September 3, 2015 at 3:47PM

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Forced Perspective Question

I'm looking to make a short where some people are controlling other human puppets. To do this effectively, I would need to make the puppet masters seem taller and larger than the puppets. Have you got any idea how to do this?

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I am pretty sure you are familiar with it but looking into how they filmed Lord of the Rings could help you achieve your goals. Minus the perspective and the placement of the subjects, custom making the props around the main characters help to achieve the look in the scene where Gandalf and Frodo's having a discussion at Bilbos house.

If the puppets are in the foreground and the master in the background and you are shooting directly towards the subjects I don't see how you would achieve that shot and not use CG, I would probably shoot the scene from the side so you won't get any over laps from the master and the master being closer to the camera will evidently cover the puppet if you do. And you probably already know but your DOF needs to be really big as in your fstop or tstop needs to be higher. Use a wide angle to achieve that more and try much as you can not to get to close to the subject. That would give you greater DOF. I don't know if that makes sense. Haha, LMK if you figure out how to shoot it. It would be very interesting to see what your outcome would be.

September 10, 2015 at 6:52PM, Edited September 10, 7:04PM

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Keith Kim
Photographer
1183

It's smart to sketch out exactly how you want the shots to look by the end so you have a reference for how to place people in front of the camera. Definitely need a wide lens and a lot of space.

But yeah, since certain things can't overlap (i.e. puppets in front of puppeteers), you're probably just going to need CG. At which point it is very good to make drawings and of how you want things to look so you have an idea of how to shoot them in-camera; establish how "far" the bodies should be relative to the camera and then shoot them from a perspective to maximize your resolution.

September 11, 2015 at 2:37PM

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Andy Zou
Producer
Filmmaker / Creative Director

You can use forced perspective even with overlapping elements in various ways. For the problem of puppets in front of puppeteers, there are two methods in reach, both usually involving something that obscures the large character wherever the small one crosses in front. For example, the puppet is in a box, and we see the puppeteer behind, looking over the lid of the box above. Or, the puppeteer is looking through a window over the puppet, or crossing from a doorway behind the puppet. The first method is to stick a mirror in front of the camera, with its edge corresponding to the division between large and small. (As the edge might be in fuzzy focus, align it where it isn't noticeable, like the center of a beam with sharp edges matching on both the full size and miniature sides.) Have your large character perform in the mirror, where they may appear to cut off behind the small character. The second method is to conceal the puppeteer's body another way, such as having them lie/sit on a shelf that is disguised as a window so that it seems as if their body continues behind the puppets (or even align it with an enlarged pair of legs behind the puppets). Note how Darby O'Gill appears to be further away than the leprechaun by standing behind a piece of shelf in the set that matches the floor on which the leprechaun stands: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_BbhzGWD_EOQ/S2vttylhY5I/AAAAAAAAK94/7rH9j4i9Po...(6).jpg ... Examples of actors appearing to look through windows that are apparently hanging above the "puppet" performer (I'm guessing they're reclining on shelves while appearing to stand normally behind the walls) occur more than once in "The Golden Key," a Russian version of Pinocchio from 1935 that you can find on YouTube. The puppet was often a stop-motion figure, but when combined with actors, was usually an actor in a costume shrunken via forced-perspective tricks very similar to Darby O'Gill. They usually did an excellent job with the illusion.

December 21, 2015 at 1:39PM

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In simple terms, place the puppeteers closest to the camera and the puppets further, about three feet away. Of course the distance all matters on what scale the models are, and camera frame rate. Want the industry formula for determining the proper camera speed when photographing a miniature? You'd have to contact me.
By overcranking, it gives the illusion of natural looking motion. Plus in my opinion, the best example is from watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the COTOPAXI ship scene in the desert. Or the Rancor puppet in Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

April 5, 2017 at 4:10PM

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Tom Luca
Director, Special Effects Artist
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