Introduction: How to Render an Animation in Fusion 360

Picture of How to Render an Animation in Fusion 360

More accurately, this Instructable shows you how to render a motion study in Autodesk's Fusion 360 using their very nice and very fast Cloud Rendering. So if for example, you have modeled something, and you want animate how it moves, here are the (general) steps you'd take to create a nice looking animation, fully rendered.

  • Model/import/create the thing you want to animate
  • create joints to tell the software where the degrees of freedom are
  • create a motion study to tell Fusion what values those joints should take as it moves
  • and then Cloud Render the motion study in the Render tab

Autodesk has put out a nice tutorial on the matter:

But, unfortunately, as of release 2.0.1870, there are a few steps you have to do to get to the magical button that will let you Cloud Render a motion study, that the above video does not talk about (because they're essentially bugs).

Please keep in mind that this is one of many ways to render an animation. If you have Maya, or even Inventor, there are ways to do it in each respective program, but I've found that Fusion's Cloud Rendering is unique in that it outputs a fairly high quality video (.mp4) of a 100 frames in about 20 minutes. All because the processing is done on a set of servers somewhere far away. If you've ever rendered something in Maya/Mental Ray on your personal computer, you know that even 50 frames could take a few hours. Fusion 360 is also free (to educators, tinkerers, and startups). That being said, there's more flexibility and settings if you used Maya/Mental Ray.

Step 1: Model/import Your Model

Picture of Model/import Your Model

To model something, you need a model. So whatever you want to make, make it, or import it. I'll assume you already have a model, and that you got here through some Googling.

To do:

Any solid or body that is part of a joint (i.e. anything that is moving, or providing the reaction force for that movement), needs to be a component. This is because joints require components.

You can do this by opening up your bodies in the Browser and converting them to components. Read more on why components exist here.

Step 2: Add Joints

Picture of Add Joints

Now that you have different components that make up your model, you can add joints to describe how the different components are constrained between one another. There are 7 types of joints with various degrees of freedom. They are detailed here and you can watch videos on how to add them here and here.

  • Rigid Locks components together, removing all degrees of freedom. Like: glue, but doesn't have to touch.
  • Revolute – Allows the component to rotate around joint origin. Like: a wheel on a bike.
  • SliderAllows the component to translate along a single axis. Like: a train on tracks.
  • Cylindrical – Allows the component to rotate and translate along the same axis. Like: a pencil in a pencil sharpener.
  • Pin-slot – The component can rotate about an axis and translate about a different axis. Like: a chain door lock
  • Planar – Allows the component to translate along two axes and rotate about a single axis. Like: a figure skater that can't jump.
  • Ball – Allows the component to rotate about all three axes using a gimbal system (three nested rotations). Like: a ball joint on your body. Your leg or shoulder.

When adding joints, you'll be selecting points on components to indicate where things line up.

Step 3: Create a Motion Study

Picture of Create a Motion Study

Still in the Model Workspace, under Assemble there is a Motion Study button. Select that and the Timeline will appear. You need to have joints specified before creating a Motion Study, because what you're telling Fusion here is how much the joints should move and at what frames.

  1. Click on a joint
  2. and specify values at certain frames. You can play the animation and see what it looks like.

Step 4: Set Up for Rendering

Picture of Set Up for Rendering
Now, move over to the Render Workspace.
  • Add materials + appearances in the Appearance button
  • Put your view into Perspective (rather than orthogonal) to make it look realistic
  • Choose a environment that makes sense for your render
  • Adjust camera, lighting, and exposure settings in the Scene Settings
  • ***And adjust your view (i.e. orbit around and use the view cube) to how you want the render to appear. You can't manipulate a camera. If you detach the Render Gallery (by grabbing the title bar and dragging), it will give you a more accurate representation for what the render will look like.

*** This is important because Fusion has a hard time remembering settings. Once you do this preview video render, the camera angle and settings are set, unfortunately.

Step 5: The Secret Step to Get the Motion Study Render Button

Picture of The Secret Step to Get the Motion Study Render Button

Okay, with everything set up for rendering, here's the secret step. You can click on one of the pre-rendered images and see that there is no motion study button (a circle with a triangular play button).

To get that button:

First you have to render a "video." (it does not result in a video). You want the quickest, lowest quality video for now. Again, it's not a video. See first image for reference.

  1. Click on Cloud Rendering
  2. Switch to the video tab
  3. toggle to Preview (from Final)
  4. and select Small.
  5. hit Render.

It should take a few minutes for that to render, but when that's done, click on that.

YOU CAN NOW SEE THE MOTION STUDY BUTTON.

Click it, and you can then play with the settings. Rendering will take much longer (think like 30 - 60 minutes) but you will get 100 frames as an mp4 with ray tracing!

Step 6: Create a Gif

Save the video onto your hard drive, and make a gif. Because gifs is the universal language. Here's how you do it in Photoshop.

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Bio: I'm an Artist in Oakland, CA; formerly an Artist-in-Residence at Autodesk, Pier 9.
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