to Motion Builder to capture the animation and put it back on the Max Bones rig. The better strategy is often to create a transition rig that will be in charge of getting the animation from Motion Builder and then to drive the custom Max Bones rig. In this video, we’ll see this workflow in details.

Part 5: Kinect and Motion Builder Using tools from www.brekel.com

I came across this web site where a set of free tools have been made available for download and that claimed to make the Kinect work inside of Motion Builder. I downloaded the tools and installed them. It worked immediately and I had some fun with it. I’d like to thank Jasper, the developer of the tool, to let me share this with you and also for letting everybody use his tool for fun with the Kinect and Motion Builder.

To find more about this technology, visit www.brekel.com. I’ll try to make a post soon on how to tweak and refine the animation data coming from the Kinect device. And how to put it back on max rigs using the techniques shown above.
I hope this information was useful for you. Have a great week!



Posted 18 February 2011 11:09 pm

thanks.. seems good.. I'll watch it later. I wanted to see the brekels and MB connection but I don't own a kinect so thanks.


Posted 20 February 2011 8:14 pm

Thanks, maybe i consider going back to 3dsmax


Posted 21 February 2011 2:44 pm

Great! Merci Louis!


Posted 21 February 2011 2:45 pm

so for the Kinect, you only need to buy the camera? No need to have an Xbox360?


Posted 21 February 2011 5:29 pm

It would be grat a workflow or tutorial doing this using Biped's motion capture system


Posted 22 February 2011 11:48 am

The latest version should already correct most of the glitches in the MoBu stream btw, but indeed the feet aren't the most stable part of the NITE data stream.


Posted 31 March 2011 6:51 pm

Maybee use BVHAcker 1.8 http://www.bvhacker.com


Posted 16 May 2011 8:04 pm

Louis, you rock



Posted 6 June 2011 4:07 am

hello .sir
i need a help .....................when i install final render on the 3ds max 2010 ...........then every time i run .................shows a error ..............( final render stage 1 unknown error)..........my ip-clamp is correct install .....................plzzzzzzzzz help me sir ..........

thanks...................i m waiting fr ur answer


Posted 24 July 2011 3:21 pm

very good tutorial. Nice work. Is there a tutorial about capturing motions from video?


Posted 1 September 2011 7:11 am

Awesome tutorials, thanks very much!

Louis Marcoux

Posted 23 September 2011 6:47 am

nivis: the characterization needs to happen on a T-Pose. Make sure of this before you feed in animation onto your character.

Louis Marcoux

Posted 23 September 2011 8:06 am

nivis: make sure it is when you "lock" the character that you are in T-Pose. Also make sure that the mia character was characterized in T-Pose. If they were initialized in the same pose, they should be working good.


Posted 2 October 2011 7:34 pm

after i change to use motionbuilder 2011, the problem was done by a minute.....
thanks Louise~~


Posted 2 October 2011 7:34 pm

after i change to use motionbuilder 2011, the problem was done by a minute.....
thanks Louise~~

Louis Marcoux

Posted 3 October 2011 6:49 am

SlowDaddie: 2 reasons possible for this. 1) The animation option is off so you only get the pose. 2) The take you import is empty so change the take import to the same as Motion Builder.
nivis: interesting... Make sure to log a bug report on that subject.


Posted 8 March 2012 2:55 am

Hi part 5 video is broken for me. can watch like 4 min then its broken like some decodec going wrong.


Posted 16 March 2012 9:24 pm

Will the Rig you created in Video 4 Work with the Kinect Skeleton in Video 5? This is what I would like to do and am trying to figure out how to go about doing this. Also, Is max skeleton the only way to get kinect skeleton to move your character? Thank you.


Posted 10 September 2012 11:51 am

Hi im using motionbuilder 2012 right now. And in part 2 of your tutorials you managed to merge an animation from another file in to your new biped. I can't find this option in the 2012 version.

Can you help me? (ps. sorry for my bad english)


Posted 26 March 2015 1:04 pm

great tutorials, thanks!

When stress-testing MB > Biped I was running into problems - it doesn't seem to be exact. E.g. Elbows and knees don't transfer without problems if they are in extreme angles they sometimes flip when imported back into Biped or don't transfer 1:1 and need manual fixing. I've tried different Euler rotation order in MB and Biped and various filters, but that won't solve the problem.

I guess the problems come from a mix of the following issues:
1. Biped has certain limits which are enforced, clamping some rotations
2. the Biped default skeleton in Euler is not ideal to avoid gimbal lock and some of the axis flip quite easy; combined with Euler DOFs/EulerRotationOrder not really being able to fix the problem when working in MB

if you have a good solution how to avoid this, please let me know. Thanks

update: I've found a fix for the flipping elbows and knees: in Motionbuilder on lowerArm (elbow) and lowerLeg (knee) joints of the skeleton, one needs to turn on rotation degrees of freedom in the properties (=DOF); locking the 2 axis which shouldn't turn. Then plot freshly from rig to skeleton with these Axis DOF locks turned on.

Note: When using the MB Character Solver on the rig, this DOFs (on knee and elbow) need to be turned off because of a bug as it will create a wiggly rig after a few days of working on a scene on anim layers in Motionbuilder (rig moves when keying)

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