The track view in 3D Studio Max
is perhaps the most unobtrusive but radically important part of the entire program
is both created and destroyed. However, the track view is usually just passed over in favor of the clumsy Animate button
. Here is a brief explanation of the track view.
First off, the track view is exclusively for animation: you cannot edit objects themselves in the track view, only keyframes. That said, let us begin.
When the track view is opened, one sees several items in a list view to the left. Buttons grace the top of the window as well as the bottom right. The large empty area to the right can display keyframes, function curves, or algebraic type-in equations. Another major point, from the track view you can access the animation to everything, absolutely everything. From environment effects to the Video Post, materials (and all of their attributes), and every object, both parents and children. In a medium sized scene, say, 100 objects with materials, the fully expanded track view is huge.
The buttons on the top of the track view are used to change modes, as well as move, edit, and create keyframes. The buttons on the bottom right are for zooming in and out, and for scaling the display vertically and horizontally (or both). The default mode when opening the track view is keyframe mode. In this mode, opening sub-lists in the left column and selecting objects will display the keyframes associated with them on the right. These keyframes can be moved, edited (by double-clicking) or deleted. In version 3 keyframes can be deleted from inside the modelling window, but as of 2.5 the track view is the only way to delete animation. By moving and editing keyframes, the user can control the basics of his/her animation. However, what an object does between keyframes is by default a steady, unchanging progression, altered only when there are multiple keyframes. By changing to function curve mode (the button on top with curves on it) the user can edit how the various keyframes interact with each other. Double-clicking a keyframe here presents a window with in and out methods, from a straight line to bezier curves to instantaneous progression. This is where animation is fine-tuned. A ball dropping would not have a straight line for a function curve, it would have a curved line denoting it's acceleration due to gravity, something the Animate button alone cannot do. Inside the function curve editor, clicking on the curve and dragging creates a new keyframe, allowing you to manipulate the curve at will. The x, y, and z values are denoted by different colored lines in an animation which takes place in more than one dimension. These function curves represent algebraic equations: they are only numbers, not paths objects can follow. Thus the function curve editor is also useful for other items' animation, such as material values, fog levels, and video post effects such as blurs or photoshop filters.