February 28, 2020

How Disney's Iconic Multiplane Camera Changed Animation

Disney thrives on being a place where imagination comes alive, even when it comes to cameras. 

We talk about Disney the studio a lot, mostly because it now houses the largest titles ever conceived.

However, one of the greatest things about Disney is that they spent a ton of time perfecting the technical side of their process. A great example of this is the multiplane camera, which not only lent its unique power to features like Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, and Peter Pan but it also changed animation, as a whole, forever. 

Today I want to take a peek into that camera and talk about why it was so important. 

Let's go!

How Did Disney's Multiplane Camera Work? 

In 1937, Disney developed its multiplane camera. While these kinds of cameras existed before Walt's team perfected them, it was Disney that put them on the map. Basically, animated cells used to be all drawn on the same plane, but those images never had any actual depth. 

Disney wanted his cartoons to be more lively. 

https://i.imgur.com/fkhklEX.gifv

So, his team of camera techs and animators worked to create a panel that had many layers. They used the traditional animation process that moves hundreds of pieces of artwork past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another. That creates the moving image and creates depth. 

Then they added transparent layers on top of those animated layers, adding more background, other characters, and objects. 

As each frame progressed, the result was an illusion of depth by having several layers of artwork moving at different speeds. That meant the further away from the camera, the slower the speed.

Want to see one of the original multiplane cameras? Three original multiplane cameras from The Walt Disney Studios are still around today. One resides at The Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California. One is located in the Art of Disney Animation attraction at Disneyland Paris. The third is on view at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California.

Disney's multiplane camera

Want to read the original user manual for it? Check it out here

What's next? 50+ camera angles, shots, and movements for you to use

Have you ever been overwhelmed at the possibility of every camera angle, framing, and shot type available as a filmmaker? Us too. So we provided a cheat sheet with definitions for you!      

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3 Comments

great innovation

March 1, 2020 at 1:06AM

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Indeed

March 27, 2020 at 2:17AM

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Alis Lee
Director Marketing
55

However, one of the greatest things about Disney is that they spent a ton of time perfecting the technical side of their process. A great example of this is the multiplane camera, which not only lent its unique power to features

March 2, 2020 at 12:28AM

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Reply