A Look At The Camera Tools
A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and he suggested I do a blog post about the tools on the Camera toolbar. It’s a fairly straightforward set of tools but I think there are a few often overlooked options here.
Orbit allows you to move the camera around the model. When selected from the toolbar, holding the Left Mouse Button (LMB) and dragging the mouse will move the camera around. If you hold Ctrl on the PC or Option on the Mac, you can roll the camera. It is easier to access this tool via the Center Mouse Button (CMB) because you don’t need to actually pick the tool off the toolbar and, when you let go of the button, you return to the previously selected tool. No matter how you get the tool, the center of the orbit is the point on the screen where the cursor is when you click the LMB.
Pan shifts the camera from side to side. As with the Orbit tool, if you pick it off the toolbar, holding the LMB and moving the mouse will move the camera. Also, as with the Orbit tool, this one is easier to use with the CMB. Just hold the Shift key while pressing on the CMB to activate Shift. When you let go, you return to the tool you were using. Sometimes you need to combine both Pan and Orbit to navigate in your model and you can switch between Orbit and Pan quickly with the Shift key.
Zoom does what it says. If you pick the tool from the toolbar, press the LMB and drag the mouse up or down to zoom. In addition to zooming, you can set the field of view in degrees or the lens focal length. Notice when you pick this tool, the Measurements Box (or VCB in earlier versions) label is either ‘Field of View’ or ‘Focal Length’. If you want to change this you can either type an angle followed by ‘deg’ or a focal length followed by ‘mm’. The scroll wheel on the mouse is much easier to use for zooming. If you use the Zoom tool on the toolbar with the LMB, the camera zooms straight in toward the center of the view. If you use the scroll wheel the camera zooms toward the point on the screen where the cursor is. If you move the mouse as you are zooming, the camera will follow it around. The zoom speed with the scroll wheel is dependent upon how close you are zoomed in and on what the cursor is place. If the cursor is on the background, you may zoom past your model very quickly. If the cursor is on very near geometry, the zoom action will be much slower.
Zoom Window allows you to drag a box around the area on which you want to zoom. Simply pick the tool and click and hold the LMB and drag a box around the region you want. When you let go, the camera will zoom in on the selected area.
Previous returns the camera to the previous setting. This one can be handy if you inadvertently zoom past what you are trying to look at. You can go back and try again.
Next sets the camera to the latest position. You can switch between previous and next positions which is nice if you want to momentarily go back to a view and return to where you are working.
Zoom Extents is a very useful tool. If you get lost click on it and the camera will zoom back so you can see the entire model. If you hit this button and your model gets very small or seems to disappear altogether, it is a sign that you have geometry at a long distance from the rest of the model. Often, when Zoom Extents has been selected that stray geometry is so small it is difficult to see. I’ve been sent models on occasion that have this problem. I make sure the model is near the origin of the global axes and then drag selection boxes around what looks like empty space to select any stray geometry out there and then hit the Delete key to get rid of it. I hit Zoom Extents again to check to see if I’ve managed to delete the strays. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get rid of all of them.
There’s another version of Zoom Extents that doesn’t have a toolbar button. This one is found in the Context or right click menu. This Zoom Extents works differently in that it zooms to the extents of whatever you have selected. If you can select the thing you want to zoom to, you can get there very quickly by right clicking on it and choosing Zoom Extents from the menu.