The Multiplane Camera

Valhalla Cats
March 14, 2024

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The multiplane camera (also known as parallax scroll in games) was one of the greatest innovations in the history of animated film.
It was 1957 and Walt Disney was tired of cartoons lacking depth. He and his engineers set to work and created the multiplane camera. Walt himself explains it in the following video.

The first thing we have to do in order to achieve this effect is to divide the background into different layers, according to the depth at which they are located. The next is to move each layer at a different speed, but at what speed?

If we look around us, the objects that are farther away, like the mountains on the horizon, move very little when we move. On the contrary, nearby objects change their position much faster. Taking this into account, the closer layers must move at a faster speed than those that are far away,

Fortunately, today in video game engines like Unity we can replicate this technique in a simple way. There are many ways to achieve this, but I am going to explain my favorite and the one we use in Stars in the Trash.

The background is divide into pieces and placed at different depths

It consists of placing the elements at different depths in our scene (usually in the z-axis, the one that goes out/enters the screen) and use a camera with perspective (these cameras behave like real cameras in which the more distant objects are rendered smaller and move slowly). In this way we get a natural 3D effect as our backgrounds gain depth.

Let’s leave theory aside and look at a practical example. Compare the next videos:

No Multiplane Camera
With Multiplane Camera

Are you able to spot the differences?

I hope you liked this week’s content and if you want more posts like this let me know.

The latest from Valhalla Cats and things I found interesting this week:

  • A program this month encourages library patrons in Worcester, Mass, who have lost or damaged books or other items to reactivate their accounts. All they need is a picture of a cat. Full new here. Just wonderful!
  • Cat fanatics everywhere rejoice! Cat Nation takes viewers on a journey into the unique world of Japanese cat culture. The full documentary is on youtube.

Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Have a wonderful day,