10. Monitors

9. Lights, cameras and variables | | 11. Control panels

Now we've got a character, camera and a light. It would be nice to see something Lego-like. This is where the Monitor object comes in. With a monitor you can watch what your camera(s) are seeing at the moment.

When you created the current animation, a monitor also has been created. By default it will be monitoring the (also by default created) third person camera "camera 1". Lets locate and inspect the "monitor 1" object. It's properties aren't interesting at all, it has only a name. It does have the sub object 'Monitored cameras'. With it you can manage the collection of associated cameras. But a far more efficient way to do that is by using the tools of the monitor object's window. Let's open that by double clicking the "monitor 1" object.

monitor window

You see something like above, this is what camera 1 'sees' at the moment. It will be updated in real time upon any changes either by playing the animation or changing animation elements.

By clicking the left mouse button and moving it around you can control the angles of the monitored camera. However, keep in mind that any changes to the angles will effect the camera object itself, so if you have multiple monitors viewing this camera they will all 'rotate' accordingly.

Like all windows there is a tool bar featuring a number of buttons. Let's go over them one by one before we go deeper into the more interesting ones.

Monitor window toolbar

1Viewport organisationLets you select single, dual horizontal, dual vertical or quad view mode. This allows you to control the number and orientation of viewports. Each viewport will display a camera view.
2Add cameraLets you add available cameras to this monitor by presenting a selection list. It will not list cameras already monitored by this monitor.
3Remove cameraLets you remove the current camera from the monitor. The camera itself will not be harmed, you only remove it from the monitor camera pool.
4Monitor editorLets you manage the camera pool for this monitor in a more advanced way. More on this below.
5Look atEnable/disable rendering of a marker to illustrate the current camera's look at point.
6Keyboard controlThis button determines how the keyboard affects the current camera. You can choose from 'none', 'position', 'look at' and 'angles'. Do note not all camera kinds have the same available options. When set to something other then 'none' you can control the set aspect by the arrow keys and such. See the hotkeys chapter for all possibilities.
7Mouse controlThis button determines how the mouse affects the current camera. Just like the keyboard control this let you set what you want to manipulate. But you'll be assigning the mouse this time. You can set it to 'none' or 'angles'. Do note not all camera kinds have the same amount of options available.
8AspectThis lets you select the aspect ratio to be used for all cameras in this monitor. It will default to the value set in the animation object. More about aspect ratios below.
9Save screenshotThis lets you save the current rendering to a BMP picture.
10OpenGL exportThese four buttons let you export (part) of the animation using the preview rendering's content for frames. This will be handled in detail in the export chapter.
11LDR ExportGenerate LDR files representing the frames in (part of) your animation. This also will be handled in the export chapter.
12POV-Ray exportGenerate POV-Ray script for (part of) your animation. Guess what this will be handled in the export chapter.

Monitor editor

Before we talk about the monitor's camera manager it might be a good idea to create one or more cameras. This way we have more stuff to monitor. I added a second third person camera for this example.

After creating the camera, return to the monitor window and click the camera manager button (button #4). A dialog like the one below should appear.

monitor edit dialog

At the left all cameras not yet monitored by this monitor are listed. You can select any or all of them followed by clicking the 'add' button. This will add them to the monitor. Doing so will move them to the list of monitored (used) cameras.

The list of 'used' cameras can also be used to organize your cameras. You can move them up and down by selecting one or more of them followed by clicking the 'Up' or 'Down' button. The delete button removes the current selection (and thus moves them to the 'available' list).

You might remember we talked about the 'output camera' property of the animation object a few chapters back. That property controls which camera is the 'current' output camera. To see the current output camera's picture you could add a special camera to your monitor. You do this by clicking the 'add output' button. The view port for this 'camera' will always render the current output camera's view.

Lets add "camera 2" to the monitor and also add the output monitor. Close the dialog by clicking 'Ok'

Monitoring multiple cameras

Now that we've got three cameras to monitor, I'll go into the details of monitoring more then one camera in your monitor. At the bottom of the window there is a scrollbar like the one below:

monitor window scrollbar

Depending on the chosen viewport orientation you can monitor 1, 2 or 4 cameras at once. But internally any monitor can hold many more cameras. With the scrollbar you can control what part of the complete pool you want to see.

There can be only one camera selected at any one time. The toolbar buttons 5 through 7 will always work on the currently selected camera. To select another camera click its viewport with the mouse or use the buttons to the left of the scrollbar to navigate through the monitored cameras.

Aspect ratios

While making a serious animation one should have a destination format in mind. This is where an aspect ratio comes in play. It determines the width/height ratio of your target playback device, e.g. 1.78:1 for widescreen television.

You should not let this limit your selection. The movies teach us that there are a variety of reasons to use a particular aspect ratio. For example most action directors choose 2.35:1 or wider because it gives you more room to present the action. This is because a car chase or kung-fu fight usably involves multiple objects/people, so to get a nice picture it is better to show those objects/people in the same frame while not having to zoom too out far.

LD4DStudio lets you choose the aspect for any monitor so you can preview your work in the different formats. The camera views will be trimmed to the chosen ratio indicated by a white border line. This should make choosing the best format for your animation a bit easier.

You can change the aspect ratio at any time while monitoring, but it's good practice to keep the target aspect in mind while positioning your cameras. This way you can fully utilize the given frame space.

Below you'll find a picture of the aspect ratio selection dialog you open by clicking the #8 toolbar button. It provides a short description and a preview of available aspect ratios.

aspect ratio selection dialog

If you are really creative you could even select a non standard ratio by selecting "custom" and enter a value manually.

9. Lights, cameras and variables | | 11. Control panels
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