GDD 007 : Camera and Cinematography For Games

By December 17, 2013 Podcast No Comments
Game Design Dojo Podcast Episode

In this episode Brian and Ike discuss camera and cinematography with a focus on the various angles, styles, and uses in game design. How to choose a camera, iterate on it, and reference film cinematography are all covered in this jam packed episode.

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5 Ways to Consider Using Camera and Cinematography for Video Games

Camera and cinematography in video games are similar to that of movies. There’s a lot to consider and sift through to keep the right amount of dramatic feel to your game.

  1. 3rd Person Camera
  2. Strategically use Camera and Handle Views
  3. Controls and Camera Relative Controls
  4. Cinematography 101
  5. Camera Angles

Getting Started with the 3rd Person Camera

Using a 3rd person camera creates a more artistic video game with a cinematic feel as apposed to using just a 1st person camera. You’re able to do more story telling in your game design as well as identify with the main character like in the movies. The player can see just how cool the character looks and is going to feel like that character in a clear connection. This concept brought on more female characters in videogames as well – Tomb Raider example.

Strategically use Camera and Handling Views

For your video game you want to create a great experience for the player. A way you can do this is to use many different shots and angles during game play. Diablo example. Also you can relate back to acting and the difference between Movies and Stage Acting and apply it to game developing. The goal is to use the camera strategically.

Views can challenging because it is a sensitive thing that needs to be done well since it is the eyes the viewer is looking through. A few things to consider are:

  1. How far back do I want the Camera
  2. How fast do I want the Camera to rotate
  3. How fast will the Camera move
  4. What happens when player goes around the corner
  5. What happens when an obstacle is in the way

There is so much more with no specific answer, you just have to keep playing and testing your game. Sometimes the answers depend on your environment.

Controls and Camera Relative Controls

Remember every time you touch the camera, it will have an effect on the controls. It is a one to one relationship and when developing, it’s important to spend the same amount of time for both. You can use the camera in combination with the controls to help guide the player. (Rage example. Resident Evil example).

Try to tame the camera. Think about movies and the restraint they use. The cameras are mostly still and subtle. Don’t make it about the camera, the player shouldn’t be thinking about the camera. You know you’re doing the camera right when you don’t notice the camera.

Use the Camera as a tool in game design:

  • Can have other influences or something interesting in the environment
  • Use camera to guide them
  • Hint the player where to go – softly
  • Shadow of the Colossus and Journey example

Cinematography 101

The Theory of Thirds is essential in video game development because you want your character not to be in the middle of the screen, that would be boring. So, first you take your frame, divide into 3 horizontal lines and 3 vertical lines like a tic tac toe board. The 4 points where the lines intersect are the most dramatic. (Examples of formula to create more drama. Gears of War example). It adds drama whenever you change how the camera performs.

Depth of Field is another great tool to use in game design and development. (Source example). The camera focus is really important and needs to be used correctly. It acts as a soft way to lead the player since eyes naturally follow what’s in focus.

Camera Angles

Two camera angles to consider:

  1. When Camera Looking Down – player have a feeling of being more powerful/godlike than the character and in control of everything
  2. When Camera is Slightly Below Character’s Center – makes the character larger than life and gives the character a hero feeling

Studying camera angles goes a long way to direct your audience in how to feel without telling them how to feel. When a camera is far away, it means you want to focus on the environment and it’s a great way to tell the player what to look for. (Mario Bros. example). When the camera is in tight, you focus on the character instead of the environment and when the camera pulls back it creates drama. (Journey example).  A little research with camera angles can make a big difference.

Listen now to Game Design Dojo Episode #007

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