Camera Animation

Push the Camera In to Emphasize Drama

Pushing the camera in means simply to zoom the camera in closer to emphasize a dramatic moment. This can be done in 2D animation (such as Flash) by simply enlarging the image, or in 3D animation by zooming the camera in or moving the camera closer to the object of interest. Pushing the camera is normally done with a character’s face as the goal, but it is important not to overuse this technique, so that it does not become too common and lose the sense of drama attached to it.

Pull Focus to Emphasize Background

Pulling Focus so that the foreground becomes slightly blurry, and the background sharpens, is used to lead the viewers eye to something going on in the background. For example, a storm could be rolling in, an enemy ship could be appearing on the horizon, or another character could be watching from a distance. Pulling the Focus is a technique that should only be used when there is a good reason for it that is important to the story. In the example at right, focus has been pulled so that the final box (blue) is in sharp focus, and the closest objects are blurred-out.

Light the Subject with Classical Lighting

If you can’t see the animation, it doesn’t matter how good the camera work is. Utilize classical lighting principles unless you have a good reason not to. Classical lighting setup is: a key light, a back light, and a fill light. Too many dark shadows in the scene will not add to the allure of your shot. In 2D animation, the equivalent message would be to keep the animation bright and clear enough so that it “reads”. At right is a sphere with a Key light in front for our main light, a Back light angled from the rear to help make the sphere stand out against the background, and a Fill light filling in the shadows on the left.

Block Moves Before Shooting

Look for the best angles and compositions. Think through how you will move from the first shot to the next shot, don’t make these transitions haphazardly. This is a place where scrubbing the timeline can be a real help – make sure each scene looks pretty good, and the transitions from scene to scene look good, before taking the time to render.

Look for good Silhouettes

Good silhouettes have plenty of information and help to emphasize what the character is doing – they help the scene “read”. Consider a camera following a car – the 3/4 view of the car is a lot more interesting than a view of the cars backside, because it is a more interesting silhouette. Some animators will adjust lighting and materials so that all they see are silhouettes to make achieving strong silhouettes easier. Once the silhouettes are satisfactory, the lights and materials go back on.

Use Dutch Angle to make scenes more interesting

Dutch Angle is where the camera is tilted so that the horizon line is no longer flat. This can be use to suggest drunkenness, dreamlike states, or similar wild / unorthodox moments in the animation. The Batman TV series often incorporated Dutch Angle for the fight scenes.

Use Long Shots to Establish the Scene

Long shots are great for telling the audience where the action is taking place, and can help to establish the mood – but use them sparingly. I find novice animators staying wide for the majority of the animation, as the camera follows tiny jets or spaceships or other subjects as they move in the distance. Move the camera closer to these subjects once the shot has been established in order to bring the viewer into the action. When you do bring the camera in tight, it is also a good time to fade in or increase the sound of the immediate environment where the action is.

Vary the Camera Angles to Keep it Interesting

Vary the Camera’s angle upon the subject – don’t keep a static angle too long. The same viewing

angle for too many frames looks flat and boring. Study car chase scenes from classic movies; you’ll see the camera follow the action from behind the cars, from the front, sides, and different angles in-between.