3ds Max Path Deform and Effects of Object Offset Transformation

I’ve been working on a few projects now in 3ds Max 2015 and 2016, and have recently been using the Path Deform modifier (specifically, the World-Space Modifier) to do some interesting things. Along the way, I’ve been hitting some serious issues with getting the object I want to deform along the path to align properly to the path. For instance, I have a poly mesh like such:

3ds - Tooth Mesh

(Notice the pivot point has been centered in the mesh)

I want to make this shape follow a path defined by the following NURBS curve:

3ds - Target Path for Deform

This seems like a common scenario. So, I naively apply the  PathDeform (WSM), select my curve, and click “Move to Path”. This is what I get:

3ds - Mesh Deformed to Path

Then, the headaches begin. The thing I didn’t mention before, that you may have picked up on was that I adjusted the pivot of the curve so that it is centered to the object. This was because I created this NURBS curve based on another NURBS surface that’s currently hidden, and needed a path to use with path deform. It’s a nice simple one-click effort to move the pivot in the common case where you may have modeled something without true regard to the pivot.


To visualize the difference in location, I’ll hit “reset pivot” after undoing my failed attempt to apply path deform:

Target Path With Original Pivot
Target Path With Original Pivot

Some interesting things to consider:

  • The original pivot location must be stored with the object
  • When you modify “pivot only”, one would think the pivot point is actually being modified for the object

It turns out that there’s a couple of solutions to my problem. If I leave the pivot in the original position for my curve (through “reset pivot”), and attempt the PathDeform WSM again, the results are actually what I would expect them to be:

Path Deform after resetting pivot on path (and moving to path) appears correct!
Path Deform after resetting pivot on path (and moving to path) appears correct!

This is great, but I really would like to have my pivot points be located on-screen when I’m working with objects. So, what to do?

The quick answer: Apply the XForm modifier to the path object

Why is this happening?

It turns out, that the World-Space Modifiers seem to apply modifiers against the objects original pivot location. This is where the “Object Offset Transformation” comes into play.

It seems that adjustments to an objects pivot point aren’t actually affecting the objects true pivot point. (WHAAAT!?) Yep. It took me some time to find this, as the documentation around World-Space Modifiers, and Path Deform, make no mention of this phenomenon. I came across this link to some MaxScript documentation that laid out the facts:

Object Offset Transformation

And, quoting that page, here’s the kicker:

“As another example consider the use of the ‘Affect Pivot Only’ button. This mode lets the user move the pivot without affecting the position of the geometry of the object. When the system allows the user to move the pivot point, what is actually happening is the node’s transformation is being altered (to re-orient the pivot point), then the object-offset transformation is adjusted to counter the node transformation. This lets the geometry of the object stay in the same place while the pivot point moves around. So again, when the user is moving the pivot point, 3ds Max is actually adjusting the node transformation matrix and counter-adjusting the object-offset transformation.”

My head exploded after reading this. So, basically, this object offset transformation is being applied (it seems) to the transformed mesh prior to performing the path deform.

I might refine this post a bit later, but there ya have it.

– Sean

First digital painting with my Wacom Intuos Pro – Mexican Amy!

Crazy WACOM serial cable with power (For ArtZ II)

In high school I always dreamed of owning one of those fancy drawing tablets. When I graduated and started my years at UNCW, I finally got one. It was a Wacom, and connected via. serial port. It actually had a funny little power jack coming right off the serial port. Very interesting. That was 1995.

Fast-forward to last Christmas. My wife got me (or should I say, let me purchase)  a fancy new Wacom Intuos Pro Wireless. It’s great. Aside from a few bizarre issues with the wireless and interference (which seem to have been resolved), it’s a marvelous device. I can work on my Windows machine in my office, or on the couch with my Macbook Pro.

This is my first real attempt at some digital art with the new device. I spent a lot of time exploring Photoshop’s brushes, as well as being inspired by Aaron Blaise. I started this thing before Christmas, as a funny gift for our secret-Santa gift exchange. I eventually called it “done” a week ago and gave her a framed 13×19″ print. She loved it. Score!

It’s funny how working digitally really tests the ability to master the tools. As non-intuitive as it is, switching brushes, tweaking parameters, and being constantly distracted with things like how pixel opacity affects white (infuriating), I see the potential. I’m not quite there yet, but I still see the day when the tools won’t limit my imagination.

I actually want to give Krita a spin. But, for now, here’s “Mexican Amy”.

– Sean

The first painting I attempted with my new Wacom Intuos Pro. This is a characterization of my sister-in-law as a Mexican dancer, which she bears no resemblance to in real life.
The first painting I attempted with my new Wacom Intuos Pro. This is a characterization of my sister-in-law as a Mexican dancer, which she bears no resemblance to in real life.

The SketchUp Challenge (2014 SGD Work)

SketchUp, for better or worse, is a modeling package with roots in architecture. Here’s some work I created with it. I’ll reserve my opinions on it, and it’s lack of organic modeling support. Or the lack of a real rendering engine… or it’s poor support for actually dealing with vertices.

Once I learned my way around the software, it didn’t turn out to be so bad, although it still stinks at stuff that other software shines at.

Check out the images below. One of the last assignments was to re-create the first level of DOOM, and render an animated walkthrough. You can see that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lLkxFCPwa4

Assembled Closer

Flute - Top view SeanAitken_House SeanAitken_House_Rear Aitken_Fortress Etch-A-Sketch Gutted Potty

Power On

Ever since the dawn of the Internet, when I was “borrowing” my mothers Internet account provided through the university she was attending, I have come to see it for what it is. I’ve always kept a safe distance from being one of those who dumps anything of interest, or anything of disinterest, onto a blog. I guess I’ve finally given in, and resistance is futile! There’s a lot to talk about. Welcome aboard!

… and on the topic of age-old Internet access..


It seems like just yesterday that I was issuing Hayes Command Set instructions to the 14,4000 baud modem on my Amiga 500 attached to a floor-standing TV. Even then, I spent hours learning Turbo Silver on the fantastic Motorola 68000 based workhorse in my living room. What are these “axis” things anyways?

Fast forward.