One of the greatest things about 3D animation is that your only limitation is your imagination. You are not limited by cables, talent, unions, natural lighting conditions, or other factors. As a digital director, you have control over everything in your scene, enough to make a traditional director jealous! Because you're not limited, you are often able to do things in the digital filmmaking world that are not possible in the traditional filmmaking world.
A dolly shot is a very natural shot where the camera moves horizontally across a scene. For example, stand up and take a look at something across the room. Now walk, but stay focused on that item; this is how a dolly shot looks. The dolly shot allows a director to follow action in a scene, such as a dog walking down the street looking for the next bright red fire hydrant. In the traditional world, a director employs either a hand-held camera, a steadycam, or a dolly on a track. Digitally, you can make a smooth motion with just two keyframes or add a hand-held camera look. Again, digital content creators have more control than traditional directors. Figure 8 shows an example of a dolly shot, from its starting point to its ending point.
Figure 8 A dolly shot moves the camera across the horizontal axis, following the action or revealing a character or prop.
There are several types of dolly shots:
- Character dolly
- Pull-back reveal
- Depth dolly
- Expand dolly
- Contract dolly
Directors often use a character dolly to focus on one or more characters in a scene. This shot is also commonly known as a push-in. The camera starts out with a full, or even medium shot, and is pushed in forward. You can push the camera all the way up to an extreme close-up if needed. Push-ins add tension to a scene and magnify a character's emotion. Faster motions can be used for a more comic approach.
The pull-back reveal is used to reveal the full extent of a scene. For example, the camera is focused up close on a lost little boy looking for his mother. As he becomes scared and increasingly worried, the shot pulls back to reveal the boy standing alone in the middle of a large crowd. The viewers gain a sense of the enormity of the boy's situation.
A depth dolly can be used when characters move toward and away from the camera. The camera moves past characters or objects that temporarily block the field of view, helping to emphasize the depth of a scene.
In an expand dolly shot, the camera follows a character who is moving away. As the camera moves forward, the actor walks away faster than the camera. The viewer feels distanced from the character with a shot like this. You might use an expand dolly to end a scene. Additionally, you can reverse this type of shot to introduce a character to a scene.
A contract dolly moves the camera forward as a character walks or moves toward the camera at the same time. This type of shot makes a simple action more dramatic by combining two opposite actions. A variation of this could have the character move toward the camera while the camera pans up, revealing the subject.