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Alex: March 2009 Archives

Update:  Several of you have written to suggest that I do the videos for this series.  Thanks for your input -- I'm working on the videos and project files, and I'll post them at the top of the related blog entries as soon as they're ready!

In the previous part of the 3D in Motion series, we discussed the very basics of manipulating Motion layers in 3D space.  We moved them and rotated them, and now it's time to go one step deeper.  Our goal in this lesson is to understand how to "fly around" in 3D scenes, using cameras and 3D layers.

Background and Concepts

To get the concepts down, let's step back a little bit.  As you were moving objects around in 3D space in Part 1, it might have occurred to you that the X, Y, and Z arrows are a little bit pointless (or at least awkward, when you're trying to get things where you want on the screen).  I mean, think about this situation: I've rotated my layer in 3D to where it takes the perspective I like, and it's in the top-right corner of my canvas, where I want it.  But I just want it to be a little bit ... bigger.  I could use the object's 3D Transform Arrows to move the object closer to me in 3D space -- but why not just use the Scale controls to "zoom it up"?
If you're not accustomed to working in 3D space, you might find Motion's 3D features intimidating.  You shouldn't.  Motion's 3D capabilities strike a great compromise between simplicity and power -- and just a glance at some of Motion's pre-built 3D templates will convince you of the power.

The Very Basics

The first step in understanding Motion's 3D space is to rewind to high school geometry: what are those three dimensions?  Remember that flat surfaces (like graphs, or TV screeens) have a horizontal "X" axis and a vertical "Y" axis -- and that an "axis" just means that an object can move in that direction without changing its position in the other direction.  So if I were to take, say, a piece of text, and make it scroll from the bottom of the screen to the top, I'd be moving only along the Y-axis of the screen: it's in the same place horizontally.

If you the viewer are looking directly at the screen, then that third dimension -- the "Z" axis -- just describes objects on the screen moving closer or farther from you.  In and of itself, this doesn't mean much: if an object is moving only along the Z-axis, it's staying in the same position vertically and horizontally.  Essentially, you'd just see it appearing bigger as it comes closer towards you or smaller as it goes farther away.

3D space begins to become cooler when you realize that, once you've pulled objects off the flat space of the screen, you can start spinning them around and treating them like objects in the real world.  The most basic example of this is the age old "3D Spin" transition: picking up a layer and rotating it where it "flips" towards you or away from you.  In the practical exercise for today, we'll see that you can use Motion's rotation controls to do this easily.

Read on for the practical ...

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Alex in March 2009.

Alex: January 2009 is the previous archive.

Alex: April 2009 is the next archive.

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