This is the eleventh of a series of weekly posts that covers my efforts to learn and create with Smith-Micro's Poser application. I'll share the information I learn, any tricks or tips I come across, and my thoughts on Poser as a creative tool. My goal will be to follow my interests as I become more familiar with the program.
This weeks entry continues with the subject of animating in Poser. I set up a simple scene (a pathway and a figure) and then used Poser's Walk Designer to create a run path. Then it was easy to simply add a run animation to the figure. It was all pretty easy. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be so easy this week trying to animate the camera.
Before we begin I want to clarify that I am using Poser Pro 11.1. Smith-Micro created two versions of Poser: Poser 11 and Poser Pro 11. The difference is that Poser Pro provides advanced rendering, a fitting room for clothes and more. The price for Poser Pro 11.1 is $349. Upgrade from Poser 11 is $110. Full details at this link.
Working with Poser's Camera System
Poser has three types of cameras: the orbiting camera, the isometric camera, and the dolly camera. The orbiting camera does what it says; it orbits the selected object. The isometric camera is the standard type of camera you see in most 3D applications; you can choose top, side, front, 3D (and more) as the angle you want to view the selected object from. Finally, the dolly camera is like a real-world camera on a tripod. You can adjust it's movement easily including changing the focal length and more.
Poser has a nice camera control area over to the left of the main window. This section is well designed with lots of icons that represent the ways you want to move your camera. You can also select the camera you want to use there. Poser has lots of preset cameras to make your work easier. The Pose camera, for instance, is designed to allow you to view your figure as you work on the posing process.
There are lots of excellent camera tutorials out there. I like Smith-Micro's a lot, but Mark Bremmer does the best job of explaining cameras. Check out his tutorial on cameras below:
Animating Your Camera
I wish I could say that animating my camera was as easy as animating my figure, but it was not. Once you move into Poser's Animation Palette to animate the fun stops. This interface is very old fashioned and difficult to understand. And since Poser isn't known for its animation capabilities, there isn't a lot of tutorials and info on the Animation Palette. The Poser 11 manual is pretty good, although it doesn't answer some obvious questions like how to combine animations. At least I couldn't find the info after a good deal of looking.
Since I wanted to use my camera like a real-world camera, I chose the dolly camera (set at 35mm) to animate. I wanted to record the figure running towards the camera and as it passes by the camera will pivot along with it. Then we watch the figure (moving away from the camera now) get to the hole and jump in. Simple, right? Nothing was simple about it.
I came across all kinds of glitches while trying to animate my camera. I tried getting the camera to “point at” the figure hoping that would solve all of my camera movement. The result was not what I wanted. Then I deleted the dolly camera and created another. This time I used simple keyframes to move the camera towards the figure as it went by, but the result was not very good because the camera made all sorts of additional movements. Eventually, working on my third camera now, I manage to keyframe the camera so that it stayed relatively still except for the pan toward the figure as it rushed by. All of this took several hours worth of frustrating.
Combining Animations on Your Character? Maybe...
Now that I had my camera animated, I assumed I could just create another animation layer and add a jump at the end of my characters run cycle and, if necessary, keyframe the end of jump down into the black hole. I simply couldn't figure out how to add the jump animation even after a lot of effort. I could add a jump pose, but then the camera would suddenly go back to its original orientation at the start of the scene. After removing new animation layers several times and trying to manually keyframe a jump, I just gave up because the animation looked awful. I know there is a way to do this, I just didn't have the time to figure it out (or the patience).
The video above is all three renders I made working on the camera animation. The first is the crazy “point to” camera attempt, the second is the initial keyframed animation and the third is the more polished keyframed version. Obviously, I can polish the movements more, but it works for what I was trying to accomplish. It's annoying that I can't get the complete animation with a jump at the end though.