Thursday, December 24, 2009

Camera Fly Mode

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You may be familiar with the 3D View pan keys, Ctrl-Num2, Ctrl-Num4, Ctrl-Num6, and Ctrl-Num8, as well as Num2, Num4, Num6, and Num8, which let you rotate the view in small steps. You can, of course, also use the middle mouse button, or Alt-Left Mouse Button, to move around in the viewport. You may not be as familiar with Camera Fly Mode, which lets you fly around the 3D View, somewhat like a flight simulator. It's like you're in the cockpit of a jet plane, and you can navigate around. We're going to get into the cockpit, so to speak, to learn the controls. After that, I'll show you how you can use Camera Fly Mode to see the world through the eyes of, say, a character in your scene. You can move your character around to where you want it to be positioned.

So let's put our goggles on and get started. Start up Blender. We'll keep the default cube. Add Suzanne to the scene (Space - Add - Mesh - Monkey). Eventually, we'll get inside her head.

Now start your engines. Press Shift-F, which gets you into Camera Fly Mode. You see the corners of a rectangle. This is sort of like the navigator's view. Think of the mouse as a joy stick. Move the mouse upward. The view is panned upward. The further away the mouse gets from the rectangle, the more pronounced the panning. Now move the moust downward. The view is panned downward, back towards the monkey and the rectangle. Move the mouse back inside the rectangle. The panning stops. As long as the cursor is inside the rectangle, there is no panning. Now move the mouse to the right. The view rotates counterclockwise. Move the mouse back to the left, inside te cursor. The rotation stops. Move the mouse to the left. The view rotates clockwise. Move the mouse to the right, to back inside the rectangle. The rotation stops.

You can also use the mouse wheel, or if you don't have a mouse wheel, the plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad, to pan inward and outward. I'll assume that you don't have a mouse wheel - not everyone does. We'll use the plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad. Press the minus key on the numeric keypad to pan outward. To stop this, press the plus key on the numeric keypad. To reverse direction, panning inward, press the plus key on the numeric keypad. To stop that, press the minus key on the numeric keypad.

When you're finished panning and rotating, you have one of two options. Maybe you like where you wound up. If you did, left click, the view stays there. On the other hand, you might want to return back to where you started, to fly home, so to speak. If you prefer that, press Esc.

So that's Camera Fly mode in a nutshell. Here's a little trick that might come in handy. We're going to get inside Suzanne's head, and fly with her. I think biologists do this sort of thing with migrating birds or fish to see where they go. In the process, we can move Suzanne to where she has the best view of the scene. To do this, first press the Z key to go into wireframe mode. Then select Suzanne. Now make Suzanne the "active camera" by either pressing Ctrl-Num0 or from the View menu, select Cameras, then Select Active Object as Active Camera. Now you see the world from Suzanne's point of view, so to speak. Press Shift-F to go into Camera Fly mode. You can move Suzanne around using all the controls we used earlier. If you like where she ends up, left mouse click to move her there. Press the Home key, which shows all the objects in the scene, to see where she wound up.

Eventually, you want to make the real camera the active camera. To do that, press Alt-Num0, or from the View Menu, select Cameras, and then Camera.

I hope you enjoyed our flight into Blenderland. If you liked it, be sure to press the Subscribe button on Youtube so you won't miss any of my Blender tutorials. Happy Blendering!