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Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 3

Check out our Motion: Creating 3D Text Fly Bys! course!

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we looked mechanically at the 3D camera controls inside of Motion. In this final installment, we will walk through building an actual set to demonstrate them.  You should read parts 1 and 2 before starting these exercises.

Step 1 - Project Set Up

Launch Motion, create a generic Motion project, formatting is unimportant.  Use Shift-z to fit the frame to the Canvas. Add a camera via the Object menu, “New Camera”, or by clicking the camera button in the tool bar. Be sure “Show Overlays” is checked in the View menu, top right of the Canvas.

Go to the Library with Command-2, to the Content folder, to Images, to Learning, and select “Chalk 04”. Click the Apply button to add it to the default Group. With this new object selected, use Command-D twice to give us a total of three copies. Name them “Focus Field”, “Near Field” and “Far Field”.

F1 for the Properties tab, then set the Position Z parameter as follows:  Focus Field to 0, Near Field to 500, Far Field to -500. Set the Rotation Z parameter as follows: Focus Field to 0, Near Field to 45, Far Field to 90. This will allow us to see what is happening to each.

Figure 1

Step 2 - Camera Controls

Select the Camera layer and F4 to the Camera tab in the Inspector. Set both Near and Far fades to 300. In the Camera Controls, slowly adjust the Near Plane parameter higher. Just after about 1000, you’ll see the Near Field and Focus Field layers each fade out. Play around with it, then click the reset button at the top right of the controls section (hooked arrow button). Click and drag way down on the numerical value for the Far Plane parameter, until around 600 you see the Far Field and Focus Field layers fade out. Play around with it, then click the reset button. You should easily understand these controls as described in part 1.

The top left of the Canvas is a camera menu, change this to “Perspective”. The top right of the Canvas are view controls. Click and drag the middle control to rotate to a good angle for viewing everything. Click and drag up or down on the far right control to zoom so that you can see the camera and all three of our chalk layers. Click the far right of these three, drag sideways or up/down to center them all up.  We want something like this.

Figure 2

Now change the “Camera Type” to “Viewpoint”. Notice the canvas controls (red, blue, yellow arrows) move to the camera body. Camera movements originate at the camera now. Change it back to “Framing” and the camera moves around the focal plane. Next slowly move the “Angle of View” slider each way to see how it changes the distance from the camera to the focal plane. When done, click the reset button for Camera Controls.

Step 3 - DoF Setup

Change the camera menu at the top left of the canvas to “Right”. In the Depth of Field controls move the “Focus Offset” directly on our Focus Field layer. Adjust the “Near Focus” parameter halfway between the Focus Field and Near Field layers.  Adjust the “Far Focus” parameter halfway between the Focus Field and Far Field layers. Check and then uncheck the “Infinite Focus” to see what happens, but leave it unchecked when done.

Figure 3

Step 4 - DoF In Action

Change the camera menu back to “Active Camera”. Go to the Render menu, top right of the Canvas, verify “Depth Of Field” is checked. Now you can get a first hand feel for these DoF controls. Adjust “DOF Blur Amount” way up until you see the Near and Far Field layers blur a lot, perhaps about 80 or so. Play with the Near and Far Focus parameters. You should be getting a really good feel for things now. After that, try adjusting the “Focus Offset” to bring the Near Field layer into focus. Use Shift-Z to undo each adjustment as you go.

Feel free to play around with the Filter parameters to see how various settings effect how the out of focus layers are handled.

Figure 4


This three part series, especially after these exercises, should give you a solid foundation for exploiting Motion’s 3D cameras.  These controls can give you projects a realistic look and open new possibilities for you.

Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 1

Understanding Motion’s Camera Controls, Part 2

Check out our Motion: Creating 3D Text Fly Bys! 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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