How to Place and Use a Camera
|The camera described here is a map object set anywhere on the layout that will activate (change your view of the scene to what the camera sees) when a train that has focus comes within the camera view.|
Placing a Camera
Putting a Session in Lineside view (press 3 to activate this view mode) will activate any camera along a route as it is encountered, but will default to Chase Mode in the absence of a camera encounter. This behavior suggests several ways that cameras can be used to enhance Driver mode. A camera can be placed strategically to view loading/unloading/coupling operations, the driver accessing the camera from the menu at the time needed. Setting up a continuous sequence of cameras can provide a driver with the option of switching to Lineside view as an alternative perspective on his train in motion, whereas starting a Session in Lineside view will automatically trigger a camera's view as the train comes into view. Setting up a continuous sequence of cameras provides a means of choreographing a rail-fan's view of train operations.
Cameras are placed and adjusted from the Tools menu in edit mode. Three tools are available: "Place camera 'A'", "Move camera 'M'", and "Delete camera 'D'". A camera can be placed when editing either a Route or a Session. A camera placed in a Session will only activate in that Session; a camera placed on a Route will be present in all sessions attached to that route. To place a camera, move your viewpoint to the approximate location where you wish to place it, click on Place camera, move your pointer to the exact location on the ground and click LMB. The camera view will appear, with the view area marked by four corner angle lines, and a flashing green light indicating the camera has been created and set in 3D space and you are in Move camera mode. Use the pointer and LMB to fix the spot for the camera. Adjusting the actual view to what is desired is accomplished with the arrow, PgUp, and PgDn keys on the numeric keyboard, allowing you to pan left or right (arrow or cursor keys), up or down (arrow or cursor keys), or forward (PgUp or zoom in key) or backward (PgDn or zoom out key). The camera location and mode are fixed by clicking on Place camera a second time. Use the PgDn or zoom out key to back off and see the camera. Not satisfied? Click the pointer on the camera body and click Delete camera to remove the camera, allowing you to start over in a more desirable position using your pointer. Or, click on Move camera to regain adjustment control, although this will change the camera's previously set view. The Move camera tool can be used to adjust an existing camera. Find the camera, select "Move Camera", and LMB click on the camera body to bring up the camera's view. Now the camera can be adjusted as described and the adjustments saved by LMB on Place camera. Again, backing off to view the camera is a check on your not having created accidentally a second camera. The camera itself has a distinctive icon (a camera body and a hood) and has two settings or camera types: Static and Tracking. Get in the habit of selecting static or tracking before fixing the location of the camera, because this property can only be changed by deleting and starting over.
The Static and Tracking cameras have different icons and different behaviors. The Static camera view has a fixed view frame: an arc of of 65°; the camera has a red hood; and the camera is activated as a train enters the view area AND is within 200 meters (650 feet) of the camera. The Static camera view is triggered by the forward end of the consist and triggered off when the end (or sometimes the middle) of the consist leaves the camera view or the middle of the train reaches 200 m distant from the camera. Because the Static camera has a fixed view frame, the points of activation (turn-on) and deactivation (turn-off) are a function of distance between the camera and the active track: a camera set close to the track will 'see' a shorter segment of track than a camera set farther back. A Static camera pointing down the track will be subject to the distance rule in one direction. Although logical in its implementation, this behavior also means the Static camera view is sensitive to train length.
For further discussion on handing off the camera view to another camera in sequence, see the section, Continuous Camera Sequencing, below.
The Tracking and Static cameras have different icons and different behaviors. The Tracking camera follows the train engine and is activated when that engine enters an area defined by a circle with a radius of about 200 meters (~650 feet); the camera hood is green; and the camera turns off (the driver's view is passed to another camera or to Chase mode) once the train leaves the circle centered on the camera or enters the circle of another camera (see below). Note that for a Tracking camera, the pan of the camera will be determined by the engine, so you need only adjust the angle (up/down arrows) and closeness to the track (PgUp/PgDn).
A Tracking camera will focus on a train coming from either direction and point towards the approaching engine, then follow it past the camera to the point where the camera hands off the view. Realize, that camera-on/camera-off is shorter in time (actually distance along the track) the farther the camera is set from the track, and will not occur for a camera set beyond the activation radius of 200 meters. This fact can be useful in setting up cameras in complex track areas, where cameras are intended to activate only for a specific section of track and not another track nearby.
Camera-off occurs when the focus engine reaches 200-m from the camera. Thus, camera-on and camera-off are not influenced by train length. The trigger is the engine. For further discussion on handing off the camera view to another camera in sequence, see the following section, Continuous Camera Sequencing.
Continuous Camera Sequencing
Placing cameras at particularly interesting points along a route will result in the view shifting from Chase to Lineside view as the train progresses and encounters the camera triggers (if in Lineside view mode). Chase mode views are set up and adjusted by the driver and Lineside mode views—set up by the developer—may conflict with the user's preferred way of following his train. This fact suggests that if Lineside view is going to be used as the Session setting, the experience should be a continuous one for at least some distance of travel if not the entire layout. Lineside view becomes a tool that can be developed to display a route/session in a manner at the control of the developer, particularly suitable to ride-along scenarios. Setting up a series of cameras that move the view from camera to camera as a train progresses along a track can be a fairly complex undertaking, requiring not only consideration of the best separation between cameras, but some appreciation of cinematic principles. Cameras must be chained together so that the view is handed off smoothly from one to the next camera in sequence; cameras set too close together will produce short bursts of views and a jerky experience; too far apart and the driver will experience the view jumping back and forth between a Lineside view and Chase view. Camera views are the equivalent of a rail-fan's experience of your route and this may be an important consideration in where you place each camera relative to the ground.
Camera sequencing amounts to placement of cameras close enough together to produce smooth transitions (camera view hand-offs) in Driver mode. Accomplishing this can be done by hit or miss, by using the Ruler tool (for Tracking cameras, separation should be around 1000 ft or 300 meters), or by employing the guide camera sphere <KUID2:70337:23049:1>, a tool object that, set directly on the ground beneath a Tracking camera, draws a transparent green "influence" sphere showing where the distance of 660 feet (200 meters) is located from that camera in all directions. The static camera guide <KUID:70337:23050> provides a similar tool for setting up a Static camera. Of course cameras need not be placed at the point where two adjacent hemispheres just touch or just overlap, but approaching this maximum spacing will establish a long stay on a Tracking camera, whether hand-off is to a camera next along the direction of travel or to Chase view. The sphere is not visible in Driver mode, although should be deleted after use, accomplished by using Delete object in the Objects menu anywhere in or on the sphere.
Considering just the two types of camera, 4 transitions are possible; add the transition into or out of Chase mode, and eight transitions are possible (n to the third power minus non-existent Chase to Chase). Consider also, that transitions, in most cases, need to work well in either direction of train travel. The first rule is to ensure camera view overlaps, as any gaps in the next acquisition will switch the Driver's view to Chase mode then quickly back to Lineside view. Thus, a sequence of Static cameras must have overlap in the view arc and, of course, be located within 200 m of the track.
Tracking to Tracking - Hand-off from one Tracking camera to the next Tracking Camera occurs when the center of the engine passes a point where distance to the next camera is less than distance to the active camera. That is, view transition will occur midway between the over-lapping influence spheres of two adjacent Tracking cameras.
Tracking to Static / Static to Tracking - Static cameras activate as per the capture rule given above, and do not deactivate until the middle of the train passes out of view or reaches 200 m (650 ft) distant, regardless of the next camera in a sequence. Placing a Static camera within the sphere of a Tracking camera results in the Static camera grabbing the view as soon as the train appears to it. A Static camera placed within the active radius of a Tracking camera will assume the view when triggered and hold on to the view until deactivated.
Static to Static - Sequenced Static cameras need not have overlapping views, only that the front of the consist enter the 'next' camera before the end of that consist leaves the active camera. Thus, it is quite functional to set up two Static cameras back-to-back, as it were, and achieve a smooth transition.
Camera Transition Rules (Summary)
A camera must be within 650 ft (200 m) of the track to acquire and present a view.
Gaps in coverage transitioning from one camera to the next will result in the screen temporarily switching to Chase view.
Tracking cameras focus the view on the center of the engine and pan as the engine moves past and are controlled (turned on/off) by distance (under 200 m) from camera.
Static cameras are activated when the front end of the consist enters the view frame and trigger off when the rear of the consist exits the view or the middle of the consist exceeds 200 m from the camera.
For those Trainz aficionados particularly into developing realistic scenery, the Lineside view provides a bounded canvas for adding detail that will be noticed by the driver. In general, small objects are not necessarily seen by a driver in the more commonly used Cab or Chase views. Lineside view is an opportunity to develop focused detail on your layout, including objects that themselves move (persons walking, persons with body movements). Because the train moves through a fixed view, a Static camera is particularly well-suited to setting up this sort of detail to emphasize activities ongoing beyond the train and track: small dioramas that enhance the enjoyment of both the route developer and route drivers. Starting a ride-along session (train under AI control) in Lineside view can be an excellent introduction to your route, especially coupled with triggered message pop-ups (See: How to Use Message Popup Rule).
When a train enters a tunnel, the prevailing screen view is shifted, typically to one of the camera laying on top of the engine. In Lineside Mode, this shift does not occur as long as a lineside camera has control of the view. The train disappears, but a Tracking camera continues to follow it, pointing at where the engine is under the ground; a Static camera continues to point to wherever it was set-up to point. You could prevent this behavior by making sure the camera loses control just as the train enters the tunnel portal (be sure another camera picks it up outside the other end). In Lineside view, how the screen view is treated after the train "disappears" requires some thought. If the tunnel is long, to prevent a switch to the engine inside the tunnel may require having one or more additional cameras located on the ground above the tunnel. This will work as long as the distance down to the train is less than 200 m. Remember, this distance is measured from the camera to the train—as the train passes under the camera, its distance from the camera will increase.
The view of the landscape above the train sans train will need attention, if only to obviate temporary boredom. One consideration might be placing a triggered message (see How_to_Use_Message_Popup_Rule), such as one providing tunnel name and length; or describing the view.
- Camera use in TrainzPLUS is mostly problem free. One exception is manifested as a placed camera becoming inaccessible. The camera works as intended in a session, but cannot be moved, adjusted, or removed in surveyor mode. This problem is caused by placement of the camera too close to some other large object (such as a boulder). For this same reason, you will not be able to adjust a camera with the guide camera sphere present. Moving the object away from the camera object will allow access to the camera again.
- Because a camera is an object (although cannot be moved in Object mode), adjusting an existing camera by clicking on the camera body with Move camera will have the annoying effect of causing the camera to jump away from its original position. The distance of the jump can be minimized by approaching the camera from directly overhead.
- In Driver mode, a small, but sudden shift in the view likely means you have accidentally set two cameras in very close proximity, an easy mistake to make when adjusting a camera by selecting the Place camera 'A" tool instead of the Move camera 'M" tool. Delete one of the cameras. Large shifts in the view (jumps to a more distant camera) indicate imperfect placement of cameras set in sequence.
- Occasionally, a Static camera will not operate as expected under the rules outlined above. After handing over to another camera in sequence, the Static camera will briefly flash back on by an unknown trigger, but one that is train length dependent. In testing, a consist of five cars (length about 500 ft) will trigger this behavior, a shorter consist will not. Very long trains will result in a back and forth switching between the two cameras. This behavior seems to be a bug in camera operations possibly related to the fact that either the end or the middle of the train can trigger the camera off.
Cameras in the Future
Future versions will include a "timeline" mode that will allow setting a variety of camera controls to capture the perfect video footage using the trackside cameras. This system would include tweaks to the tracking cameras; adding pans, zooms, etc. to any camera (Tony Hilliam, Forum, March 11, 2019).