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The Multiplane Camera

Whilst remote learning, Level 3 Media student Chloe has created a multiplane camera setup at home. As part of her course assignment, Chloe has discussed this unique camera in depth explaining how it changed animation history.  She also conducted a series of experiments with her multiplane camera setup and compared this to Photoshop animation. Here is just a small excerpt from her research work… 

The History of Animation
The desire to represent movement stems as far back as the Stone Age, from ancient cave-wall illustrations attempting to portray the idea of movement through drawing multiple limbs on characters in different positions to symbolise a particular action happening rapidly. In ancient Greece, the basis for the Persistence of Vision is encapsulated in pot illustrations where if you turned them slightly, you’d be able to see the same image but with a slightly different pose – therefore, if you spun them at a faster pace it would appear as though the illustrations were moving. Skipping forward in the animation history timeline, the earliest instance of the Multiplane Camera was first invented by Lotte Reiniger, a German animator whose style was influenced by silhouette puppetry – so much so that she managed to build her own puppet theatre in her own home. 

Experiment: Homemade Prototype Multiplane Camera 
Although we were extremely limited in access to materials because of the severity of Lockdown restrictions, we were still able to create a homemade Multiplane Camera prototype with the existing material we had at home as well as order the material that we didn’t have through online shopping services. For the animation experimentation, I decided to use a cut-out stop-motion style similar to Reiniger’s silhouette puppet style.

During this experiment, I found that the most difficult part about creating the animation was to ensure that all of the puppet’s pieces stayed in place while moving the pieces in the positions I wanted. 

Ultimately, software like Photoshop takes less inspiration from the Multiplane Camera but instead, take its elements from the process of Cel Animation. It can even be argued to take inspiration as far back as the Flipbook. 

Even now, the illusion of movement is something that we attempt to pursue throughout history and is still deeply connected to the entertainment industry.

Article written by Chloe, Level 3 Media student 

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