Monday, January 4, 2010

How Do You Go About Planning an Action that Already Has a Camera Moving?

Ah, the camera. Sometimes it's your best friend, and other times it's your worst enemy.

The camera is a very interesting part of what we do because it's one of the things that changes the workflow between different mediums. In hand-drawn animation, you're actually drawing the camera move and having to consider that move along with your character movements. In stop-mo, you're moving that camera one frame at a time. And then in CG animation, you have in-game videogame animation, live-action feature animation (such as Transformers) and all-CG work (cinematics, feature animation, etc.).

With in-game videogame work, you often have to animate as though the player can place the camera anywhere they want! Obviously, this is very tricky for the animator, and means that you really have to work hard to make sure that your animation works as well as possible from all angles.

With live-action feature work, the camera is usually locked, for the most part. If you're putting a giant robot into a scene that has already been filmed in the real world, with a real environment and real actors, then the camera is generally impossible to change or edit. If it's important to the scene and the studio has enough of a budget to allow for an altered camera (which would mean painting in a new background frame-by-frame), then every once in a while you can add a camera move or something, but this is pretty rare.

Because of that, part of your job as a live-action animator is to carefully create your character's performance in a way that makes it feel as though he was in the scene when it was filmed. If the camera moves, then you need to have your character move a little bit ahead of time, so it feels like the camera-man is following your action with his camera, etc. This is an art, in and of itself, and can often be an extremely challenging aspect of a scene, particularly an action-heavy scene with an active dynamic camera. It's fun, though! It's a big puzzle to put together.

For all-CG work (feature animation, cinematics, etc.), the camera is usually created by a layout department or camera department, but can also often be edited (or created) by the animator. In these cases, it is always best to try to determine your complete camera move ahead of time, and if at all possible, try to have that camera move approved and locked down.

You'll want to approach any scene with an eye towards staging and composition, silhouette and clarity. This is largely impossible to do without knowing exactly where your camera is, and how it will be moving.

If it is up to you to create the camera, then, my advice is to figure out your camera moves ahead of time (using just pawn animation, or the simplest of rough blocking), and to avoid starting any "real" animation until that camera is at least tentatively approved.

Hope that helps!

Shawn :)


Herman Gonzales said...

Great Question.. Your Hardcore Shawn,the "versatility" you covered all the bases. Thanks and Happy New Year.

Ty Carrick said...

Great post! Got lots of great information to help us beginning animators understand what to look for in the real world!

Copper said...

I was actually about to ask someone a question like this. I was wondering if a CG animator is responsible for the camerawork as well. So possibly if he wants to, but there's a whole department that handles that if he doesn't want to? Is that right?

Copper said...

that is, there's a whole dept. in the larger studios.

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