Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC


Most people, including myself, have some sort of blemish, scar, or imperfection they wish they could keep from showing up on camera. After Effects CC has developed a new matte tracking process that makes removing unsightly blemishes a breeze. In this tutorial I will show you how to complete the effect in three simple steps.

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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To start, lets create a new composition with our footage and take a closer look at what needs to be retouched.

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In this clip I can see we need to do some blemish removal in the cheeks and along the jaw line. Additionally, if you notice near the right ear (stage left) there is a long stray hair we can also quickly take care of with this technique. For now, let’s focus on his right cheek (stage left).

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Essentially, the process is simple but time consuming. We need to focus on each blemish individually, and create a sample clean area that matches the blemished area to be superimposed and smoothed over on top to create a seamless appearance. To do that, first DUPLICATE THE SOURCE FOOTAGE. We will need to duplicate the source footage EACH AND EVERY TIME we need to create a new blemish cover. Then, create a mask that isolates the blemish and the extends out to take a sample of the clean surrounding area; just as this picture shows in detail.

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By isolating the blemish in the matte it creates a great tracking marker for the program to follow. Now, RIGHT CLICK on the matte and choose TRACK MASK.

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A window in the lower right will now appear with TRACKER CONTROLS

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The default method tracks position, scale, and rotation which will be fine for this example. Next to ANALYZE, select the forward arrow and allow After Effects CC to track the mask throughout the duration of the clip.

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In your timeline, this will create a series of keyframes tracking the mask to your subjects movement. It is important to have a perfect track in order to ensure the blemish cover moves along with the subject to create a seamless and clean appearance. If the track was unsuccessful, some helpful tips would include:

–       Analyze frame by frame and move the mask manually back on point when it loses its subject to ensure a locked track.

–       Start at the end of the timeline and analyze backwards (sometimes starting with a different point in time helps the computer algorithm lock on better and understand your point of focus).


Once you have a mask sampling a clean area of the skin and tracked that mask to the subjects face throughout the duration of the clip, it’s time to get rid of that blemish! Using the directional arrows on your keyboard, or clicking and dragging with your mouse, move the mask on top of the blemish area

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You are probably saying, “That just moved the blemish over with the mask! It didn’t fix anything!” – well – we’re not done yet. At this point, open up the mask tools by having the mask selected in your layer window and hit MM on your keyboard to open up the entire tool set.

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REDUCE the MASK EXPANSION so that the blemish sample disappears and you just have a small sample circle to use.

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INCREASE the MASK FEATHER to smooth out the sample’s circle edges, thusly blending it into the face, creating a smooth and clean finish that follows the face throughout the clip.

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You now just successfully removed ONE blemish. Depending on your subject, you may have more to go. Just repeat the process as described as many times as necessary to create the final retouched image.

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Creating a 3D Opening Card in After Effects CC


The image of an opening book or card in a movie, TV show, or commercial is nothing new. With the advancement of visual effects, this can now be created in a variety of dedicated 3D modeling programs or, in this case, advanced compositing programs such as Adobe After Effects CC.

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I will show you how to achieve this effect in three simple steps:

–       Source Images and Setup

–       Creating and Rigging the Card

–       Animating the Movement


First, you will need to find images that can be combined together to create the final look of your card. Therefore, since a card is paper, you will need an image of paper. You can source your image by doing a quick GOOGLE search, or if you are working on a professionall project and need royalty free images, you can take a photograph of the paper you will be using yourself or join a royalty free stock image site such as thinkstockphotos.com or photobucket.com.

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In After Effects, once you find the images you will be using, create a new composition (I made mine 1080 HD and five seconds long). If you have a background image, you will place that first (scale and position to fit) and possibly add a light vignette to the overall composition.

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At this point you can place the first paper image (scale and position as needed) into your composition.

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It looks a little flat so why don’t we first add a black solid (LAYER>NEW>SOLID). Use the rectangle masking tool to create a shape slightly larger than the paper image, feather the edges, and place it underneath the paper to give a subtle shadow effect.

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This first page will be our inside page. We can add now add some text (Use the text tool in the toolbar > color and font at your own preference).

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Now we can create the top cover page that will be animating open in just a moment. Simply duplicate the first page (Command+D on the image layer) and move it to the top in the layer panel.

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Create more text that will go on the cover, and then you will be ready to move towards animating the card.

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Turn both the cover page and cover text into 3D layers. We will be controlling the cover page for the animation, so go ahead and parent the cover text to the cover page using the pick whip.

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With the cover page selected, you will see the page has an XYZ axis in the middle.

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This is the anchor point of the image and it will act as the hinge where the page will bend. Using the Anchor Point Tool (From Toolbar or shortcut key ‘Y’) move the anchor point to the far left of the page (place the green Y axis arrow right along the edge of the page).

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Open the rotation controls on the cover page (have the layer selected and hit ‘R’), and key frame the Y axis increasing over the time of the composition in order to create the visual effect of the card opening to reveal the inside contents.

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Animating Numbers in After Effects CC


Sometimes you need to create a motion graphic showing numbers increasing or decreasing for a percentage, calculation, statistic, or whatever the reason may be. There are many programs that can help you achieve this effect. However, in my opinion, I would argue After Effects is your best program to create this animation. As much as After Effects is known for its post production compositing abilities, it was originally created as a motion graphics program. Today, I will show you how to increase numbers in an animation using After Effects CC in three simple steps:

  • Create Placeholder Text
  • Add the Slider Effect
  • Add the Expression

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First, we need to create a placeholder text before we begin. It’s a placeholder because the Slider Effect we will be applying next will eliminate anything we type in. Select your TYPE TOOL from the tool bar. Choose your font and size from the text assets window, and then type in your placeholder text.

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To clarify, this text is broken down into three sections where only one of them is changing. The first sections is ‘CALCULATING.’ The next section is ‘100,’ which is the PLACEHOLDER text – this is the only bit that is important in completing this motion graphic effect. The last section is ‘%,’ and the reason I did not combine this section with the ‘100’ is to reiterate that once we apply the slider effect, it will eliminate anything we type into that section.


Now that you have your placeholder text, go to the EFFECTS & PRESETS window and type in SLIDER. CLICK AND DRAG your slider effect and add it to your placeholder text.

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At this point, go to your layers window. Open the settings on your placeholder text layer by twirling open the triangle icon next to the sections TEXT and EFFECT > SLIDER CONTROL.

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Go to your SOURCE TEXT and ALT CLICK on it.

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You will immediately notice your canvas preview has disappeared and new icons in the Source Text controls will appear. The WHIRL icon will allow you to CLICK AND DRAG your SOURCE TEXT and PARENT it to the SLIDER CONTROLS.

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You can now go to the Effects window for your slider controls. Notice that your placeholder text will follow whatever you set the slider to.

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Your source text and slider are tied together and can be keyframed and animated to increase and decrease as you see fit. The only issue here is, by default, the slider animation (when tied to the source text) will additionally add in a decimal system.

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If you only want to display whole rounded numbers, you will need to make one final adjustment. In order to resolve the decimal issue, first ALT CLICK on the SLIDER CONTROL STOPWATCH in order to pull up the effects natural input expression.

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So the natural expression is this:

effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”)

In order to round the system of numbers to the nearest whole number, you need to alter the expression to look like this:

Math.round(effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”))

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PLEASE NOTE, the ‘M’ in Math MUST be capitalized in order for After Effects to properly interrupt the expression coding.

There you have it! A number system you can keyframe and animate to increase and decrease as you see fit.

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Advanced Photo Animation Techniques

A Team NLE

How many times have you been involved in an edit where there are more photos than b-roll? I’ve been in that situation more times than I can count. The quick “pan and zoom effect” (aka the “Ken Burns effect”) seems to do the job. However, applying this technique to a handful of photos would quickly get boring and repetitive. For this reason, I’ve searched for new techniques I can use when I’m presented with a photo heavy project. These techniques include the Cinemagraph effect, 2.5D effect, and camera mapping effect. For these techniques, you can perform them in a range of applications such as After Effects, Motion, and Cinema 4D.

Cinemagraph Effect

A cinemagraph is a photo animation in which minor and repeated movement occurs. These are usually created by taking still photos and video recording them performing a certain activity (i.e blowing bubbles or dancing) so that it can be composed into a seamless loop of sequential frames. Below is an example of what a cinemagraph looks like. This term came to fruition back in 2011 when photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck were using the technique to animate fashion and newspaper photos.

The folks of Vox Lab explain how to create a cinemagraph in the tutorial below. They demonstrate on a video clip of a class in session.

Under the right conditions and with proper planning, the cinemagraph is definitely a technique that can come in handy when you want to add some unique motion to your photos.

The 2.5D Effect

This effect goes by many names, such as Kid Stays in Picture, Dimensional Stills, and Parallax effect. Whatever you may choose to call it, it involves extracting portions of your image which can later be animated in 3D space to give the illusion of motion. The one thing about this technique is the amount of work necessary to extract portions of your image. Some images are easier than others, but when you properly extract portions of your image, animating it will be easier depending on how far you plan to go with it. Below is an example of what it looks like when animated.

In the tutorial below, photographer Joe Fellows shows you how to create the 2.5D effect. His technique goes a bit further than the example above, but it definitely adds more life to the photo than a simple pan and zoom.

The folks of Cineflare offer a plugin called Pop Out that helps speed the process of creating this effect. You can check it out below.

Camera Mapping Effect

Camera mapping is similar to the 2.5D effect, but the difference is this technique uses projection. With camera mapping, you can project an image or video onto a screen and give the illusion of depth by using zooming and angles. In the breakdown below, you see how the creator is able to take an image that originated in 2D, and by using multiple techniques essential to camera mapping, they were able to create the illusion of depth.

In this tutorial below, mograph artist Casey Latiolais shows us how to add some life into a simple 2D image by camera mapping in Cinema 4D. These techniques allow the 2D image he is using to have a much more life-like appearance than before.

Overall, there are lots of techniques available for animating photos that can help invigorate your projects. You don’t have to settle for the simple Ken Burns technique for every photo, and if you put in the proper preparation, you can create some stunning animations. Feel free to try any of these techniques the next time you are presented with a barrage of photos.

Sound Effects

AE Animation Plugins & Scripts


One of the many things I love about After Effects is how large its ecosystem is. Out of all the compositing applications I’ve come across, no application has as many resources or add-ons than After Effects. This is especially true when it comes to the tools available for creating animations. Many long-time users of AE know of the motion parameters used to create animations that are simple and complex. However, when time isn’t always on your side and you need to create stunning animations quickly, look no further than these offering of animation tools.


From the talented folks of Ebberts and Zucker, these three animation assistants allow you to create animations involving kinetic typography, camera moves between 3D layers, and more.


LayerMonkey is a script that arranges and animates your composition’s layers in time and space. It also creates a parented camera and generates a master control layer that makes timing and global adjustments a piece of cake. To see what this script is capable of, take a look at the demo below:



TypeMonkey is a script meant to simplify the process of creating kinetic typography. According to the features description, it can create random kinetic type layouts based on parameters entered into the control panel. It also allows for keyframeless timelines to make changes to timing as simple as sliding a marker, and distributes words evenly over the length of the composition or work area. See what it can do in the demo below:



MotionMonkey is the other animation script that allows you to animate very complex designs and layers in a matter of seconds. It can create a wide range of animations of your layered designs based on parameters entered into the control panel. It works with most layers including text, stills, video, pre-comps, solids, shapes, .ai, .psd, nulls, and parented layers. Another fun thing about this script is how it interacts with VideoCoPilot’s Element 3D. In the demo and Element 3D tutorial below, you can witness the power and ease this script offers:

Overall, I believe these three scripts are must haves for increasing the speed which you are able to crank out complex animations in a short time frame.

Duik Tools


These tools are essential if you want to rig and animate characters in After Effects. Utilizing the concept of inverse kinematics, Duik Tools simplifies the process by rigging the character of your choice with controllers on various body parts. These tools include an inverse kinematics tool, bones and puppet tool, autorig, animation tools, and more. The best part about these sets of tools is that they are free, so you definitely want to have this as part of your arsenal for those character animations you may get down the line.



This plugin is the creation of AE guru and VFX artist Andrew Kramer. It allows you to control the After Effects camera and move between layers in 3D space with ease. Included as part of the functions of this plugin is the ability to wiggle, auto rotate, dolly, and roll the AE camera. This plugin originally started as a preset, but soon became a fully functional and much respected plugin. I’ve personally used this camera animation plugin on numerous occasions, and can say that it gets the job done. You can witness the power of this plugin by watching this tutorial below:

If you are looking for animation tools or plugins that allow you to be a fast animator in After Effects, look no further than this collection. These tools definitely help users create complex animations that need to be done as soon as possible. These options won’t disappoint.

Adding Images to 3D Objects in Cinema 4D


When creating 3D objects, there will come a point where you will need to add a logo or design to one of your objects. For example, you may need to add a label to a bottle. Today, I am going to show you how it can be done in three simple steps:

  • Setting up the Material
  • Changing Projection Method
  • Adjust Orientation

Before we begin, we need to set up the scene. For me, I quickly created a wine bottle using the methods I taught in a previous lesson on using the lathe NURBS. Cinema 4D already comes pre-loaded with a series of textures, including glass for the bottle, liquid for the wine, plastic for the bottle cap, and ground materials for the floor. For the lighting, I used a simple three-point lighting set up (also taught in a previous lesson) to give shadow and highlights to my bottle object. The only thing missing is a label on my bottle.

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There are a few methods you can use in adding the material needed to your 3D object. For instance, a client might provide you with the necessary materials. Another method would be simply be obtaining from the internet, say from a quick Google image search. For this lesson, I created my own label personalized for AudioMicro.com using Photoshop CC. If you do create your own label in Photoshop, be sure to save the image as a PNG without interlacing. This is to make sure only the label is saved with no background color.

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In Cinema 4D, you will first want to create a new material by going to the MATERIALS WINDOW >> FILE >> NEW MATERIAL. From there, you will want to go to that new material’s ATTRIBUTE WINDOW >> BASIC TAB. In the Basic tab, we want to make sure ALPHA is checked in order for our image to displace correctly without interlacing on our bottle object.

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From there, navigate over to the COLOR TAB and choose the 3 DOTS next to the TEXTURE option which will allow you to navigate and select your image file.

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Now, navigate over to the ALPHA TAB and again choose the THREE DOTS next to the TEXTURE OPTION. Select the same exact image file.

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Now your material is ready to be added to your bottle object. CLICK AND DRAG the material from the MATERIALS WINDOW to your OBJECTS WINDOW and drop the material onto your bottle object.

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After applying the material to your bottle object, you will notice that the label is not exactly appearing the way you had hoped. The reason for this is because, by default, Cinema 4D doesn’t understand how the label needs to be placed on your object. The projection method needs to be adjusted in order to achieve the desired effect. To do this, highlight the MATERIAL TAG next to your BOTTLE OBJECT in the OBJECT WINDOW. Then, navigate over to the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW.

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Because our wine bottle is a cylinder, we want to change the PROJECTION from UVW MAPPING to CYLINDRICAL.

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By doing so, you now see the label is fitted more properly on the bottle. However, now it seems to be repeated multiple times. To fix this, go to the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW and uncheck the TILE option. This is the option that is causing the image file to repeat, or tile, over your object multiple times.

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We are nearly finished. All that is left is to orientate the label to the exact location on the bottle where we desire. To do this, we need to select our bottle object from the OBJECTS WINDOW and then select the TEXTURE TOOL from the left hand TOOL BAR.

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The label on our bottle object will now have the AXIS ARROWS, allowing us to CLICK AND DRAG the MATERIAL to our desired location.

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The label still may appear a bit stretched or distorted, but no worries. To wrap it up, all you need to do is adjust the LENGTH U and LENGTH V options under the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW for your image material.

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How to Use Lathe NURBS in Cinema 4D


Getting back to the basics. For those not in the know, a lathe is “a machine for shaping wood, metal, or other material by means of a rotating drive that turns the piece being worked on.” For example, a wooden baseball bat is formed on a lathe. A wooden block is spun and the tool cuts away at the block, rounding it out, and over time, forming a perfect baseball bat. In Cinema 4D, using a lathe NURBS will create a perfectly rounded object from a simple outline. In this lesson, I will show you how to create a goblet using the lathe NURBS in three simple steps:

  • Getting the Right Viewing Angle
  • Drawing with a B-spline
  • Adding the Lathe NURBS


I have taught using Cinema 4D in the past, but this time we will be using a few different viewing angles in order to reach our goal. By default, Cinema 4D’s viewing angle is set to PERSPECTIVE, and you can see this clearly written in the upper left corner of the CANVAS WINDOW.

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What we need is the RIGHT VIEWING ANGLE in order for us to be able to draw a 2D simple form that we can later round out using the lathe NURBS. On a PC, you simply need to hit the F3 key in order to get this perspective. For Macs, there is an extra step because the F keys are set up to manage alternate functions on the computer. If you are using the Mac, go to SYSTEM PREFERENCES >> KEYBOARD >> check the box for USE ALL F1 F2 ETC. KEYS AS STANDARD FUNCTION KEYS.

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Once completed, you will be able to use your F keys to change the viewing angle in Cinema 4D as follows:

F1 = Perspective

F2 = Top

F3 = Right

F4 = Front

F5 = 4 way split screen viewer


Now we need to create our simple form. First hit F3 to go into the RIGHT VIEWING ANGLE, and select the B-SPLINE tool from the SPLINE DROP DOWN MENU.

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The simple form we need to create needs to be the profile of our goblet form in the positive XY quadrant. The reason for this is because when we apply the lathe NURBS to this 2D simple form, it will take this design and round it in 3D space.


The B-SPLINE tool is used by clicking three times to create a curve. Click once to create the origin point, click a second for the middle of the curve (a.k.a. the arc), and the third click will be the ending point of the curve.

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As you proceed, the ending point of the first curve becomes your new origin point. Continue through using the B-Spline tool to create the thin walled profile goblet’s cup, stem, and foot. When you finish at the bottom, simply reconnect to your first origin point to finish your simple 2D form.

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We can now hit F1 and go back into our PERSPECTIVE VIEW. To add a lathe NURBS, go to the HyperNURBS drop down menu and select LATHE NURBS.

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In your OBJECT WINDOW, you will need to CLICK AND DRAG your B-SPLINE OBJECT on top of your LATHE NURBS. When you do, you will see your simple object has now been lathed and is now a rounded 3D object.

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After review, I found that I still wanted to go back into my simple form and change some of the points to give the cup a higher wall. To edit my simple form, I first need to CLICK AND DRAG my B-SPLINE OBJECT out of my LATHE NURBS with the OBJECT WINDOW, reverting my 3D object back into 2D.

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Back in the RIGHT VIEW (hit F3) you can select the anchor point you wish to manipulate, and DRAG it to the proper destination.

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After finishing your simple form, be sure to add the B-SPLINE back into your LATHE NURBS. You can now view a QUICK RENDER by hitting CMD+R.

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To finish, you can add some great GLASS MATERIALS in the preset materials to your LATHE NURBS to finish your 3D goblet.

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Animating a Camera in Cinema 4D



Once you have your 3D object designed, properly lit, and set in with the background of your choice, it’s time to breath some life in the scene and animate a camera rotating around your object. Creating a camera and having it move throughout your scene is a basic necessity for any beginning 3D modeler and animator. I am going to show you how to animate a camera in 3D space in three simple steps:

  • Create the Camera
  • Orientate the Camera
  • Keyframe the Animation

Create the Camera

To create a camera object, go to your LIGHT OBJECTS drop down menu and select CAMERA.

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Pretty simply, right? But how do you know if you are controlling the camera while moving around the object or not? It’s simple. Do you notice that symbol next to your CAMERA OBJECT in the OBJECT WINDOW that looks like a BLACK SQUARE OUTLINE WITH A DOT IN THE MIDDLE?

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When this symbol is black, it means you are not actively controlling the camera. If you select this symbol, it will turn from black to white. At that point, your perspective in the CANVAS WINDOW will jump to the camera’s, and you will be controlling the camera object until that symbol is deselected.

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Orientate the Camera

The three motions that move your camera object around are:

Pan – Hold down #1 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to move left, right, up, and down around your object.

Dolly – Hold down #2 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to move into and away from your object.

Orbit – Hold down #3 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to pivot and rotate around your object.

Make sure that your camera object is selected and active, and at this point begin to move and orientate your camera into your starting position.

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For this example, I want the starting position to be on the left side of my object, and, over the course of a few seconds, rotate around my object and end on the right side.

Keyframe the Animation

With your camera object in the starting position, we need to set a KEYFRAME in order for the program to remember the camera’s position. To set a KEYFRAME, make sure your CAMERA OBJECT is selected. From here, navigate just below the CANVAS WINDOW and select the RED CIRCLE WITH THE BLACK SKELETON KEY button.

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If you select the COORD TAB under the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW, you will also notice each coordinate is marked with a red dot. This signifies that every camera aspect on the timeline is locked into place and recorded.

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Next, you will want to move the PIN down the TIMELINE. Note that each notch on the timeline represents one frame, and depending on how you’ve set up your composition, there are roughly 24 frames in a second.

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At this point, you can now reorientate the camera to your ending position.

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Remember to have your CAMERA OBJECT in the OBJECTS WINDOW selected before setting your final KEYFRAME. If you click and drag the PIN along the TIMELINE, you will see your camera animating between the two keyframes you just successfully created.

Click here to see it in action.