Tips for better camera Animations

Published 31th January 2021

Orientate yourself on what is possible in reality and what is

In the Article Tips for more realistic renderings in Blender, I already wrote about how important it is, to have reference images of something real for Orientation. And you can apply the same thing to your Camera Animations.

Focal Length

Make a research about Lenses which lenses are existing and what are they getting used for. If you are making an animation of a Landscape for example your focal length is maybe 12 mm which is the lens with the shortest focal length that ARRI offers.

If you are making an animation of something which is supposed to look far away like an airplane, a rocket, a car, or something else maybe you should use something like 155 mm or 280 mm which is the biggest focal length you can find on an ARRI lens.

If you use values far above or below that it will look a bit weird because such lenses don’t exist humans will subconsciously see, that there is something off.

Who is holding the Camera?

Is a person holding the Camera? Is the Camera on a tripod? Or is the Camera on a Camera Robot? Is your Camera a GoPro on the head of a Dog?

There is an endless number of possibilities of things that your camera can be connected with and all of them are having an influence on how the Camera is moving, which Camera and Lens is getting used and where your Camera is positioned. If you are having a Handheld Camera it is unlikely that the camera is 3 meters above the ground. It is more likely that it is 170 cm above the ground and Is shaking a bit (Ian Hubert made a quick Tutorial about that.)

Think about what is holding your Camera and how it will influence it will have.

Maybe your image isn’t 100% sharp and has some noise and distortions as well all things that can help you, to make your Animation more believable.

Use Motion Blur!

Motion Blur is just a klick. To set it up Literally and so helpful at the same time.

It makes the Animation feel more real because every video taken by a real camera has Motion Blur.

It helps you, to hide some mistakes and can hide some missing details.

Also, a director with who I am working every once in a while, is known for using Motion Blur as a transition effect.

Use depth of field

Depth of field also exists in every video and can help you as well to hide some details.

It is also a Tool, to guide the viewers’ attention. So put some thoughts about where to place the focus.

Often, I create an Empty Object which I use as a Focus point because it makes the animation of the focus much easier. It is possible without an extra object but that makes it harder and can cause problems if you change the animation of the camera later on.

Most people connect a strong depth of field with high quality like they connect a lot of base with high-quality sound. The reason for that is, Big Image sensors and lenses with a wide aperture which are both found on more expensive cameras and lenses cause more depth of field but because of that too much blur is a common beginner mistake. Use it but don’t overuse it.

Make use of the graph editor

A Keyframe describes a certain state at a certain Frame but no one creates a Keyframe for every frame. Which lets the question open for what is happening between both Keyframes is it transitioning from one state to another consistently or is it starting slow and ending slow? Is it starting fast and ending slow? This is what the Curves in the Graph Editor describe. In most cases, it is good if the Curves are smooth like Butter. But it really depends.

Avoid having no movement

This is a mistake I frequently see in bad product videos, where the animation just stops. And there is just a static image. In every good video, there is always some motion. It doesn’t need to be the camera but there always needs to be something moving.

Make some thoughts about the image composition

One thing I really like about Pixar movies is, that every Frame looks like an Image that could be printed outputted into a Picture frame. This doesn’t need to be the case but go to different frames in your Animation and ask yourself the question is the Frame itself good and how can I improve it.

There is an endless number of things and guidelines, and it is a huge topic, so I linked you a separate Article about this topic.

Chose the right frame rate

Framerates also have an impact on how an animation Feels.

6-12 Frames per second

This is the normal Framerate of an Anime. The reason for that is, that in the past every frame got drawn by hand. Which meant more Frames drastically increases the amount of time and cost that is required. Now it is more a nostalgic thing. To create this hand-drawn look.

But it also raises the question if it makes sense if more and more people aren’t able to understand this because they are simply too young to use this framerate. Because to the, it looks just choppy.

Framerates also have an impact on how an animation Feels.

23.97 Frames per second

According to Science this is the number at which the human eye sees movement instead of singles Images

24 Frames per second

The standard Frame rate in Cinema because when videos was made with film, film was expensive and more frames required more film. Which is the reason they shot slightly about the minimum requirements for human eyes. And no one saw a reason, to change that till this day.  This means if you want something to look cinematic whatever that means it is the right frame rate for you.

25 Frames per second

Is the standard Frame rate of TVs here in Europe.

30 Frames per second

It is the standard Frame rate of TV in the US and on the Internet most and the most common these days.

60 Frames per second

Makes the video feel supernatural and smooth. I think it feels fascinating and is good for a video where it is important, that people can recognize, what is happening on the screen.

Think out of the box

There are so many ways, you can create a video in a different way. No one said, that a video needs to be 16:9. Why not make upright or with multiple views at the same time. I am still waiting for the first ad agency that creates a multimillion-dollar budget video project in 9:16 and because their target group primarily uses smartphones.

But I think I know why this will take a while until it will happen.

“As I said balls, we need balls. If you know, that means”

Oliver Kahn