Thursday, April 21, 2011

Roll Hard: The Ball Ultimatum

Well, we're in the home stretch now—I designed and printed out my final poster. Hard to believe it's almost over, but let's make the most of the remaining time! We'll start with a list:

First thing: I added much more functionality to the camera menus: I have sliders for shot duration, distance from the target, and height, as well as a few preset buttons. Sliders can be adjusted while the camera is shooting—you'll see in the video below that I slide the distance in and out, causing the camera to fly towards and away the target while still filming it. The Follow button is pretty much the default standard, which causes the camera to track behind the target from a normal distance; Helicopter mode sets distance and height very high, so that the camera will film from far away and above; Bourne mode mimics the "Bourne" trilogy, by setting the camera to cut often, shoot from close angles, and shake like crazy.

Here's some footage (you can pretend that the dialogue is actually a fight scene. Or a dialogue scene taking place during an earthquake):

Second thing: you'll note in the video that the cameras now rotate slowly when they're not engaged. Right now they're ending up tilted, which is disorienting, so I'm going to fix that. But I will probably have them slowly do something when unengaged, just to look more visually appealing.

Third thing: In the corner of the video you can also see a crowd of my little blob actors. I started making a crowd event for the cameras to shoot, but it's not finished yet—you'll see it soon. But basically, I'm planning on leaving the event types as 1 actor events (follow), 2 actor events (dialogues), and 3+ actor events (crowds) for now. This is what it happened to look like in my original camera behavior tree anyway.

Fourth thing: You can't really tell in the video, but I rewrote a bunch of the code for the initial placement of the camera in a shot to ensure that it doesn't collide and keeps the target unoccluded. The major change is that when the target is near a wall and the camera is trying to track behind it, the camera now moves upwards and looks down; as the target moves away from the wall, the camera slides down and moves forward slowly until it can track at normal distance.

Fifth thing: The cameras now subtly look ahead of a target based on the target velocity, instead of at the targets themselves. Remember the rule of letting the actor lead? No? Here's a picture:

It's a small difference, and hard to notice. But if it's not happening, you'll feel uneasy, and you won't be sure why! So now you can rest easy again. However, speaking of rules...

Sixth thing: ...Editing rules are currently being violated. I realized that I never actually posted about those on this blog, so here they are in exciting picture form:

The 180-degree rule is related to the invisible line of action in a scene. Once you've established that the camera is on one side of that line, abruptly cutting across it will be disorienting for viewers. An example, look at that dialogue scene in the above drawing: the characters seem to switch places when the camera cuts. Alternatively, think about a ball rolling from left to right—if the camera cuts across the line, it seems like the ball changes direction. This happens sometimes in my project right now.

The 30-degree rule is kind of the inverse: if the camera doesn't move enough when it cuts, you get a jump-cut. In the drawing above, it would seem like the camera suddenly lurched to the side or stuttered, instead of cutting to a new angle. So when you cut, the difference in angle from camera to target should be greater than 30 degrees. This also applies to cutting closer or further from the target—it should be a large enough jump to seem motivated.

So right now these principles aren't being enforced, but that will be fixed soon. Essentially I'm going to set ranges when the camera cuts, so that it changes enough from the previous angle, but not enough to break 180. Hopefully that will work.

Anyway, time is quickly ticking away. The big list of things to do: crowd events, editing enforcement, and more camera shots for the idioms. After that, I will use remaining time to continue tweaking things. I'm also going to be working on my final presentation pretty soon, so that's exciting as well!


  1. Very nice Dan! I especially appreciate the Bourne mode.

    Also, another editing rule that might be cool to implement for future work is the "look off" so that if a character looks off screen it automatically cuts to POV shot of what they are looking at.

  2. That's definitely a cool idea. Right now I'm just treating "characters" as cubes that moving around, but it would be great to actually tell when they're looking at things or making certain gestures.