How can I use an overhead view of a city street to best effect?
Tim Jelf, England
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.