Forced Perspective

forced perspective
I shot this in-camera forced perspective image as a test

Can you teach new dogs, old tricks? It seems these days if you want to show something out of the ordinary in your film or video project, the default option is to composite, green screen, photoshop, or fix and create images in post, on a computer, in a digital realm. But before the days of instant-gratification cameras and super fast, powerful and affordable computers, a lot of special effects had to be created “in-camera”, meaning they were accomplished with lighting, optics and physics, which are the key elements in creating forced perspective images. In this article I’ll go over some history of the technique and show you how I used it recently.

Forced perspective is the effect of making images look smaller, larger, closer or farther away in comparision to another object in the frame. The most recognizable example of this is a photo of someone who appears to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A more cinematic example of forced perspective would be making a full sized actor look much smaller, ie, like a Hobbit in Lord of The Rings. Steven Spielberg even employed the technique in Close Encounters.

Close Encounters forced perspective
Spielberg placed a toy ship next to the camera to create this forced perspective shot in Close Encounters

So why bother if we can just do it in post? There are arguably many reasons for and against, but the most overwhelming reason to create forced perspective shots in-camera is simply that they look better. Case in point: Peter Jackson had a sizable budget and the digital magicians from WETA at his disposal and still chose to employ forced perspective shots in LOTR to make hobbits and dwarves look smaller than their human companions. From a producers’ standpoint, forced perspective may end up saving production money in the long run by cutting down on production and post-production time and teams of compositing artists. Image how much the shot of the ship in Close Encounters would have cost if it were a real ship transported to the desert, or something composited in post, as opposed to just placing a small model in front of the camera. Continue reading “Forced Perspective”

Wire Removal with After Effects

Wire removal can be useful for a variety of reasons: sometimes it is for aesthetics, such as getting rid of unsightly power lines, but if you work with stunt people, wire removal will become essential. Unfortunately, wires left behind by stunts tend to be more difficult to remove due to all of the action, moving backgrounds, etc. I recently had to remove a wire from what initially seemed to be an easy clip, but it turned out to be a little more complex and none of the “easy plug-in” methods were going to work, so I had to come up with another, more time consuming method.

Here are a couple of still frames from the before and after clips.

before wire removal
before wire removal
After wire removal process
after wire removal

The problems start with the fact that, rather than a lock-off shot, this one was made on a steadicam, so the background is in constant motion. This is an issue because I want to replace the wire with a piece of background from another frame in this clip, but because of the motion in the background, the pieces have to match in color, texture, light and motion or the fix is as apparent as the wire itself. Also the wire is fairly thick and moves vertically through the frame, so filters such as CC Simple Wire Remover, which cover the wire by extrapolating surrounding pixels, were also ineffective. Continue reading “Wire Removal with After Effects”