Multi-Plane Animation Basics

Learn the basics of multi-plane animation from Joe Vena of the Children's Museum of the Arts in this stop motion tutorial from Howcast.

One of my favorite ways to create stop motion animation is through using a multiplane. And what a multiplane allows you to do is add a layer to your film, add a layer to your animation. And you can build multiplanes that will give you numerous layers. In this case of this multiplane here, we’re just adding one layer. The way that we add this layer is by taking a piece of plexiglass.

That’s what we have right here, good, transparent plexiglass, thin. Thick is good if you’re working with very heavy animating subjects, but this thing piece is just fine for what we’re doing. And we have the plexiglass propped up almost like a table above another surface. So again, we could add a layer, another layer, and another layer. And many animators do wonderful things with these multiple layers. In this case, we’ll just add the one. And the layer affords you the opportunity to animate things in the same film, but they don’t ever have to touch each other. The bear that we’re placing in here is going to be our background, and we just set it there. And this fly here, he’s going to be in our foreground.

He’s going to passing by the bear, and we’ll animate him up on top of the plexiglass. When you’re animating with a multiplane, lighting often comes into play. You want to get enough light underneath and on top. So sometimes it requires multiple lights. In this case, we’re doing it all with this desk lamp. So we’re going to start off by just taking a few pictures of our bear with our iStop Motion software here, taking pictures with the spacebar. And now we’ll have our fly enter the frame, and he’s going to come through pretty fast. So I see him down there in the bottom of the frame. I’m going to take a picture. We’re going to move that fly over the plexiglass. Take a picture. Move him.

Take a picture. The multiplane gives you a really nice effect. Our fly passing seamlessly by our bear. And the fly is coming to the end of the frame. He exits the frame. Take a last few frames. See our fly and bear multiplane animation. And again, this is a very simple version of the multiplane. I encourage you to take it much, much further. Add layers.