Using Camera Animation to Marry STEM with the Arts in Contraption Maker

October 1st, 2015 by Deborah Fike

Contraption Maker not only “stealth teaches” you science, tech, engineering and math, the game encourages you to use the right side of your brain as well.  We’ve already gone through how you can create stunning backgrounds for your puzzles, but now we’re going to teach you how to use our Camera Animation Tool.  Have you ever wondered how we’ve created videos where the camera seems to moving flawlessly inside our contraption, sometimes focusing on a specific part and sometimes panning out to show the entire machine?  Here’s an example:

 

Note how the camera seems to follow Tinker first, then the egg for a while, until finally it pans out to show almost the entire contraption.  We didn’t use fancy video editing software to do this.  You can create this right inside Contraption Maker with our Camera Animation Tool.

You can learn how either by viewing the video below or reading the text for more details.

 

The Camera Animation Tool is a keyframe-based animation system that helps you create awesome videos of your contraptions that you can share on sites like YouTube.  It’s easier to run this tutorial if you already have a finished contraption in the Maker Lab.

To enable the Camera Animation Tool, click the orange option gears button and check the “CAT” box.

Enabling the Camera Animation Tool

Enabling the Camera Animation Tool

This adds the Camera Layer to your layers box.  You can lock and adjust the visibility of the Camera Layer with the lock and eye icon respectively.

camera layer

Camera Layer in the Layers Window

Before using the Camera Animation Tool, you may want to click the yellow gears option button in the very top right corner of the Maker Lab to adjust your screen’s resolution.  The resolution set here determines the aspect ratio of the green camera preview in the Camera Animation Tool.  You can also set your video quality and framerate here.

Setting your Video Resolution

Setting your Video Resolution

With the Camera Layer selected in the layers box, click anywhere within your contraption, and you’ll open up your first green camera preview.  On the right-hand side of the screen (where your parts usually appear) you will note a keyframe window box pop open.  The green preview shows which part of the contraption will be captured on video.  If you drag the corners of the green preview box, you can make it larger or smaller, effectively zooming in and out.  You can also move it to anywhere within your contraption.

Setting up your First Keyframe

You can add additional keyframes by clicking the yellow “+” button at the bottom of the keyframes window.  Each time a new keyframe is added, it copies the settings of the previous keyframe.  By adding a second keyframe and moving its green camera preview elsewhere within your contraption, a line is draw, connecting the two keyframes.  This line defines the camera’s movement path.  Note in the settings below that you can adjust the speed at which the camera moves along this path, as well as a delay as to when the camera begins its movement.

Adding Additional Keyframes

Adding Additional Keyframes

If you ever want to see how the video will be recorded, you can press the “play” button , and the green camera preview will show you where it will record video as your contraption runs.

There are times when instead of following the line between two keyframes, you want the camera to jump from one position to another.  You can do this by clicking the check box next to that keyframe’s number.  Now, when the camera reaches this keyframe, it will jump directly to this location instead of following the smooth line from the previous keyframe.

Jumping Keyframes

Jumping Keyframes

From here, you can add as many additional keyframes as you need to show pivotal moments where you want to control the camera.  If you ever want to insert a keyframe in between two ones you’ve already created, you can select the first keyframe and press the yellow “+” button to have it inserted between them.

The object of the Camera Animation Tool is create an appealing camera path that really shows off the meat of your contraption.  Many contraptions are easy to view from normal camera view, but if you have a complex machine, it may be worthwhile to construct a unique camera path to show off how your contraption works.  You now know enough basics that you can try creating your own camera path for your unique contraptions.

If you liked this tutorial, you can check out more below:

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