How do cameras work? Learn from Pixar in this free online class
Khan Academy x Pixar – it’s a veritable treasure trove for any animation fan who’s been wanting to know how artists work their magic behind the scenes. Budding animators can learn a thing or two in the free lessons offered in Pixar in a Box, a collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy.
But photographers can pick up some lessons too, in the class called “Virtual Cameras.” The course explores how Pixar uses virtual cameras to create their movies, and explains how their choice of lenses and different camera settings result in the memorable scenes from the animated film “Inside Out.”
The Pixar team treats the process very much like shooting a live-action movie: basic photography concepts like camera angle, depth of field, and focal length are also main considerations.
“This lesson is about cameras – the art of using them, and the science behind them,” the introduction goes, before diving into a quick background on choosing lenses for your camera. Photographers know that different lenses produce different effects and results, but there’s also another reason behind those choices.
“In each case, we thought about how we can use the camera to amplify the emotions we wanted to achieve in that scene,” says Patrick Lin, director of photography.
The “Virtual Cameras” online class begins with a lesson on pinhole cameras, diving next into a discussion on focal distance, camera lenses, depth of field, storytelling with a camera, and composing the scene.
There’s math behind the process too. The second part of the lesson looks at how regions in Pixar’s scenes are blurred to create depth of field, and the geometry behind it.
Even seasoned photographers will do well to brush up on their knowledge, and what better way to do that than seeing it applied to animation? It’s a fun way to get kids interested in photography, too.