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VI - Cameras and Views

A Visual Portal to the 3D World

6.1 - Introduction

In DAZ Studio cameras and views allow you to see the 3D world you are manipulating. Without these tools you wouldn't be able to preview or render a scene. “Views” allow you to navigate 3D space and also view the scene orthographically while you work. “Cameras” allow you to frame your scene for render and apply effects such as “Depth of Field.” By mastering these concepts you will not only be able to efficiently navigate and view your 3D scene, but render your scene in an artistic way.

By the end of this chapter you will be able to load new cameras as well as Camera(s) Presets. You will be able to change your view in the “View Selection Menu” and know what each view is for. In this chapter you will be introduced to the Cameras pane and important camera properties such as 'Focal Length', 'Focal Distance' and 'Depth of Field.' Finally, you'll learn how to save all of your hard work in a Camera(s) Preset.

As we move into this chapter on cameras it is important to note that the Hollywood Blvd layout in DAZ Studio has an activity devoted to cameras and lighting. We will be using the 'Lights & Cameras' activity for this chapter. If you are following along, make sure you are in this activity.

6.2 - Loading a Camera

Before you can manipulate a camera you need one in your scene. The DAZ Studio default startup scene already has a camera loaded in it, but if you've just opened a new scene there won't be any cameras. There are several ways to load a camera into your DAZ Studio scene. You can load a new camera manually, using the 'New Camera…' action or you can load a Camera(s) Preset.

6.2.1 - Loading a Camera Manually

If you want a brand new camera in your scene, loading it manually with the 'New Camera…' action is your best bet. The 'New Camera…' action will load a new camera that you can translate, rotate and manipulate. In fact you will probably need to do all three of these things as the default load position for the camera probably won't suit your needs. Don't worry though, that will be covered later.

To load a new camera, open the 'Create' menu and choose the 'New Camera…' action. This will launch the 'Create New Camera' dialog. In this dialog you can name your new camera. You can choose a name for the camera or just use the default name. Clicking the 'Show Options »' button will reveal more options when loading the camera. Two options of note are 'Apply Default Settings' and 'Apply Active Viewport Transforms.'

'Apply Default Settings' will load the camera at the default position. 'Apply Active Viewport Transforms' will load the camera so that it has the same position and direction as your active view. This means when you view through the new camera the view will be identical to the view you had when you created the camera. This is useful if you are using 'Perspective View' and you'd like to create a camera that matches your current view.

Once you are ready to load the camera click the 'Accept' button. If the Scene pane is open you will see the new camera appear there. In DAZ Studio cameras are like any object, they can be selected, translated, rotated, scaled and deleted.

6.2.2 - Camera(s) Preset

Some artists will distribute Camera(s) Presets with their scenes. These presets will load a camera or multiple cameras into your scene. Keep in mind that by default a Camera(s) Preset will replace the cameras you currently have in your scene. Generally Camera(s) Presets work best with the scene they were designed for. This is because framing, depth of field etc. are based on what is in the scene. That doesn't mean you can't load a Camera(s) Preset for a scene it wasn't intended for, just don't expect it to look good.

Loading a Camera(s) Preset will be discussed in detail in Section 6.4.2 when the Cameras pane Presets page is discussed. For right now it is sufficient to know that you can load a camera through Camera(s) Presets.

6.3 - Changing your View

So what happens if you have multiple cameras in your scene? How do you switch your view between the cameras? You may have noticed that when you load a camera it doesn't automatically switch your view. To handle view switching DAZ Studio provides the “View Selection Menu.” If you recall, the view selection menu was discussed briefly in Section 2.4.1. With the view selection menu you can switch views.

DAZ Studio provides views in addition to the cameras in the scene. These views can't be selected, animated, or deleted like cameras can. They respond to the viewport controls, but they can't be manipulated beyond that. There is one perspective view and six orthographic views. Listed below these views in the view selection menu are all of the cameras currently in the scene.

6.3.1 - Perspective View

The 'Perspective View' acts as a sort of “Director's Viewfinder.” It allows you to pan, zoom, rotate and view the scene in 3D. However, there is no actual camera. Manipulation of the 'Perspective View' must be done with the viewport controls but these manipulations can't be accessed later.

'Perspective View' is best used when setting up your scene. When using the 'Perspective View' think of yourself as a director looking through his thumbs and forefingers as a “frame” for the shot. You are scouting out the location, setting things up, giving commands to the actors, all this while you aren't carrying a camera around with you. If you happen to find the perfect shot while doing this you can create a new camera using the 'Apply Active Viewport Transforms' option. Hopefully you have plenty of practice using the 'Perspective View' by now, since it is the default view in DAZ Studio.

The 'Perspective View' is great for setting up your scene. You can even “spot render,” or do an entire render through the 'Perspective View.' We don't recommend using the 'Perspective View' for your final render, however, as you won't have access to any of the cool camera effects that will be discussed later.

6.3.2 - Orthographic Views

“Orthographic” or “orthogonal” refers to right angles. The orthographic views in DAZ Studio are all at 90° angle to the scene. The views available are, in order of list appearance, 'Front View', 'Left View', 'Right View', 'Back View', 'Top View' and 'Bottom View.' When you select any of the views the viewport will be “locked” in that 90° angle until you change the view. The orthographic views will respond to all of the viewport controls except for the orbit and the camera cube.

In addition to being set at a 90° angle to the scene, orthographic views also lack perspective. In an orthographic view everything is flattened to a 2D image. This may sound limiting, but is actually quite useful. You have your perspective view and cameras to view in 3D. However, looks can be deceiving when viewing 3D space. The orthographic views can be used to help you get things precisely lined up. For example if you want to pose a figure in a chair you could use the top and side orthographic views to make sure the figure is lined up properly in the chair.

6.3.3 - Camera Views

Underneath the orthographic views in the view selection menu are the cameras in your scene. Selecting a camera will cause you to view your scene through that camera. When you use any viewport controls to pan, zoom, rotate, bank, etc. the camera, these transforms are applied to the camera itself. Just like in real life viewing through a camera is the easiest and most intuitive way to set up your shot.

Keep in mind that viewing through a camera doesn't mean that camera is your current scene selection. Viewing through cameras and selecting cameras are two different things. To select a camera you must select it in the Scene pane.

6.4 - The Cameras Pane

The Cameras pane is located on the left side of the Hollywood Blvd layout, in the 'Lights & Cameras' activity. If you have read the chapters on Surfaces, Shaping, and Posing then the Cameras pane should look very familiar, as it shares the same basic layout as the Surfaces, Shaping and Posing panes. The Cameras pane is broken down into two pages - the Editor Page and the Presets page. The Editor Page is where you can manipulate properties for a camera while the Presets page is where you can load Camera(s) Presets from.

6.4.1 - The Cameras Pane Editor Page

The Editor Page of the Cameras pane is divided into two main sections. On the left hand side of the page in the “Property Group View” is where you will see all of the property groups for your current scene selection. Keep in mind that nothing will be displayed unless your current scene selection is a camera. You can click on a property group to select it and you can expand a property group by clicking on the arrow next to the group.

On the right hand side of the page, in the “Property View,” is where you will find the individual camera properties in the selected property group. Remember, in order for you to see any properties in the right column of the Editor page you need to first have a camera selected and second you must have a property group selected on the left hand side.

The Editor Page also allows you to display all properties for a selected camera. To do this select the 'All' filter on the left hand side of the pane. You can also choose to display all properties for the camera that have been modified from their load state. To do this, select the 'Currently Used' filter on the left hand side of the pane.

You can change your current scene selection in the Cameras pane's Editor Page. In the top left corner of the pane you will find a drop down menu which lists every camera in the scene. You can use this drop down menu to change your selected camera. With this menu you don't have to switch to the Scene pane to select a different camera. The drop down menu also has an option to load a new Camera. Clicking the 'Add a Camera…' action does the same thing as the 'New Camera…' action in the 'Create' menu.

Each camera in DAZ Studio will have three property groups - 'General', 'Display', and 'Camera.' The 'General' group contains transform properties which you should be familiar with. You can use these properties to move the camera, or you can use the viewport controls to move a camera when it is your active view.

The 'Display' group contains properties that determine how the camera is displayed in the viewport. You can play around with these properties to see how they affect the look of the camera. None of these properties will affect how the final render looks, just how the camera looks in the viewport.

Properties in the 'Camera' group will affect the final render. 'Perspective', 'Focal Length', 'Depth of Field', 'Focal Distance', and 'F/Stop' can all be manipulated to change the appearance of your render. Most of these properties are also found in real world cameras and function much the same. Below is a brief description of each property.

Perspective

The 'Perspective' property can only be turned on or off. When perspective is turned on the camera will function like a normal camera. Everything viewed through the camera will have depth and perspective. When perspective is turned off the image flattens or becomes isometric. If you view through a camera and toggle perspective on and off you can get a feel for how this property will affect your final render.

Focal Length (mm)

'Focal Length' determines the field of view for your camera. Back in Section 2.4.6 we discussed the zoom viewport control. If you remember the term “Focal Zoom” was introduced. 'Focal Length' is the property that affects the focal zoom. As you increase 'Focal Length' the camera zooms in and vice versa. Extreme values for this property will distort the perspective.

You can manipulate 'Focal Length' by adjusting the slider for the property. Just click the handle on the slider and move it left or right. You can also enter a numeric value for the property by clicking on the numeric value and entering a new value into the field.

Depth of Field

'Depth of Field' determines whether or not the entire image is in focus. When 'Depth of Field' is turned on anything outside of the focus area will be blurred. When 'Depth of Field' is turned off the entire image will be focused in the final render. 'Depth of Field' can be used to create some really cool effects. By putting your main character in focus and blurring the foreground and background you can draw attention to your character and make him or her stand out.

Focal Distance

When 'Depth of Field' is turned on the 'Focal Distance' determines how far away from the camera the focus area is. You will want to make sure that the 'Focal Distance' is set so that your main character is at or near the “Focal Point.” If you aren't viewing through the camera you are manipulating the focal point - indicated by a green and red cross.

You can change the 'Focal Distance' by using the slider for the property. Click on the slider and move it left or right to decrease or increase the 'Focal Distance.' You can also enter a numeric value by clicking on the value label for the property and entering a new value in the numeric field.

F/Stop

The 'F/Stop' determines the distance between the near and far 'Depth of Field' planes. Anything in front of the near plane and anything behind the far plane will be out of focus. By increasing the 'F/Stop' you increase the distance between these two imaginary planes, and thus increase what is in focus. Decreasing the 'F/Stop' value will move these planes closer together and decrease the amount of the image that is in focus. You can use 'Focal Distance' and 'F/Stop' together to control what is in focus when 'Depth of Field' is enabled.

You can manipulate the 'F/Stop' by using the slider for that property. Click on the slider and move it left or right to decrease or increase the focal distance. You can also enter a numeric value by clicking on the value for the property and entering a new value in the numeric field.

The Cameras pane Editor page allows you great control over each of the cameras in your scene. Use the Editor page to customize each of your cameras in your scene. If you'd like to learn more about the properties available in the Editor page of the Cameras pane, please watch this video: Cameras Editor.

6.4.2 - The Cameras Pane Presets Page

Recall back to Section 6.2.2. In that section we learned that cameras can be loaded using Camera(s) Presets. These Camera(s) Presets can be loaded from the Presets page of the Cameras pane.

The Presets page is organized just like the Smart Content pane. On the left hand side, in the “Category View”, you will see available categories. By default everything will be categorized under 'Cameras.' On the right hand side of the pane is where all Camera(s) Presets in the selected category can be found.

To load a Camera(s) Preset you can double click the icon. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the icon for the preset into the DAZ Studio viewport. Remember when you load a Camera(s) Preset it will replace all the cameras in your scene. However, if you hold down the Ctrl key on the PC or the Cmd key on the Mac when loading the preset you will launch the 'Camera Preset Load Options' dialog. In this dialog you have a drop down menu with the options to replace all cameras, replace only the selected camera, or simply add the cameras in the preset to the scene. If you choose 'Add' the cameras in your scene will not be replaced.

You can learn more about the Cameras pane Presets page in this video: Cameras Presets

6.5 - Saving a Camera(s) Preset

Just as with surfaces, shaping, and posing, setting up your cameras takes work. Once you've set up your cameras for a scene you may want to save those settings for later. You can do this by saving a Camera(s) Preset.

To save a Camera(s) Preset go to File > Save As > Camera(s) Preset… To save a preset for an individual camera select that camera in the Scene pane, if you'd like the preset to include all cameras in the scene then your current scene selection doesn't matter.

Clicking the 'Camera(s) Preset…' action in the 'Save As' submenu will launch the 'Filtered Save' dialog. In this dialog you can choose a name for your preset and a location to save it. Once you have named your preset and chosen a save location click 'Save.' Take note of where you are saving the preset so you can find it later.

Clicking save opens the 'Camera(s) Preset Save Options' dialog. The dialog is broken into three sections - Animation Range, Camera Data, and File Options. In 'Animation Range' you can choose to make the preset for the current frame, or over an animation range specified by the 'Start Frame' and 'End Frame' fields. Under 'Camera Data' you can choose whether the Camera(s) Preset will include information for all cameras in the scene, or only the selected cameras. 'File Options' allows you to choose whether or not to compress the file.

Once you have your options set click 'Accept' and DAZ Studio will save the preset. You can find your Camera(s) Preset in the Presets page of the Cameras pane. It will be located under the 'Uncategorized' category.

6.6 - Wrap-Up

The camera properties in DAZ Studio allow you to create really great effects. Try playing around with 'Depth of Field', 'Focal Distance', and the 'F/Stop'. These three properties allow you change the focus of your scene. Remember, your camera settings determine how others will view your art. Don't discount the importance of cameras in DAZ Studio; they can make the difference between a good and great render.