CGI Cameras and animating them well

I truly dislike animating cameras.

Yep, I went there.

The biggest problem with animating cameras, specifically in terms of product shots and wide sweeping moves, is that you want to look at one object, but you want to also beautifully swoop, pitch, zoom and roll around it to make the whole thing look amazing.

And when you have a single camera on its own, making it do that is a flaming nightmare. Gimbal lock, anyone? Which rotation order to select BEFORE YOU START?

It’s a never ending pain.

But over the years of animating I have slowly but surely nailed down the problem and in every package I now use that has even the slightest 3D environment – After Effects, Fusion, Nuke, Maya, Blender to begin with – I always spend a short time building a camera rig before I start. One that has one controller and a bunch of groups one on top of the other. At the bottom, cradled in this Russian Doll of groups is a camera. It does nothing. The groups do all the heavy lifting, the top Group, Null or whatever having a bunch of sliders, integers and vector to do pitch, yaw, roll, offsets, distance and, indeed, focal length if I want to animate that.

All on one node.

Which means that I can get to all of my animation of the camera in one place. And I can easily change the pitch without changing anything else.

When that client turns around and says, “Can you pitch up a bit higher here?” without a glimmer of concern I turn to him, give a sincere and yet cheeky little smile and say, “Yes, I can.”

And so can you.

Here’s a button to let you have the camera setup I use for After Effects.

But that’s all well and good.

Want to know I make this? That’s coming soon, so watch this space.