To save valuable animator time, we'll have the mission designers script cut scenes using the paltry in-game tools and script language. I did some of this over the vacation, using this advice from James Zachary, our lead animator:
- when two characters are conversing, the camera shouldn't cross the line between them
- it's better to not have the character smack in the center of the screen, but off to one side
- a little motion on the camera is good
And this advice from Cathy Pascual, my wife, an amateur photographer:
- use the 'rule of thirds' to make a pleasing composition. Cut your image in three, and have your subject be on one of the lines, or filling one of the thirds.
- Closer is better. You don't need to have the entire subject in frame: you can achieve good results by focusing on a specific feature of your subject.
- Varying your shots can be dramatic: if your first shot is from below, try having the next shot be from above.
I've learned that our algorithmic tools for placing the camera didn't get decent results: the computer is good at putting your subject in the center and not much else. To make sure I was getting dramatic close ups from interesting angles I had to manually place the camera in the scene myself. Maybe with days of work I could program a camera to fill the frame with its subject and to obey the rule of thirds, but it took me less than a day to manually place the camera where I needed it for my purposes.
Something to remember if you ever find yourself doing some quick-and-dirty machinima.