July 6, 2013

Clever camera shots from the movies

In these days of CGI and special effects, it’s a wonder anyone bothers to use a clever camera shot to get the effect they want in the movie. Playing with camera angles seems like a thing of the past, when budgets were lower and technology was less advanced, but did you know some directors actually still use forced perspective and camera trickery in modern films? Sometimes it just really is the best way of doing things and having them look realistic – too much CGI can ruin a film.

First of all, did you know Lord of the Rings uses a lot of forced perspective in order to make the Hobbits look small? Forced perspective is when perspective is used to trick your eyes into thinking the size and distance of an object is different to what it actually is. Here’s an example from LOTR:

Frodo and Gandalf travel together in a cart, and Frodo appears dwarfed by Gandalf. 

In reality, the bench is split, and Frodo is sitting a few feet behind Gandalf – Gandalf’s body hides the split in the bench.

Camera shots like this are used extensively through Lord of the Rings; there are instances where it may be too difficult to play with perspective, and instead a child is used if the shot doesn’t feature a Hobbit’s face. However, forced perspective can even be used when the actors are moving, like in this scene where Frodo and Gandalf are sat around a table:

Frodo appears to be pouring from a normal-sized kettle, but the tableware looks too small for Gandalf. 

In reality Frodo is sat at a table with ‘Hobbit-sized” tableware, and Gandalf is sitting at a table with miniature tableware.

Once you see behind the scenes, forced perspective is really easy to understand and you can get your head around how everything works; but there are other clever movie shots that create angles that leave the mind reeling. Watch this clip from the 1997 movie ‘Contact’, and note the clip where the young girl runs down the corridor – not all is as it seems.

When the young girl runs down the hallway, you believe the camera is in front of her, and you’re preceding her as she runs; but suddenly you realize you’ve actually been watching her from the mirror at the end of the hall. So how was that filmed? The girl is actually imposed into the scene using a blue screen. Which means she’s not really running down the corridor, it’s just a bit of digital trickery.

Contact isn’t the only film to use mirrors to trick the watcher either; take this scene from ‘Sucker Punch’ for example:

The scene tricks you by using what you expect to see, and turning that expectation on its head. This scene is actually filmed using stunt doubles!

Turns out when it comes to films, even though CGI can create some scenes that are beyond belief, sometimes it’s the traditional methods that can work the best!

This guest post was contributed by Holly Powell on behalf of 3D Broadcast Sales, broadcasting equipment specialists.