In CGI/animated films, is there an ‘invisible’ camera that can move around or is everything drawn on a flat surface?

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Let’s take **Akira** (hand drawn anime) vs **Shrek** (CGI feature film) vs **Metal Gear Solid** (videogame cutscene).

Akira is in 2D so it’s suffice to say that everything is hand drawn and the camera angles are pre-positioned from an outline.

Akira trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooKBenGK3R4

Shrek is a 3D feature film. When they were filming the scene where Shrek meets Donkey, could I, during post-production, spin the camera around and look behind Shrek? Is there anything past what I see on the screen? Is there anything behind Shrek and Donkey (and the rest of the characters)?

Shrek meets Donkey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlCnQXpdci4

The Metal Gear Solid series are famous for their cutscenes that don’t use CGI and instead use in-game models (think of how classic Final Fantasy 7 cutscenes differed from the gameplay aesthetic). When they created these cutscenes, was it essentially a dollhouse with the dolls (the character models) moving around and the cinematographer having an invisible camera float around?

Metal Gear Solid – Snake meets Ocelot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imdfPWnTbWw

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no, there is no invisible camera. films scenes are static by nature because they don’t contain any other information outside of the scene being rendered. video games have that “camera” because the game engine has the information needed to render the surrounding environment as well.

There is indeed a virtual camera. Think of it as using a computer to create a virtual claymation movie, except you can go back and edit whatever you want because it’s not real.

There’s a virtual camera. They only create as much of the set as you’re going to see though so if you spin it around you won’t see anything. A room is typically 2 or 3 walls and a floor. The camera is often placed outside of where the other walls would be. This is also the case in live action though. A sitcom that is set mostly in an apartment will have 3 walls and a floor, and cameras quite a way away.

> When they were filming the scene where Shrek meets Donkey, could I, during post-production, spin the camera around and look behind Shrek?

They *could*, but it would be a whole lot of nothing. There’s no sense for them to put effort into the parts of the scene you can’t see.

If you want to have a play with 3D animated films yourself, I recommend downloading one of the [open source blender projects](https://www.blender.org/about/projects/) and poking around inside them. They won’t be much different from something like Shrek.

Incidentally, the same is true for most video game cutscenes – if you turn the camera to look the other way, you’ll most likely see that the scene doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s often only animated to look good from the perspective of the camera. That’s why the camera is locked in most cutscenes, so you can’t move it.

> The Metal Gear Solid series are famous for their cutscenes that don’t use CGI and instead use in-game models

This is also CGI. CGI just stands for “computer generated imagery”.