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Autocad 3D Animation

Autocad was first created in 1982 as a 2D drafting program, but various 3D capabilities were introduced ten years later initially as a plugin for the R12 release of Autocad. In the subsequent 20 years, however, the 3D functionality has increased, making the Autocad the world-leader in both drafting and modeling. The 3D engine is now part of the general program, making two interfaces within the one program: one for 2D drafting and the other being for 3D modeling. It is also very easy to switch between the two modes of working.

The 3D part of Autocad is used by various professions, ranging from architecture, construction, engineering, to interior and landscape design. In the last few releases various vertical programs have been developed by AutoDesk geared towrads specific industries. These are Revit, Inventor, Autocad Civil, Autocad Architecture, etc. More information on these programs can be found at AutoDesk's own website. In terms of the Autocad "flagship" program, however, the main functionality of its 3D environment is the ability to create and modify simulations of solid objects within a 3D interface. These could be extruded from an existing 2D drawing, or created from scratch using 3D primitives. The user then can apply real-world materials and lighting to the model to created photo-realistic images. Alternatively cameras can be added to the model in order to export the scene as an animated fly-through movie.

The animation process in the Autocad 3D environment is a simple matter of adding cameras to your model, animating these on a created spline-path, then rendering out a series of still images which can then be automatically played as a simple movie in either Windows Media Player (for Windows users) or QuickTime (for Macintosh users). This is a very effective method of presenting products to clients to be uploaded onto your own website.

It's advisable to note from the beginning that the standard Autocad program does not allow us to animate objects or parts in motion. For this you'd need to use a program like AutoDesk Viz or 3ds Max, more details of which can be found on the AutoDesk website. Autocad does, however, allows us to create an animation from a camera which follows a path around a 3D object or model space.
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When the modeling process has been completed with various materials and lighting applied, we turn to creating a camera path. For this a simple shape can be created in the Top view using either the Spline, Circle or Ellipse tools. We then switch to the Front View and move this path upwards in the Z-axis so that it sits above the model objects. To see the result better change the Visual Style to Conceptual.

Now right-click on the Ribbon to reveal the following functions: Panels, Show Panels and Animations. Note the large Animation Motion Path button appears on the Ribbon. We then select the Path radio button in the Camera section, click the Select Path button, and choose the path created earlier. Next select the Point radio button in the Target section, select the Pick Point button, and click on the centre of the model. The camera will point to this spot as follows the path. Click Preview to observe the motion. Experiment with various frame rates, number of frames and visual styles. Each of these settings will affect the render time.

When complete browse to where the WMV file is saved, whereupon the movie will play in either Windows Media Player or QuickTime. After the test renders we increase the resolution and pixel dimensions. When happy with the result we then turn on lighting and materials and render again.

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