May 14, 2017

Rear Projection: From Movie Magic to Hokey Homage

What used to be a game-changing cinematic technique is now an antiquated special effect. Learn the history of rear projection.

Rear projection used to be a special effect that opened the doors for new ways of filmmaking. Once it came along, filmmakers could put their characters in scenes with giant monsters, nose-diving crop dusters, and even moving cars all while being able to record audio. Decades and many technological advances later, rear projection looks, well, hokey and unrealistic, but there are still modern filmmakers out there who still use it on occasion. 

In this video essay from Fandor, we get to take a look at rear project, how it came about, the role it played in SFX during its time, and how directors of today like Quentin Tarantino use it in their own work despite the techniques obvious age. Check it out below:

Rear projection, which as you saw in the video, is the technique of having actors perform a scene in front of a screen with pre-recorded footage being projected onto it. Though the idea of the process was imagined way before it was put into practice, it was first used in the 1930s by Fox Film Corporation for their films Liliom and Just Imagine.

Though the technique did so much for filmmaking in its heyday, allowing filmmakers to shoot scenes that were impossible before it came along, the advent of CGI and other advancements in visual effects made rear projection all but obsolete. However, as the video points out, there are several filmmakers that still use rear projection, even though it's mostly as an homage to old cinema and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Antiquated or not, today's filmmakers owe a lot to rear projection and the films that were made because of it!      

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3 Comments

The rear projection in Fight Club was so good it didn't even make it onto this video.

May 15, 2017 at 1:40PM

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The scenes from 'Oblivion' are actually front screen projection. As per this article: http://www.fdtimes.com/2013/03/29/claudio-miranda-asc-on-oblivion/

May 15, 2017 at 3:50PM

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The scene from 2001 was also front screen projection. I'm surprised Fandor didn't bother with the difference.

May 15, 2017 at 9:23PM

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