In this video, Chris Murray provides a crash course in old school photography that will give you a solid foundation when using 3ds Max's physcial camera. With these photographic principles, you can use 3ds Max cameras like real world cameras and achieve effects like bokeh and depth of field.
- [Instructor] While technically not a special effect good photography, whether with a real camera or whether with a virtual camera in 3ds Max, takes deliberate planning. Just like special effects good camera work can elevate your imagery from just plain old images to well structured, well thought out, vignettes. Modern cameras today are really computers much like our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In fact the advent of high quality DSLR cameras and smartphones has, in my opinion, really diminished our ability to take quality photographs.
Many times picture quality is not determined by the quality of the image but by the quality of the setup of the camera and this can only be accomplished by a human. When it comes to photography I frequently meet people who feel that they are the ones who are controlled by their camera. It should be the other way around. 3ds Max comes with a really powerful physical camera that works just like a real world photographic camera. But it does take a little bit of understanding about photography to use this object in the scene.
Let's jump into real world photography in 3ds Max. So if you haven't done so already let's go ahead and open up the exercise file for this class. It can be found under file, open, and we're looking for zero four zero one camera dof, which stands for depth of field. So camera dof begin. So go ahead and open that file. And we should get this view of some pillars and the sculpture of a lion.
I'd like to thank Sample and Hold in the UK for this lion model and making it available for this course and exercise. So before we actually begin working with the camera in 3ds Max I'd like to view a file here and it can be found in the root of the scene assets folder of the exercise file that's called camera settings. And this really is a good overview of how a camera system works in general. If you're not used to lens based photography you really should associate yourself with these principals in general.
The physical camera in Max, there's really two types of cameras in Max. There's a standard camera which is kind of a legacy camera from, you know, the older versions of 3ds Max. And then there's this newer, more physically based, camera which works like a real world camera. And this does a couple of different things in 3ds Max. First it controls, obviously, how much light the camera is seeing. There are a couple of different places in 3ds Max where you can control the quality or lighting of the image. And if you don't understand which part of the program is controlling what you can be fighting against each part of the program.
You will be adjusting settings that make no sense to you but for some reason look right and you'll never be able to replicate those things again because you don't know why things are happening. So it's really important to familiarize yourself with this type of workflow if you're going to use real world cameras. Using physical, real world, cameras give you a lot more control over what you're seeing in the scene and the emphasis there is, you have control. The computer does not have control. You're the one making the creative decision.
So, across the top two rows, really three rows, you see the correlation between what we call the aperture, or the f-stop, and the lens opening, which is the size of the hole that's letting light into the lens. Or letting light into the virtual camera in 3ds Max. And the very top row is the effect on the scene or the effect on the subject matter. So on the left you have f one point four and your subject matter is very in focus but your background is completely out of focus.
Everybody likes these really short depth of field shots with, you know, just a little bit of things in focus and a little bit of things out of focus. These are the settings that you're going to want to choose. Probably f one, f two, or f two point eight. Even as high as f four. And you can see that you're going to get those depth of field shots that everybody likes. And you can see the effect of the amount of light that's being lit into the back of the camera. So as we moved from the left to the right you can see the hole gets smaller and conversely the number gets bigger.
You know when I was learning photography that was always kind of a interesting thing and made it easier to remember. Bigger the number the smaller the hole. It also controls the depth of field. So if you have a big number you have a small hole. You have a really broad range of focus. Everything is going to be in focus approaching that. The next thing we're going to see in 3ds Max's physical camera is the shutter speed. The shutter speed is related to how long that hole is open that we talked about on the first couple of rows there.
In hundredths or thousandths of seconds. If it's on the right side, if it's open a half of a second, anything that's moving in the scene is going to be blurry. If it's only open for a thousandth of a second everything we see is going to be very sharply in focus. And in a virtual digital camera this isn't really going to apply as much because motion blur works differently in 3ds Max than it does with the human eye or with the camera itself. So, this in 3ds Max it's really another setting for the amount of light that's getting into the camera.
Finally, and this is actually where I start my photography settings work, and that is ISO. This used to be related to the film speed when we had actual film that would be developed in a chemical photo lab. The ISO really determines the speed of the film in terms of how quickly it can absorb light or how much light it can absorb in general. A higher number of ISO is great for low light but you really get lots of grain and that's because of the emulsion on the back of the film plate.
With a very low ISO you need a lot of light but you get a very clean image. So this is actually where I start working with the camera and they're really important to working with your exposures, working with your focus, and I'll show you where all of these are in 3ds Max. Okay, so, let's go ahead and close this graphic and jump right into working with the camera. So, here we have the scene and if it looks like it's a poorly framed, and poorly laid out scene, that's because it is.
I wanted to start with some place that really didn't work out to well so that we could tweak it and make it our own. The first thing we want to do is start framing our scene before we start making any basic camera decisions. We're going to do framing tools. We're going to cover setting up the camera properly and getting depth of field and exposure and all that stuff going. But before we do that we really want to make sure that we have the tools available to us to actually frame our shots properly. The first we're going to do is turn on safe frame and this is the one that most people are familiar with.
If you go to the viewport label of the physical camera, which should be selected, and choose show safe frames this actually shows us some safe frames around the edge of the camera. Almost everybody is pretty much familiar with this. It is related to the render output settings so whatever render output settings we have in the render dialog box, whatever we have set here, this is how the safe frames will be determined. So if we are shooting, and right now we're kind of in an HD format, if I just go to a custom, you know, 640 by 480 format.
I think everybody knows that this changes to that particular shape and then gives us black bars and whatever is not in the frame itself. So that's the first place to start if you do nothing else you should be doing that. But there are a couple of other tools that we can use to help us frame our shots besides safe frame. So to find those let's go up to the high quality drop down menu in your viewport label and we want to choose viewport global settings. And from here we will choose safe frames. And this is where we can set up the additional settings within safe frame.
These are just the default settings here. But the one I want to draw your attention to is right here. It's called a 12 field grid and we can either do a four by three or a 12 by nine. And we'll go ahead and turn that on and we'll say okay. And now you can see we get a grid overlay on top of our view. And this is very helpful. This is similar to what you might see in your camera lens, if you have a DSLR or an SLR, you will see this probably in the field of view or it'll at least be an option. The second option for doing this actually occurs on the camera.
So on the viewport label where it says physical camera go ahead and click on this. And choose select camera from this dropdown menu and now go over to the modify command panel. And there's a checkbox here that says show horizon line. And if our camera is straight and level we will see a black line in the background that shows us, one, where the horizon is relative to the camera, and two, if we're level. So even though I have some horizontal lines, if you're looking at the bottom of the screen, I have some horizontal lines coming in here that don't appear to be level.
It does appear that my camera is indeed level to the horizon. So this really indicates to me that this is more of a camera placement issue than it is my camera is actually tilted. I wouldn't want to tilt my camera to fix this I would want to reposition my camera. So let's actually go ahead and start doing that. Now I'm in a physical camera. If you prefer to hit the p key and then reposition and then create a new camera that's fine. I actually recommend that we're just going to move this camera around. So just moving the middle mouse button I'm going to start moving and positioning my camera.
I'm going to use the dolly command here to move the camera closer to the lion. And we'll just kind of set it up here. Maybe we'll get even a little bit closer. When I'm moving around I do want to make sure that I'm going to hit the t key just to double check and see where my target is. 'Cause I am using a target camera. So I've moved things around. You can see that originally I was looking right at the nose of the lion and now I'm a little bit off.
But that's okay I just want to make sure that my target isn't like way off into the distance and I've only been using the camera. Okay I'm going to finish positioning my camera a little bit. I'm going to probably use the rule of thirds. Which is a nice rule of thumb for doing composition within the frame of a camera lens. I'm going to go ahead and turn off my safe frames 'cause I'm using the grid. Or maybe I have to have them both on for that. I guess I probably do. Alright we'll just leave it on for now. I'm positioning where these lines intersect.
I'm roughly going to position the eye of the lion right there. I'll base my composition off of that. Often times, this is very well researched, if you look at animated feature film composition the rule of thirds is a strong method that they use for composing their images. Okay, so now that we have our camera in position, and the reason I've positioned the camera here, is that I want the lion framed on the left and I want to be able to see down the back of the lion because we're going to start introducing depth of field here in a few minutes.
I'm going to go ahead and expand my command panel here so that we can see more of the camera controls all at once. And let's go ahead and open up depth of field for now. So this will be good. Okay. Now that we've got this in here we need to start making a decision about camera settings. And I would like to say one thing. I've already changed this when I created the camera but whenever you create a new camera in 3ds Max, especially with the standard camera, it gives you a default width of the camera.
And that's about 40 or 45 degrees. If you take nothing else away from this particular course please just change the default field of view of the camera. Because if you put a camera in your scene and you don't change anything that just shows that you're not thinking about the camera. And thinking about the camera is probably the single easiest thing that you can do to improve the quality of your renderings. So we're going to go ahead and make some very conscious decisions about our camera here. I have two different types of cameras that I work with.
I usually work with Nikon or I work with a Lumix GH5. And both of those cameras are great but each one is completely different. It all depends on their sensor. So the first preset we can check here is determining which camera we're using. If I'm using Nikon I do the APS-C Nikon. Or if I'm doing a four thirds, which is what my Lumix is, that's the one I'll choose. And you really should make a decision here what it is that you're using. If you're using a full frame Nikon, like a d800, you would probably use a full frame setting here.
But, either way, make a decision. Because this sets up how the camera works for everything else. So I'm going to go ahead and choose a Nikon APS-C. And you can see it immediately changes the framing because it changes the film back. It changes what the sensor will actually see. So you may have to do a readjustment. Which, of course, I'm going to do. I'm also going to do a little orbit around to the side here so I can see a little bit better. And I'm going to go ahead and back the camera up just a little bit. So you can see, just by choosing a preset, what type of impact it's going to have on a composition in your scene.
The next thing we want to choose is the focal length, or the field of view, depending on what setting you work with. I prefer the focal length because this relates to the actual lens. I have a number of Nikon lenses. For example I have a 24 millimeter lens. And I can pop that in there and I know that that's the lens that I'm used to seeing with my human eye through my Nikon. Or I could go back to a 50 millimeter lens here. I could also go someplace in between to a lens that doesn't really exist. That's totally okay.
You might want to avoid that if your doing compositing with real world photographs because if you have the information from real world photographs you can match that up here and your probability of success will be much better. So I'm going to go ahead and stick with a 35 millimeter lens. And I'm going to reposition my camera yet again. I'm going to avoid zoom at this point. This is analogous to a digital zoom that you might have in a camera or a zoom lens. I'm actually going to just leave that alone for right now. So, here we are with aperture, and again these are the f numbers that I talked about on the graphic at the beginning.
I'm actually going to avoid this one for right now because I prefer to start working with my exposure settings in different places. I actually want to use ISO. And ISO occurs down here. Now you'll notice that everything is grayed out and this is where we have to make our second decision. And that is about exposure control. So, right now I don't have current exposure control installed here. So to just install exposure control I'm just going to click this button and it will replace the existing exposure control and, boom, everything blows out.
And that's because I've now rested control away from 3ds Max's automatic exposure control and I've taken control of it over here. In fact if we go over to the rendering drop down, and look at exposure control, you can see it says physical camera exposure control. If I take control back away from the camera, and go back to automatic exposure control, that's what we were working with before. So you can see that if you're over here working with exposure control and you're adjusting automatic exposure control parameters, which I find ironic, you don't know who's in control of what.
So I'm going to go ahead and leave it at physical camera exposure control. And you can see that I will gain control of exposure back over here. So here's the ISO number that we were referring to on the graphic. And remember the lower the number the higher quality the image. The more light you're going to need. I normally start my ISO's at about 800. And this is because, when I learned to actually develop film and think about how the light was actually working in the view, this was always the starting point of a lot of my film decisions.
So once I start here then I can go up and start adjusting aperture and shutter speed. So let's talk about shutter speed. That's next. Shutter is right here. The default is frames and I prefer to use one one-thousandths of seconds. And this gives me control just like I'm familiar with on my lens. And believe me, if you start using Max's cameras you'll actually become a better real world photographer as well, because you'll have a better understanding of what's going on here. Now, normally I try to keep the ISO a real world number and I try to keep the aperture a real world number.
Duration, I don't really care about that. This is, you know, how long the iris is, quote unquote, open. And I'm really more interested in: Does this look right? So I'm willing to be more unrealistic with numbers here, than I am in the other two places, just because it helps me maintain control. So, now that I have a fairly realistic exposure let's go ahead and adjust an aperture. So if I want really close depth of field, right now it's really low, maybe I'll do one point two. You'll notice that I don't see any depth of field in here.
Nothing's blurry. That's because we actually have to turn it on. So once I turn on depth of field, we'll give it a chance to settle, and you can see the background going out of focus. Now we'll go ahead and turn off safe frame 'cause I don't need it right now. And so now we can see that the background is really going out of focus. It's not putting the actual background environment out of focus. That's a different issue. But for right now you can see that the geometry on the pillars in the background is nice and blurry. And as I bring this up, say to eight point zero, the number's getting bigger so the amount of light getting into the camera is less.
So I need to slow down the shutter speed a little bit. Oops, I went too far. And I'm still getting a little bit of blurring in the back but not much. So you can see how these two numbers are related. So if I want really heavy depth of field blur I'm going to make the aperture much smaller. There are a couple lenses out there that let you go really small. That's what we call a fast lens. And so we'll bring this up here quite a bit. Let's see. So there's a point nine eight lens.
And we're getting really tight depth of field. And the view on the lion looks really good. So, the last part of the equation for working with camera lenses is exposure. And we've already been talking about exposure here generally in terms of ISO, and how it relates to shutter speeds, and apertures, and things like that. But ultimately, you know, we're going to have to put pixels on a screen and we need control over that. We just want to make sure that we understand how that correlates to the image that we're creating.
So, I'm going to go up and go to the rendering drop down menu and I'm going to open up exposure control. And, again, this is kind of where we started, right? When we first opened this file it was set to automatic exposure control and that means that the computer had complete control over the final quality of your image. Here, this is where you're in control. And there are a couple settings here that we can work with even though most of the exposure's being done on the camera.
It's important to kind of take a look at that. To do this I'm going to open up just a preview window. An active shading window. It's not a final render window at all. If we go the render setup dialog box we can see where this has been set up. If you haven't tried this out you may want to try it out. It's not a requirement for doing this section but it just gives us another perspective as to what we're doing. So I've set the target render to ActiveShade mode. Originally it was the production rendering mode. And our renderer for ActiveShade will be the ART renderer. And rendering quality is just set to medium or draft.
And under common I'm going to change our output size from 1080p down to something small like 480 since we're just doing previews. And we'll go ahead and click render. Now what the ActiveShade rendering gives us, is it gives us a live window. I don't have to click the re-render button for any of this. This is very useful for doing the camera composition that we were doing earlier. It's a good, close, approximation for when we start rendering. We'll probably want to do separate renders as well.
So, now that I have the ActiveShade window open I don't want to close it. I'll go ahead and minimize the render dialog box. I can tell that this is a live window because, if I get the orbit camera and I move around, you can see that it's automatically updating everything live and we can see it directly in frame. We're also able to discern our depth of field in here. So if we change our depth of field settings on the camera we'll be able to do that. The small window as you can stand is better because it will render and update faster. I could have had a 1080p window completely open but it would be refreshing that every time.
So, this is where we can kind of go back and forth between our exposure settings. The Max viewports are very good but ultimately they are not the final arbiter of what we're going to see when we render pixels. So, once you get kind of close with your viewport settings up here is where you can then revisit your exposure settings on the camera. So with exposure this is where we can adjust our ISO setting. Remember, from the chart at the beginning of the course, the lower the ISO the more light you need. The higher the ISO the less light you need.
So if we want to drop this down maybe to 200 you can see that everything's going to get a little bit darker. Both in the viewport and in ActiveShade. And I'm kind of sticking to numbers that I'm used to working with in real world ISO's. So, we've got a pretty good amount of exposure there. I can also do a render preview here if I wanted. And it's going to give us fairly similar imagery here. The difference is, with ActiveShade, you know obviously it's a live render and will completely continue to update as we move along.
So the last thing we want to look at down here is our image control. And we have global exposure right here but this won't change anything, again, because we're using the physical camera controls if they're available. So, you see, under white balance we have white balance controls here and we have white balance controls over here. Since the camera has control right now this is where all of the white balance is going to be done. The cool thing about this is, if you have more than one camera in the scene, you can do exposure control per camera.
If you have tons of cameras in the scene, and you want to really have a consistent look and feel for your exposure control, you can give exposure control over to the exposure control on this menu. And it'll do the same exposure for all of the cameras in your scene. But, regardless, I want to finish up by talking about image control right here. This is something that I almost always visit when I'm working with my scenes. I've zeroed out everything on image control and you can see my screen has gone completely blank.
And that's because I've killed all of the highlights, all of the midtones, and all of the shadows. And then slowly I can begin to bring these up and make individual decisions about what it is that I want to see. If I want to punch the shadows. Punch the midtones. This will get me much more control that I'm used to having if I'm, you know, maybe doing some Photoshop like effects or something like that. Again it's just all this control is right within the view of the camera. I don't have to constantly click the render button to see those updates.
Of course, since we're working specifically with the camera I can always go back to the camera and adjust any settings I need to. If my depth of field is too tight or too loose I can change it up. We'll go ahead and set the f-stop to four point o and we'll give it a chance to re-render. You can see that it's re-rendering there. You'll see my viewport went completely black or almost completely black. That's because we have changed the amount of light that's actually getting into the lens. So again we can adjust our settings here.
So, it's really important to understand that when you're using a physical camera in 3ds Max that you're the one that's in control. That's why that camera is there. You get control over field of view. You get control over f-stop. You get control over shutter speed, ISO, and then of course highlights, midtones, and shadows. That's the way a real camera works. And I guarantee you if you're able to master these things, in 3ds Max, the quality of your images are going to really elevate almost immediately just because you're the one that is making the creative decisions behind the lens.
Hopefully you've come out of this session with a greater understanding of how real world cameras work in general. And how they apply themselves to the physical camera in 3ds Max. We've learned how to effectively use depth of field. Discussed the lens settings. Aperture and shutter settings. And we know how to employ exposure control. Both in the camera and in the scene to give you better control when creating really dynamic images.
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