4  The Rostrum Camera
real and imagined)

Once upon a time, practically all 2D animation was shot on to film using rostrum cameras. Although you are unlikely to use one nowadays, the principle terms remain in use in software packages such as Toonz and Animo and it helps to think as though you are using a virtual camera.

Here is a very stylised front view of a typical animation rostrum set-up:

The dark blue shape is the camera. It can travel up and down the column in order to create the illusion that the artwork is getting bigger or smaller - in other words to create what is called a track in or out, (also commonly and incorrectly referred to as a zoom). The simplified animation table shown here has just one set of (bottom) pegs - that is, a single pegbar.

In real life, rostrum cameras are complex bits of engineering. In addition to tracking towards and away from the artwork, the table on which the artwork is sitting can move East/West and North/South and can rotate. Artwork can be on separate pegbars and these in turn can be made to move in various ways. A complex camera move can be a nightmare to achieve. The introduction of computers together with stepper motors in the 1970s made life a lot easier for camera operators, but it remained a skilled job.

The situation is somewhat different in the digital world, but only for the better. You can continue to think of the virtual rostrum as being like the real thing, but now each piece of artwork can be on different pegs and move and spin in any axis and there is no real limit to the number of pegbars that can be used. Because the pegbars don't exist for real, they can cross through each other.
Those who are used to real rostrum cameras will be aware that there are often at least two sets of pegs, bottom and top - that is, above and below the artwork. This was so that one set could remain static, while the other set moved. Although ink and paint software such as Animo allows you to use different peg set-ups, I see no reason why you should not just use one mode; my own preference is for bottom pegs.

The most important change regarding the camera in the change from the real world to the digital domain is that the rostrum camera itself can now float off the column and move freely anywhere in space, but it always points straight down!

I emphasise the limitation in camera moves because many people entering the 2D animation business will have at least some knowledge of computer 3D programs such as Lightwave and 3DMax and I want to distinguish between the "2D camera" and 3D usage. 2D and 3D can be very closely integrated in all sorts of ways, but 2D remains 2D.

So, just to make it very clear; our virtual camera can move anywhere in space, but it always points straight down at our virtual artwork:



front view of rostrum camera

*check the glossary if you are hazy regarding terms such as "pan" "tilt" and so on


 side view of rostrum camera

 welcome to Flatland!

> 5 - a simple pan