Join Donovan Keith for an in-depth discussion in this video Animating a snap zoom, part of Camera Animation with CINEMA 4D.
- A zoom lens allows a camera to appear to travel an incredible distance in a very short period of time. In this video, we'll be animating a snap zoom that looks like this. This sort of very stylized zoom is probably most closely associated with '70s kung fu films. But the techniques that you learn re-creating this can be applied to a wide variety of shots. So let's go ahead and open up our starting file and take a look at what we have.
We've got a fairly static camera, static character, and there's a quick head rotation about 100 frames in. So what we're gonna do is animate a camera that's slowly zooming in and then it's going to react to the movement of our character here. So to animate focal length, first you wanna make sure you've got your camera active. And typically, you wanna be as tight as your camera is ever going to be. And for me, that's gonna be a super telephoto or a 300 millimeter lens. And you wanna make sure that your framing is rock solid at that most zoomed-in point because you have very little room for error when you've got a lens that's zoomed this much.
Any, just few degrees of change in your camera angle will completely change what you're focused on at that zoom. So once you've got that end result in mind and it's looking good, you can then animate the positioning of anything else. And I've done a little trick here where I used an aim target at the center of my character here, so I don't have to worry about exactly positioning this. Now, let's go ahead and animate our focal length. So I'm gonna start with a super wide angle lens. And I've also got a little cheat sheet for myself in my timeline, which is that I've created some markers saying what I want each key to be and where I want it to be.
So I'm gonna start with a 15 millimeter lens and I'm gonna click on this little record dot next to my focal length. Now, I'm gonna just press play and what we wanna do is gradually move our focus into our character. So I'm gonna go to frame 100 here and I'm gonna set my focal length to 80 millimeters and add another key. So now we've got a nice, slow zoom pushing into our character. We then see that the character whips their head to the side, looking at us. So what we wanna do is we wanna hold our camera here for a bit, let that movement happen, let the viewer take it in, and then react to that.
So I'm gonna go to frame 112 here and I'm gonna record a second key frame of 80 millimeters. So basically what we're doing is we're now saying, "All right, hold this focal length for a period of frames for our viewer to be able to figure out what's going on." Then shortly after that head whip, at frame 117, I'm gonna change from a portrait to a super telephoto, an incredibly long lens that is focusing right on these details.
And I'm gonna add a key. Now, let's just play through this again and see what we have now. Slow zoom in, quick rotate, and then the camera reacts by pushing in even harder to really emphasize those glaring eyes. I'd say it looks pretty good. I'm gonna select my camera here and I'm gonna hit command or control A to select all my keys, and I'm gonna change to linear interpolation just because I think that is a better looking interpolation for these keys. Feel free to go in there, play around with that F curve interpolation to get something that you like a little bit better.
Now, in 3D animation, zooms aren't technically necessary because you can move your camera as quickly as you want through space without any concern for how your cameraman's gonna pull that off. But even though you have unlimited freedom with your virtual camera, you typically want to mimic a real-world camera and its limitations as closely as possible, as viewers have become quite accustomed to this over time. And while we don't technically need to use a zoom, it can still be used for great stylistic effect, like in this shot here.
- Animating simple camera moves: pans, zooms, and more
- Animating custom camera rigs
- Smoothing camera moves with Align to Spline
- Simulating first-person point of view
- Adding sweeping crane shots
- Creating trailing cameras and fly-through shots
- Moving the camera with the Camera Morph tag