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Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 2

Check out our Motion: Working in 3D course!

In part 1 of this series, we covered the first section of “Camera Controls” for Motion 3D space cameras. Here in part 2 we will cover the “Depth of Field” controls, which not only mimic how a real camera lens functions, but lets us take that functioning a bit further. In part 3 we’ll run through some practical examples.

Step 1 - Where We Left Off

In part 1, we created a new generic Motion project, added a camera, and used F4 to look at the “Camera Controls” section in the Inspector. If you haven’t gone through part 1, I suggest jumping to it first. Once you’ve become familiar with those basic controls, we can look at the Depth of Field section, abbreviated as DoF. It is directly below the Camera Controls, in the Camera tab of the Inspector. If all you see is the heading, mouse over the heading bar, to the right of the “Depth of Field” title, the word “Show” appears in blue, click it.

Figure 1

Step 2 - Understanding DoF

Film and video cameras with interchangeable lenses usually focus on objects at a specific distance range. For example, we can set our camera lens to focus at 20 feet. So that everything closer than about 17 feet is blurry, and everything further away than 23 feet is blurry, things within range are focused. As things get closer or further out of range, the more blurry they get. Thus, something at 25 feet is slightly blurry, something at 35 feet is much more blurry. See Figure 3 as an example.

Step 3 - DOF Blur Amount

This parameter simply controls the maximum amount of blur applied to objects outside our range of focus. Remember the further away, the more blur is applied, but not beyond this setting.

Step 4 - Focusing

There are four focus parameters, measured in pixels. “Focus Offset” controls the distance an object must be from the camera to be in perfect focus. “Near Focus” adjusts how close an object can be to the camera before it goes out of focus. “Far Focus” adjusts how far away an object can be from the camera before it goes out of focus. The “Infinite Focus” checkbox, when checked, overrides only the Far Focus control, making everything in focus no matter how far away it gets.

Figure 2

Step 5 - Filtering

The next four parameters control what the blur actually looks like. “Filter” allows us to use “Gaussian” or “Defocus” blur. Defocus is a realistic camera blur, but can effect system performance. If you experience a decrease in performance, use Gaussian until you’re ready to output, then switch to Defocus.

“Filter Shape” effects Defocus, mimicking the blur look of different lens types. When using “Polygon” you can control how many sides the shape used to create the blur has, again, allowing for more realistic control to mimic different lens types.

“Depth” is interesting, offering “Radial” and “Planar” settings. Radial mimics real cameras very well, so always start with this setting. Yet if you are using a high DOF Blur Amount setting, if objects are too close to the camera, or other situations, it can look fake. If this occurs, switch to Planar.

Figure 3


One vital note, if you’re working with camera controls, make sure in the Render menu, at the top right of the Canvas, that “Depth Of Field” is checked.

Motion allows for amazing realistic, surrealistic, or just about any DoF look you want. Not only that, DoF is super easy to work with. In our next and final installment of this series, we’ll walk through a practical set up so you can get hands-on with these controls.

Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 1

Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 3 (Coming soon)

Check out our Motion: Working in 3D course!

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.


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