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  3. Idle Animations

Idle Animations

Introduction

This tutorial assumes you have already read the Create Mode Introduction.

Idle Actions are one of the key tools to making a 3D product come to life in IMVU. An Idle Action is the default action for a 3D product. It is the type of Action that plays without needing any input from a person. This functionality allows waves to always move in a Room product, a magic pillow seat to float up and down forever, a Pet cupid to always flap its wings and an Avatar to shift position on its own. That’s right, Avatars, Pets, Furniture and Rooms can all use Idle animations.

This tutorial covers how to use a Create Mode Editor to assemble pre-exported assets into Idle Actions. However, it does not cover how to build those assets.

If you want to learn how to build animations, please go to the Skeletal Animations Tutorial, the Morph Animations Tutorial, the Rooms Introduction, the Accessories Introduction and the Furniture Introduction.

 

What Products Can Contain Idles?

Any 3D product can contain Idle Actions. However, they are most common in Avatars, Pets, Rooms and Furniture.

The most common Idle animations in Pets, Rooms and Furniture are all named stance.Idle. If an Action has this name, then the IMVU code knows to play it without any input from a user.

The most common Idle animations in the IMVU avatar are the Standing and Sitting animations. These animations play when the avatar is in a seat node that calls them by name *or*, as is the case with the Standing Idle, when the avatar can not find an animation to match what the seat node wants to play. For example, if a seat node is named seat01.FrogDance and neither the room, furniture, or avatar actually contain an Action named stance.FrogDance, then the avatar will play its default Idle animation: Standing.

The IMVU Action System

The following description of how the IMVU Action system works should be printed out and placed in an easy to read place or…tattooed on your forehead***:

  • An Action can include a single sound.
  • An Action can also be a collection of one or more Ensembles and a few rules that the Ensembles follow.
  • The trigger name supplied in an Action dictates whether the action is an Idle or a triggered action.
  • An Ensemble contains the actual animation assets and the rules that those assets follow
  • There can be multiple Actions of the same name. For example, there can be multiple Actions named stance.Idle
  • There can be multiple Ensembles in each Action.

With the above system in place, you can build multiple Idle animations, export them all and then place them into an Editor. For example, I typically have one Action named stance.Idle that covers only the blinking animation. That way, the blink will play regardless of what else the Pet is doing. I also add another Action named stance.Idle that contains at least five Ensembles with animations to a Pet so that it has a feeling of life.

Each Idle animation should be saved into its own MAX file.

*** That is, it should be tattooed on your forehead *IF* you have been both diagnosed as clinically insane *and* visited the planet XWH#@{*Y during Hoishel’s reign. Patsy’s reign doesn’t count.

The Actions Tab

All Actions are found in the Action tab in a Create Mode Editor.

To learn more about the various tabs in the Editor, please go to the Create Mode Introduction tutorial and to learn more about the details of the Action tab, please go to the Actions Tab Tutorial.

Below is an example of what the Actions tab looks like when its got lots of Actions and the first Action has lots of Ensembles.

Random Acts

The really cool thing about an Idle animation is that it utilizes some of the best features of the Editor (which you’ll get to later in this tutorial.) This feature? Randomness. You will notice that your avatar doesn’t do the same thing in the same order all the time. This is because its Idle Action contains multiple animations and plays them at random.

You can create this random behavior yourself by understanding some of the basic rules of the IMVU Action system:

  • You can have multiple Ensembles in an Action
  • You can tell the Action to choose those Ensembles randomly

Idle Names

There are three names to keep in mind when building an Idle Action:

stance.Idle – this name is often applied to Pets, Rooms and Furniture products. However, Pets also sometimes use the following two names instead of stance.Idle. stance.Idle tells the IMVU code to play this Action with no input from a user.

stance.Standing – this name is included in IMVU avatars. The most commonly used seat node name in Rooms and Furniture, seat##.Standing, calls this avatar Action by name. This Action is also the default Action name that the IMVU code looks for if no matching Actions are available within the IMVU avatar.

stance.Sitting – this name is included in IMVU avatars as seat##.Sitting is the *second* most commonly used seat node name in Rooms and Furniture.

Same Name

As mentioned above, you can have multiple Actions in one product. Sure. Got it. However, you can also have multiple Actions in one product with the same name! This means, for example, you can have multiple Actions named stance.Idle which, in turn, means that you can drive multiple, independant animations at the same time.

IMVU uses this feature ALL THE TIME in many of its products as the addition of even a little random behavior goes a long way.

Blink

The avatar has a special Idle that is controlled by the IMVU code rather by an Action you have full control of. This special code triggers an Action randomly if it is called blink. The blink animations IMVU has made are very, very short animations. No longer than a few frames. This makes the blinks feel real when played in IMVU (and at random framerates on random computers.) This means that the blink code has been tweaked to perform rapidly which, in turn, means that your blink animations ought to also be very, very short or they will look rather silly in IMVU

Feelin’ Loopy

As a reminder, any animation asset included in an Action can have loop effects applied to it regardless whether it is a skeletal animation – .xaf file or a morph animation .xpf file.

The loop settings in the Ensemble tell an animation which portion it ought to play over and over and for how many times. While you can set a number of loops right there in the loop settings, you can also tell the Ensemble to randomly play more loops using the ‘Extra # of loops (up to)’ field.

Just type in any number and the Ensemble will randomly play up to that many loops whenever it plays. The goal with utilizing this feature is to get your Idle Action to feel as random/alive as possible.

Blending

One of the most important features of Idle Actions (and Actions in general) is Blending. This allows the currently playing animation to blend into the next animation. Without using blending, those two animations would just pop as Action A stopped and Action B began.

I usually use a ‘Blend in:’ and ‘out:’ weight of 5 frames. This allows the two animations to blend fairly quickly.

Blending doesn’t work if the Ensembles that are meant to blend together do not have their ‘Composition’ set up correctly.

Composition

Idle Actions should always have their ‘Composition’ set to ‘Average’. This allows triggered animations to replace the bone positions and rotation (if those triggered animations are set to ‘Replace’, of course.)

If your Idle Action is set to ‘Replace’, then any other Actions you have set to ‘Replace’ will not actually replace anything.

Updated on January 14, 2019

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