How can I use an over­head view of a city street to best ef­fect?

Tim Jelf, Eng­land

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An­swer Tom replies

Views from di­rectly over­head can be very ef­fec­tive on film, but in comics, with­out the ben­e­fit of any mo­tion at all, they can seem a lit­tle un­nat­u­ral and static, so I would tend to use them spar­ingly. On the rare oc­ca­sion when I think it might be the best shot to com­mu­ni­cate the story, here are some ways I might use Daz 3D’s cam­era set­tings to help give the im­age a sense of life.

In Fig­ure 1, I’ve used the de­fault fo­cal length of 65mm. The re­sult is a pretty flat im­age. It has no sense of mood or con­text or the sig­nif­i­cance of any one el­e­ment over an­other.

In Fig­ure 2, the cam­era is placed at the same height, but this time the fo­cal length has been changed to 20mm, and tells a dif­fer­ent story. The build­ings seem more im­pos­ing and threat­en­ing to the cars and peo­ple be­low as they tower over and en­close them.

In Fig­ure 3, I’ve re­duced the fo­cal length even fur­ther, for a more ver­tig­i­nous ef­fect. This shot em­pha­sises the height from which the viewer is look­ing down, though the cam­era isn’t any higher. I’ve also spherised the im­age slightly in Pho­to­shop to en­hance the ef­fect.

In Fig­ure 4, I’ve opted for 30mm, to sim­u­late a more tra­di­tional wide-an­gle lens shot. Mov­ing the cam­era this time to take the em­pha­sis away from one par­tic­u­lar street, and put it up high enough to fit in a few more build­ings and other roads. This is less in­tense than the pre­vi­ous two ex­am­ples and would serve bet­ter as a char­ac­ter­ful, es­tab­lish­ing shot of a bustling me­trop­o­lis.

A ba­sic knowl­edge of pho­tog­ra­phy can help when us­ing pos­ing soft­ware, as sub­tle changes in vir­tual cam­er­a­work can com­pletely change the mood of a comic panel. 3D pos­ing soft­ware can be great way to nail down a com­po­si­tion, be­cause changes in cam­era an­gle can be made with­out hav­ing to re­draw an en­tire im­age.

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