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  #1  
Old 05-09-2009, 09:15 PM
Casserole Casserole is offline
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How do they get first-person camera shots in movies with mirrors?

For example, in the opening scene of The Truman Show, we see Truman Burbank staring straight into a mirror. We're watching from his point-of-view, but for some reason, I can't see the camera filming directly at the mirror!

I've always wondered about this, since lots of different shows and movies have this sort of effect. I assumed it was filmed at a very slight angle, but it's hard to imagine for this example, since Jim Carrey's staring dead-on into the mirror, as is the camera...

How did they film this... is it some sort of camera trick with a green screen?

Last edited by Casserole; 05-09-2009 at 09:16 PM..
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  #2  
Old 05-09-2009, 09:49 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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It predates green screen (Robert Montgomery did it in The Lady in the Lake in 1947. Usually, they use the angle trick. It's possible that more modern films use the green screen, though.
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  #3  
Old 05-09-2009, 10:02 PM
Nobody Nobody is offline
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I was wondering how they did it in Being John Malkovich.
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Old 05-09-2009, 10:29 PM
Casserole Casserole is offline
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Hm, a quick google seems to have answered my own question!

Apparently, it's a technique called "masking". Now that I know how it works, it takes a lot of the mystery out of it.

Cool effect, though!!
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  #5  
Old 05-09-2009, 10:30 PM
Doctor Who Doctor Who is offline
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/lif...cle5057378.ece
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  #6  
Old 05-09-2009, 11:24 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
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an interesting scene from the movie Contact - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZjqGOekw00
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  #7  
Old 05-09-2009, 11:45 PM
Satellite^Guy Satellite^Guy is offline
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In some scenes like this, the actor may just be looking straight into the camera itself, and they make it so it seems like he's looking at himself. Just a WAG

S^G
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  #8  
Old 05-10-2009, 12:55 AM
commasense commasense is offline
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I'm 99% sure that in The Truman Show they are just shooting straight into a frame that looks like the mirror, and Carrey is standing behind it.

Other times, the mirror can be just slightly angled so that the camera's reflection doesn't appear. The actor looks straight into the camera, not at his/her own reflection, and the illusion is created. You can even get over-the-shoulder shots this way, with the right angles.

Green screen can be used, and these days it's not as expensive as it once was. But the first two techniques are easier and cheaper and probably used far more often.

Probably the rarest is the duplicate set behind the mirror. If you imagine the famous mirror scene in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, but done seriously, that's the concept. It was done in a scene that was apparently deleted from Terminator 2. Sarah Connor is trying to "fix" the Terminator, seated in front of a mirror, and the camera tracks behind the two characters looking straight into the mirror. If it really were a mirror, there would be no way the camera wouldn't have been visible.

But in fact, there was a whole duplicate, mirror-image set behind a sheet of glass, and director James Cameron used Linda Hamilton's twin sister Leslie, and a puppet dupe of Ah-nold sitting in the chair. Obviously, the actors on each side have to mirror their movements, but in a brief shot this isn't hard.

I've seen it relatively recently in another 1940s movie, too, but I can't recall the title. (It wasn't Lady in the Lake.)
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Old 05-10-2009, 10:26 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Originally Posted by Casserole View Post
......I assumed it was filmed at a very slight angle, but it's hard to imagine for this example, since Jim Carrey's staring dead-on into the mirror, as is the camera.........
If you use the angle-trick, it will still APPEAR as if the actor is staring dead-on into the mirror, even if the angle is not so slight. Say the actor is looking at the mirror at a 45 degree angle. The camera is also pointing at the mirror, at an opposite 45 degree angle. Due to reflections, the camera is pointing directly at the actor's face, and the actor is looking directly at the lens.... in the mirror.

No green screen or CGI needed.......TRM

Last edited by Tim R. Mortiss; 05-10-2009 at 10:26 AM..
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  #10  
Old 05-10-2009, 10:43 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Probably the rarest is the duplicate set behind the mirror. If you imagine the famous mirror scene in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, but done seriously, that's the concept. It was done in a scene that was apparently deleted from Terminator 2. Sarah Connor is trying to "fix" the Terminator, seated in front of a mirror, and the camera tracks behind the two characters looking straight into the mirror. If it really were a mirror, there would be no way the camera wouldn't have been visible.
It's very admirably and elaborately done in Rouben Mamoulian's version of Dr. Jeckyll and Mister Hyde (the one with Freedric March), possibly the most impressive shot in a film filled with clever and impressive shots, and it's worth seeing the movie for that sequence alone.


The camera shows the world from Jeckyll's point of view in one long, unbroken shot, starting with him looking down at his hands as he plays the organ, looking at the door when his butler knocks and tells him that his coach is there, getting up, following his butler down the hall, turning and looking straight into the mirrorat himself as the butler comes around and puts his coat on (And it looks exactly like the butler we just saw -- either he really hustled, or they found a perfect body double), then turning, going down the hallway and out the door.
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  #11  
Old 05-10-2009, 10:48 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Of course, in a lot of movies theey use effects -- matting it in in older movies, digitially adding it in more recent movies (The Matrix is filled with these -- from Morbius' glasses to the reflecting ladle "that doesn't exist" to the rear-view mirror on Trinity's motorcycle.)
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  #12  
Old 05-10-2009, 08:47 PM
commasense commasense is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
It's very admirably and elaborately done in Rouben Mamoulian's version of Dr. Jeckyll and Mister Hyde (the one with Freedric March), possibly the most impressive shot in a film filled with clever and impressive shots, and it's worth seeing the movie for that sequence alone.
That's the movie I was trying to remember! Thanks!
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  #13  
Old 05-11-2009, 12:25 AM
Casserole Casserole is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
The camera shows the world from Jeckyll's point of view in one long, unbroken shot, starting with him looking down at his hands as he plays the organ, looking at the door when his butler knocks and tells him that his coach is there, getting up, following his butler down the hall, turning and looking straight into the mirrorat himself as the butler comes around and puts his coat on (And it looks exactly like the butler we just saw -- either he really hustled, or they found a perfect body double), then turning, going down the hallway and out the door.
That sounds absolutely spellbinding! Thanks for sharing.

I can see why film buffs love this stuff so much. It's quite fascinating, all the behind-the-scenes tricks.
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  #14  
Old 05-11-2009, 01:38 AM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Originally Posted by commasense View Post
Probably the rarest is the duplicate set behind the mirror. If you imagine the famous mirror scene in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, but done seriously, that's the concept. It was done in a scene that was apparently deleted from Terminator 2. Sarah Connor is trying to "fix" the Terminator, seated in front of a mirror, and the camera tracks behind the two characters looking straight into the mirror. If it really were a mirror, there would be no way the camera wouldn't have been visible.
Francis Ford Coppola used this in the ending scene of "Peggy Sue Got Married", pulling back through the mirror from the second set full of duplicate actors (viewed from behind) to the real set.
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  #15  
Old 05-11-2009, 09:17 AM
Munch Munch is offline
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Originally Posted by shijinn View Post
an interesting scene from the movie Contact - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZjqGOekw00
Whoa.
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  #16  
Old 05-11-2009, 03:24 PM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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I'm pretty sure they used the 'duplicate set' method for that scene in Being John Malkovich too.
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  #17  
Old 05-11-2009, 07:32 PM
MarcinCiez MarcinCiez is offline
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I read this post yesterday and while shopping at woolies stared at a mirror... eureka... I had to register as a user and post my first post (applause). If it was a framed mirror, could you have the actor standing (for arguments sake) at +10 degrees to the face of the mirror, and the camera at -10 degrees to the face of the mirror. The camera would see the actor in the mirror with all the background (and no camera). However this would make the mirror look in perspective - to overcome this, create a mirror frame that had the side closest to the camera slightly shorter/thiner, while the frame edge furthest would be longer/thicker, giving the appearance of a straight rectangular mirror....
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  #18  
Old 05-11-2009, 07:37 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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The duplicate set method was also used in Airplane! Sorta.

(What, they all have to be classics of cinema?)

Last edited by KneadToKnow; 05-11-2009 at 07:37 PM..
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  #19  
Old 05-12-2009, 03:40 AM
The Seventh Deadly Finn The Seventh Deadly Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by Munch View Post
Whoa.
No kidding! Does anybody know how they did it?
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  #20  
Old 05-12-2009, 07:20 AM
Sapo Sapo is offline
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Originally Posted by thetruewheel View Post
No kidding! Does anybody know how they did it?
With a tunneling camera using bend-o-ray film.

The comments on youtube talk about it being a combination of two separate shots.
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  #21  
Old 05-12-2009, 04:15 PM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
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Originally Posted by thetruewheel View Post
No kidding! Does anybody know how they did it?
Quote:
The comments on youtube talk about it being a combination of two separate shots.
One shot is all you need.

The entire shot was filmed in the mirror's reflection. The medicine cabinet was mounted to the camera. The camera faced up the stairs, filming the girl in the reflection. When the camera reached the top, the medicine cabinet is slid back away from the camera, just enough to expose the frame as the girl is reaching for the handle.
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  #22  
Old 05-12-2009, 05:46 PM
Apex Rogers Apex Rogers is offline
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I think there are two shots in the Contact mirror scene. The first shot is following Ellie up the stairs and to the bathroom, while the second shot is showing her from behind reach and open the mirror/bathroom cabinet. The mirror was green screened and the first shot displayed through it, and the transition seamlessly made as the second shot draws back from full frame to show the edge of the mirror.
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  #23  
Old 05-12-2009, 06:48 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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Originally Posted by RedSwinglineOne View Post
The entire shot was filmed in the mirror's reflection. The medicine cabinet was mounted to the camera. The camera faced up the stairs, filming the girl in the reflection. When the camera reached the top, the medicine cabinet is slid back away from the camera, just enough to expose the frame as the girl is reaching for the handle.
Possible, but I think it was two shots. It seems to me that the reflected index finger is raised higher than the closer index finger.

(I've found that I can use the space bar on my keyboard to pause and unpause the video more easily than with the mouse. Try it!)
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  #24  
Old 05-12-2009, 06:57 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Here's how they did it in Contact, from an earlier thread:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...2&postcount=62
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  #25  
Old 05-12-2009, 07:05 PM
commasense commasense is offline
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That's about what I thought.

And what no one has mentioned is that the actress who had to do all that work was Jena Malone.
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  #26  
Old 05-13-2009, 12:51 AM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
Here's how they did it in Contact, from an earlier thread:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...2&postcount=62
Damn. I would have bet money it was all filmed in the mirror. The other thing that had me convinced was that the camera appears to be at the exteme left when backing up the stairs, almost touching the wall. These seems odd as most cameramen carry their camera on their right side. Facing upstairs with the camera filming in a mirror back over the right shoulder would put the camera's viewpoint close to the wall.
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  #27  
Old 05-13-2009, 10:48 AM
commasense commasense is offline
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Originally Posted by RedSwinglineOne View Post
Damn. I would have bet money it was all filmed in the mirror. The other thing that had me convinced was that the camera appears to be at the exteme left when backing up the stairs, almost touching the wall. These seems odd as most cameramen carry their camera on their right side. Facing upstairs with the camera filming in a mirror back over the right shoulder would put the camera's viewpoint close to the wall.
That would have be extraordinarily difficult, considering that at the end of the shot, the camera would have had to have somehow "mounted" the attached mirror/cabinet to a wall or fixed point so that it didn't move when Jena reached up and opened it.

And don't forget, Contact was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also directed Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Becomes Her, and many other technical tours-de-force. The effects for a shot like this were child's play for him.
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  #28  
Old 05-13-2009, 11:25 AM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
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That doesn't strike me as the difficult part. It wouldn't be too hard to set up some kind of jig to set the cabinet on. The more difficult part I think would have been rigging up the cabinet on what was surely some kind of steady cam rig.

I guess I like the idea of things being done without camera tricks if possible. Nowadays they use cg for simple things like planes and helicoptors flying. Not crashing, just flying.
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  #29  
Old 05-13-2009, 11:38 AM
commasense commasense is offline
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The reason they use CG is that it's cheaper. Doing things "practically" instead of as FX requires that, with an expensive set and crew standing around, you make sure that everything works absolutely perfectly. It's much cheaper and simpler, in most cases, to do it in the computer, where perfection is virtually guaranteed.

I agree that it's nowhere near as satisfying, since the computer can do anything. I'm much more impressed by stunts that are real than CGI ones. Although it's beginning to get harder to tell them apart.
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  #30  
Old 05-13-2009, 11:56 AM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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I bet Vic Morrow wishes they'd invented CGI a long, long time ago.
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