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Roughing out a camera move

From: After Effects Apprentice 16: Creating a Medical Opening Title

Video: Roughing out a camera move

By now, hopefully you've arranged your placeholder layers in what you think might be a pleasing arrangement to move a camera around. In this movie, let's go ahead and craft a camera move. Now again, your arrangement may be different than mine, so your camera move may be different. But I'll show you the mental process I go through in creating a move like this. The first think I want to do is I want to maximize my act of camera display, so, I see how this thing is going to render. I'll go ahead and set it to fit up-to 100% and in the event it is some strange percentage like 63.7%, where I might see some alias lines.

Roughing out a camera move

By now, hopefully you've arranged your placeholder layers in what you think might be a pleasing arrangement to move a camera around. In this movie, let's go ahead and craft a camera move. Now again, your arrangement may be different than mine, so your camera move may be different. But I'll show you the mental process I go through in creating a move like this. The first think I want to do is I want to maximize my act of camera display, so, I see how this thing is going to render. I'll go ahead and set it to fit up-to 100% and in the event it is some strange percentage like 63.7%, where I might see some alias lines.

I'll go into the After Affects Preferences for Previews and set my Zoom Quality to be More Accurate. This will anti-alias the display in the active camera, even if I might enter an odd number like 63%, and I'll click OK. Now I mentioned in the previous movie that I purposely left this HERO still at its default position, which happens to be centered in the composition. It so happens, when I create brand new cameras, they also default to being centered in the composition.

And that will end up with a very nice framing of my final video. So let's go up to Layer>New>Camera, the Camera Type defaults to whatever you set it to last. I normally prefer Two-Node Cameras, because they allow me to steer the point of interest, what the camera is looking at. But in this case, I'm just contemplating a very simple pull back, pan, push-in move, and for that all I need is a One-Node camera, it would be much easier to handle since I'll just be moving the back of the camera, instead of trying to pan it, tilt it and aim it.

So I'll choose One-Node Camera. For presets we typically like for motion graphics work shorter lenses, which give a wider angle of view [00:01:513.66] and therefore more exaggerated to 3D effects, more multi-planing, etcetera. I'll choose that and I'm going to leave the Depth of Field blur off for now and click OK. You notice none of my layers jumped in position, that's because new cameras default again centered in the composition placed where a layer add Z=0, where we left our HERO layer will be visually 100%.

Let me twirl up other layers here, so I can see my markers for my soundtrack. You can also rearrange your layers if you want to, to put the camera closer to your soundtrack, and start planning out my camera move. Well, quite often, a good place to start keyframing is where you plan to end up, your final pose. I mentioned when I was spotting this music that this final cymbal crash might be a really good place to end my camera move, centered on my HERO. I'm going to press the decimal point key just to preview that. (music playing) Yeah, that's my nice final hit.

So with camera selected, I'll press P to reveal position and enable keyframing for the position value. Now by default, After Effects bundles together the X, Y and Z position values into one keyframe. But again, I'm doing a type of movement here where I tend to pull back in Z, pan in X, push forward in Z. I maybe better off separating my dimensions, so I can keyframe X, Y and Z independently. Maybe easier to go ahead and do my eases, and keep constant velocities without worrying about them all being bundled into one value.

So to separate dimensions' four Position, I can right-click on it and choose Separate Dimensions. Now I have independent X, Y and Z values for position and retained my keyframe I set for all three values. Okay, that's my good starting pose. Now I want to go ahead and drag my music up by my camera, so I can see them right next to each other. I also see that my camera is kind of off screen here on my top view, no problem. I'll press C to change the camera tools and just rearrange that display to where I can see everyone clearly.

My right view, I can't see things quite as well, so I'll go ahead and pull back and reposition, so I could see all my layers that view as well, and press V to return to Selection tool. Okay, I have my ending pose. Let's think about my starting pose. We marked this beat right around 101 that indicates where the cymbal first appears in the music. And again, you can hold the Shift Key while dragging the time indicator to snap to those markers. I'll preview that again. (music playing) Lovely place to start a camera move, maybe a pull back to reveal my world.

Okay, let's move my camera over here towards center around, say these three layers. I can go ahead and move it by eye or I can be mathematical about this, select that green extra layer, press P to reveal its position and see that it is an X Position of -1420. I'll enter that for the camera to make sure it's nicely centered. Okay, do I want to be centered in between these three layers or maybe a little higher so as I pull back I am going to see layers 1 and 3 more clearly? I think I'm going to prefer being up like this, to where they are a little bit more featured, little bit of a HERO.

I can always drift down on my center line later. So I'm going to set Extra 1, type P to see its Position. And I see that it is on a Y Position of 100. Okay, we will enter that for the camera here. And again, these are just my set of choices to start off with. You can go ahead and make your own move. Lastly, I think I'd like to start pushed in to where I don't even see even video. I just see my background, which we'll be constructing later, and maybe pull back to reveal a much richer world with videos in it. No problem, I'll just scrub the camera inward until I can no longer see those videos.

So that will be my starting camera position. And now, that I've decided where I am going to start and end, it's time to decide how I'm going to move in between those two points. All right, that's where the cymbal starts. (misic playing) An actual melody starts here. Again, I can drag the time indicator. I can hold the Shift Key to snap or I can take advantage of the keyboard shortcut in After Effects where the K key jumps to visible markers and keyframes later in time. The J key will jump to visible keyframes and markers earlier in time, and now I'm right on that marker.

I want to pull back to where I can see my entire world. So let's go ahead and starts scrubbing that Z value, until I can see a nice arrangement of layers. You can hold down the Shift Key and scrub to pull things back faster. Okay, that's not a bad arrangement of layers, but I want to make sure all my viewers can see my world. So I'll make sure my Active Camera view is selected and press the apostrophe key to see my action and title safe areas for 16x9 widescreen but also for 4x3 center cut.

Quite often, high-def wide screen versions have their left and right sides chopped off to create a standard definition 4x3 version. So I still want to see things of interest inside this 4x3 action-safe areas. That's going to cause me to pull back my camera further than I otherwise would have, just to make sure even standard def viewers see something interesting when the camera pulls back. Scrubbing the Z value automatically creates a keyframe at this time, because I previously enabled keyframing for that value.

Okay, while we're back here, let's go ahead and center up our camera on our world, so we end up centered on our high definition video here at the end. Our ending Y Position is 270 pixels, fine. I'll enter that here; 270, and there's my centered up world. Okay, continuing the theme of symmetry. I see I have one, two and three beats for my pull back from being pushed in on the world to back to seeing all the layers. Let's go ahead and try the same timing for my push into my HERO video.

So I'll go here, hold Shift to snap to the CRASH marker, and press J to jump one, two, three, beats earlier in time. And let's go ahead and keep our same Z position looking at the whole world. That Z position was roughly -1870. I often correct my keyframe values to be whole numbers, not because they render any better, just because they're easier to remember, there we go. Now we have a move like this.

We pull back on the world, pan across it, you can see the multi-planing of my layers being spaced out differently in Z where the foreground layers, the green and orange ones appear to move faster than the background ones, the red and blue one, and even the yellow HERO. And then we end up by pushing in, centered on our final HERO frame.

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