Movi Kanti Revo - Part 1: Building the 3D World

HTML5 Rocks

Movi Kanti Revo Logo

Movi.Kanti.Revo is a new sensory Chrome experiment crafted by Cirque du Soleil and developed by Subatomic Systems that brings the wonder of Cirque du Soleil to the web through modern web technologies.

Building the 3D World

The experiment was created using just HTML5, and the environment is built entirely with markup and CSS. Like set pieces on stage, divs, imgs, small videos and other elements are positioned in a 3D space using CSS. Using the new getUserMedia API enabled a whole new way of interacting with the experiment, instead of using the keyboard or mouse, a JavaScript facial detection library tracks your head and moves the environment along with you.

Additional Case Studies

This is the first in a series of articles that covers how this Chrome Experiment was built. Each one will focus on a different piece of technology and explain how it was used to create this immersive experience.

Building the 3D world | Changing Perspectives (Coming Soon) | getUserMedia As A Navigation Technique (Coming Soon) | Building Assets & Video Optimization (Coming Soon) | Optimizing for Mobile (Coming Soon) | Performance Optimizations (Coming Soon)

All the Web's a Stage

To build this experiment, it’s best to imagine the browser as a stage, and the elements like <div>s, images, videos and other elements as set pieces positioned in 3D space using CSS. Each element, or set piece is positioned on the stage by applying a 3D transform. If you’re unfamiliar with the translate3d transform, it takes 3 parameters, X, Y and Z. X moves the element along a horizontal line, Y moves the element up and down, and Z moves the element closer or further away. For example, applying a transform: translate3d(100px, -200px, 300px) will move the element 100 pixels to the right, 200 pixels down and 300 pixels closer towards the viewer.

Building the Auditorium

Let’s take a look at the last scene and to see how it’s put together. All scenes are broken down into three primary containers, the world container, a perspective container and the stage. The world container effectively setups up the viewers camera, and uses the CSS perspective property to tell the browser where the viewer will be looking at the element from. The #perspective-container is used to change our perspective by applying 3D transforms to it. Finally, the stage contains the actual set pieces that will be visible on screen.

<div id="world-container">
  <div id="perspective-container">
    <div id="stage">
#world-container {
  perspective: 700px;
  overflow: hidden;

#perspective-container {
  +transform-style: preserve-3d;
  +transform-origin: center center;
  +perspective-origin: center center;
  +transform: translate3d(0, 0, 0) rotateX(0deg) rotateY(0deg) rotateZ(0deg);

Visualizing the Stage

Within the stage, there are seven elements in the final scene. Moving from back to front, they include the sky background, a fog layer, the doors, the water, reflections, an additional fog layer, and finally the cliffs in front. Each item is placed on stage with a transform: translate3d(x, y, z) CSS property that indicates where it fits in 3D space. We used the z value in a similar way that we’d use z-index, but with the translate3d property, we can also provide a unit with the value.

Figure 1: The stage from the side
Figure 1: The stage from the side.

Figure 1 shows the scene zoomed out and rotated almost 90 degrees so that you can visualize the way each of the different set pieces are placed within the stage. At the back (furthest to the left), you can see the background, fog, doors, water and finally the cliffs.

Placing the Background on Stage

Let’s start with the background image. Since it’s the furthest back, we applied a -990px transform on the Z-axis to push it back in our perspective (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The stage, with only the background placed at -990px
Figure 2: The stage, with only the background placed at -990px

As it moves back in space, physics demands that it gets smaller, so it needs to be resized via a scale(3.3) property to fit the viewport and aligned the top edge with the top of the viewport with a translate3d on the y-axis (see Figure 3).

.background {
  width: 1280px;
  height: 800px;
  top: 0px;
  background-image: url(stars.png);
  +transform: translate3d(0, 786px, -990px) scale(3.3);

Figure 3: The stage, with background positioned and scaled.
Figure 3: The stage, with only the background positioned and scaled.

The fog, doors, and the cliffs in the same way, each by applying a translate3d with an appropriate z position and scale factor (see Figure 4). Notice how the fog is stacked behind the doors, and behind the cliffs.

Figure 4: The stage, with fog, doors and cliff positioned & scaled
Figure 4: The stage, with fog, doors and cliff positioned & scaled.

Adding the Sea

To create as realistic an environment as possible, we knew we couldn’t simply put the water on a vertical plane, it’s typically doesn’t exist that way in the real world. In addition to applying the translate3d to position the water on stage, we also apply an x-axis (horizontal) rotation of 60 degrees (rotateX(60deg)) to make it appear flat and textured. A similar rotation was added to the door reflection and secondary fog to make it appear in the correct plane (see Figure 5).

.sea {
  bottom: 120px;
  background-image: url(sea2.png);
  width: 1280px;
  height: 283px;
  +transform: translate3d(-100px, 225px, -30px) scale(2.3) rotateX(60deg);

Figure 5: The stage, with everything positioned & scaled.
Figure 5: The stage, with everything positioned & scaled.

Each scene was built in a similar fashion, elements were visualized within the 3D space of a stage, and an appropriate transform was applied to each.

Changing Perspective

In the next article, we’re going to cover perspective in more depth, but to whet your appetite, open Figure 5, and use the Chrome Developer Tools to try playing with the transform3d and rotateX, rotateY and rotateZ properties on the #perspective-container. Try changing each of the values independently and see how they change the view.

Further Reading