The folks at Khan Academy have worked with Disney to produce a free class where you get a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs. The complete course covers many topics of animation, but one is of particular interest to photographers… learning how camera’s work.

Why It’s So Good

Chances are you’re among the many that like or even love the films by Pixar.  The innovative movie studio has changed filmmaking.  This course is a great introduction to the entire process of filmmaking.  The section on camera mechanics though is a real eye opener that can help any photographer better understand the science side of photography.

Just as live-action movies are made using cameras, Pixar uses virtual cameras to “film” their movies, with lenses that act like the real thing. In this lesson, you’ll experiment with different camera settings like F-stop, focal length and focus to create cool effects in scenes from “Inside Out.”

How virtual cameras work

The standout lesson is on virtual cameras.  You’ll learn through a series of videos and exercises how cameras work.  This lesson takes 45-60 minutes to complete. Topics covered include:
Introduction to virtual cameras

  • What is a pinhole camera?
  • Focal distance
  • The effect of focal distance
  • Camera lenses
  • Depth of field
  • Storytelling with camera
  • Scene composition
  • Thin lens approximation
  • Simple lens law
  • Out of focus objects
  • Algebra of focus
If you want to take just the lesson on cameras, click here.  Or take the whole course and learn about many other topics that will help you with your visual storytelling.