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'Poser 8 Revealed': Establishing a Scene, Cameras & Backgrounds - Part 1

Kelly L. Murdock starts his discussion of establishing a scene from Poser 8 Revealed.

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The real advantage of the 3D world is the ability to view the scene from any position[md]upside, downside, and even inside out. This is made possible using virtual cameras that are positioned within the scene. Poser includes several default camera types that you can choose. These camera types include a set of orthogonal cameras, cameras that can be rotated and cameras that can be focused on specific body parts like the face and hands.

Once a camera is selected, you can use the Camera Controls to change its position and orientation. The Camera Controls also let you change specific camera motions such as rolling the camera and toggling flyaround mode.

Cameras can also be selected from the Action List that makes the camera parameters and properties visible. Camera parameters offer a way to precisely move cameras to specific positions and orientations. You can also change camera properties such as focal length, F-stop, and clipping planes.

Poser also includes some specialized features that let you point cameras at specific items in the scene. For example, you can quickly animate the rotations of a camera by pointing the camera towards the figure’s head or torso or you can have a specific body part set to point at a camera.

You can load a custom background of the Document Window to display a color, a picture, a movie, or particular texture. This background is displayed in the Document Window and can be included when the image is rendered.

[Figure 6-1] Cameras are displayed as icons in the scene.

Learn The Available Cameras

Cameras provide you a view of the scene and can be manipulated to show you the exact portion of the scene that you want to concentrate on. You can select preset cameras from the Display, Camera View menu, the Select Camera icon, and the pop-up menu in the Camera Controls. You can also select a camera for the current view by right-clicking on the Document Window and selecting Camera View from the pop-up menu.

You can also select from the various cameras using the Actor List at the top of the Document Window and the Parameters/Properties palette, but doing this only selects the camera icon and does not change the view.

Cameras within the current scene are represented by a camera icon, but most are set to be invisible by default. To see the camera icons, simply enable the Visible option in the Properties palette. Figure 6-1 shows a camera icon in front of the default figure.

[Figure 6-2] Select Camera icons in the Camera Controls

Using Camera Presets

The available preset camera views including the Main, Auxiliary, Left, Right, Top, Bottom, Front, Back, Face, Posing, Right Hand, Left Hand, Dolly, and Shadow Light cameras. Each of these camera types has its own icon in the Camera Controls, as shown in Figure 6-2, which you can access by clicking the Select Camera icon or by clicking and dragging to the left or right. If the Display, Show Camera Names option is enabled, the camera name appears in the upper-left corner of the Document Window.

[Figure 6-3] Front, Top, and Right orthogonal cameras

Using the Main and Auxiliary Cameras

The Main and Auxiliary cameras can be rotated about the center of the scene and are the main cameras that you’ll probably want to use. These cameras are not affected by the movement of the figures in the scene. The Main and Auxiliary cameras work exactly the same, but the Auxiliary camera lets you maintain the main camera’s position while you investigate another view.

Another difference between the Main and Auxiliary cameras is that the Main camera’s Focal Length is set by default to 55mm, which is more standard view and that the Auxiliary camera is set to 25mm, which is closer to a wide-angle lens.

Using Orthogonal Cameras

The Left, Right, Top, Bottom, Front, and Back cameras are all orthogonal cameras that are located at the end of each axis. Orthogonal cameras are special views that show the scene without any perspective and all dimension measurements are correct. Figure 6-3 shows the scene using the Four Ports layout, which includes three orthogonal views. Orthogonal cameras also cannot be rotated and the Trackball in the Camera Controls is disabled when any of these cameras are selected.

If the Four Ports option is selected from the Layout list at the bottom of the Document Window or if the Display, Camera View, Four Cams menu command is selected, three of the views will be orthogonal cameras.

Using the Posing Cameras

The Posing camera can also be rotated about the scene, but it is focused on the selected figure. If the selected figure is moved, the Posing camera follows along with the figure. If a different figure is selected, the camera view changes to focus on the new figure.

The Posing camera is also set by default to a 25mm focal length.

[Figure 6-4] Face, Left Hand, and Right Hand cameras

Using the Face and Hand Cameras

The Face and Hand cameras work like the Posing camera, except they are focused on the current figure’s face or individual hands. These provide a quick close-up of the face and hands so you can check their details without having to maneuver the camera. The Face and Hand cameras also rotate about the face and hands of the selected figure. The Three Ports – Big Top layout displays views using the Face and both Hand cameras, as shown in Figure 6-4. The Face camera’s focal length is set to 95 mm to reduce any distortion of the facial features.

The Face and Hand cameras look for objects named Face, Left Hand, and Right Hand. If you rename these elements, these cameras will not work.

Using the Dolly Camera

The Main and Auxiliary cameras orbit around the center of the screen, but the Dolly camera pivots about its own axis, points at its own unique location, and is set with a 35mm focal length, making it act just like a real camera. For animation sequences where the camera is moving, you’ll want to use this specialized camera.

[Figure 6-5] Shadow camer

Using Shadow Light Cameras

The pop-up menu in the Camera Controls also includes a Shadow Light camera for each light in the scene. These cameras are positioned and oriented to point the same direction as its light and provide a look at how the shadows will be cast when rendered. Shadow cameras, like orthogonal cameras, cannot be rotated. Figure 6-5 shows the Shadow camera for Light 2. Notice in the figure how the highlighted areas are facing the camera.

Change Cameras for Viewports 1.       Open Poser with the default figure visible.

2.       At the bottom of the Document Window, select the Four Ports option from the Layout list.

The Document Window is divided into four different views.

3.       Select the upper-left port.

A red border that indicates the active port surrounds the port view.

4.       Select the From Back option from the pop-up menu at the top of the Camera Controls.

5.       Select the upper-right port and right-click on the Document Window and select Camera View, Bottom Camera from the pop-up menu.

[Figure 6-6] Various camera views

6.       Select the lower-left port and change the camera to the left view using the Display, Camera View, From Right menu.

7.       Select the lower-right port and click on the Select Camera icon in the Camera Controls and drag to the right until the Face Camera is selected.

All the cameras for the various ports have now been changed using various methods, as shown in Figure 6-6.

8.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Various camera views.pz3.

Work With Cameras

Once a camera is selected, you can change its position and where it is pointing using the Camera Controls. The Parameters/Properties palette also includes several settings for controlling the camera.

Cameras can also be manipulated by selecting the camera icon or selecting a camera from the Actor List and using the Editing Tools, but the Camera Controls are much easier.

[Figure 6-7] Camera Controls

Using the Camera Controls

The Camera Controls allow you to pan, rotate, and zoom in on the scene. These controls, shown in Figure 6-7, have an immediate impact on the scene displayed in the Document Window. By using these controls, you can control precisely which part of the scene is displayed.

Using the Camera Shortcut Icons

The top three icons in the Camera Controls let you select the right hand, face, or left hand cameras. Although these icons by default are used to switch between the face and hand cameras, these icons can be used as shortcuts for any of the preset cameras. To change the camera shortcut, simply select the camera preset that you want to use in the Select Camera icon and click on one of the shortcut icons with the Alt [Option] key held down.

Enabling Camera Animation Mode

The key icon toggles animating cameras on and off. The key icon is colored red when animating is enabled. When enabled, animation keys are recorded whenever the camera is moved. This same option can be toggled using the Animating option in the Properties palette. More on animating is covered in Chapter 13, “Animating Figures and Scenes.”

[Figure 6-8] Flyaround mode

Using Flyaround Mode

The Flyaround button toggles on Flyaround mode, which spins the camera about the figure’s center and animates the scene objects, as shown for three frames in Figure 6-8. This provides a quick view of all sides of the scene. While in Flyaround mode, you can move the cursor in the Document Window up and down to change the angle of the spinning camera. Clicking again on the Flyaround button returns the view to its previous setting. You can also access Flyaround mode using the Camera Controls pop-up menu and the Display, Camera View menu or by pressing Ctrl+L.

Moving and Rotating a Camera

The hand icons in the Camera Controls are used to move the camera view within the YZ plane, the XY plane, or XZ plane. To use these icons, just click them and drag. The view in the Document Window is updated as you drag. The sphere with arrows on it at the bottom of the Camera Controls, called the Trackball, is used to rotate the camera. It is used like the move icons by clicking and dragging in the direction you want to rotate the camera. You can also access the Trackball by holding down the Alt key and dragging in the Document Window. The Roll button tilts the figure within the Document Window about its center. You can also change the camera’s position and rotation by dragging the parameter dials in the Parameters palette.

Mini-sized controls for positioning and rotating the camera view are included on the top-right corner of the Document Window.

[Figure 6-9] Camera properties

Changing a Camera’s Scale and Focal Length

The final two Camera Controls buttons to the left of the Trackball are for adjusting the camera’s scale and focal length. Dragging on the Scale button changes the size of the figure within the viewpane and dragging with the Focal Length button changes the center focus point for the camera, which results in how close or far the figure appears from the camera. The Focal Length control in the Camera Control palette is exactly the same as the Focal parameter in the Parameters palette.

The Focal Length parameter is critical when trying to create a Depth of Field effect. This effect is covered in the next section and also in Chapter 16, “Rendering Scenes.”

Undoing Camera Changes

Whenever a camera moves or rotates to show a different view, you can keep track of the view changes in the Undo cache so they can be undone, but frequent camera moves can quickly fill up the Undo cache overwriting any figure posing changes that have recently been made. If you disable the Remember Changes for Undo option in the Properties palette, shown in Figure 6-9, for the selected camera, view changes aren’t kept in the Undo cache.

[Figure 6-10] Display guides

Using Display Guides

The Display, Guides menu command includes several useful display guides that can help as you begin to move the cameras about the scene. In addition to the two guides used to indicate the relative size and proportions of the figure, the Display, Guides menu command also includes the following guides, shown and labeled in Figure 6-10:

*      Ground Plane. Can be turned on and off. It is useful to help set the vertical alignment of objects in the scene. The Material Room can also be used to apply a unique material to the ground plane.

* Horizon Line. Adds a set of horizontal dashed lines across the Document Window to show where the horizon in the distance is located.

*      Vanishing Lines. Marks the point off in the distance where all objects converge to show perspective. This guide is helpful for determining the amount of perspective distortion in the scene.

* Focus Distant Guide. Marks the point where the camera is in focus. This is used to determine the center point for the Depth of Field render effect. This point is set uniquely for each camera.

[Figure 6-11] Camera shortcut icons

Set the Camera Shortcut Icons 1.       Select the Posing camera from the drop-down list at the top of the Camera Controls.

The Posing Camera icon appears in the Camera Controls.

2.       Hold down the Alt [Option] key and click on the Right Hand Cam shortcut icon.

The Posing Camera icon takes the place of the Right Hand icon.

3.       Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the other camera shortcut icons using the Dolly and Auxiliary Cameras.

The Camera Shortcut icons now have new icons, as shown in Figure 6-11.

4.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Camera shortcut icons.pz3.

[Figure 6-12] Zoomed main camer

Position the Main Camera 1.       Open Poser with the default figure visible. The main camera is selected by default.

2.       Click on the Trackball and drag it to the right to change the camera’s view.

3.       Drag on the Move in XY hand icon to center the figure’s head in the view and then drag the Move in XZ icon to zoom in on the left side of the figure, as shown in Figure 6-12.

4.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Zoomed main camera.pz3.

[Figure 6-13] Positioned posing camer

Use the Posing Camera 1.       Open Poser with the default figure visible.

2.       Select the Posing camera from the pop-up list at the top of the Camera Controls.

3.       Click on the Trackball and drag it downward to change the camera’s view to be below the figure.

4.       Drag the Move in XZ icon to zoom in on the figure, and then drag the Move in XY icon to center the figure, as shown in Figure 6-13.

5.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Lower posing view.pz3.

Kelly L. Murdock has more than 15 years experience in the computer graphics arena, especially in the area of 3D graphics. Included in the experience is a variety of tasks from high-end CAD product design and architectural pre-visualization to virtual reality and games. Kelly is best known for his international best-selling books on graphics including the 3ds max Bible, Illustrator Bible and Naked Maya. He also is the author of Poser 6 Revealed and Poser 7 Revealed as well as Edgeloop Character Modeling for 3D Professionals. Kelly currently works as a freelance designer for Logical Paradox Design, a company that he founded with his brother.