3ds Max Blended Box Map - Part 3 - Animation

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7 min

3ds Max Blended Box Map - Part 3 - Animation

In this tutorial, learn how to use Blended Box Map to project maps onto an object in a way that doesn’t require complex UV Mapping. This Part 3 movie shows the animation limitations associated with this map type and how to prevent them.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2017.1
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2017.1 or higher.

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Blended Box Map is a great addition to the 3ds Max arsenal. However, it cannot completely replace other mapping techniques.

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While it works great with static objects, this map can be somewhat limited with animated assets.

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This is because of the way Blended Box Map works, which is literally like a movie projector.

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Unlike UV Unwrapping which is baked onto the model, Blended Box Map can create mapping shifts when the object moves or deforms.

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Here's a simple situation that is easy to understand:

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Create a simple box.

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Make it about 25x25x70 in size but make sure it has a few Height segments for more detail.

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Apply some deformable modifiers to it, such as Taper, Twist and Bend.

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Animate these modifiers between frames 0 and 100.

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Go back to frame 0 where the box is clearly standing up as originally modeled.

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Create a Standard material,

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with a Blended Box Map applied to its Diffuse channel.

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For good measure, use the checker patterns to better study the effects.

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Set the projection to Cubic, Uniform with a size of about 8.

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At frame 0, the render shows that each face of the box is rendered with the proper projection bitmap as anticipated.

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A render at frame 100 however, shows that the mapping does not follow the deformation.

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Although the effect can be cool, the reality is that this technique may be useless in certain scenarios, if applied to an animated character for example.

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As far as animation is concerned, the limitations mostly concern deformable models such as characters skinned to a bone skeleton.

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Models such as cars or airplanes that do not deform but simply travel and rotate can still be textured with Blended Box Map.

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Let's test it out: open the scene named BBM_animated_car_start.max, it shows a sport car animated to take a sharp left hander.

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The tail of the car is slightly skidding in the process.

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Make sure you are at frame 0 and render the Perspective view. You may want to zoom in on the car first.

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A Blended Box Map is already in use on the car material. It is also using a dummy object to project maps conforming to the car shape.

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You still need to add the actual bitmaps though.

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You can use the Load Maps feature but what's interesting in this case is that we only have four maps instead of 6.

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Textures 2 and 6 representing the bottom and the back projections have not been planned.

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If you tried using existing maps in multiple channels, such as the front map as a back map for example, two things happen:

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First, it appears that the bitmap display is not working at render time.

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That's an easy fix but one that you can easily miss. You want to ensure the map used is enabled in the Blended Box Map UI.

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Second, the map is inverted, which makes sense because of the way it's projected.

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What you need to do is to make a copy of the map,

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and set the copy's U-tiling to -1 to flip it horizontally.

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The same thing applies to defining a bottom map,

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copied from the top map.

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The bigger challenge is in the animation itself:

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Rendered at frame 0, the car looks pretty good.

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Rendered at any other frame as the car starts moving and rotating,

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the effect is funky at best, unacceptable at worst.

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Again, this is a direct effect of how Blended Box Mapping works, projecting images literally like a movie projector.

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In the Material Editor, check the Blended Box Map settings again.

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Note the shy little checkbox that reads: Lock to Frame.

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This is your ticket to a hassle-free solution. Enable this option and specify a frame where the mapping works best.

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Typically, that would be where the model is aligned with the world, most probably at frame 0 as you probably used that as a base point.

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Render again at various frames and notice that the mapping stays uniform throughout.

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Again, keep in mind that this is a quick solution for easy transforms and does not apply for deformable objects.

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If that's what you have, then you would need to use a more traditional mapping approach such as UV Unwrapping.

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In the next movie, you learn about what is arguably the coolest feature of Blended Box Mapping, the ability to render templates.

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This makes it easy to export and process maps in a paint program and then load them back in 3ds Max for added detail and realism.
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  • 3ds Max
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