Rendering — Camera Basics (Refinements) (3D Animation Using Maya)

The view you get through the perspective panel usually looks more interesting than the Front or Side views because of its non-orthographic view and its wide-angled lens. When you want to create even more interesting shots, in which there are pans, dollies, cranes, and even simulated Steadicam-style movements and rack-zooms, you’ll need to animate the camera. Since the perspective view isn’t really designed to be animated, you’ll create a new camera. In Maya, cameras have settings for nearly every attribute of a real-world film camera, and even some beyond that. Additionally, they can be animated to move and rotate through your scene.

First, let’s create a new camera. Click on Create > Cameras > Camera and Aim. This makes a two-node camera (see Figure 2.46). In the Outliner you will see a new item called the camera1_group, which contains two nodes, the camera1 and the camera1_am. This is a frequently used camera type in Maya. (The single-node camera can be difficult to aim, and the three-node camera can lead to motion sickness!)

To properly line up your shot, you can look through the lens of a new Camera. The view panel lists the name of the current camera at the bottom of the screen. In order to change the view of a panel, click Panels > Perspective > Cameral (see Figures 2.47 and 2.48).

Try to get used to animating the position of the Camera node and the Camera Aim node (this is similar to the target of your spotlight). The Camera always points at its Aim node, so you can leave the Camera alone and animate the Aim node to simulate a tripod-mounted camera panning a scene. In order to simulate a moving camera that holds its aim on a specific subject, place the Aim node near the subject, and then animate only the translation of the camera body node.

The two-node camera

Figure 2.46: The two-node camera

Changing views

Figure 2.47: Changing views

Viewing through the camera

Figure 2.48: Viewing through the camera

One important setting to get familiar with in the Camera Attribute Editor is the Focal Length attribute. This is equivalent to the focal length (measured in millimeters) of a 35mm film camera. By lowering the focal length setting, you’ll get a wide-angle shot; raise it for a long telephoto lens.

Rendering Exercise — Two-node Camera

1.    Set your project to understanding_maya\Chapter02\rendering_camera.

2.    Open the scene rendering_camera_barn_begin.ma.

3.    Play the animation to see the plane start up and drive out of the barn. The view is static and uninteresting (see Figure 2.49); we’ll create a camera and animate it for a more interesting shot.

Initial fixed view

Figure 2.49: Initial fixed view

4.    Click Create > Cameras > Camera and aim. The new camera is built at the world origin, which is right inside the barn.

5.    In the standard four-view panel layout (click the Four View icon in the Quick View area under the Tool Box), you’ll turn the side view into the cameral view. Do so by clicking in the side view panel menu: Panels > Perspective > cameral. Now you are looking through the camera’s lens in the bottom right panel (see Figure 2.50). You can judge your camera and view positioning through this panel while you move the camera’s nodes in the other panels.

Positioning the two-node camera

Figure 2.50: Positioning the two-node camera

6.    Currently, the camera1_group node is selected. Select the camera1 node in the Outliner by clicking the plus sign next to the camera1_group node, and then highlighting the camera1 node. Use the Move Tool to bring the camera1 node outside the barn, approximately 25, 3, 2 for translate X, Y, and Z.

7.    At frame 1, set a keyframe for the camera1 node’s Translate X, Y, and Z channels. You can do this by highlighting those three channels in the Channel Box and then RMB-clicking to choose Key Selected.

8.    Scrub the time slider to frame 48, move the camera1 node farther away from the barn (to about 45, 3, 12) and keyframe those three channels (see Figure 2.51).

9.    Play the animation. The camera is trucking away from the barn nicely, but the view is fixed in place. In order to follow the plane, we’ll animate the camera1_am node.

Pulling the camera back

Figure 2.51: Pulling the camera back

10. Stop playback and then go to frame 60. This is when the camera will begin panning.

11. In the front panel, select the camera1_am and move it up about 2 units on the Y-axis. Set a keyframe for the Translate X channel, which is currently at 0.

12.  At frame 98, move the camera1_am node to 50 on the X-axis. Set a key for this channel.

13.  Rewind and then play your animation. The camera now follows the plane (see Figure 2.52).

14.  Save your scene.

Animating the target

Figure 2.52: Animating the target

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