Motion Control Basics
What now you can do with Motion Control in some words?
Repeatability/ Part Runs
While a camera position in 3D space is determined by X,Y,Z translation and X,Y,Z rotation it´s possible to determine the rotation data (X/Tilt, Y/Pan for Maya coordinate system, Z is Roll) of the camera also by looking at another point in space with its own X,Y,Z position data. This point is called simply “Target” (as we´re on shooting anyway…). So, when animating those target point in space, the camera changes its rotation data. Using that in MoCo software, it´s easy to travel the camera and hold a certain point in frame no matter if that point is fixed or even moving. This function allows to create complex camera moves just by animating the camera in space as in 3D software, so no fighting with weird warped moves is needed you normally earn when animating singular axies one after another. This is possible since there is an inverse- kinematics- driven rig model inside the software calculated in real time. So the target tracking functionality in fact is the base of all advanced stuff you can do with Motion Control, and this is how a simple timelapse machine or homebuild MoCo- dolly is much different from a high end system what I´m talking about like Mark Roberts´ Milo.
This is where motion control initially comes from- big trick tables to animate photographic cameras along a path frame by frame. There is a very kind and hardworking international scene, artful minded, properly connected and working in an own fabric of space and time creating a lot of awesome smaller and bigger films for a growing audience, not only kids. Stop motion is using Motion Control in a wide spread manner since there is no use for live- action- equipment, and due to it´s own universe of time and effort you´ll find here a lot of fancy stuff full of technical expertise and great fantasy as you see in the movies as well. But there are a lot of companies have been using Motion Control on a very high end level for a long period of time.
Model Moving/ Rig Combining
As it´s possible to move a camera with full control it´s for models, actors, cars as well. Simplest is to have a spinning turntable shooting locked camera, you´ll go for a similar effect as if you´d circle around the scene. But it´s easy and sometimes makes sense to move both, so to combine movements. So you can maybe avoid looking out of a greenscreen or execute very complex movements you´d not able to get with just one rig. Or you can move a car or even a dragons neck an actor riding on in a bumpy manner to fake some impacts or air combat. There is a high range of different modelmovers around, but not least a motion control rig itself can go to get a modelmover and combined with another rig moving the camera. There are a lot of possibilities especially by using 3D software to distribute complex moves down to different rigs using their individual abilities.
Since a 3D path is written when a motion control camera got animated, those can get exported to 3D software and, of course, vice versa. So it´s possible to use a matchmoved camera path to shoot a plate and combine both in post. It´s to say, this an advanced field of motion control use and you need to take care that anyone who is experienced with that does have a deeper look on what you want to shoot. There are physical limits to consider and to make sure the rig you use is properly calibrated and all measurements are done exactly.
This is a field which is not very well known yet but since I´ve got any experience with that I want to merge those into this sheet. And I think it´s an interesting point at a time where the use of moving images is growing exponentially at internet every minute. Machinery, as usually in normal industry production as well, is very helpful once you´re going to repeat the same basic procedures ever and ever again. In moving pictures business this is the case especially when shooting e.g. a bunch of different products in the same environment, like kitchenware, furniture, food or similar. So you can achieve a very high end imagery using the advantages of Motion Control: Smooth and nice camera moves, as often repeatable as wanted for lighting or retouching or vfx reasons, but with a (in comparision to a normal set) very small amount of crew.