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AutoBones: New auto-rigging tool for 3ds Max
show user profile  kmackey
Hello, my name is Kevin Mackey.

During my time as an animator and technical artist, I have developed a tool called AutoBones, a system for
1) quickly creating character rigs using the Max bones system
2) allowing each chain of bones to be keyframed as a single object, and
3) switching seamlessly between IK and FK animation.

I have run a beta test in order to confirm a high degree of performance and stability, and am now making a commercial version available, including a 30-day free trial.

If you do any character animation at all with 3ds Max, AutoBones will save you significant setup and animation time. Even if you already use another system for rigging your characters, the speed with which AutoBones rigs can be set up and animated make it a fantastic choice for previz work.

More information, as well as the download itself, can be found at

I am constantly looking for input on ways to improve AutoBones, so whether you are interesting in trying AutoBones or not, I would like to ask the following: “What elements do you believe are most essential in an animation rig?”

In addition, please feel free to ask me any questions you may have! I will try to check back here for responses, but I can always be reached at

And of course, I would love to see anything you create using AutoBones! Share images and links here if you like, or send them to me directly.

read 1406 times
7/29/2014 2:28:34 AM (last edit: 7/29/2014 2:28:34 AM)
show user profile  herfst1
This looks very good. I will be trying it out soon.

Wish list: twist bones for the forearm, muscles and slider rollouts for controlling foot roll, hand poses etc.
read 1381 times
7/29/2014 6:01:43 AM (last edit: 7/29/2014 6:02:05 AM)
show user profile  Dave
Seems pretty cool at first but I had some questions/curiosities after watching the video.

First off, you state that the character should have arms down to the sides, even on the basic human mesh you've got you can see this is going to create a very annoying inconvenience when it comes to skinning in the armpit area. Looks like the top of the arm is even intersecting with the upper torso. For me, skinning tends to be a lot more tedious than rigging so I will always make sure to make my life easier as early on as possible.

I may have missed it in the video, but are the splines auto generated or do you have to create them?

I noticed the clavicle can move with the rest of the arm but in the video I couldn't see whether or not it would only move up, and not down. ie, if the character were to reach down to pick something up off the floor his clavicle bones shouldn't rotate down into his chest. Just wondering what the deal is here, as the video only showed what happened for one scenario.

"I flew over Egypt once"

read 1363 times
7/29/2014 10:59:12 AM (last edit: 7/29/2014 10:59:12 AM)
show user profile  kmackey
herfst: I'll put those on the list!

Dave: The arm system currently built into AutoBones is a variant of an auto-clavicle setup, with the addition of adjustable shoulder weights and the ability to switch to FK. So the answer to both your questions are tied together: if you start with the arms at the sides, the shoulders will NOT drop when the arm is lowered (which is why I recommend it). You can, of course, start with the arms pointing outward, but then when you lower them the shoulders will rotate downward (you still have the option of adjusting the shoulders back upward manually).

Depending on the level of interest, I have definite plans to include additional arm setup options as I release updates.
read 1336 times
7/29/2014 10:52:22 PM (last edit: 7/29/2014 10:52:22 PM)
show user profile  kmackey
Dave: I might also mention a solution I have used with auto-clavicle based rigs in the past:
1) create the initial model with the arms to the sides
2) skin the arms enough to raise them
3) move to a new keyframe, and pose the character arms-out
4) collapse the mesh, fix the shoulders and armpits
5) re-apply the skin on the arms-up frame

It looks like a lot of work when you read all the steps listed out like that, but can actually be done very quickly! It's always gotten me good results, and I may make a tutorial demonstrating it with Autobones.
read 1329 times
7/29/2014 11:30:50 PM (last edit: 7/29/2014 11:30:50 PM)
show user profile  Dave
Aye, I'd considered that. I don't think it's for me though, personally. I certainly appreciate the amount of work involved. Rigging and skinning in Max is still pretty primitive in my opinion and I think what you've got will appeal to a fair few folk, but in all honesty I think there's an "experience threshold" whereby people like myself are content enough with their current methods that the idea of using an auto-bone system with extra steps to get it to where you want to be, is not entirely ideal.

Perhaps I'm just a minority though, I've never had issues with rigging and since CAT was introduced as a permanent fixture (as buggy though it may be) my animation based work has just been a breeze. Skinning is still my only gripe. as no amount of experience seems to take away the tedious nature of weighting verts.

"I flew over Egypt once"

read 1314 times
7/30/2014 2:20:38 AM (last edit: 7/30/2014 2:20:38 AM)
show user profile  kmackey
I plan on adding some skinning tools to AutoBones as well, so I will let you know when that particular update is ready! :)
read 1307 times
7/30/2014 3:59:37 AM (last edit: 7/30/2014 3:59:37 AM)
show user profile  Error404
I dislike folks who sign up purely to sell their own stuff. But it sounds like you might have something good going on. So I'll let it slide, if you stick around. -

read 1298 times
7/30/2014 6:32:02 AM (last edit: 7/30/2014 6:32:02 AM)
show user profile  kmackey
I appreciate the sentiment, AND your letting it slide, lol.

But I'm not JUST here to sell my stuff, I want feedback and suggestions as well!
read 1295 times
7/30/2014 6:34:59 AM (last edit: 7/30/2014 6:34:59 AM)
show user profile  Error404
>> But I'm not JUST here to sell my stuff, I want feedback and suggestions as well!

which goes towards selling your product :D But seriously, I think you can get some good feedback here. :-) -

read 1273 times
7/30/2014 5:29:59 PM (last edit: 7/30/2014 5:31:05 PM)
show user profile  gogodr
just be careful.
This was a thing back in the day:

Hello there

beautiful ;3

read 1255 times
7/30/2014 9:30:19 PM (last edit: 7/30/2014 9:31:17 PM)
show user profile  kmackey
So far, the response seems to be overall positive. I've got a decent number of people who seem interested, whether downloading the trial, or asking questions. A couple of them have mentioned the price being a concern.

I tried to set an amount that reflects the value that /I/ know AutoBones has, and I am sure that the people who have downloaded the free trial will see the amount of time it can save them. But if it's more than they are willing to spend on an unproven product, I can see how the cost might scare some people away from taking the time to try it out.

I know this isn't intended as a place to discuss the business side of things, but since you're all sort of my "target market" and seem like a friendly bunch (T-shirts notwithstanding) I figured I might as well ask what everyone here thinks a product like this is worth.
read 1165 times
8/6/2014 6:58:02 PM (last edit: 8/6/2014 6:58:02 PM)
show user profile  herfst1
There is a major grey area: right now that plugin is useful for making a quick rig, but so is CAT. And just like CAT you would still need to tweak the end result with skin morphs if you were to have an medium close-up of your model animating without it looking shit.

But there is potential for you to make an advanced version that supplies you with all the tools (handles, facial control systems, sliders, etc) that you could assign your bones to. You would still have to manually set up each morph target, each reaction control, each skin morph, but it would take some tedium out of it....

But (again) if you (the customer) were going the route of an advanced rig you would probably already have gone through the process a fair few times and would probably already have some generic rigs in your bag that you could modify to your new models. So I don't think an advanced rigger will see this plugin as a worthwhile investment.

I think your main target audience right now would be hobbyists who want to take a quick delve into rigging.

So pricing-wise, I dunno. All I know is a McDonalds makes more money than a gourmet restaurant.
read 1161 times
8/6/2014 7:58:29 PM (last edit: 8/6/2014 8:00:09 PM)
show user profile  kmackey
I get what you're saying. On the other hand, there are a lot fewer Max hobbyists than people who eat food!

I'd honestly love to be able to just make cool stuff and give it away, but cost of living is a thing, freelancing is an unreliable source of income, and when I'm working a 9 to 5 I have no energy at the end of the day to make cool stuff.

As for the "advanced version", I have a lot of code related to AutoBones that has personally saved me a bunch of time in rigging things, but is not stable enough to be release-ready. I'd rather put something out that does what it does reliably and well, than have a whole bunch of features that break all the time. And for every day spent writing code that's good enough for my own personal use, it takes at least a week of finding and fixing bugs, and making the thing user-friendly for a general audience.

My plan is to continue adding things in as I get them smoothed out, and release updates. But to make that worth the time it takes, I need to know there is enough interest out there. And I'd rather it not be the price tag acting as a barrier to that interest.
read 1151 times
8/6/2014 8:55:06 PM (last edit: 8/6/2014 8:55:06 PM)
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