Introducing the Advanced Camera Tools

March 14, 2011 Aidan Chopra

From the looks of it, we’re taking Hollywood by storm.

It seems that every time I watch a movie’s special features, up pops SketchUp: How’d they figure out the Penrose stairs in Inception? What did a vehicle designer for Avatar use to invent the bad guys’ robot suits? What tool did the production designer for 300 and Good Night, and Good Luck use? The set design for The Social Network? Futuristic environments for Tron: Legacy? The sheer number of films and TV shows that SketchUp’s been a part of is jaw-dropping—and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Since the entertainment industry’s been so good to us, we thought we’d return the favor. The old Film & Stage plugin we built in 2005 has been languishing in quasi-supported limbo for years. We dug it out of the shed, took it all apart, fixed the broken stuff, then... strapped a rocket to its butt. If fact, we made it so much better that we had to give it a new name.

The Advanced Camera Tools plugin lets you work with real-world cameras in your SketchUp Pro 8 models. Cameras you create with the ACTs provide precise controls for settings like Focal Length, Aspect Ratio and Image Width, which allows you to accurately preview real camera shots right inside SketchUp.

We put together a little video that tells the story succinctly:

In words and pictures, here’s some of what you can do with the Advanced Camera Tools:

Place cameras in your model and look through them to preview your shots.
Choose from dozens of pre-configured camera types, or create your own.
Position and aim your ACT cameras using familiar moves like Pan, Tilt, Roll, Dolly, Truck and Pedestal.
Set the Focal Length of any camera to simulate a large number of physical lenses.
Look through your ACT cameras to preview Aspect Ratio and Safe Zones for the shots you’re planning.
Toggle on and off all of your ACT cameras’ frustums to clearly see what is—and isn’t— visible in your shots.

The Advanced Camera Tools work on both Windows and Mac computers running SketchUp Pro 8. The plugin itself is a free download; you can get it here: Windows | Mac OS X

This Getting Started Guide is a good place to look for answers to your questions. To join a discussion, check out this thread on our forums.

Six years ago, we also released a big collection of components that relate specifically to film and tv production. If you need a dolly or a jib or a light stand or a light or a scissor lift or any other piece of movie set apparatus, this collection of collections on the 3D Warehouse is a great place to start looking.

One more thing: The lion’s share of credit for getting these tools out the door goes to Brian Brown. He worked on them in his 20% time—his day job is leading the engineering effort for Building Maker and the 3D Warehouse. Small tokens of appreciation (RED ONE HD cameras, etc.) should be mailed directly to him.

Happy pre-visualizationing!

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