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Improve KeyShot Camera Path Animations

Will Gibbons by Will Gibbons | Last Updated:   August 30, 2021

Are you looking to take your KeyShot path animations to the next level? Path animations are one way to add some visual interest and break away from the expected (and less engaging) turntables and dolly animations.

What is a camera path animation?

For the uninitiated, KeyShot camera path animations allow you to move a camera around your scene on an organic and fluid path. Think of this path like a roller coaster track and the camera as the car. What’s great, is that you get to design this path. It’s easy to make changes to and helps add some unique camera angles and movements to your animation.

In KeyShot, there are part animations and camera animations. Since the path animation is applied to the camera, it’s created by adding an animation to an existing camera in your KeyShot scene.

A camera path animation shown in the KeyShot Geometry View
A camera path shown in the KeyShot Geometry View

Video Tutorial

The video below will walk you through how to create path animations, make edits to them and what settings to use to take them to the next level. Say goodbye to boring camera animations in KeyShot!

The Secret to better KeyShot Camera Path Animations

Benefits of using the path animation

What I like most about path animations is that they’re simple. They’re a faster and easier way of creating dynamic camera movement than combining multiple camera animations. It’s easy to modify a camera path too.

Most of KeyShot’s camera animations are very basic. They’re meant to be one-click solutions to product animation. For example, a dolly, a zoom or an orbit are all simple camera animations that move the camera in one direction. Most people string these basic animations together to create a full animation with different kinds of motion.

Those with more experience are used to stacking multiple camera animations to create more complex and interesting animations. This can get messy quickly and sometimes cause conflicts in the animation timeline.

A busy animation timeline, with multiple animations applied to the same camera (green bars)

Challenges of using the path animation

The trick to getting the most out of KeyShot camera path animations is to know what to avoid and how to make some adjustments after the initial setup. I recall the first few times I created path animations in KeyShot. The result would make even a sea captain nauseous!

I had tried to pack too much movement into a single camera animation. And since the camera didn’t have a target, the product kept bobbing in and out of the camera’s field of view. This made it impossible to actually appreciate the product!

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How to make path animations easier to work with:

Keep the path animation simple

While there’s no hard limit, I personally prefer to keep the maximum number of control points down to four. In most cases, I only use three control points. I also try to create simple arcs as opposed to complex loops when constructing the camera path.

Avoid vertical camera positions throughout path

Don’t use camera paths to create vertical arcs over or under the product. If you do so, once the camera passes the apex of the arc, it’ll likely rotate 180 degrees, creating an unwanted, jarring rotation.

If you must swing or rotate the camera in an arc over or under your object, you’re better off using the incline camera animation, or maybe the orbit, depending on the unique situation.

Use camera targets

Luckily, KeyShot allows you to set a camera target for a camera path animation. This helps prevent a wobbly camera path. Before, I mentioned that my models would not stay visible in the camera frame throughout the camera path animation. This can be prevented by specifying a camera target.

One thing that I don’t like about camera targets, is that it keeps the subject (your product) centered in the frame. And any film maker knows that having an object always centered in the frame is not a strong compositional strategy. That said, in the above tutorial video, I show you how to overcome this limitation!

Use the geometry view to visualize

The geometry view is another viewport that allows you to independently navigate and compose items within the scene. This makes it far easier to see objects like lights, cameras, backdrops and even camera paths. I find that I work the fastest when making most of my edits in the geometry view.

It’s easy to move objects in the geometry view (left) while keeping an eye on your scene (right) in KeyShot
It’s easy to move objects in the geometry view (left) while keeping an eye on your scene (right) in KeyShot

Edit the path within the geometry view

Once the path animation is created, it should be visible within the geometry view by default. If not, you can toggle what objects are visible in the geometry view menu (upper left corner). With the camera path visible, oversized icons allow you to make adjustments to each control point along the camera path.

While keeping an eye on the real-time view to see what my composition will look like, I scrub the play head through the animation timeline. I stop anywhere I’m not happy with the framing I see in the real-time view. In the geometry view, I then nudge the nearest control point in the appropriate direction and see how the change affects the real-time view. This process is repeated to smooth out and dial in the animation to my liking.

Move control points to make changes to the camera path in the geometry view
Move control points to make changes to the camera path in the geometry view

Animate targets if needed

Camera targets unfortunately keep your product centered in the frame. This is often good, but sometimes not desirable. Often, I need to create some blank space to the side of a product for text call-outs. To create this blank space, I must offset the camera.

Do this by specifying a different camera target, rather than relying on the subject of the animation to be the camera target. I often add placeholder geometry like a cube, set it as the camera target then animate the target where needed. This adds stabilization to the camera, while giving you control of where the camera points throughout the path animation!

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Will Gibbons
Will Gibbons is an industrial designer-turned rendering specialist. He's trained and worked with some of today's most recognizable brands and now is focused on creating the best product visualization content on the internet.
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