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Old 07-05-20, 00:31   #1
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Arrow In-Depth 3D Animation Tutorial


For all the years we've had Tomb Raider Level Editor on our hands, animating still is to this day one of the things people have been struggling to make on their levels. I believe that the main reasons are the lack of good, accessible tools (Wadmerger is TERRIBLE to make animations), as well as lack of information regarding it.

This tutorial serves as a source of guidance and tips for you to make on your own good quality animations, as I and many other builders have been for a good while.

Note that animating is not easy: it requires practice, time and patience. It is a time-taking process that can take hours or even days to make (depending how complex and how long you want your animations or cutscenes to be).

We will be using Autodesk 3dsmax, a program, similar to blender, that is used to make meshes, renders, animations, etc.
However, it is a heavy program for low-end computers, which is my case - but I've learned to deal with it and use it anyway

I am using Autodesk 3dsmax 2020, but I personally recommend using 2019 or 2018 versions, as I've found myself encountering some bugs regarding the transition between two frames (you'll notice in the video below what I'm talking about).
It's also fine if you have an even older version, because It's very likely the features we will be using are still there.

While it's a paid program, you can get a student license (just make a student account, even if you are not a student) for free - as long as it is not being used for profit.


The first step to making your animation, is having your objects ready in your wad. Make sure it has at least one animation slot (If you are using older versions of 3dsmax, make sure the animation has 2 frames minimum, or else the program will crash).

Open your wad using WadViewer.
It will appear a list of your objects on your right, and a preview of them on the left.

For this tutorial, I will be exporting LARA and make a small animation for her. To do so, right-click LARA, and click "Export to 3DS":

Then, it will ask you to choose an animation:

Please note that, while WadMerger Animation Editor has the animations list starting by 0, WadViewer has them starting with 1.

So, I want to export animation ID 11 in Wadmerger (which is the standing animation), however, that one will be ID 12 in WadViewer.


When you open the program, this is what you should be seeing.

On your right, you have the objects list. On the left, you have tools to make meshes, modify them, and more (that are likely not going to be relevant for now).
Before we add our LARA to the program, we should change the grid to match our lovely TRLE cubes.
For that, go to Tools>Grids and Snaps > Grids and Snaps Settings.

It should open a window. Select "Home Grid", and type "512" in Grid Spacing. There, you now have a proper TRLE Grid in 3dsmax!

Now, I'm going to click on the "+" of the 3d view and "Maximize Viewport", so I can get a better view of it.
You can, of course, Restore the Viewpoint so you can take a look at the 2d angles, which can be useful in your animating process.

Now, it's time to add LARA! Just drag the .3ds file you exported using WadViewer. Now, you're expected to place her somewhere into the map. You will usually want to place her at the center of the map. However, how can you place her precisely?

It's easy, just press "S" to activate "Snaps Toggle" and place her at the center of the grid precisely.

Now that you have finally Lara in your scene, it's time to adjust some things before you start the animating process:

This is the Time Configuration. When clicking on it, a new window will pop up:

Here, you can adjust the length of your animation. Just put here the frame values that you want your animation to start and end. You can adjust it anytime.

This is the Auto Key.

This is a very important button, because what it does is that it automatically transitions your animations between each frames. Without it, whatever change you make to LARA (or any other object) will be applied to all the frames, and not just the one selected.

Here, at the corner, you have a little cube that is used to rotate your scene, and the "home" icon to reset your camera view.

And last but not least, we have her the "Set Key" button.

What it does is, when you select LARA (or any object) and change her positioning, setting the key is important so the positioning of those meshes are "locked", and therefore not influenced by any other positions.


For now, I will mention the basics of animating. Later on, I will introduce more complex methods to help you with animation. Nevertheless, it's still important to know how to be able to animate without any "assists".

So, I have LARA Selected, with her standing animation frame andwith her first frame set (using the set key button) so her positioning is "locked".

I want to make a simple look around animation.
It will be very hard to explain it using words, so here's a small video of me doing it:

I didn't speed it up in purpose so you could see with your eyes how is my process of doing animations: how I keep watching and rewatching to check how the animation flows, etc etc.
I made this animation quickly because I'm used to - It's completely normal if it takes you much more to do something like that.

In here you can see me using some keyboard shorcuts:

Pressing Ctrl to select multiple meshes;
Pressing Shift to duplicate a frame;
Right Clicking anywhere to change move to rotate move (and vice versa);
(there are probably more but i can't remember them dlfigusdligj)

Now, here's my tips to making good animations:
  • Start by making the first and last frame of each movement. Once that is done, you can start working between the frames to give more details to the animations.
  • If one of the movements looks too fast or too slow for you, you can simply select the frames (while having the model selected, too) in the timeline, and drag them accordingly.
  • When you are unsure about how such movement should be made, using yourself as the reference of your animation is often the best way you can get to find what you need to know.
  • Don't make lara static! As you've seen in the video, I pressed each mesh of Lara and increased/decresed the values a tiny bit so Lara moves a slight bit over time.
  • If you noticed, I always made her head be the first thing to be moved in her whole body; then the torso, and finally her butt. That's because, if you notice, it's something you always do: move your head to look at your target, and then have your body follow it.


After your animation is done, It's time to export it.
However, there's some processes you have to do first: ALL they frames needs to have the key set. Otherwise, WadViewer will give errors when you're attempting to import it.

To do that, you have to select the whole scene (or LARA on my case) and set the key button (or press K for its shortcut) for every frame.

Before setting keys:

After setting keys:

Having that done, you can finally export by going to File> Export> Export ...

And save as .3ds

Go back to WadViewer, and import your animation to LARA_SKIN (!!!). This is because Lara object has nullmeshes, while Lara Skin doesn't. This way, the collision box will be correct and no possible bugs will happen.

Now, it's time to save your wad! I do not recommend saving over your actual wad, so I always have a test wad - literally named "testwad.wad", where I can save all the animations I made. Since sometimes WadViewer crashes when saving directly to wads, I always save it somewhere like my desktop, then copy and paste/replace to the wads folder

Now you just have to open WadMerger, open Lara_Skin, and there you go!

You can download in trsearch the looking around I made for this tutorial.

Last edited by SrDanielPonces; 07-05-20 at 00:33.
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Old 07-05-20, 00:33   #2
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DO NOT post in this thread. If you want to discuss it, you can use the TRLE Offtopic chat thread

This tutorial is not over! I will need to teach the use of IK-Solvers (SO convenient for more complex animations like walking, running) as well as baking the animation using Motion Paths!
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