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The [digital] Camera for 3D Artists

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This sample chapter takes a not-so-technical journey through basic camera principles, all of which can be used in the digital realm.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Titling my book was difficult. I wanted to call it The Digital Camera, but that would obviously lead to quite a bit of confusion. Today's ever-growing digital marketplace has branched to include digital photography, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The phrase "the digital camera" generally leads to one thought—digital photography.

My book is not about digital photography, although photographic and film principles are very important to digital cinematography. And, while carrying around a laptop that's running your favorite 3D application is possible, it's not quite the same thing as always having a camera around your neck. Perhaps you've taken an interest in photography, or maybe you like to critique movies and how they are filmed. Maybe during your last visit to the movie theater, you saw a few shots that felt uncomfortable, but you just couldn't put your finger on why. How does that all relate to working in com-puter animation? Good question! The book will answer those questions and many more. But first, you should understand how a real-world camera translates to the digital world.

"When you begin viewing the world through a camera lens, your senses sharpen as your mind and eyes are forced to focus on people and things never before noticed or thought about. I discovered that even if I didn't always take a picture, the simple act of carrying a camera and searching for something to photograph greatly sharpened my own powers of observation and allowed me to experience much more of life."
—Kent Reno

2.1 The Real and the Unreal

How would you describe the camera in your 3D application? It is digital, but is it a "digital camera" as you know it in the practical world? The best way to describe what it is, is to understand what it does. A real camera is often much like the "unreal" camera within your digital canvas. It can zoom, it can focus, and it can move in any direction you desire. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. You will find, however, that a digital camera offers an enormous range of control and flexibility. For example, the camera in your digital application can do just about anything you can imagine, such as rack-focus effects and shooting with extreme wide angles, fish-eye lenses, or telephoto lenses. What's even cooler is that your "digital" camera is devoid of wires, cables, and technicians! You can pan, swoop, twist, or spin the camera to your heart's content—without even paying union fees!

Just as a 3D artist trained in traditional painting has an advantage in the digital environment, the same goes for those with backgrounds in cinematography. But before you can use a camera in a 3D scene, take a look at how real-world principles translate to the digital world. This chapter will discuss:

  • Aperture

  • F-stops

  • Focus

  • Depth of field

  • Aspect ratios and pixels

  • Film and grain

The best place to start is with the most fundamental subjects: aperture and f-stops.

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