The bigger the model is, the better the illusion works. There are two ways you can make the template bigger if you wish:
Use a photocopier to blow the image up onto one or more sheets of A3 paper.
Measure the lines on the template and multiply them all by the same number to come up with a larger scale diagram. Use a protractor to measure the angles of each part of the template. Use a ruler to draw this new template onto your card.
Cut out the template, then trace it onto the card.
Notice that one panel is decorated with a distorted chequered pattern – use pens or coloured card to copy this pattern as precisely as possible, or better yet, cut the pattern out of the template paper and glue it in place onto the card.
Decorate the rest of the panels as if it is a room, paying attention to how one end of each panel is narrower than the other end. So, if you draw a window or a picture, it must also have one end narrower than the other.
Cut the model out of the card. Remember to also cut out the two shapes labelled ‘x’; one is so you can reach into the box, and the smaller hole is for you to look into the box.
Fold the model into a box shape and glue or tape the tabs in place on the outside.
Take two small objects roughly the same size (e.g. two toy cars) and place one in each corner of the box opposite the small hole.
Peek through the hole. How do the cars look?
This model is called an ‘Ames room’, named after the ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames who first created one. If the model is neat enough, the room should look fairly normal when peering through the hole, while one of the objects should look smaller than the other, even though they are the same size.
We use a number of clues in our visual field to determine the size of an object. For example, the slightly different positions of our two eyes on the front of our heads mean each eye sees a slightly different picture. Combined, these two images give objects depth, but can also give clues about how far away they are.
A more important clue, however, comes from the assumptions our brain makes about the room. It is difficult for your brain to tell whether the far wall is perpendicular (at right angles) to your line of sight, or slanted away. However, there is a rule your brain is familiar with – two straight lines coming together to a point indicates distance. Think about how the parallel lines of a railway track seem to converge in the distance.
Using that rule, your brain determines the room is ‘normal’, which means both objects are the same distance away when they really aren’t. The conclusion it comes to? One object is actually smaller and close by rather than far off in the distance.
Ever wondered how Gandalf was made to look so much bigger than the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings? No, they’re not using shorter or taller actors – they are all roughly the same height in real life. While computer effects could be used, this can be expensive.
A cheaper method for film makers is to use effects such as those used in the Ames room to make things seem bigger or smaller. While the set looks normal on film, in real life it has been built using odd angles. When one actor stands on one side of the room with another actor opposite them, they look as if they are standing side-by-side, where really one is standing further in the distance, making them look small.
Use the template to trace out the model.
Decorate the room, remembering to distort the decorations.
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