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Improve your 3ds Max workflow: Adding natural movement with the Flex modifier

By Paul Hatton
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 20th October 2014
Software used:
3ds Max, V-Ray

3D visualizer Paul Hatton shows how to simulate natural movement in 3ds Max without having to key frame it using the Flex modifier...


Improving your 3ds Max workflow – previous chapters:

Top 10 interface secrets
Better modeling workflow
Handling massive scenes
3ds Max animation tools
Organic placement using MassFx
An introduction to Particle Flow

3ds Max is a vast piece of software and every so often I discover a new modifier or a new tool; something which I probably knew was there but didn't know what it was for. The Flex modifier is one such example. It's been there for years but only recently have I seen the value it can add. It enables you to simulate soft-body dynamics on an object. For example, if you have a soft-body item attached to an animated object, you would expect that item to move with the object. The Flex modifier enables you to set this up.

Introducing the modifier

The Flex modifier can be applied to a poly, mesh, patch or NURBS object. The modifier allows you to turn your object into a virtual spring, with the ability to adjust the springs' stiffness, stretch and giving specific vertices different weights. There are therefore all the tools you need to customize your object to move in the way you would expect it to in real life.

The Flex modifier has many parameters but you'll soon get your head around them

Animate and apply modifier

Firstly set your animation up. For a simple example, just create a cylinder with several segments and key frame it moving across the screen. Hit play and watch your seriously boring animation! When you've hit rock bottom, try applying the Flex modifier and re-play your animation. Suddenly you will see the object come to life! It has transformed from a rigid object to a soft body object that wiggles at the end due to the velocity!

Applying the Flex modifier brings our animation to life by making it more natural

Adjusting the center point

One of the beautiful things about the Flex modifier is how easy it is to adjust the center point that the object flexes around. The center point defaults to the pivot point of the object it's attached to. You can adjust it by expanding the Flex modifier and selecting Center. With this selected, it's as simple as using the Move tool to adjust it. Try moving it and replay your animation.

The center point enables us to control what will be affected by the flexing

Adjusting vertex weightings

Once you've played around for a little while you might discover that you want something that is a bit more customized. So rather than the object flexing with a nice falloff, you might want specific vertices to respond in different ways. This can be done by adjusting the vertex weights. So with the Flex modifier expanded, select Edge Vertices. Then head to the Weights and Painting rollout, adjust the strength and hit Paint. Then simply paint onto the viewport. Adjust the Radius and Feather for more control.

Customize which parts of the model are affect by painting vertex weights

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