home about gallery publications education links contact

..::camera shake & mounting (grips)::..

Camera shake is normally introduced to a scene, both physically (when filming) and in CG to give the suggestion of an object’s weight when it hits a nearby surface, however it is also implemented when filming moving surfaces or objects. The trick to producing such an effect is to think like a Grip, Camera Op and Director of Photography all in one as, pretty much, you’ll be calling on all of those types of skills.

Firstly, above all, think how the shot is to be framed – what is going on in the scene and what you are trying to convey to the audience. Secondly, with the framing in mind, think how the camera would be mounted in real life. For example, say you are filming a fast-paced car chase sequence: the chasing camera would also be mounted on a car or truck, more than likely on a rig which is then controlled either manually or remotely by a Camera Operator. This poor soul will be buffeted around by winds if you’re doing a side mount tracking shot, so will have to contend with sideways rotational motion as he is constantly trying to reframe, coupled with bumps in the road, changes in velocity etc.

With all of this in mind, the main type of camera shake that is going to be introduced is going to be a sideways variable noise rotation, with a touch of roll and vertical rotation depending on if the camera is fixed or free-moving. One common mistake is to add a lot of positional noise for camera shake – this should only be used sparingly depending on the “mount”; most film cameras and mounts are exceptionally heavy so any vertical motion will be almost omitted, however rotational variations will be more present due to the single pivot point of the camera.

The best way to control this in 3ds max is by using a List controller on a Free Camera’s rotation controller and, coupled with the standard Euler XYZ controller, nest multiple rotational Noise controllers within, each for different types of shake – one for reframing, one for bumps, one for impacts (etc) and then animate each one accordingly. Additionally, study the camera work on car chase sequences in features such as Bullitt, Vanishing Point (etc) for inspiration.

Enlarge Screenshot Only a subtle amount of camera position noise is introduced, purely to simulate bumps in the road and camera car position. These obviously rock the car slightly, so a rotational noise controller is added also.
Enlarge Screenshot The final camera’s rotation is derived from multiple controllers – a procedural to simulate wind buffering and another hand-animated. The camera position is dampened with a Spring controller to simulate a Steadicam
Download the max file! Zip file to accompany.

..::quick tip::..

You can add camera shake to almost any scene to add a touch more realism; very subtle effects on crane shots and tracks give a subconscious impression that the scene was filmed and not rendered!

Initially published: 3D World magazine, Issue 102, April 2008.

Copyright Pete Draper, April 2008. Reproduction without permission prohibited.