3ds Max - Using Compounds in MCG

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  • Games
  • Design Visualization
  • Modeling
  • 2016
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • MCG
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
12 min

3ds Max - Using Compounds in MCG

In this tutorial, you learn how to create compounds in MCG. Compounds are essentially sub-graphs, designed to reduce the complexity of a tree structure by combining elements together.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2016
  • The interface in this tutorial applies to MCG 2017. The interface in MCG 2018 has been revised to a new node naming scheme.


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In this movie, you learn about compounds, which are essentially sub-graphs designed to simplify redundancy in your MCG tree layouts.

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To learn about compounds, you will be creating a new modifier that constrains an object between two others.

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It's a bit like using the Position Constraint tool that works at an animation controller level, but here, you use it as a modifier.

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You will need a few objects to work with, open the scene named Compounds.max you downloaded for this tutorial.

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It shows a bolt and a nut, and a simple washer that you need to constrain between the two.

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The pivot points are set in the center of the nut, washer and the bolt head.

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Go to the Max Creation Graph Editor.

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You start building your graph using the base operators you know you need.

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You know you need two input nodes for the master objects, in this case the nut and bolt.

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From the Parameters section, drag in two INode operators.

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Name them Object 1 and Object 2, or maybe Master 1 and Master 2 if you prefer.

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Here, you may want to add a validity check.

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It would serve as a check test that the two master objects are properly selected, and prevents any errors in the script.

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Press X and search for operators beginning with "check". You'll find one named CheckNodeValidity, go ahead and select it.

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Use Shift+Move to duplicate it, as you need one for each master object.

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Go ahead and make the connections.

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Drag out the "value" output socket, and look for operators based on the word "node".

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Since you're mainly interested in the master object's position, choose the NodePosition operator.

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Repeat for the other master object. As this point in the design of the graph, you're basically duplicating the branch for both master objects.

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Ultimately, the washer is dependent on the position of both master objects in space.

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In order to constrain the washer between them, you need to add these positions together and then divide them by 2.

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You'll need an "Add" operator, andyou'll need to wire the two vector positions of the master objects to it.

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To divide these position vectors by 2, search for the word "divide" and choose the "DivideByScalar" operator.

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Feed the added vectors into the v (Vector 3) socket and temporarily set the amount to a constant value of 2.0. You'll change that later.

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The graph so far caters for the two master objects, but you still need input from the bottom of the stack, input about the actual object you want to constrain.

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In this case we're talking about the washer which is the object you want to apply the modifier to.

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To collect info from the bottom of the modifier stack, about the selected geometry, you need to add a "Modifier: Trimesh" operator.

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You can search for it or drag it from the Implicit parameters section.

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To control the transforms of the selected mesh, you also need a TransformMesh operator.

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Search for it using the X key, which is often easier than browsing through the categories.

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Wire the mesh data together, The Modifier: Trimesh value to the TransformMesh, mesh input.

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You still need to define the actual transform value which is based on the tree you created a moment ago.

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However, note that the master objects' tree output ends with a vector, whereas the TransformMesh takes its feed from a matrix.

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If you tried to wire the two together, it would not work.

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You need a translation operator between the two.

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Search for that word,

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and add a TranslationMatrix so you can wire the sockets properly.

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You're almost done; all that's left is to add an Output: modifier operator to bind everything together.

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Save your graph,

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and name it: MCG_PositionConstraint, the MCG prefix is meant to make it easier to find in the modifier list.

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Press Ctrl+E to evaluate the graph. Select the washer and go to the Modify panel.

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Note you have a new MCG-based modifier, go ahead and apply it.

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Select the two master objects,

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and note that changing their positions affects the position of the washer.

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Note that the tool doesn't explicitly move the washer between the two other objects, not yet anyway.

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You still have manual control over the position of the washer. You'll adjust that in a moment.

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First, you take a look at creating a compound, which is really what this tutorial is all about.

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Look at your graph, mostly at the section related to the two master objects.

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You will be compiling the mid-section into a compound or a sub-graph, to simplify the layout.

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Select the middle section, all the blue operators and the orange constant operator.

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Right-click and copy them to memory.

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Now right-click the tab section and create a new view, and then paste the operators in with a right-click.

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Add an Output: compound operator at the head of that graph.

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Also, you need two node operators at the tail of the graph, to generate input sockets for the compound.

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Select the two "NodePosition" operators and with a right-click, choose Generate Inputs.

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Rename the inputs Node 1 and Node 2 or Object 1 and Object 2 as you see fit.

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Choose Save As. So far, you have been saving graphs as .maxtool files.

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There is also an option to save .maxcompound files.

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Name the new compound "MCG_ConstrainBetweenTwoNodes" and make sure you save it to the Compounds folder.

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You can give the file any name you want but we'll stick with the MCG_ prefix naming convention we have set up.

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Go back to your original graph and move the operators you used to develop your compound.

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In order to access any new compounds you create, you need to reload the operators.

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Next use the search box to search for MCG and you will find your newly-designed compound.

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Select it to add it to the window.

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Instead of using six individual operators, you can now re-route your tree through the compound, resulting in a much simpler graph.

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In fact you can even delete the old operators as you won't need them anymore.

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Save your graph one more time and press Ctrl+E to evaluate it again.

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If you want to be sure the new graph is behaving as before, delete the existing modifier and reapply it.

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Test the results; they should be identical to the previous behavior.

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Next you need to negate the washer's transforms, to make sure it relocates between the two master objects.

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For that, you need another Implicit parameter operator named Modifier: Matrix. Go ahead and add it to the graph.

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This represents the transform space of the selected object at the bottom of the stack, in this case the washer.

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You need to convert that space into the space defined by the two master objects.

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For that, you need another existing compound named MeshInLocalSpace.

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Search for it using the X key and add it to the graph.

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Link the Modifier: Matrix value to the matrix input socket of the new compound.

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Next you need to reroute the graph through this new operator before you output the final modifier.

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Save the graph and evaluate it again.

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Note that the washer is indeed between the two master objects, and that you cannot move it anymore.

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Its position however is still dependent on that of the nut and the bolt.

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Congratulations, you have learned to create a graph and a sub-graph in the form of a compound.

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Editing the compound at this point would update the final graph.

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As an example, go to the constraint compound graph you created and add a Lerp operator.

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Lerp enables you to specify a Linear Interpolation between two vectors by defining an amount value.

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Here, you will use it instead of the Add, DivideByScalar and Constant operators.

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Go ahead and delete those,

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and re-route the graph through the Lerp operator.

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For the amount input, use an Input: Single operator,

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and name it: "weight"

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Save your compound and go back to the main graph window.

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Reload the operators for good measure; you'll notice the new weight entry in the compound operator.

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Add a Parameter: Single to it,

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and set the limits form 0.0 to 1.0, with a default value of 0.5, which represents the halfway distance.

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Change the name to "Weight:", this name represents the label that you see in the Command panel.

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Save and evaluate your graph.

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Test out the modifier to ensure it's behaving as designed.

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Granted, this modifier is not particularly powerful, not when compared with animation constraints.

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It was only meant to showcase how you can build compounds by putting operators together to simplify graph creation.

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Feel free to come up with your own ideas and share them with us if you can.

Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • Modeling
  • 2016
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • MCG
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