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Coordinate Systems

A coordinate system is a way of orienting objects and their axis tripods so you can work with objects the way you want to. You can see an example of a coordinate system by looking at the axis tripod at the lower left of each viewport. These axes are set to the World coordinate system, in which the XY plane is always the ground and Z always points up.

Figure 3-51: World coordinate system in the Top viewport

Many early 3D packages were limited to working with just the World coordinate system. This made the software easy to use most of the time, but made it difficult to move objects at an angle or rotate an object on a slanted axis. In 3D Studio MAX, the axis tripod at the lower left of each viewport is always set to the World coordinate system. This is so you can orient yourself in space no matter where your objects are located or how theyre rotated. However, for working with the objects themselves, you can choose one of many different coordinate systems. In fact, the default coordinate system for moving objects is not the World coordinate system. In this section of the book, you will learn more about the default coordinate system and the other options available to you.
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Changing the Coordinate System The object coordinate system is set by clicking on the down arrow next to the Reference Coordinate System on the Main Toolbar, then choosing a coordinate system from the list. By default, the View coordinate system is selected. A few other pulldown entries on the Main Toolbar are also labeled View, so take care to pull down the right one when changing the coordinate system.

Figure 3-52: Location of Reference Coordinate System on the Main Toolbar

When you change the coordinate system, the axis tripod for a selected object will also change direction. In this way, you can choose the coordinate system that makes the axis tripod point in the way that is most convenient for your current task, then use the axis restriction buttons to move, rotate or scale the object in the desired direction. World Coordinate System The independent axis tripods at the lower left of each viewport are always set to the World coordinate system. When the Reference Coordinate System on the Main Toolbar is set to World, the coordinate system for objects is set to match the independent axis tripod. With the World coordinate system, the axes are set in a certain orientation and stay that way regardless of which viewport is active. The Z axis always points toward the top of the scene. You can see this by looking at the object in the Top viewport, where the Z axis points up and out of the viewport. The X axis points to the right of the scene and the Y axis points up vertically, making the XY plane parallel to the computer screen. In the Front viewport, the objects Z axis points up vertically, which is the direction pointing up and out of the scene. This is the same physical direction in which the Z axis points in the Top viewport. In the Front viewport, the ZY plane is parallel to the computer screen. Users accustomed to technical work often prefer to use this coordinate system for most of their work. The fixed axes are helpful in work that requires accurate placement of objects. However, the World coordinate system requires you to change axis restrictions frequently as you work.

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Screen Coordinate System When the Reference Coordinate System is set to Screen, the object axes change each time a different viewport is activated. No matter which viewport is active, the X axis always points to the right of the viewport, and the Y axis always points up vertically. With the Screen coordinate system, the XY plane is always parallel to the computer screen in the active viewport. The purpose of this type of coordinate system is to make it easy for you to move and rotate objects. When Select and Move to XY Plane is selected and Restrict

is turned on, all movement of objects takes place in the is selected and the Restrict

plane of the screen. When Select and Rotate

is turned on, all rotation of objects takes place around the to Z button axis coming out of the screen. This way of working with objects is intuitive for many users. However, the orientation of the axes in the Perspective view align with the screen, not with axonometric viewports as other coordinate systems do. This means that movement, rotation and scaling in the Perspective view can be so unpredictable as to make it impractical to work in this viewport. View Coordinate System The View coordinate system is a hybrid of World and Screen coordinate systems. In axonometric viewports, the Screen coordinate system is used. In non-axonometric viewports, the World coordinate system is used. This coordinate is the default system because it gives the best of both worlds. With View, you can have the intuitive use of the Screen coordinate system while working in axonometric views, while maintaining the predictability of the World coordinate system in the Perspective view. Local Coordinate System The Local coordinate system uses the local axes of the selected object. When an object is created, its local axes are created and placed according to how the object is drawn. For example, when a cylinder is created, its local Z axis points up out of the viewport in which it is drawn, and its local XY plane is parallel to the computer screen. Even if you switch viewports,
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the cylinders local Z axis continues to point up the height of the cylinder.

Figure 3-53: Local coordinate system

When an object is selected, an axis tripod always appears inside it or on its edge. The base of the tripod marks the location of the objects local axes, but the three axes do not necessarily point in the directions of the local axes. The directions of the axes are determined by the currently selected coordinate system. Only when Local is selected as the coordinate system can you see the true directions of the objects local axes. When an object is rotated, its local axes rotate as well. The Local coordinate system enables you to move, rotate or scale an object along its original axes, regardless of how much it has been rotated previously. An objects local axes can be moved or rotated by changing its pivot point. An objects local axes and its pivot point are two ways of referring to the same thing. Choosing a Coordinate System While the View, World and Local coordinate systems will work for most of your modeling needs, there are other coordinate systems available. Occasionally, there will be times when other coordinate systems will come in handy. These uses are explored in the workbook.
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TUTORIAL 3.16: Coordinate Systems This tutorial will help familiarize you with coordinate systems.
1. 2. Reset 3D Studio MAX. In the Top viewport, create a sphere with a Radius of about 60 units. . Click on the sphere in the

3. On the Main Toolbar, click Select and Move Front viewport to select it.

The familiar axis tripod appears at the center of the sphere.


4. 5. Change the coordinate system to World. Right-click in each viewport. This changes viewports without losing the selection. Note that the axis letters inside the sphere dont change as you change viewports, and always point in the same directions as the tripod axis at the lower left corner of the viewport. Change the coordinate system to Screen. Right-click in each viewport. Note that the tripod axis on the sphere changes each time you click in a new viewport. The X axis always points to the right, while the Y axis points upward and the Z axis points out of the screen. Right-click in the Perspective viewport. While leaving the Perspective view active, look at the Left viewport. Note that the tripod axis on the sphere is tilted to one side. Because the Screen coordinate system is currently selected, the XY plane of the tripod axis is perpendicular to the Perspective view. In the Perspective view, click and drag on the sphere to move it around. As you move the sphere in the Perspective view, watch it in the Left viewport. Note that the sphere moves in a slanted direction in the Left viewport. Change the coordinate system to View. Right-click in the Top, Front and Left viewports and observe the changes in the spheres tripod axis. Note that the XY plane is always perpendicular to the view in these viewports.

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10. Right-click in the Perspective viewport. Note that the tripod axis on the sphere matches the World coordinate system tripod axis at the lower left of the viewport.

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