Robots 101

STEP ONE - Build the EyeBot

Mars-Attacks-Robot01.jpgOnce you've gotten the basics of Modelling in Anim8or, you're ready to assemble something a bit more complex.

FIGURES are collections of objects attached to a "skeleton" of "bones". It's very much like creating a toy action-figure that has poseable joints.

Two things you SHOULD do to make your figures easier to animate later are:
  • NAME each bone in the figure
  • Establish the LIMITS OF ROTATION for the bones that can move

EXERCISE ONE - Building a simple figure
Model by Alan East
We're going to try to create a SIMPLE version of the robot you see in this picture - he'll have very limited motion and detail, but later we can "enhance" him with customized parts.

- Open Anim8or and go to FIGURE mode to begin.

The single "bone" you see on the screen is the ROOT bone - like branches of a tree, all other bones must extend from this root.


Step One: Give your Bot a


0. SET UP ANIM8OR: Do this for any project you start - Go to OPTIONS | GRID and choose FIXED spacing with Snap to Grid ENABLED and snap set to every 5 units
1. Select the ROOT bone and then use the "NEW BONE" tool to draw a bone 10 units tall on top of it. You can establish the precise size by using the grids IF they are "FIXED" under OPTIONS. Double Click that bone and you can see if you got the size right. Adjust it if need be. Name the bone "Stand" - you'll see why it's useful much later.
2. Draw another bone 30 units tall on top of the "Stand". Double click and name this one "SPINE"
3. From the LEFT VIEW [ 4 ] - Select the "stand" and rotate it (Shift-R) to the left 90 degrees (You'll have to use your best judgement to get as close to to 90 degrees as you can). Now straighten out the spine by rotating it back UP by 90 degrees. FROM THE LEFT VIEW, your figure should look like this.
4.From the FRONT VIEW [ 5 ] - Select the SPINE and draw two "shoulders" 30 units in size from it. You'll have to draw them one at a time, and then rotate them appropriately. Name the two shoulders "Shoulder-RIGHT" and "Shoulder-LEFT".
5. Draw a pair of ARMS 40 units long from the shoulders. Rotate them down as shown, and Name them appropriately: "Arm-RIGHT" and "Arm-LEFT"
6. Select the "SPINE" and use BUILD | ADD SPHERE. Make the sphere 60 units in diameter. This object is "attached" to the Spine, but you can slide it UP, or better yet, double click it and set it's location to 0, 30, 0 so that the top of the spine is in the exact center of the sphere.
7. To build the legs, start by choosing the "STAND" bone. It might be easiest to view the model from either the LEFT [ 4 ] or from the BOTTOM [ 2 ] to select the stand. Better yet, turn on "Quad-View" [ . ] to see the model from various angles. You can select any panel and switch it to a specific view by hitting the appropriate key. The BOTTOM view will be the easiest to work from.
8. Draw two "Hips" 15 units in length from the "STAND" and rotate them to the sides. Name them "Hip-RIGHT" and "Hip-LEFT".
9. Draw and name "Leg-RIGHT" and "Leg-LEFT" 30 units in length. Notice that the "hip" bones are actually below the sphere. That doesn't quite match the reference photo of the "Eye-Bot" in the picture at the top of this page. The next step will correct that.
10. Double click the "Spine" and shorten it to 20 units. The shoulders and arms will move down automatically, but the "sphere" body needs to be adjusted. Double click the sphere and set it's Y location to 20 as well. Now your robot is in the right proportions. Add feet to each leg. You can judge the appropriate length
11. Select each arm and use BUILD | Add Sphere to give it a 30 unit shoulder pad, and a 40 unit cylinder for the arm. Add cylinders for the Legs and feet. Your robot is almost ready to animate!
  • Be mindful of the efficiency of your character - his arms and legs only need ONE segment, not 8!

Step Two: Give your Bot a


Range of motion is important to believable animation. You actually want to LIMIT movement of your characters limbs to simplify animation later on.
1. View your in "Perspective" mode [ 3 ] - Use the "SHOW AXIS" button [SHIFT-X], and any bone you select will indicate a "Range of motion" with GREEN (x) BLUE (y) or PURPLE(z) arrows and indicators. Initially, you'll see nothing for the Bot, but you want his left arm to have a range that looks like this:
2. Double click the left arm bone, and you get a dialogue that looks like this. Set the X axis parameters to FREE, Min -30 and Max 180, and he should get the desired range of motion.
3. Set the range of motion for each bone individually. It takes time, but the BETTER your figure, the EASIER your animations will be later on. Use the coloured x/y/z arrows and axis to make you've chosen the correct bone axis (note the range colours in the illustration on the right). You're done when you have SIX bones with appropriate ranges of motion.

NEXT STEP: Upgrading your Bot's appearance