Since green screens and blue screens are so available and easy to use, the first method a filmmaker thinks of for obtaining visual effects isn't often front screen projection. But, we've actually seen some really incredible pieces of art come out of image projection recently, like Bot & Dolly's short film Box, as well as Private School Entertainment's work with projecting motion captured images (to name a few that we've covered). Now, practical effects guru Joey Shanks shows us how to use front screen projection, a process that has become quite dated, but still remains an excellent tool for in-camera visual effects.
The most iconic use of front screen projection is probably when it was used for Stanley Kubrick's "Dawn of Man" scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in the late 1960s (as well as in his fake moon landing -- allegedly), but the process was utilized as recently as 2013 by cinematographer Claudio Miranda for Oblivion. So, sure -- it's a little antiquated, and there are probably easier ways to go about creating backgrounds for projects. But, as Shanks points out, front screen projection gives your shots a focus depth that "you could never achieve if filmed on location."
Shanks walks us through the whole process, from what materials you'll need to where to place it. He uses a Scotchlite reflective fabric for the background that reflects 95% of the light back to the source, which allows you to light your subject without affecting your background. He also uses a projector (naturally) and a one-way mirror set at a 45 degree angle to film through. There are a few important techniques, like placement and angling of the camera and projector, so check out the tutorial below to get a better idea on how to pull this off.
And here's the behind-the-scenes:
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Have you ever used front screen projection before? Do you have any tips on how to achieve the effect? Let us know in the comments.