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Peter Ellner

Erasing the Camera's Reflection in Objects

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I often see scenes in movies where a car pulls up in front of the camera, or the camera is outside of a house right in front of a reflective window, and obviously due to the shot and the location of the camera, there must have been a clearly visible reflection that was erased.

 

My question is what is normally done when it is known that a shot will show a reflection of the camera in order to minimize it, and if the camera's reflection is erased, how do they fill it in with what would be there otherwise so it doesn't look like they just erased a reflection?

 

Before digital effects especially, how was this done?

 

Thanks so much.

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You've correctly hinted that digital fx can be used to do it.

There's almost nothing you can't do digitally, given enough

time and money, because it can still be labor intensive.

 

There are lots of ways to do it during production, too.

 

1) Remove the glass entirely, if possible

2) Choose a position that angles the reflection off-axis

3) Flag off the camera

4) Use dulling spray

 

Everybody join in!

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I remember thinking about this shot for days, wondering of the logistics of how to do it for real:

 

 

...then I found out it was digital ... dry.gif

 

Another trick used lots in product photography is the use of shift lenses. You can shoot off to the side, i.e. out of reflection then correct the distortion of having done this, the perspective doesn't get corrected but after having changed the distortion you're tricked into thinking its 'working' again. It's not a silver bullet, usually the full solution is a combination of all the tricks.

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I often see scenes in movies where a car pulls up in front of the camera, or the camera is outside of a house right in front of a reflective window, and obviously due to the shot and the location of the camera, there must have been a clearly visible reflection that was erased.

 

My question is what is normally done when it is known that a shot will show a reflection of the camera in order to minimize it, and if the camera's reflection is erased, how do they fill it in with what would be there otherwise so it doesn't look like they just erased a reflection?

 

Before digital effects especially, how was this done?

 

Thanks so much.

 

The reflection with the camera in it would just be the same view without the camera in it, so just take a camera to the window and shoot the opposite direction, of whatever the window would reflect, and then flip it in post.

 

Before digital post, rather than erase the camera in the reflection, you'd shoot the window without any reflections, either by removing the glass or reflecting black, then add the reflection in post by shooting a mirrored image of what the window would be reflecting, like I said, by pointing the camera away from the window.

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On one short filmed in a bathroom we removed the viewfinder of the HDCAM camera and hung a towel from the rear of the camera, sure you can see the reflection in the mirror, but it doesn't look like a camera.

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In the opening of Drugstore Cowboy you can see the crew in a reflection. I was watching TCM or AMC once and there was this film from the 40's in B&W where you can see the entire crew in the reflection of a car pulling into a gas station. It was classic and I wish I could remember the name of the movie.

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Since cameras can be so much smaller now, why not just hide the camera inside an automobile, mailbox, furniture cabinet, etc. with a one way glass or small hole for the lens? Art Direction could probably figure out how to disguise the lens port. That wouldn't work for a shot where large amount camera movement would be required but otherwise might just work as a good low/no budget gag.

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Sure, hiding cameras works. In the olden days, I once had a shot in a warehouse where we hid a BNCR in a big cardboard box with a hole in it. ;-)

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Basically, the camera move will affect how easy or difficult this will be. Also, whether there are any moving objects that cross over the object that you wish to remove.

 

Basically, what you have to do is recreate whatever is behind the object that you want to remove. The easiest way to do that is if you have really good photography of the location without the object in the scene that you wish to remove. You can then use this to make a patch that covers the object to be removed, grade it to match, match the camera movement so that it sticks, and match the grain stock so that it doesnt look stuck on.

 

If you have an object that crosses over this patch, you may need to extract it so that it can be brough back on top. The usual method would be rotoscoping, but sometimes you can get a chromakey or lumakey, it depends on the situation.

 

If you have a camera move that would require parallax, it becomes much harder, but can still be done, i can explain further if anyone is remotely interested past this stage ;)

 

Of course, all of this depends on your ability to use some higher end compositing softwares, which can be hugely time consuming in itself to learn.

 

I did this work full time for a couple of years, and it happens all the time in films, especially higher budget films that can afford all the vfx work. I've had shots where 2/3rds of the frame has had to be replaced in this manner, and it can get INCREDIBLY complex, but the basics aren't too painful.

 

Hope it helps...

 

Nick

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In Carl Dreyer's 1932 "Vampyr" there is a shot in the opening of the film at the 10:48 to 11:03 mark where the main character is walking along the edge of a pond. The shot is high angle static. The pond has a reflection of the opposite side. A man is walking in the reflection on the pond but not on land. If you can, please explain to me how this was done in 1932. Or at all. Link is below. Thanks.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44B07oaEr6g

 

 

 

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Could have been walking on a structure that was at a height to be out of shot for the real actor, but at such a height that the bottom of it was at the same height as the reflected rivers edge.

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Could be an in camera double exposure with a masking matte line on the dark far bank. One run with upper mask in place with both actors, the second with empty far bank with lower mask in place.

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Could be an in camera double exposure with a masking matte line on the dark far bank. One run with upper mask in place with both actors, the second with empty far bank with lower mask in place.

It could also be the Schüftan process used in Lang's Metropolis and Coppola's Dracula.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%BCfftan_process

 

 

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Schüftan process, just read about it - very clever ;)

 

Although the double exposure is the classic method that springs to mind, it'd be interesting to know the historical context, maybe using mirrors was more in the collective mindset in 1932.

 

Keeping in mine 'classic' is a relative term (at least the inverted commas classic that is).

 

My effects history knowledge in terms of timelines sure is lacking.

 

...oh and when I say mirrors I really mean the lake surface in this example

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Oh hang on,

 

Just realised I was reading about the process used by my old employer Harry Harrison, in the LOTR films (Key Grip).

 

I wonder if he re-invented it, or was aware ...

 

Either way, it's nice to see in-camera and classic processes used today :)

Edited by Chris Millar

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In the olden days, hiding a camera and crew behind solid black ( or white ) or the like carefully placed to the reflection can work.

 

I did it a couple times in the ancient era of last August. Showcard and duvetyne is a lot cheaper than post work.

 

I learned to light and shoot super reflective objects long ago, studying door hardware brochures. You could look at all the carefully placed refelctions in the photo of a doorknob and often find a little black square with a lens in it.

 

Less is more, often

Edited by Royce Allen Dudley

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I remember filming swinging closed gold pocket watch and everything got reflected in its case. In this case, I put the watch inside a white tent, but you always saw the camera reflected in the face, so there was a process of darkening off the area around the camera lens with a random pattern to disguise it. As we were using a 2/3" video camera with a zoom, this took a bit of time.

 

Unfortunately, the producer (thinking it was going to take a short time) decided to use their online video editing suite as a studio and allowed an hour for everything. Of course, the first edit booked for the day had to be postponed for an hour or so as we overran the grand, quick grab, shooting schedule.

 

What appears to be simple pack shot in the mind of a producer or director can, in reality, turn into a fiddly business.

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I remember thinking about this shot for days, wondering of the logistics of how to do it for real:

 

 

...then I found out it was digital ... dry.gif

 

Chris, that shot drove me nuts, too when I first saw it! But knowing who was helming the project and his love for visual effects to add to the drama of a scene, I figured it had to be.

 

It's a very creative shot, but it throws my orientation off all the time...almost to the point where it pulls me out of the film, which is where directors begin to favor technique a bit more than story. The ever-dangerous line that so many cross.

Edited by Bill DiPietra

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Basically, the camera move will affect how easy or difficult this will be. Also, whether there are any moving objects that cross over the object that you wish to remove.

 

It's worth noting that having a shot where the camera is relfected in the shot will effect the camera placement and, hence, your creative decision-making. So again, we come to another point where digital has made things a bit too easy for today's filmmakers. As others have noted, before digital, you couldn't "erase" a reflection. Therefore, you would have to physically reposition the camera, the lights or both - all while trying to maintain the integrity of the originally planned shot. I had to this last night when I was doing some lighting tests (in a small space) - the lights were being reflected by a sliding glass door, so I had to reposition them and still get the look I wanted. For me, that kind of problem solving is the definition of creative improvisation when you're in the middle of a shoot. Many of us who don't have the money or luxury to "erase" reflections digitally still do that, of course. But it is another thing that is getting lost as more & more people lean towards the "We'll fix it in post" mindset.

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