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The Camera Tracker inside of Adobe After Effects is nothing short of amazing. It can analyze the footage and recreate a camera inside of After Effects to replicate the camera that you actually shot the footage with. This way you can insert any elements that you have created into the scene and make it look like they were actually there. To get started let's look at our footage. I'm going to press 0 and load up a RAM Preview and you can see that I have some rather shaky footage. And I did this as kind of a proof of concept.
I went out and shot this with my iPhone and I wanted it to be shaky, because I wanted to see just how powerful this Camera Tracker could be. So I'm going to press Home and apply the Camera Tracker. Now there are multiple ways you can apply the tracker. First way, if you right-click on the layer you can choose Track Camera. When this happens you will see this blue bar that pops-up and in the upper left corner of your Effects control you will get a status update as to how the progress is going as it's analyzing the footage trying to figure out where the camera was.
You could also go up under Effects and go to Perspective > 3D Camera Tracker to apply one, or you could go to the Animation menu and choose Track Camera. Once this has finished analyzing what's going on in the scene, I'll jump back in here and show you what we've come up with. All right, so you can see now it's actually solving the camera and then you will see these little things on the screen that look like, I don't know, Rainbow Brite crosshairs. They're really cool, because they actually track pieces of data in the scene based on where they are in relation to the camera.
So for example, if I scrub through my timeline, notice how all of these little elements stay where they supposedly were created within the scene. I know it's a little jarring as I keep moving my mouse over these crosshairs, because you keep seeing this big red target-looking thing. That's exactly what this is. It's a target. So as we move throughout the scene, here let me zoom in so you can it a little more clearly, notice I have a triangle that gets created as I'm moving around. What After Effects is doing is triangulating between at least three points to create an angle, or a plane, that we could use as reference for placing elements in the scene.
So if I zoom back out here, let's see if we can place something a little over here on the left-hand side. Notice between these three points, this is exactly what I'm looking for. The target is aligned with the edge of the ground and it looks like it's accurate in terms of its angle. You can choose to activate crosshairs just by moving your mouse, or if you left-click and drag you can actually select a bunch of crosshairs. Notice I'm drawing a lasso like that. Notice the more I select, the more it gives me some different perspectives.
Here let's choose over here, in the lower right, I'm going to drag a lasso around all these and you can see, okay, that's quite not what I'm looking for, right? So if you want to deselect some of the points you can hold down Command or Ctrl on the PC and as you deselect points you can use that to figure out, okay, am I getting closer, closer, closer, you get the idea. As you deselect you can get closer or further away, heaven forbid, from what you're looking for. Honestly, as I move my mouse around, you can see, okay, I think the three-point versions are what's going to give me the most accurate track.
So let's come back over here to these three points and right-click. Now when you right-click, you have some options. The first four options are highlighted here or we could delete the selected points. Well I definitely don't want to delete these. So let's look at these four options. The first one, we can Create Text and a Camera. This is what we're going to do right now so you can see exactly what it's like when you insert an element in the scene. But these other two Solid and Camera and Null and Camera, these are just kind of personal preference.
I like working with Solids, because I can set the interactivity between the solid and the background layer and get a better idea as to what's going on in the scene, but some people like using a Null and a Camera, because Null Objects are very flexible and you don't have to worry about whether they get rendered into the scene if you want to render what you're looking at. This last one, Shadow Catcher, Camera and Light, we will get to that later on in the chapter, but basically it's when you're trying to create a 3D composite and really make something look like it's in the scene.
So for right now let's choose Create Text and Camera. Notice we have text in the scene and it's been placed, and look in our composition. We have a Camera and we have Text. Well let's select the Camera and press the U key, and notice I have just a few keyframes. There is Position, Orientation, and Zoom. Now what's interesting, as I'm looking at the Zoom, you can see when we scrub, check it out, the Zoom parameter is never changing.
That has to do with the setting we used in the Camera Tracker by default. So if we select Layer 3 and come back up under the Camera Tracker, look at the Shot Type option. When I click on the pulldown, it's set for a Fixed Angle of View. This is great, because it already figured out that I was using a camera that had a lens that was at a fixed focal length. If you're using a zoom lens, After Effects would have probably switched to Variable Zoom. If it didn't, you could always come here and specify that, and then this last one is to Specify an Angle of View if you know that the scene just doesn't look quite right in terms of what you're looking at.
You can specify the Angle of View if you wanted to save some time, you could just choose the Angle of View for your individual lens. I'll show you how to figure out your own Angle of View later on in the chapter. So let's select our text here and as you can see it has an anchor point. Now if we press U on the text layer, notice there are no keyframes. There are no keyframes, because all of the position data is determined by our camera in the scene. Notice since layer 1 is inhabiting 3D space, as we scrub through the timeline, it looks like it's stuck in the scene.
Now this text is rather large for what I'm looking for, so let's double-click on the text layer and open up our Character control panel. In here we could change the size down a little bit. Let's change it to around 10 pixels. That's great, and I'll deselect just by clicking down in the bottom of the timeline, reselect layer 1 and press R for Rotation and Orientation. We just need to flip this up on its X axis. So we can change the X Rotation to 90 and press Tab, and now it's flipped up in the scene and since it is kind of off at a slight angle here, we can look at adjusting the Y Rotation and the Z Rotation. There we go! Now that it looks like it's a little closer into the scene in terms of what we're looking at, it's sitting over the rock.
If you want to move this to a different point, don't move the position. Press A to select your anchor point, because that way our point that was tracked will stay in its place, and if we just slide on the X axis, we can move our text out of the way. Let's see what we've got in our scene. I'm going to press Home and zero on the keypad to lit up a RAM Preview. Let's hit the Spacebar just so we can see the first couple of seconds, and as you could see, this is tracked remarkably well and obviously we haven't added any shadows or texture or color or anything like that for the time being.
But this is stuck in the scene and it is moving quite nicely. There's one last little thing we could for polish. If we stop playback here, we can select layer 1 and enable Motion Blur. If you click on that switch in the timeline and then make sure it's enabled here in the top of the timeline, we can press Home to move our playhead to the beginning and press 0 to load up a RAM Preview. Okay, I think that's enough. I'm going to hit the Spacebar so we can check it out, and now you can see there is motion blur.
I don't know about you, but I think that looks pretty cool even if our text literally just says Text.
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