vc020: Droste Effect

The Droste effect is a fun manipulation that creates an image within a copy of that image, within another copy of that image, ad infinitum (or as far as the visual resolution will allow). Video #20 in my #100videoclips project shows the Droste effect and animates it.

The Inspiration

The image below is the namesake of the Droste effect, so I suppose it is the original inspiration.


(You can get more details and examples at Wikipedia.)

However, I recently had a photo shoot with my family and a framed mirror. From that shoot, I put together this:

Lotsa Lesu Droste effect

Afterwards, I thought it would be fun to create a Droste effect picture as an animation, so I used a different family member for this round.

What I Did

For a more manual approach:

  1. Take a photo that includes some object with a frame or boundary.
  2. In Photoshop, delete the interior of the frame.
  3. Make a copy of just the frame, and enlarge and rotate it (using Transform, or Cmd/Ctrl+T) so it frames the larger picture.
    1. This will give you the proper framing and aspect ratio for the small frames.
    2. Before you confirm the transformation, record the percent size change and the degree of angle rotation of the enlarged frame.
  4. Select and copy the larger image inside the larger frame.
  5. Transform the larger picture by typing in the inverse of the percent size change (1/%) and the opposite of the angle of rotation (-A) from step 3.
    1. That should make the copied image the right size to fit into your smaller frame.
  6. Position the copy so it fits into the smaller frame.
  7. Duplicate that layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J), then Transform Again: Edit, Transform, Again or Cmd/Ctrl + Shft + T.
    1. If all works well, that will apply the exact same transformation and give you a perfect, smaller copy inside your existing frame.
    2. The first time I did this, I didn’t know about the “Transform Again” trick and did everything by eye.
  8. Keep duplicating until your copies are too small to discern.
  9. In the tiny space at the center of the smallest frame, fill with a predominant color from your scene.

That creates the Droste effect on the still photo.

For my Droste animation, I first animated the appearance of the layers. I had taken a picture of the couch without anyone in front of it during the photo shoot, so I could fill the empty frame with a picture of the couch.

For the second part of the animation, I did the following:

  1. Make two video tracks, each with a copy of the completed (Droste) photo.
  2. Move clip 2 on the second track so it is a few seconds later than the clip 1 on the first track (however long you want the transition from one frame to the other).
  3. Keyframe the position, size and rotation of clip 1 at the first frame.
  4. Make clip 2 50% transparent.
  5. Where clip 1 meets clip 2, rotate and enlarge clip 1 until it matches clip 2.
  6. Cut clip 1 and that point, then copy clip 1 multiple times, which should result in the “infinity” loop effect.

Whew! I don’t know if that’s clear or just a mess of confusion. :/ But I hope it helps. (If something isn’t clear, please leave a note.)

What I Learned

Apparently, the Droste effect can be automated using the HyperDroste app (iPhone only, which I don’t have). However, it’s interesting to work through the problem “by hand” (with help from Photoshop).