Creating a Maya Camera Dolly Rig

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Last modification: 19 Mar, 2018
Industry
  • Film & VFX
Subject
  • Cameras
  • Film & VFX
Products
  • Maya
  • Maya
  • Maya
  • Maya
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
Duration
30 min

A real world dolly consists of a base, which literally moves along a track, a boom arm mounted atop the base, which can rotate left and right, as well as move up and down. The boom can vary in length; in real world equipment there are usually limitations to the length, based on the type of dolly. The camera itself is mounted to the end of the boom, and can pan, tilt, and roll.

Chapman Leonard Camera Dolly, the Hybrid 4

Instead of animating the camera directly in Maya, creating controls for the camera are set up with the following abilities, and limitations.

  1. Dolly base, which only permits movement in the X and Z axes. This will allow dollying left and right, as well as trucking in and out.
  2. Boom elevation, a location above the base, which allows control of the elevation and pivot point for the boom arm. This will control the height and direction of the boom arm.
  3. Boom arm, which will be allowed to telescope and is attached to the Boom Pivot.
  4. A camera attached to the end of the boom arm, which will be able to pan, tilt and roll based on its attachment to the boom arm. The pan, tilt and roll can either be animated directly, or with an Aim Constraint.
To create a camera rig

Start with the Camera Base

  1. Use the EP curve tool to create a rectangular control. Go to the Create menu > EP Curve Tool, which will change the cursor to a crosshair.
  2. Press and hold x on the keyboard, and snap points to the grid in the shape of a rectangle, all the way to the beginning, then press return (enter) to complete the rectangular.
  3. Center the pivot of the rectangle, go to the Modify menu > Center Pivot
  4. Center this rectangle. Select the entire curve, press w on the keyboard to turn on the move tool. Hold down x on the keyboard, which will constrain the movements to grid intersections. Move the control to the center of the grid.
  5. Delete history (Edit > Delete by type > History).
  6. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations)
  7. Name the control DollyBase.

Create the Boom Elevation control

This control determines the height above the base, and a point of rotation for the boom arm.

  1. Creatie a NURBS circle for the control. Go to the Create menu > NURBS Primitives > Circle. Then mouse drag on the grid to create the circle, make this smaller then the Dolly Base rectangle control.
  2. Move the control up above the dolly. From the perspective view, press w to move, then press and hold x to snap that control to the center of the grid.
  3. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  4. Move the control above the dolly base control. From the Channel Box, enter 2 in the translateY, which will move this up 2 units.
  5. Delete history (Edit > Delete by type > History).
  6. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  7. Name the control boomElevation.

Boom Arm Length Control

Create a control which moves the camera away from the center point of the dolly.

  1. Create a Dolly Basecontrol which is a rectanglar base as the controller for the entire camera rig.
  2. Create a NURBS circle for the control. Go to the Create menu > NURBS Primitives > Circle. Then mouse drag on the grid to create the circle, make this smaller then the boomElevation control.
  3. Change the rotation of the control by selecting the control, open the Attribute Editor, and click the makeNurbCircle tab, which is the construction history, and enter 1 in the Normal X (first box), and set the next one to 0 (zero). Now the control should be facing down the X axis.
  4. Again snap that control to the center of the grid. From the perspective view, press w to move, then press and hold x to snap that control to the center of the grid.
  5. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  6. Enter 1 for the translateY, and 2 in the translateX. This will position the control so that it is at the same height as the Boom Elevation control, and then to the right.
  7. Delete history (Edit > Delete by type > History).
  8. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  9. Name the control boomLength.
Part 1 of Camera rigging in Maya

Visual Reference Controls

Now create visual references for the rig's connections. The controls can be used alone, but a visual reference of the connections of the rig help.

  1. Create one single straight segment. Using the EP curve tool again, just place two points on the grid one unit apart, and press return (enter) to get out of the tool.
  2. Move the control vertices by Right-clicking on the line, and choose Control Vertex from the marking menu.
  3. Snap the control vertex to the center. Select one of the control vertices and press w on the keyboard to move the point, then hold x and snap the point to the grid in the center of the dolly control.
  4. Select the other control vertex (the other side of the line), and use the side and front view to position this point in the middle of the boomElevation control.
  5. Right-click on the line, and choose Object Mode from the marking menu.
  6. Delete history(Edit > Delete by type > History).
  7. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  8. Name the line boomPed.

Make another visual reference for the boom arm

  1. Create another single straight segment. Use the EP curve tool again to create another line for the boom arm.
  2. Move the control vertices by Right-clicking on the line, and choose Control Vertex from the marking menu.
  3. From the side and front views, reposition the control vertices from the top of the boomElevation control, to twice the distance through the boomLength control.
  4. Right-click on the line, and choose Object Mode from the marking menu.
  5. Delete history(Edit > Delete by type > History).
  6. Freeze transforms (Modify > Freeze Transformations).
  7. Name the line boomArm.

Create Clusters and constraints

  1. Starting with the line for the boomArm, connect clusters on the ends of the lines. Do this by right-clicking on the line, and choose Control Vertex from the marking menu again, select the control vertices one at a time, and choose Create Deformers > Cluster.
  2. Parent Constrain the cluster on the end of the boom arm to the boomLength controller by selecting the boomLength controller, then shift-select the cluster and choose Constrain > Parent.
  3. Create a point constraint for the boomPed line. Create clusters, and connect the top one to the boomElevation control. Realize that the cluster on top of the boomPed will be overlapping the one on the boomArm, so use the outliner to get the right cluster.
  4. Point constrain the cluster for the boomArm that is at the center of the boomElevation control, to the boomElevation control. So this should now have both clusters that are at this control, point constrained to the control. To test this, move the control around and both lines should be sticking to it, make sure you put it back where it was (just undo).

Group and Parent Controls

  1. Group the boomLength control by selecting the control, and go to the Edit menu, and choose Group (command+g on the mac, ctrl+g on the PC).
  2. Move the pivot for this group to the center of the boomElevation control. Do this by pressing w on the keyboard (move tool), hold down d on the keyboard, hold down v on the keyboard, and snap the pivot to the center of the boomElevation control.
  3. Name the group boomLengthGRP, and keep the group selected. Shift-select the boomElevation control, and press p on the keyboard to parent the group to the boomElevation control.
  4. Point constrain the cluster at the base of the boomPed line to the dolly control by selecting the base, then shift-selcting the cluster, Constrain menu > Point.
  5. Parent the boomElevation control to the dolly control.
  6. The last thing is to connect a camera. Go to the Create menu > Cameras > Camera. A basic default camera shows up in the middle of the grid.
  7. Select the camera, press w on the keyboard (move tool), hold v on the keyboard and snap the camera to the end of the boomArm.
  8. Realize that the camera snaps to the point of the cluster at the film plane, which is directly behind the lens. While this can be connected here, where this really sits on a normal camera, is below the body, and behind the lens. Position the camera so that the boomArm is below the camera, and back from the lens.
  9. Reposition the camera pivot, press w (move tool), hold down d and v and snap the camera’s pivot to the cluster.
  10. Point constrain the camera to the cluster at the end of the boomArm by selecting the cluster, shift-selecting the camera, Constrain menu > Point.
  11. In the outliner, select all the objects for the rig, and group them. Call the group cameraRig1. The number is important because if more rigs are placed in a scene, they will all be numbered sequentially.

Limit Controls

Limit the controls to prevent certain movements of the rig. Typically the rig would always be placed on the floor, meaning that in terms of Maya the dolly base would never move up in the Y axis, or rotate. Since floors in Maya may not always be directly on the grid, this rig will be initially placed using the main group that has no control, then moved left to right, forward and back, using the dolly control.

  1. Select the dolly control, in the channel box, select across all the scale attribute labels, right-click and select Lock and Hide.
  2. Select the boomElevation control, in the channel box, select everything except Translate Y, Rotate Y, and Rotate Z, right-click and select Lock and Hide.
  3. Select the boomLength control, in the channel box, select everything except Translate X, right-click and select Lock and Hide.
  4. Select the camera, in the channel box, select everything except the rotations, right-click and select Lock and Hide.
  5. Select the boomPed line, open the Attribute Editor, expand the Object Display options, and enable template.
  6. Select the boomArm line, open the Attribute Editor, expand the Object Display options, and enable template.
  7. Hide all the clusters so that they won’t show up in the rig. Go to the outliner, select all the clusters, and in the Channel Box and enter 0 (zero) for the visibility.
Part 1 of Camera rigging in Maya

To move and animate the rig

  1. Set the initial position the rig by using the dolly control. Select all the controls and press s on the keyboard to key all the controls.
  2. Move to the frame to set the next keyframe.
  3. Truck or dolly the rig by selecting the dolly control and moving it, then keyframe the dolly control.
  4. Rotate the boom by selecting the boomElevation and select rotate, raise the boom by selecting the control, and translate it in the Y axis. Notice that the camera will stay level even when the boom is rotated up. This is the natural way a dolly works.
  5. Change the length of the boom by moving the boomLength controller on the X axis.
  6. Pan, Tilt and Roll the camera by selecting the camera and rotate. This can be done while looking through the camera.

Variations

Sometimes on a Crane, Boom or Jib, the camera is mounted below, or suspended from the arm. In the case of a dolly, it’s usually mounted on a tripod head below the camera. Mainly the difference between these two mounting methods is due to the length of the arm. On a dolly it usually very short, but on a boom it could be so long that there is less camera shaking when it is suspended, rather then mounted over the arm.

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Tags
  • Maya
  • Maya
  • Maya
  • Maya
  • Cameras
  • Film & VFX
2 Comments
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| 3 months ago
Can someone give me this scene?
| 3 months ago
Do you mean you want the camera rig?
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