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How real did Rear Projection look?

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How real did Rear Projection look?

Old 01-19-13, 02:16 PM
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How real did Rear Projection look?

I'm watching all these old Hitch films on BD. And I see a lot of these shots in this films. Sometimes too much for my taste. They stand out badly in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) to me.

Rear Projection to those who may not know is just a shot with a filmed background on a screen behind the foregrounded actors.

These shots have been around since the 1930s and I think they grew out of favor in the 1960s at some point. I could be wrong but I don't see them used much as a standard once we get later into the mid to late 1960s. Someone can follow up on that. I'm just heavily assuming based on the films I've seen and to what point they stopped for me.

We see it used every once in a while today still. Tarantino does it. Though it's not to achieve a reality but to convey the style he wants for it. Pulp Fiction made very nice use of it. It's use today is now the greenscreen background now applied with CGI. Which does look better and at times looks pretty damn real as well. But can still look off at times.

My thoughts though...did it EVER look real?

I'm only 26, so that stuff looks fake today to me especially because it's grown out of favor. I can understand WHY they would do that but did it ever look real? Some shots I've seen look pretty damn good but as a standard I haven't seen many that would fool me well. For those of you that are older and saw these films as they were released, did you think they were real backgrounds?

It's not a criticism on people believing the trick nor the process but more of a viewing of the historical implementation of the process and the way people saw it as it used more and more as they grew up.

Rear Projection has always fascinated me. Very nice technique but a process that hasn't aged well in creating a reality for whatever world that needed to be created in the eyes of the modern.
Old 01-19-13, 02:22 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I don't think it ever looked particularly real, but realism wasn't always the greatest concern of filmmakers from the period. Also, often you just couldn't afford to put the real actors into real locations to do the things they're doing in front of the projection screens.
Old 01-19-13, 02:24 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Yeah I'm pretty sure nobody thought they were real, at least the walking on a treadmill as the background passes you by type. For car stuff some of it can look good depending on the footage and the way the actor handles the wheel.
Old 01-19-13, 02:51 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I think the North by Northwest shot of Grant running from the biplane still holds up nicely. I'd say green screen and soundstage have replaced the rear projection technique. Movies like Sky Captain and Sin City, etc...
Old 01-19-13, 02:55 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Yeah that biplane shot was pretty good. Hell...wait...it fooled me.
Old 01-19-13, 03:17 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

That was actually the one that I was alluding to as well. Damn find work on that one. Man, I love that BD.
Old 01-19-13, 04:43 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

The prologue to Terminator 2 uses rear projection extensively. It looks completely real, even after it's pointed out.
Old 01-19-13, 05:04 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Hitchcock preferred to shoot in a controlled enviroment thus his preference of indoor filming that is why his films have alot of rear projection. Sometimes I like it when it gives a film this surreal feeling (like when Bruce Willis is in the taxi in Pulp Fiction or the scene that John Travolta is high as a kite). But most of the time it looks fake, especially by today's standards.
Old 01-19-13, 05:30 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/MrktxWUgcyA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This is real as it gets.
Old 01-19-13, 07:05 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Solid Snake PAC View Post
I'm watching all these old Hitch films on BD. And I see a lot of these shots in this films. Sometimes too much for my taste. They stand out badly in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) to me.

Rear Projection to those who may not know is just a shot with a filmed background on a screen behind the foregrounded actors.

These shots have been around since the 1930s and I think they grew out of favor in the 1960s at some point. I could be wrong but I don't see them used much as a standard once we get later into the mid to late 1960s. Someone can follow up on that. I'm just heavily assuming based on the films I've seen and to what point they stopped for me.

We see it used every once in a while today still. Tarantino does it. Though it's not to achieve a reality but to convey the style he wants for it. Pulp Fiction made very nice use of it. It's use today is now the greenscreen background now applied with CGI. Which does look better and at times looks pretty damn real as well. But can still look off at times.

My thoughts though...did it EVER look real?

I'm only 26, so that stuff looks fake today to me especially because it's grown out of favor. I can understand WHY they would do that but did it ever look real? Some shots I've seen look pretty damn good but as a standard I haven't seen many that would fool me well. For those of you that are older and saw these films as they were released, did you think they were real backgrounds?

It's not a criticism on people believing the trick nor the process but more of a viewing of the historical implementation of the process and the way people saw it as it used more and more as they grew up.

Rear Projection has always fascinated me. Very nice technique but a process that hasn't aged well in creating a reality for whatever world that needed to be created in the eyes of the modern.
I remember seeing Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND in an auditorium at Berkeley in 1974 and when it came to the shot of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck "skiing" against rear screen, the audience burst out laughing. Students in film class watching Tippi Hedren ride a "horse" in MARNIE had a similar reaction. Hitchcock's rear-screen shots were notoriously fake-looking.

As a young moviegoer myself, I generally noticed when it was rear-screen and when it was on location. The early Bond films had lots of obvious rear-screen shots. It didn't bother me; it was a convention of the times. Besides, we'd seen all those Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road to" movies on TV and we knew damn well that Hope and Crosby never went to Morocco, Singapore or Zanzibar. And Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan never went to Africa. (Although he did go to Mexico to shoot TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS.)

I think more recent movies have sometimes suffered by going on location when they could have used rear-screen projection. I'm thinking of SPIES LIKE US (1985), a modern-day "Road" movie with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd (with a cameo appearance by Hope) that went on location to Finland! I don't want a film like that to look "real." It would be funnier if it looked a little more artificial.
Old 01-19-13, 07:49 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Again watching this Hitch set. I think Rear Projection actually looks better in B&W than Color. The Colors bring out it's flaws much more than B&W. Most likely due to well...colors. The older B&W films look better also to being old. Old film looks old. Rear Projection ages well w/ that. Color not so much.

Funny that you brought up Marnie. Finished seeing it today. Rear projection w/ all those riders and some actors in front looked weird as fuck to me.
Old 01-19-13, 08:37 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Solid Snake PAC View Post
Again watching this Hitch set. I think Rear Projection actually looks better in B&W than Color. The Colors bring out it's flaws much more than B&W. Most likely due to well...colors. The older B&W films look better also to being old. Old film looks old. Rear Projection ages well w/ that. Color not so much.

Funny that you brought up Marnie. Finished seeing it today. Rear projection w/ all those riders and some actors in front looked weird as fuck to me.
I think it also depends on the type of scene, as in, how much can you actually see what you're projecting and how clearly? In an open convertible in sunlight, it's probably going to look fake. But in a car with a roof, in the rain, with the windows up, and at night it can be a different story. I believe the car crash scene in Fight Club is a good example.
Old 01-20-13, 03:32 AM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Roybq View Post
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/MrktxWUgcyA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This is real as it gets.
I was watching "Goldfinger" and it got to some of the rear projection car scenes,I couldn't help but think of the part of that "Airplane" scene where the background footage speeds up and then turns to the guys on the horses.

What really bothers me in "Goldfinger" is why they used rear projection for Bond's scene by the pool in Miami. You can fly off to all these other far off places and get shots there, but you guys can't film two guys in a hotel courtyard by the pool?
Old 01-20-13, 04:58 AM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

"Aliens" had some decent Rear Projection effects.
Old 01-20-13, 05:46 AM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Boba Fett View Post
"Aliens" had some decent Rear Projection effects.
Yeah, the sequence where the second drop ship interacts with the ATV crash site is great, but the part where Ridley is standing behind the melting background is not, mainly due to the camera movement.

I'd say the worst Rear Projection use from Hitchcock is seen in any of the driving scenes in To Catch a Thief.
Old 01-20-13, 06:55 AM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I know I posted this once before but this thread reminded me of it again

Go to the 3:15 minute...between Kirk's overacting and the bad rear projection, you will have a classic in unintenionally funny scenes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbNSvOTaBAk
Old 01-21-13, 11:29 AM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I've always wondered also if previous generations of movie goers found this effect to look realistic. I like to think that they didn't give a fuck and just went with it. I've always liked the way it looks even though it looks fake.
Old 01-21-13, 02:10 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I think it's akin to the early days of CGI effects - contemporary movie-goers knew it didn't look real at all, but most of them suspended disbelief as they knew it was roughly the best available way to accomplish the on-screen action.
Old 01-21-13, 05:01 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum View Post
... Hitchcock's rear-screen shots were notoriously fake-looking. ...
I think this is a subject for further discussion, if it hasn't already been talked about. Some of the rear projection shots in Rebecca look as if Hitchcock went out of his way to make them look fake. Especially one of Olivier and Fontaine walking in the Monte Carlo prologue, the background isn't moving in sync with the actor's steps (it's moving faster), in fact it appears that they are doing the mincing steps consistent with walking in place. There had to be treadmills available for this sort of thing, and Rebecca was a grade-A Selznick production with budget to spare for them if needed.

The most extreme example of this with Hitchcock is the rear projection shots of the exteriors in the 3-D Dial M for Murder, which are in 2-D. I don't think it would have been that big a deal to create some dimensional backdrops (no need to build full sets) that would have been more "real" looking than this.

My favorite intentionally fake looking rear projection is at the end of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse -- during the car chase, the cars are driving along in front of a backdrop that is a) moving faster than the cars and b) is filmed from a lower angle than the live action, giving the scene a weird dislocating effect.
Old 01-21-13, 05:22 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by UAIOE View Post

What really bothers me in "Goldfinger" is why they used rear projection for Bond's scene by the pool in Miami. You can fly off to all these other far off places and get shots there, but you guys can't film two guys in a hotel courtyard by the pool?
Connery couldn't leave England due to other commitments. Oddly enough the commitment was Marnie.
Old 01-21-13, 06:36 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

If Cosmopolis is a modern day example of rear projection in use, then I'd say it still looks pretty terrible.
Old 01-21-13, 06:41 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by SomethingMore View Post
If Cosmopolis is a modern day example of rear projection in use, then I'd say it still looks pretty terrible.
Cosmopolis used CGI. Shit, they were better off using rear projection.
Old 01-21-13, 06:48 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Fine by me. It's all about the material.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/JlSQAZEp3PA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Old 01-21-13, 06:56 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

Originally Posted by Matthew Chmiel View Post
Cosmopolis used CGI. Shit, they were better off using rear projection.
I thought Cosmopolis looked really good in terms of the CGI sets used.
Old 01-21-13, 08:04 PM
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Re: How real did Rear Projection look?

I think rear-projection was mainly used in older movies because they preferred shooting films on sets at the studio instead of going on location (which both cost more and is less easy to control), so it was the only technology back then that allowed certain scenes to be filmed on the studio lot.

I think audiences accepted rear-projection because they really didn't know any better. But once filming in color and going on location to shoot films got more common, then the fake look of rear-projection (particularly in color films) began to really stand out and that's when it became a less popular technique with filmmakers.

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