IK Terminology

Using inverse kinematics requires that you set parameters for a number of IK components. Brief definitions of these components follow; details are provided in other topics.

Note3ds Max Design offers a variety of inverse kinematics systems. There are four kinds of IK solvers, plus applied IK and interactive IK systems that don't use IK solvers. Not all of the following parameters are used by all the systems.
IK Solvers

An IK solver applies an IK solution to a kinematic chain. The kinematic chain is composed of a bones system, or a set of linked objects.


An IK joint controls how an object transforms with respect to its parent. You specify joint behavior with settings in three categories:

  • Object Pivot PointThe location of an object’s pivot point defines where joint motion is applied.
  • Joint ParametersChanging the IK settings in the Hierarchy command panel determines the direction, constraints, and order of how the joint operates.
  • Parent Pivot PointThe location of an object’s parent pivot point defines the origin from which the joint constraints are measured.

The commands you use to place the pivot points for both the object and its parent are described in Adjusting Pivots.

Start and End Joints

The start and end joints define the beginning and end of an IK chain managed by the IK solver. The hierarchy of the chain determines the direction of the chain. The pivot point of the end joint is displayed as the end effector, when end effector display is enabled.

Kinematic Chain

Inverse kinematics calculates the position and orientation of objects in a kinematic chain. The kinematic chain is defined as any part of a hierarchy under IK control. The IK chain starts with a selected node and consists of a start joint and an end joint. The base of the chain is either the root of the entire hierarchy, or an object that you specify as a terminator for the chain. The kinematic chain is defined when you apply an IK solver to a chain, or when you create a bone chain with an IK solver automatically applied.


The goal is used by the HI Solver to manipulate the end of the chain. When the goal is animated, the IK solution attempts to match the end effector (pivot point of the last child in the chain) to the goal position. When using an HD Solver, the end effector fulfills the same function as the goal.

End Effector

For any IK solution, you explicitly move a control object. IK calculations then move and rotate all other objects in the kinematic chain to react to the object you move. The object that you move is the goal, in an HI Solver or IK Limb Solver, or in the case of an HD Solver, an end effector.

Preferred Angle

Determines which direction a joint will bend. The preferred angle establishes a base angle between chain elements when an HI Solver is applied. The IK Solution seeks this angle in calculations.

Solver Plane and Swivel Angle Manipulator

A plane can be defined between the start and end joints, which aids in controlling the IK solution. Adjust or animate the solver plane by changing the swivel angle manipulator when in manipulate mode. This determines an up-vector handle for the chain, which can also be animated over time. You can also define a target for the swivel angle manipulator to follow. For more information, see White Paper: Swivel Angle of the HI IK Solver.


You can explicitly set the base of an HD (History-Dependent) IK chain by defining one or more objects as terminators. A terminator object stops the IK calculations so that objects higher up the hierarchy are unaffected by the IK solution. Terminator objects are also used to define hierarchies that use multiple HD IK chains.

Terminator objects are not used in HI Solvers or IK Limb Solvers. In these cases the termination is determined by the end joint of the chain.

Bound Objects

Objects in your hierarchy can be bound to the world, or they can be bound to other objects called follow objects.

Binding allows objects in your hierarchy to be influenced by objects that are not part of the hierarchy.

  • An object bound to the world will attempt to maintain its current position and orientation.
  • An object bound to a follow object will attempt to match the position and orientation of the follow object.
  • You can bind to a follow object when you use an HD Solver, or when Applied IK is used. If you want to bind to a follow object when using an HI or IK Limb Solver, apply a position constraint between the goal and any follow object of your choice (usually a point, dummy, spline, or bone).
Enabled IK

(HI Solver) When using the HI Solver, you can animate with either inverse kinematics or forward kinematics (FK). When Enabled is turned on, inverse kinematics controls the chain, and keyframes are placed only on the goal. When Enabled is turned off, forward kinematic rotational keys are placed on all the bones.

IK/FK Snap

(HI Solver) When using the HI Solver, if you animate using both IK and FK, you might create a situation where the goal has moved away from the end of the chain, causing a jump in the animation. Pressing IK/FK Snap will result in the goal being moved back to match the position of the end effector, eliminating the jump in the animation.

IK for FK pose

(HI Solver) When this button is turned on, moving the goal automatically sets rotation keys for the bones. In effect, this lets you use IK manipulation to create your pose, setting FK keys.