Perspective is a wonderful thing. It’s what lets us judge distance. How far away something is, to pick out what’s in the foreground from what’s in the background. It’s why we have two eyes. Cameras, though, only have one. In a still photograph, this isn’t much of a problem. Things just need to be roughly the right size relative to everything else and you can just flat stack 2D images.
When you move a camera, though, for animation or video, flat 2D images stacked on top of each other are an instant giveaway. Walt Disney knew this, so he developed the Multiplane Camera. It allowed him to stack the layers in 3D space so that when the camera moved, we see the shift in parallax and perspective. I saw a small clip of a video on Facebook, so I went hunting for the original on how it works.
The video above illustrates the principle in a simple and easy to understand way, that’s still in use today with applications like Adobe After Effects. We see it commonly mentioned by Andrew Kramer in his tutorials over on VideoCopilot when he has a camera moving through a scene or motion tracked to real footage for compositing.
These days, though, we have advantages doing things digitally that Disney didn’t back then. We’re not just moving plates back on a single axis, and they don’t all have to be parallel to each other. They can be complete skies, spherically wrapped around our scene, and we can move them in multiple axes instead of just toward or away from the camera.
A very simple principle that gives a great effect. It’s nice to see how this technique has evolved today with modern technology & software.