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Blender: complete guide to the Turnaround Camera add-on

In this guide we will see how to use the "Turnaround Camera" add-on, already included as standard in Blender, to quickly show the details of an object through the animation of a camera that orbits around it. This can be useful both for communicating the result of a job done to a colleague or a customer, and for displaying a product in a promotional video.

 

Let's set the scene:

Our scene must be composed, at least, of an object (in our case the "monkey Suzanne", Blender's mascot, with the relative lights that illuminate it) and a camera (in our case it will frame it from the front, but it is possible to choose another angle, for example from above to 45 degrees)

Our goal is therefore to create a camera animation around the monkey's head.
Before starting, however, let's select the monkey head object and press the "Ctrl+A" keys to confirm all the transformations

and at the top, under the main menu, we set the orientation of the transformations as "global"

 

How to activate the "Turnaround Camera" add-on:

The "Turnaround camera" add-on is already present in Blender, but it is necessary to activate it: from the main menu, at the top, select "Edit > Preferences" to bring up the Blender settings window.
In the "Add-ons" tab we select the "Animation" category

and in the results we check the "Animation: Turnaround Camera" option to activate the relevant add-on

To find the add-on to activate, we could just type "turnaround" in the search box

 

How to use the "Turnaround Camera" add-on:

We now select the camera and press the "Ctrl+0" keys to put ourselves in camera view. Using the "Walk Navigation" (from the "View > Navigation > Walk Navigation" submenu, or by pressing the "Shift+`" or "Shift+ò" keys depending on the keyboard) we try to frame the object better, until we obtain

We select the object around which we need to rotate the camera. In this case it is a simple object, if there were multiple objects in the scene you would have to choose one (the last one selected is considered) in a central position, or you could create an "empty" object to which the objects in the scene can be related and rotate the camera around the "empty" (or use the "User cursor position" option, as we will see later). If the subject of the animation is a character with armor, it is better to use the armor as the target object for the add-on.
We press the "N" key to display the panel on the right in the 3D view and select the "Animate" tab, thus finding the add-on options

which appeared correctly because the last selected active object conformed to its use. If we hadn't selected anything, a blank panel might have appeared

If we had selected the camera, Blender would have displayed an error message instead.

Looking carefully at the add-on panel

we notice that to the right of the "Turnaround" button there is the name of the object around which the camera must turn.
To the right of "Camera:" there is the name of the camera that will orbit around; if there is more than one in the scene, choose the desired one

"Start Frame" and "End Frame" simultaneously control both the number of animation frames and the total ones available for the entire scene.

 

Creating the Animation:

To create the animation just press the "Turnaround" button.
After it has been built, we look in the "Outliner" and discover that an "empty" object "MCH_Rotation_target" has been created, child of the target object according to the typical process of parenting between objects, which in turn has become the parent of the camera, thus rotating it makes the camera orbit around the object.

If we select it we notice that two keyframes have been created in the "Timeline" at the bottom

Which corresponds to the initial position of the unrotated "empty", at zero degrees, in frame 1

and its rotation of 360 degrees, counterclockwise, in the frame 250

However, if we press the play button in the "Timeline" (or press the Space button), we notice that the animation starts slowly, then accelerates, and ends by decelerating.
To understand what happened, instead of the "Timeline" we select and display the "Graph Editor" in the bottom window

We can see that in correspondence with the two keyframes there is a Bezier interpolation which makes the transition from movement to immobile position less abrupt.

By selecting both keyframes, by pressing the "A" key, we can modify the uniform motion in two ways: by pressing the "T" key and in the popup window by selecting a linear interpolation

or by eliminating the smoothing effect of the Bezier curve handles, by pressing the "V" key and choosing "Vector"

thus obtaining the graph for uniform motion.

By now starting the animation, pressing the space key, we obtain the desired uniform motion, which we can render by pressing the "Ctrl+F12" keys

 

Choose rotation axes:

As you can see in the add-on panel, it is possible to rotate around one or more axes

By default the Z axis is selected and only one anti-clockwise orbit of the camera will be created (the object will therefore appear to rotate clockwise), if we click on the "-Z" button on the right the motion of the orbit will change direction and the object will appear to rotate counterclockwise.
If instead of "1.00", corresponding to a single 360 degree orbit, we set a value of "2.00" the camera will complete two revolutions (720 degrees) around the object in the number of frames indicated by "End Frame", therefore the animation will be twice as fast as before, while if we set a value of "0.5" the camera will only make half a turn around the object (in our case from front to back, equal to 180 degrees).

To increase or decrease the rotation speed, after building the animation, you can also decrease or increase the "End Frame" value and drag the last keyframe until the end accordingly.

 

"Turnaround camera" add-on options:

As you can see below, the add-on also has other interesting options

Back and forward: by setting this option, after performing the rotation in the chosen direction, it performs a "return" rotation in the opposite direction.
We then enable the "Back and forward" option and press the "Turnaround" button to build the animation.
As before, we try to make the movement linear. To facilitate modifications, we lock the alterations for the "X" and "Y" axes in the "Graph Editor", by clicking on the relevant locks

we select all the keyframes by pressing the "A" key and as before we linearize them, pressing the "V" key, choosing "vector", or "T" choosing linear interpolation, obtaining

We render the animation, pressing the "Ctrl+F12" keys, and we obtain

Since the total number of frames is set by "End Frame", each of the two orbiting animations will take half the maximum time indicated.

Sometimes, however, to show our model, we may not want to do a complete rotation. Using the previously created animation, let's change some parameters in the "Graph Editor":
We select the keyframe in position 1 and set the value -60 degrees for the rotation,

to look at the object from the side

then we select the intermediate keyframe, at which we give value 60 degrees to the rotation,

to look at the object from the other side

therefore at the last frame, in our case the 250th, we return to giving the value -60 to the rotation

We render the animation, pressing the "Ctrl+F12" keys and we get

Create track constraint: enabling this option will create a "Track To" constraint; in fact if we enable it and create the animation by clicking on the "Turnaround" button, if we select the camera in the "Outliner" we will find that, in the "Object Constraint Properties" tab, a "Track To" constraint has been created which has the "empty" "MCH_Rotation_target" as the "Target"

By now moving the "empty" as desired we can better frame the interesting details of the object.

Use cursor position: sometimes it happens that you work with a scene containing multiple objects

it can therefore be convenient to orbit the camera around a particular point, chosen for convenience using the "3D Cursor". Once we have positioned the cursor, in our case between the two objects, we select one (again the monkey head), enable the "Use cursor position" option in the add-on panel,

we press the "Turnaround" button to create the animation and we obtain in the rendering (with linearized movement, as before) the orbit of the camera around the "3D Cursor", on which the "empty" has now been created

Lens Effects: this option, by default set to "None",

allows you to perform two types of zoom animations, not by bringing the camera closer but by acting on the "Focal Length" property of the camera itself. In fact, if we select "Dolly zoom" two other fields will appear to set, "From" and "To", which will require the "Focal Length" values of the camera's departure and arrival.
In the example we want to create, we want the object to start from the "current size" and then "enlarge" during the rotation.
We select the camera and in the "Object Data Properties" tab we see that the current value of "Focal Length" is "50 mm"

which we assign to the "From" field of the add-on.
Still in "Focal Length" of "Object Data Properties" we look for a suitable value for the zoomed object and we discover that "90 mm" could be the one we are looking for,

we then assign it to "To". We therefore restore the "50 mm" value in the camera properties and, with the values found,

we click on the "Turnaround" button to create the animation, we linearize the rotation movement, render and obtain

The name "Dolly zoom B/F" means "Dolly zoom back and forward", so choosing this option will create a rotation and zoom animation, and then back on his steps.
Creating the animation with these settings

by linearizing the rotation movement and rendering we obtain

However, both in this animation and in the previous one, we notice that the zoom slows down at the beginning and at the end. We then click on the camera to select it and the "Focal Length" value curve appears in the "Graph Editor".

As you can see, the slope of the curve in the initial and final keyframe is equal to zero, so we try to increase the steepness of the rise and fall, to increase the speed of the magnification, but not as much as what would be obtained by transforming the "bezier" in the "vector" type.
We therefore select the first keyframe, press the "R" key to rotate, enter the value "-15" with the keyboard (15, then the minus) and press the "ENTER" key to confirm; then we perform the same operation with the last keyframe, applying a rotation of 15 degrees clockwise (thus writing the value 15), and we will have

thus improving the result

Clear camera: every time we set a camera animation, using the "Lens Effects" option, this remains present and modified, even if we set "Lens Effects: none" and create a new animation, clicking on the "Turnaround" button. Therefore it is best to leave the "Clear camera" option activated, which resets this animation every time, to avoid unpleasant unexpected events, especially after having previously used the "Dolly" functions.
For example: if we first create an animation with the "Lens Effects: Dolly zoom" option, an animation for the camera will be activated, as we can see in the "Outliner"

while if, later, we activate the "Clear Camera" option and create an animation with "Lens Effects:None", the daughter camera will no longer contain animations

unlike what happens with the "Clear Camera" option deactivated.

 

How to delete an animation created with the "Turnaround Camera" add-on?

Every time we create a new animation, by clicking on the "Turnaround" button, a new "empty" object with a progressive name is created and only the last one (corresponding to the last animation created in chronological order) will become the parent of the camera, eliminating the previous ones relatives

So how do you delete an animation previously created with the add-on?
There doesn't seem to be an automatic system available to perform this function, considering that "Clear Camera" only acts on the animation of the camera focal length, so the available solutions could only be "trivial" ones:

- Delete the "empty" "MCH_Rotation_target" objects by hand, even if this would leave the animation of the camera to be deleted, if the "Lens Effects" function had been used and the "Clear camera" option was not activated

- Press the "Ctrl+Z" keys to return to the previous action compared to that of creating the animation.
- Reload the file (always save before creating an animation)

A demo with all the functions seen

With this we have finished this mini guide to the "Turnaround Camera" add-on. Once you understand how it works and its pitfalls, it will save you a lot of time. Happy blending!

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