Building Flying Camera Routes In Reverse

In both tutorials we created the sequence of camera positions in the most ‘natural’ way, working from start to end. But you can also build up a route by working backwards. This is most useful when you want to camera to zoom down into a specific spot.

To do this, move your view to where you want the camera to end up. Click the ‘E’ button to set the end of the route. Now back up to the ‘previous’ camera position, the one before it reaches the end. Click the ‘S’ button to add this camera position to the start of the route. Back up some more and add that position to the start of the route. When you preview the route, you’ll see it will travel from the last position you added (the start) towards the first one created (the end).

If you toss in a few curves along the way, you may notice that the FCR Editor seems to be able to calculate the proper curve between camera positions a bit better when flying in reverse. But you’ll probably still have to fiddle with the direction markers to make it come out right, so that’s why the second tutorial focused on that feature.

Using Freelook Mode

In the tutorials I used the usual ‘Advanced’ control mode for the camera since that’s what most people are used to. But when you’re setting up camera positions, especially in tight quarters, the ‘Freelook’ mode is very handy because it handles rotation differently. It also allows you to tilt the view further upwards than you could do otherwise, and there is a difference in the field of view.

Advanced mode gives a fairly standard, natural view, like a 50mm lens on an SLR camera. By comparison, Freelook mode gives a more wide-angle view. Both are handy. I’ve used the Advanced mode view to compress the distance from an object in the foreground to others in the background, and used the Freelook wide-angle to capture more of a building interior in a shot, or to exaggerate the distance from a foreground object to the background. When you’re planning shots, consider what would be most appropriate for the feeling you’re trying to convey.

If you try out the Freelook view, you’ll find the controls to move around are quite different. It will take a bit of practice to get used to them. And when switching back and forth from one mode to another, I still get confused. Anyway, here are the controls you can use:

- Middle mouse button: click-and-drag to move forward/back or left/right.
- Right mouse button: click-and-drag to rotate/tilt your view.
- W-A-S-D keys to move forward-left-backward-right.
- The cursor keys also move the view in the same way.
- Page Up to move the view straight up.
- Page Down to move the view straight down.

Notice how the rotation differs when using this control mode. You are rotating the view around as if you are holding the camera. The other control modes rotate around a point in the scenery up ahead of you. (exactly which point depends on some other options you can select) When fine-tuning the viewing direction for a particular camera position, I prefer to use the Freelook mode.

Tweaking Camera Markers - Different Coordinate Systems

Each camera position along the route has three markers. There’s one for the camera itself and two others attached to it. One of these, at the end of blue line, shows the direction of travel of the camera at that point. The other, at the end of a green line, shows which way the camera is looking.

Each of these markers has a set of axis adjustment ‘widgets’ used to move them along one specific axis or across a plane (two axes). As you move the cursor over the widgets, they will become highlighted. Click-and-drag at that point to move along the highlighted axis, or across the highlighted plane. If you’ve ever used 3DStudio Max, you’ll feel right at home - it’s a very similar control scheme.

There are three different variations of these axis control widgets: ‘Camera’ (the default), ‘World’, and ‘Local’. They present the coordinate system in different ways, sometimes making it easier to make a particular adjustment, sometimes seeming only to make things confusing.

The default ‘Camera’ mode keeps the coordinate widgets facing more or less towards you. When you move a marker, it’s like you are moving it across the face of your computer screen, not in the 3D space of the amusement park. Sometimes this results in the marker ending up in an unexpected place, like underground, even though you thought you were just moving it along another axis.

The ‘World’ mode aligns the coordinate widgets with the 3D world of your park. Personally, this is my preferred control mode. I know that no matter what angle I’m looking at a marker, grabbing a specific plane or axis will move it in the same manner as the last time I used it, even if that was from a completely different perspective.

The ‘Local’ mode aligns the coordinate widgets to the orientation of the marker itself. For example, if the camera is pointed down, then the coordinate system will oriented that way too. It’s handy for that exactly that sort of situation, where the view from a camera position looks great, but you just want to pull the camera back a touch or push it in closer.

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