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Once you figure out how to use the camera it's actually quite simple. You need to think of it as if it were a real camera. I've spent more than than 30 years behind a movie camera and the same rules apply here. It's easier to move the actors (layers) than it is to move the camera. If you move the camera it's easiest if you keep the movement simple.
I had some tutorials on the subject but I think they have expired. I'll revisit this again soon showing some of my tricks.
I have a different but similar "consider a real camera" approach.
I put my camera on a tripod... that is: Parent it to Nulls.
Null Object (position)
|_Null Object (rotation)
It's similar to sticks, but in the opposite direction. If I get stuck somewhere along the way, I can usually cheat by moving the camera too (in addition to Null.Cam.Pos, but I prefer to move the camera rig.
If you're dollying a dynamic camera around, there is no practical way to animate the camera by itself. (Although CS4 does allow you to split animation tracks for X / Y / Z now).
Thanks four your replys.
In the end we all seem to agree that dollying a camera is the only practical way to achive satisfying results.
Plus, extensive use of expressions to manipulate a cameras behaviour and how it SHOULD react with layers and objects is a workaround not a solution.
I love working with nulls, but still a fact tough, working/keyframing/positioning the camera istself does not what it should do, respectively what i expect it should do. nothing to moan about, but its clearly something to tweak inside the app.
Thanks again for reply.
I just finished a 30 second spot using flat objects in AE's 3D space. The camera had to not only do the usual flying through the scene, it had to pause, pedestal up, pan to see a an object that had been hidden behind a foreground object, resume its flight out a window and then make a elegantly sweeping, banking turn.
I set specific markers hooked to the soundtrack and placed the camera at the necessary positions and orientation/rotation. I set all of those keyframes as holds. There were only six. Then I made duplicates of some, those I knew had ease in-pause-ease out moves to design.
After that, I converted all of them to standard keyframes in pairs and carefully tweaked the flight path into elegant curves mostly using the Custom Views.
One move was particularly difficult so I set hold KFs every 15 frames and then I merely simplified that path.
Things turned out well. It was not particularly difficult because my expectations were set based on my previous exasperation.
bang, a new Ae feature is born: "POV"
a virtual Ae cameraman is running through the flat 3D scene picking up all the coordiante points you've set on a environmental 3D map before letting him run trough.
every coordinate contain a various bunch of commands inlcuding expressions which indicate what the "cameraman" should do when reached the coordinate point or what to do before reching a point following commands while leaving another.
Like: reach point 4aZ in map, stop, look above, look left, duck, jump and run at constant speed to coord. 12fx, at half way reduce speed, ease in to stop at coord. 21ky, turn, look around 360°, set to jump, out of window...
I'm putting together a short video tutorial that may give you some handy techniques for editing camera, point of interest, and the lot. If my kids leave me alone this evening I'll have it up later.
I think as many as me will appreciate your great generosity.
take your time, but finally i'm sure it will help a lot to get out of the muddy waters.