Forced Perspective

This is a practical technique for shooting a scene in a studio with less space than might be required. How can that happen? Isn't the size of a studio predetermined by the number of sets scheduled to occupy the space? Initially, it is. Then any number of things could happen: the schedule changes or a critical location is lost or an additional series of shots are added to forward the storytelling. At that point, a forced perspective set might be squeezed into the empty space previously occupied by a set already shot and wrapped.

The 1994 film Blown Away provides an example of forced perspective (Fig. 4-15). During the movie's exposition, this technique remains onscreen for two seconds before the shot changes. Here is the analysis:

Shot: The hero emerges from an upper floor stair landing as he runs into a hallway junction, pauses a moment to decide where to go, then exits through the door, camera right. The stationary camera pans from right to left, pauses, and pans briefly back to the right.

Scenery: The top section of a stair landing with window and translucent backing beyond leads up into an MIT hallway wall with a practical door leading into an office.

Technique and explanation: In the scene previously described, we are looking through the picture plane, noted as "P.P." in the plan drawing to several pair of pilasters and headers diminished in scale toward a back

Forced Perspective
Figure 4-15 Two forced-perspective sketches drawn by John Graysmark for Blown Away (2005).

wall that included a door with a translucent glass panel and a translucent transom. This picture plane was physically created by the closest set of pilasters and header to the camera. The floor of the hallway was purposely set on a steep slope, forcing the perspective through exaggeration. The "camera POV" noted in the section sketch below the plan sketch was fixed except for the minimal panning it did—watching this shot several times, one could estimate the fixed height of the camera lens at the same height as the translucent, glass paneled door at the far end of the forced perspective hallway. Lasting just a couple of seconds, this shot forwards the storytelling successfully via this highly believable and compelling technique.

This technique clearly uses forced perspective scenery as a 3D miniature glass painting. Seven decades earlier on a production of Monte Cristo (1922), a similar use of this technique extended the believability of a hallway that would otherwise be too costly to build. By forcing the linear perspective, the physical reality of scenery closest to the camera was distorted; the distortion continued rapidly as the distance was compressed. It is important to note from a design point of view that perspective detail on the built scenery tended to fall away as the eye of the viewer moved gradually down the force perspective hallway (Fig. 4-16). To push the illusion even further, an art director could insert a pale gray bobbinette into the width of the hallway somewhere just beyond the first 1/3 of the distance of the corri-

A hanging miniature is a partially-constructed model which is interposed between a full-scale set and the camera.
False Perspective Paintings

The finished composite. Note the false perspective which is produced by continuously varying the scale of the hanging miniature.

Figure 4-16 Hanging miniature built in forced perspective also acts as a 3D glass painting. Courtesy of Dr. Raymond Fielding.

The finished composite. Note the false perspective which is produced by continuously varying the scale of the hanging miniature.

Figure 4-16 Hanging miniature built in forced perspective also acts as a 3D glass painting. Courtesy of Dr. Raymond Fielding.

dor. Backlighting a bit more intensely in the remainder of the corridor beyond the fine scrim forces the bobbinette to "go transparent" and creates a visual sense of atmospheric perspective. This technique is borrowed from the theater. Given this example, it is easy to use the phrase "trick-of-the-trade" to explain this and other techniques, but it is a misnomer. There is no trick involved, only careful, collaborative planning—calculated deception based on experience, yes, but no trickery.

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Responses

  • makda
    How to implement reverse forced perspective in 3d programs?
    9 years ago
  • serafino
    How to build in forced perspective, miniatures?
    9 years ago
  • Tiffany
    How to draw forced perspective production design?
    7 years ago
  • iggi
    How to draw false perspective?
    2 years ago

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