View Full Version : Camera movement

02 February 2005, 05:31 PM
i am wondering how do you guys get your camera moving precisely throught your scene?

I couldn't find a better way then with curves!

02 February 2005, 04:33 AM
Try using a camera rig.

It requires more patience to setup your keyframes, but the moves are.....delightful!

There's an example for Maya on the Hollywood Camerawork site at:

(Make sure your check out the example movies from the course to see it in action...)

Good luck!


02 February 2005, 07:46 AM
thank u for the link

02 February 2005, 06:25 AM
One thing I noticed about the preview clips from the Hollywood Camerawork site was the overzealous movement of the camera. One of the biggest mistakes in filmmaking is to draw attention to the camera. Robert Zemeckis is quoted in a book of mine (I can't find it right now because I just moved) as saying that the camera should always be moving, but that the moves should be invisible. When you draw attention to your camerawork, you draw attention away from your story. Of course, this is a very broad rule, and it can be broken successfully; but in this post-Spielberg era, lean towards the rule, not away from it.

P.S. I have some camera rig/control scripts that I am developing for Maya. I'm really busy right now, so it may take a while to complete them, but I will post them when I am finished.

02 February 2005, 08:53 PM
One of the biggest mistakes in filmmaking is to draw attention to the camera.I fully agree. I'm really tired of the camerawork I see in most amateur (and some pro) CG work. It's like the director is screaming at the audience " Hey look at me!!! I'm directing! Check out this cool camera move! I bet you've never seen anything like THIS before!!!"

My thoughts on moving the camera is that it should work seamlessly with the story, not just be there to show the cool stuff you can do. You want the audience to be fully involved with your film, not constantly stepping back and being conscious that they're watching a film. Remember when you were younger and were scared by a movie or TV show and you were told, "don't worry, it's only a movie"? After that it wasn't as scary, but only because you were "taken out of the movie" by the person telling you to be conscious that it's a movie. It's hard enough getting an audience emotionally involved in a movie without shooting yourself in the foot by showing off behind the camera.


02 February 2005, 12:05 AM
I agree with you guys that the best camerawork is usually that wich you don't notice.
But, considering my poor experience in camerawork, what exactly do you mean by a camera rig, in CG therms? And what benefits would I have using it. I mean, every time I've had to make camerawork I use a free camera moving along a spline (and that is quite unnatural on most cases).
I use 3d studio, so I can't check the maya example on hollywood camera work.

02 February 2005, 02:08 AM
Hi tzunami4you and razhel,

I'm Per Holmes, the person behind the Hollywood Camera Work DVD Set. The purpose of building a rig really just is that placing a camera on a spline or keyframing it directly often produces very unnatural camera movements that couldn't be accomplished in real life. In order to do "cinematic" style camera work in 3D it's a common solution to build a "rig" that mimics a real dolly/crane, and constrains the camera movements to what would be possible in the physical world.

This means that instead of animating the camera directly, or attaching it to a spline, you build a dolly/crane in 3D complete with dolly-base that can track left/right, a boom that can swing left/right/up/down, and then attach the camera to the end of the boom. In order to do camera-moves, you then position the dolly the same way you would on a film-set, and animate the dolly/crane, and the camera's rotation in order to produce moves. It takes a little getting used to, but the result is camera work that feels physical.

This of course is best suited to dramatic and film-style camera work. If you need to do amazing fly-bys you still need to use splines, but the key again to making it look real is to constrain it to parameters you would have in the physical world, like thinking that your spline is an airplane flight-path, attach a dummy "airplane" object to the spline, attach the camera to the "airplane", and animate pan/tilt directly. By stacking or layering your camera-setup like this, you can fly the "airplane", add another layer that has a constant turbulent wobble, and a separate layer where you pan/tilt. This makes it much easier to control moves, and infinitely easier to tweak them.

Also, when using splines, try to keep them as smooth as possible (and straight if possible). In addition, use as few keyframes as possible -- you can always smell keyframes, like there's a bump or sudden control in the motion. It's better to spend extra time fine-tuning tangent-weights to create smooth moves.

The download at explains how to build a virtual dolly/crane. Even though the sample is for Maya, it's really not tied to any platform, and is very easy to build, as the Word-doc explains.

Reading the rest of this thread, I feel I should drop in a word that the purpose of the course is to do the most meaningful camera work. There are a high number of emotions that can only be created with camera work -- for instance if a character has realized something, there's nothing that's in your power as an animator to create that feeling, but pushing the camera in slowly. The samples clips on the website are about the particular techniques they are about!

But in fact, the first two volumes (which are also the longest), deal exclusively with stationary blocking, in order to create the best and most meaningful camera-work with the camera welded to the floor. This is the basis of all camera-work, and if you can't do that, camera moves run the danger of being all fluff.

But above that, there's production-value, and the feeling of watching the story from an elegant and luxurious and subjective place. Sometimes it's supposed to be invisible, sometimes it's not, but it's very central to the whole motion picture experience. Especially in animation it's important because nothing in the scene moves by itself. A minimalistic approach therefore hurts animation more than live-action. And as Brad from DW could testify, many animators would go further just by doing better camera work.

Hi Brad, hope you're doing well!


Per Holmes (

02 February 2005, 04:46 AM
To clarify - one of the reasons that I point people to Per's course is that with a lot of CG animated pieces they look OK while the camera is locked, then once the camera starts moving the film making turns to crap. A lot of the movement is clumsy & worse than being unmotivated, it is terribly distracting & actually confuses/undermines the narrative.

If you're going to move the camera, at least do it properly.

Per's course is the best one I've seen for teaching film makers different blocking/staging camera techniques that they can use to support or enhance the narrative. It's your call on when & how you use them.

The camera work should always support the narrative the same way a score does. As you probably wouldn't have all the instruments in an orchestra blasting away at full tilt all the time, you probably won't have the camera swooping, whipping & pushing all the time - instead you balance the intensity of the camera movement to suit the scene.
(intensity = 0 is a totally valid choice - just make a conscious choice.)

To abuse another analogy, salt is a crucial ingredient in cooking - but it's using the appropriate amount in the appropriate situation that counts...and when in doubt...always use less.

Your taste buds may vary. ;)

BTW if Zemeckis truly was the source of the quote about always moving cameras, I'd take that with a whole cup of salt, as one of his classic staging techniques is locking the camera (with say a 20mm lens on it) & having two characters move in & out of camera in Z space. Check out any of the BTTF movies with Doc & Marty or Marty & George. One character will come into FG while other moves away into BG, then moves back to join other in FG, or they even swap positions - all in one looooooong take. Great stuff!


02 February 2005, 09:25 AM
very interesting point of view!
i wish i had the money and the possibility to get those dvd's
oh well i'll just have to stick around this thread and learn as much as i can

thanks for all the replies and keep them coming :thumbsup:

02 February 2005, 12:39 PM
Thanks Per for that nice explanation :)
I said before that good camera work is the one you dont notice too much. But of course, that doesn't mean it's got to be static cameras all over a movie. An action sequence from a John Woo movie (a car chase for example) wouldn't look that good without moving cameras and fast cuts. But then, I remember watching a french movie, Vidoq I think it was named, that just wouldn't let the camera static. It kind of added tension even to the most quiet dialogue between characters. I mean, heavy camera movements seem to blend well with fast paced action, while doing the same in a dialogue is really noticeable.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and I really know nothing about cinematography :shrug:

02 February 2005, 07:30 PM
I just want to point out that the "Hollywood Camerawork" videos seem really great. In my comments about camera moves I wasn't talking about those, just about excessive or inappropriate moves in general. I shouldn't have left the first part of the quote in (and I've since removed it).

So keep up the good work Per!!!


02 February 2005, 11:25 PM
FYI as an interesting adjunct to my "musical score/camerawork" metaphor earlier...we were taking to Marty Scorsese today and he said that on Raging Bull, the camerawork of the fight scenes was treated like each shot was a bar of music with 3 or 4 punches & also that he's sometimes played music on the set to "help" with the camera moves.

What a fascinating & humble guy. Genius. Fingers crossed for him on Sunday!


02 February 2005, 12:02 AM
FYI as an interesting adjunct to my "musical score/camerawork" metaphor earlier...we were taking to Marty Scorsese today and he said that on Raging Bull, the camerawork of the fight scenes was treated like each shot was a bar of music with 3 or 4 punches & also that he's sometimes played music on the set to "help" with the camera moves.

What a fascinating & humble guy. Genius. Fingers crossed for him on Sunday!

BradWell, after all, he's a big fan of movie history, and that music technique was used pretty regularly until sound came in and made it more difficult. For instance there's a great scene in "The Big Parade" where the WWI soldiers marching through the forest was filmed to a drum beat. (And for those of you in Los Angeles: )


09 September 2005, 11:13 PM
Can't say I'm a master at anything, but what I do is to rig up the set with fixed camera positions and generally those cameras do not move.

09 September 2005, 01:57 PM
Hey, I know it's a little off the main topic, but I just wanted to warn everyone about a situation I've recently had on E-bay. A few weeks ago, I tried to buy Hollywood Camera Work there, and got ripped off by a guy named Rob Balis (from Bloomfield, NJ) for over $200. I paid by money order, and then the guy disappears from e-bay (no longer a registered user). I never received my discs, and doubt I ever will.

At the time of sale, his user name was ToledoRocket21, but I have traced him to at least two other user names. He seems to switch usernames every couple of weeks. He'll run a bunch of short auctions, and then as soon as those auctions are up, he disappears and starts a new identity. The first thing he always does is buys a bunch of cheap $.99 items that give him immediate positive feedback. Then he sets up shop and starts his scam all over again.

The reason I'm mentioning all this is that he continues to sell Hollywood Camera Work under different identities, and he continues to rip people off. So, if you're looking to buy it cheap on e-bay, I'd be sure to research the seller, make sure that it IS NOT Rob Balis...and whatever you do...DON'T SEND A MONEY ORDER!

For more info on this guy, you can check out this list of complaints against him: (

Thanks everyone!
I just don't want anyone else to get screwed over.

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