Animating the 3D Camera

Not only can you move 2D and 3D objects in 3D space, but you can also move and animate your camera in this 3D space as well. This makes for impressive animatics and is also a great way to show off imported 3D objects. If the first frame does not do justice to your 3D camera movement in a printed or PDF version of your storyboard, you can add snapshots to better illustrate those wide sweeping, 3D camera movements.

This section includes the following topics:

How to Animate the 3D Camera
Using the Camera Manipulators
Colour Coding
Camera Moves

How to Animate the 3D Camera

To animate the 3D camera:

  1. Be sure you are in the Camera view and that your scene is enabled for 3D. You can also use the Top and Side views for further clarity if needed.
  1. In the Tool Properties panel, click the Add Keyframe button. Even if the playhead is not at the start of the currently selected panel, a keyframe will be added to the first frame of that panel.


NOTE: If the Timeline view is not displayed, select Windows > Timeline.
  1. In the Camera view, use the Camera tool and adjust the camera manipulators to change the camera‘s position and rotation—see Rotating the Camera.
  1. Do one of the following:
In the Timeline view, the playhead to the frame on which where you want to place your final camera position. In the Tool Properties panel, click the Add Keyframe button to current frame.
Click the Add Keyframe button at the end of current panel.

A keyframe is added to the selected location.

  1. In the Camera view, with the Camera tool selected, use the camera manipulators to move the camera into its final position. If you do not see any manipulators in the Camera view, your second keyframe might not be selected in the Timeline view.

NOTE: If the playhead is not at the correct keyframe, in the Tool Properties panel, click the Go to Selected Keyframe button to move your playhead there.
  1. Continue to adjust your camera move until you are satisfied. In the Timeline view, use the red playhead to scrub back and forth between keyframes to view the smooth, interpolated movement. Adjust the camera position on the first or last frame or add more keyframes between the first and last keyframes.

From the Camera view Status Bar, use the Camera Mask to get a better sense of what the exact scene framing will look like.

For information about the options available in the Camera tool’s Tool Properties, see Camera Tool Properties.

Using the Camera Manipulators

To reiterate, the camera manipulators will only appear in the Camera view if keyframes have been added to a panel in the Timeline and the current frame is the same as the frame of the selected keyframe. You can select a camera keyframe without moving the playhead. The camera manipulator looks like a circle with four points dotting the circumference and a single point in the centre. If you see arrows in the centre of the manipulator instead of points, you are in the Stage view and not in the Camera view. The Stage view is great for viewing your 3D objects in relation to one another, but not as accurate as the Camera view for your storyboard framing.

This section includes the following topics:

Colour Coding
Camera Moves
Rotating the Camera
Adding Control Points

Colour Coding

In the Timeline view, if you have the first keyframe of the panel selected, then the rectangle that defines the camera frame, along with a large X that quarters the camera frame, will be highlighted in green. If you have the last keyframe selected, then these elements will appear in red. If you have any keyframe between the first and last selected, then these elements will appear in blue. This colour coding is useful in avoiding confusion when making camera movements.

Camera Moves

In the Camera view, if you move the camera on any keyframe after the first keyframe, you will see the colour and position of the camera frame of the keyframe before. In the example below, the camera was moved down and to the left on the second keyframe. Pale blue arrows also appear to show you how the camera will be interpolated between these two frames. In the following example, it is a diagonal move down and to the left.

You can move the camera’s position, with the Camera tool in one of two ways:

By grabbing the camera frame and dragging it to the desired position.
By grabbing the centre of the manipulator and drag them to the desired position.
Trucking In and Out

If you want to create a truck in or truck out (a move along the Z-axis), you can use the manipulators in the Top or Side views, (you can also click on the upper-left corner of the frame in the Camera view). If you select the arrow pointing along the Z-axis and drag the manipulators from that arrow instead of from the centre point of the manipulator circle, your movements will be locked to that axis. This is useful if you do not want to accidentally displace the up and down or left and right position of your camera frame.

Remember that the pale blue arrows in the Camera view do not necessarily indicate backward and forward movements. If your second camera frame appears either larger or smaller than the initial camera frame position, then you can be sure that a camera truck in or truck out was made.

Rotating the Camera

With your scene enabled for 3D, you can rotate your camera on all three axes in the Camera view, as well as in the Top and Side views. As you pass your cursor over the camera manipulators, the cursor changes to indicate this axis on which you will be performing the rotation. Think of the X, Y and Z axes as poles that you can clamp your camera to in order to rotate on that pole or axis. For example, the Y-axis would be a pole that extends from north to south. If you clamp your camera to that pole, your camera would actually move from side to side, or be rotating around that vertical axis.

In the Camera view, hover the cursor over:

The N and S points on the manipulator circle will bring up the X-axis cursor . This means that if you pull up or down on these points, you will be rotating your camera on the X-axis, the axis that runs horizontally, or from east to west, in the Camera view.

The E and W points on the manipulator circle will bring up the Y-axis cursor . This means that if you pull towards the left or right on these points, you will be rotating your camera on the Y-axis, the axis that runs vertically, or from north to south, in the Camera view.

Anywhere but the points on the manipulator circle will bring up the generic rotation cursor . In the Camera view, this cursor represents a rotation on the Z-axis.

These cursors will obviously differ depending on which view you are in. For example, in the Top view, hovering your cursor over the manipulator circle will bring up the Y-axis cursor instead of the generic rotation cursor. In the Top and Side views, there are no points on the manipulator circle, but rather three rings that each control rotation on one of the three axes. Two of these axes are seen as lines instead of rings from the perspective.

Adding Control Points

Once you have created an animated camera move you have also inadvertently created a camera path. The camera path is the route that the camera follows from point A to point B, or in this case, from one keyframe to another. By default, this path is always the shortest route from point A to point B, in other words, it is always a straight line. However, you have the option of adjusting the shape of this path, if you wanted to, for example, make this path curved.

You can change the shape of a camera path by adding control points to the path. This can only be done in the Top, Side and Stage views, they cannot be added from the Camera view. However, in the Camera view, the pale blue arrows that represent the camera path will change to match the new camera path shape.

To add a control point to camera path:

  1. Go to either the Top, Side or Stage views.
  1. Click the line between the two camera cones that represent the position of the camera on the first and second keyframes in question.

A black point appears on the path in both the Top and Side views, as well as on the path between the two keyframes in the Timeline view.


NOTE: In the Timeline view, keyframes are represented as diamonds, while control points are represented by circles. Control points change the shape of a path, however, they are not locked in time.
  1. Click and drag the black point to the desired location. Notice how the path shape bends and changes depending on the location of the control point.

  1. Add more control points if necessary.
  1. In the Timeline view, drag the playhead back and forth, between the two keyframes, while observing the new camera movement in the Camera view.

  1. Make further adjustments where necessary.