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Creating an orbit camera rig

From: After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

Video: Creating an orbit camera rig

In this last movie we animated our camera so that it orbited around our scene, and I mentioned that one of the problems with using this technique, where you animate the Position of the camera, is that you do need to edit the handles to create a nice curve. In this movie I'll show you how to create a camera that perfectly orbits your scene, and we'll do that by creating a Null Object and Parenting the camera to it. I'll start by tidying up my Timeline. Let's twirl up all our layers. Now, if you like the camera movie you just created, feel free to keep that layer, but I'm going to create a new camera.

Creating an orbit camera rig

In this last movie we animated our camera so that it orbited around our scene, and I mentioned that one of the problems with using this technique, where you animate the Position of the camera, is that you do need to edit the handles to create a nice curve. In this movie I'll show you how to create a camera that perfectly orbits your scene, and we'll do that by creating a Null Object and Parenting the camera to it. I'll start by tidying up my Timeline. Let's twirl up all our layers. Now, if you like the camera movie you just created, feel free to keep that layer, but I'm going to create a new camera.

I'll go layer>New>Camera, and you can select almost any Preset for this; I'll select the 35 millimeter, and click OK. Now, notice when you have two cameras, the camera on top is the camera that's actually rendering in the Active Camera View, but because we have our View options set to always show us the Wireframes for our cameras, we're seeing both cameras in the orthographic views. So turn of the eyeball for the camera that you don't need. Since I don't actually need this camera, I'm just going to delete it.

Here is the general idea, and there is a different workflow depending on which version of After Effects you're using. For all versions of After Effects we can create the Null Object manually and Parent the camera to the Null. If you're using CS5.5, I'll show you a faster workflow in just a moment, but even if you are using 5.5, it's still worth knowing exactly what's going on underneath the hood. When I'm creating a Camera Rig, I usually like to start with a new camera, and the Point of Interest is centered on my layers.

I'll press P and Shift+A, just so we can look at these values, and that will become important in just a moment. I'll select the layer>New>Null Object, and the default is to create a 2D Null Object, which will appear in the center of every view. Since we want to animate our Null in 3D, the first thing we'll do is turn on the 3D switch for the Null Object. We'll also name our Null Object, Command +Shift+Y will open the Solid settings, and we'll call this cam orbit null, and click OK.

Let's just check one thing, the Position of the Null. It's very important that when we do the Parenting that the Null Object's position is exactly in the same position as the Point of Interest, and a quick check will tell us that it is, and that's why I like to create a brand-new camera when I'm creating a Camera Rig. So the next thing we need to do is then Parent the camera to the Null. Shift+F4 will open the Parenting column, and we can either use the pickwick to select the Null, or you can select it from the pop-up, and after you Parent them, the Point of Interest should say 0, 0, 0, meaning that there is no offset from the Child to the Parent.

Now, I mentioned that if you have CS5.5, there's another way of working, and since I am using CS5.5, let me show you that technique, it's much faster. First I'll create the New>Camera, just like we did before, we can use the same Preset. And then we'll go layer>Camera>Create Orbit Null, and this, again, is new in CS5.5. And that will do exactly what I just did step-by-step a few moments ago. It creates a new Null Object, turns on the 3D switch, and Parents the camera to the Null.

It's a very handy feature, but again, nothing you couldn't do manually in previous versions. And again, I still need to name my camera orbit null. Now, I will mention that one advantage of using CS5.5 is that you don't have to worry about the Point of Interest for the camera and the Position of the Null being the same value. After Effects will do that for you. So if the Point of Interest was in a special place, it will copy that value to the Null Object. So now we have our Orbit Camera Rig built.

I'll select my Null Object and press R to reveal Orientation and Rotation. And the idea is that we only animate the Y Rotation. If I scrub the value, you can see what happens. As the Null Object rotates on the Y axis, in the Top View you can see the camera moving on a nice arc. And just so I can simplify this view, I'm going to hide all the other parameters I'm not using, and I can do that by pressing Option+Shift and clicking on Orientation, X Rotation, and Z Rotation.

Now I can't accidentally edit the wrong value. So to make an animation where my camera perfectly orbits around my scene, I'll turn on the stopwatch for Y Rotation, set my camera to where I need it to be, go a little later in time, and then just swivel it around, so it's looking at the scene from another viewpoint. We'll set the Work Area and RAM Preview. Now you can see that the camera perfectly orbits the scene without getting closer to the layers in the center, the way it was when we were animating the back of the camera, and I also don't have any Motion Path to worry about.

If you'd like to ease into the last keyframe, just select it, and press F9 to apply the Easy Ease Keyframe Assistant. Now, if that's all you need to do, create a simple orbit animation, you're pretty much done, but let's add a few more tricks to your toolbox.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

54 video lessons · 14585 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 4m 47s
    1. Welcome
      2m 47s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 15m 12s
    1. Comparing 2D and 3D
      5m 30s
    2. Rotation in 3D
      4m 47s
    3. Keyframing in 3D
      4m 55s
  3. 15m 9s
    1. Multi-planing workaround in 2D
      3m 21s
    2. Using 3D views
      6m 45s
    3. Natural multi-planing in 3D
      5m 3s
  4. 13m 9s
    1. Keyframing a fly-in
      5m 24s
    2. Editing 3D motion paths
      5m 43s
    3. Auto-orienting a layer along its path
      2m 2s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Adding a camera to a composition
      9m 0s
    2. Comparing camera presets
      2m 48s
    3. Using the camera tools with the active camera
      4m 48s
    4. Using the camera tools in the alternate views
      4m 50s
    5. 3D view options
      1m 58s
    6. Animating a 3D camera
      6m 20s
    7. Creating an orbit camera rig
      5m 42s
    8. Extending your camera rig
      4m 31s
    9. Auto-orientation with 3D cameras
      7m 33s
    10. Depth of field blur in CS5.5 and later
      5m 47s
    11. Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later
      5m 12s
    12. Iris properties in CS5.5 and later
      6m 16s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Creating a 3D light
      6m 35s
    2. Working with Point lights
      3m 20s
    3. Working with Spot lights
      3m 48s
    4. Creating shadows
      10m 13s
    5. The Light Falloff feature in After Effects CS5.5 and later
      5m 19s
  7. 48m 6s
    1. Enabling ray-traced 3D in CS6
      3m 26s
    2. Extrusions in CS6
      3m 39s
    3. Bevels in CS6
      5m 39s
    4. Bending layers in CS6
      5m 35s
    5. Transparency in CS6
      4m 20s
    6. Refraction in CS6
      4m 6s
    7. Targeting Surfaces in CS6
      3m 23s
    8. Reflections in CS6
      7m 35s
    9. Environment layers in CS6
      5m 40s
    10. Quality vs. speed in CS6
      4m 43s
  8. 11m 33s
    1. Quizzler challenge for CS6
      1m 42s
    2. Quizzler solution for CS6
      9m 51s
  9. 41m 6s
    1. Vanishing Point Exchange in Photoshop Extended
      9m 18s
    2. Vanishing Point Exchange in After Effects
      4m 38s
    3. Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 7s
    4. Creating 3D objects using Repoussé in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 46s
    5. Live Photoshop 3D inside After Effects in CS5.5 and earlier
      8m 17s
  10. 20m 58s
    1. Introduction to dimensional stills
      3m 41s
    2. Cutting up the source image
      2m 25s
    3. Repairing the layers in Photoshop
      8m 26s
    4. Animating the resulting layers in After Effects
      6m 26s
  11. 25m 27s
    1. Rotation vs. orientation
      3m 15s
    2. Understanding the axis modes
      4m 4s
    3. Scaling issues in 3D
      4m 57s
    4. OpenGL acceleration in CS5 and earlier
      6m 23s
    5. Fast previews in CS6 and later
      6m 48s

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