The Science Behind Anamorphic Animated Videos

February 19th, 2023

Tags: 3D Storyboarding, 3D Modeling, Animatics

Service: Anamorphic Video Animation


Anamorphic animations are fascinating artworks that play tricks on our visual perception, producing three-dimensional effects on flat surfaces. The science behind anamorphic animation lies in the manipulation of perspective, optics, and geometry to create a distorted image that appears normal when viewed from a specific angle or with a specialized device.

What is Anamorphic Animation?

Anamorphic animation is a type of optical illusion that uses distorted images, often on a flat surface, to create the perception of three-dimensional objects or spaces. These images are designed to be viewed from a specific angle or with a special device, such as a mirror or cylindrical lens, which corrects the distortion and reveals the hidden image. The word "anamorphic" comes from the Greek words "ana" (meaning "back" or "again") and "morphé" (meaning "form" or "shape"), referring to the transformation of a distorted image into a recognizable form.



History of Anamorphic Animation

The history of anamorphic animation can be traced back to the Renaissance period, when artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Hans Holbein the Younger used anamorphic techniques to create distorted images that could only be seen correctly through a cylindrical mirror. This technique was later used in the 18th century for amusement and entertainment, with anamorphic images being hidden in mirrors or boxes and revealed through special lenses. In the 20th century, anamorphic animation gained popularity in movies, music videos, and advertising, as a way to create visual effects and illusions.

Principles of Anamorphic Animation

The principles of anamorphic animation are based on the laws of perspective and optics, which govern the way we perceive the world around us. Anamorphic images are created by distorting a two-dimensional image in a specific way, such that it appears normal when viewed from a certain angle or with a specialized device. This distortion can be achieved through various techniques, such as:

  • stretching or compressing the image
  • tilting or rotating the surface
  • using multiple images to create a composite effect.

Psychology and Neuroscience of Anamorphic Animation

The psychology and neuroscience of anamorphic animation are still a subject of research and debate, but there are some theories and findings that shed light on why anamorphic images are so effective in manipulating our perception. One theory is that anamorphic images activate our "reconciliation mechanisms", which are responsible for resolving conflicts between different sensory inputs, such as visual and spatial cues. Another theory is that anamorphic images exploit our "perceptual expectancy", which is the tendency to anticipate a certain pattern or structure based on previous experiences or knowledge. Anamorphic images can either confirm or violate our perceptual expectancy, leading to surprise or confusion.

Applications of Anamorphic Animation

Anamorphic animation has a wide range of applications in various fields, including art, entertainment, education, and advertising. In art, anamorphic animation is used to create interactive and immersive installations, sculptures, and paintings, that engage the viewer and challenge their perception. In entertainment, anamorphic animation is used in movies, music videos, and stage productions, to create special effects and illusions that enhance the storytelling. In education, anamorphic animation is used to teach students about perspective, geometry, and optics, and to stimulate their creativity and critical thinking. In advertising, anamorphic animation is used to promote products and services in a creative and memorable way, that captures the attention of the audience and leaves a lasting impression.

World’s Largest Anamorphic Illusion - The Wave, Seoul

The wave building is called so because it features a massive anamorphic illusion of crashing waves in the glass building. Anamorphic animation is used to produce the wave from a real wave that is projected under the enormous screens and crashes into the glass, giving viewers the impression that the wave is trying to shatter the glass and flood the streets.

It is one of the most iconic anamorphic illusions. The wave building is located in Seoul's Gangnam district, which is even said to be the Korean Times Square. The company that develops these enormous LED screen displays is called the company district.

This installation was created while the pandemic compelled people to stay inside. Since going to the beach in person was not possible, the waves were picked mainly to convey feelings of comfort and tranquillity.

The 3D animation company has created more such enormous water-based illusions. A different interpretation of the wave was created at Nexen University in "The Infinity War," where one of the anamorphic illusions on that display showed a similar stormy wave illusion, as well as several other illusions, like people climbing blocks in a sort of particle wave that changes shape.

Advantages of anamorphic digital billboards

Anamorphic digital billboards offer several advantages over traditional billboards:

  1. Increased visibility: Anamorphic digital billboards use a special type of lens that stretches the image horizontally, making it appear larger and more visible from a distance. This means that drivers and pedestrians are more likely to notice the billboard and pay attention to the message.
  2. Dynamic content: Unlike traditional billboards, which display a static image, anamorphic digital billboards can display dynamic content such as videos, animations, and slideshows. This allows advertisers to create more engaging and interactive ads that capture the viewer's attention.
  3. Targeted advertising: Anamorphic digital billboards can be programmed to display different content at different times of the day, or in response to specific events or weather conditions. This allows advertisers to target their message to a specific audience or demographic.
  4. Cost-effective: Anamorphic digital billboards can be more cost-effective than traditional billboards over the long term. Since the content can be easily updated and changed, advertisers don't need to pay for new billboards every time they want to change their message.
  5. Environmentally friendly: Anamorphic digital billboards are more environmentally friendly than traditional billboards, as they don't require the use of paper or other materials. They also consume less energy than traditional billboards, making them a more sustainable option.


In conclusion, anamorphic animation is a fascinating and versatile art form that utilizes the principles of perspective, optics, and geometry to create mesmerizing visual effects and illusions. Its history can be traced back to the Renaissance period, and it has since been used in various fields, such as art, entertainment, education, and advertising. The psychology and neuroscience of anamorphic animation are still being studied, but it is clear that these images have a powerful impact on our perception and cognition.

Anamorphic animation offers an exciting opportunity for artists and designers to explore new ways of creating immersive and interactive experiences for their audience. By unleashing the power of perception, anamorphic animation can engage, entertain, and educate people of all ages and backgrounds, and inspire them to see the world in a different way.


  1. What is the difference between anamorphic animation and traditional animation?  
    Traditional animation involves creating a series of drawings or images that are displayed in rapid succession to create the illusion of motion. Anamorphic animation, on the other hand, uses distorted images to create the perception of three-dimensional space.
  2. What are some famous examples of anamorphic animation?  
    Some famous examples of anamorphic animation include the pavement drawings of Julian Beever, the sculptures of Jonty Hurwitz, and the music video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White".
  3. How do anamorphic images affect our brain?  
    Anamorphic images activate our brain's visual and cognitive processing systems, stimulating our perception and challenging our expectations. They can also produce emotional and aesthetic responses, such as surprise, awe, and delight.
  4. What are some practical applications of anamorphic animation?  
    Anamorphic animation can be used in various practical applications, such as architectural design, product visualization, medical imaging, and virtual reality.
  5. How can I create my own anamorphic animation?  
    Creating anamorphic animation requires a combination of artistic skills, technical knowledge, and creative vision. You can start by learning the principles of perspective and optics, experimenting with different distortion techniques, and practicing your drawing and animation skills. There are also many tutorials and resources available online to help you get started.