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How can one shoot the "Impossible" mirror shot as seen on Mr. Nobody?

green screen mirror shot Mr. Nobody blocking characters Christophe Beaucarne

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#1 Stephan Guldenpfennig

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:30 PM

Good day
Please see the following link to a scene out of the 2009 film Mr Nobody filmed by Christophe Beaucarne.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90CpBg7J-DY

I would like any advice on shooting a shot similar to the following scene: A character walks towards a mirror in a room, the camera follows from behind. We see the character look at himself in the mirror. The camera tracks into the mirror and it moves to show a full frontal POV shot of the character looking directly into the camera, as if he is looking at himself in the mirror. The camera then follows the character out of the room, even though it appears as if the camera is moving further into the direction of the mirror.
I was able to work out that the character is looking into, what was on set, a green screen. By excellent blocking, the actor was able to mimic his movement that was taken on another shot almost perfectly (a very small delay is seen in his head movement when looking towards screen right).
My question to the forum is whether anyone has advice for a cinematography student shooting this scene for a short film on how to pull this shot off.
  • How is the shot taken that was masked in the green screen? i.e. the “reflection of the mirror” shot. Was the camera in a static position until the movement took place where the camera moves around to face the character directly face-on?
  • Did the production designer have to “flip the set” in order to make the shot in the mirror look like an actual reflection?
  • How does one block an actor that well when he is only looking into a green screen and has no reference point?
I have a cricket dolly and steel tracks as well as a steadicam available to shoot this shot, so either piece of equipment could be used to pull off this shot.
I apologise for the long post but there are many questions that I am asking myself, and for the life of me I cannot exactly figure out how this shot was achieved so seamlessly.

Regards
Stephan Guldenpfennig
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#2 Alan Rencher

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:15 PM

If you notice, his movement in the mirror doesn't match up exactly with his movement. I would say that they just shot the reverse (that wall is probably a fly-away wall), and composited it over where we see the mirror.
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#3 Stephan Guldenpfennig

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 04:08 PM

Thank you for the reply Alan. Fly-away wall noted. Would you be able to give any input as to how the character's movement, although not perfect, was so accurate? Because you can see the character's body almost swaying to the sides as he approaches the mirror, so this would look very strange had he not moved so accurately on both shots.
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#4 Alan Rencher

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 04:44 PM

That's just good choreography and rehearsal. A good actor will be able to figure his natural movement out, and replicate it well. Also note that in order to pull off a good mirror scene, you have to measure and mark avery thing perfectly, including your lens height. You'll have to measure from the focal plane to the mirror, back to the actor's face; That will be your measurement for the turn around. When you flip around, stay on the same side of the actor (in this case, it's the actors right side), then flip the image horizontally in post to get a mirror flip.
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#5 Chris Millar

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

another example:

 


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#6 Stephan Guldenpfennig

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:21 AM

Thank you Chris. Another excellent example I found with a slightly different approach (no visual effects were used) is the following example from Sucker Punch:


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#7 David Cunningham

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:08 AM

Any chance that last one is a "2-way" mirror type concept?  I don't think the backs of the heads you see of the first actresses are actually the same people as the other side of the mirror.  That would make this scene pretty easy.  You'll also notice that the back of heads you see at the beginning a very poorly lined up with the actress on the other side of the "mirrors".


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#8 David Cunningham

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:16 AM

Yeah, the contact one is definitely "blue screen".  So sad that somehow they managed to miss her having a different colored sleeve in the mirror vs the camera shot.  That stinks!


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#9 Stephan Guldenpfennig

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 02:38 PM

Yes David that's also my assumption. The character on the far left's hand moves down from her forehead to her chin at a noticeably slower rate than the actual character, it's a combination of good set design and the use of 2 way mirrors. I wanted to try this shot for my project but I don't think that would be able with my budget.

 

I didn't see the different coloured sleeves before you noticed it, that's quite an obvious mistake, strange. In an interview with the DOP he mentioned that they had to "remove" a focus puller's shoulder that came in shot at one point, strange how they didn't manage to notice the obvious continuity mistake. Nevertheless the shot is a cool effect


Edited by Stephan Guldenpfennig, 13 February 2013 - 02:39 PM.

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#10 Chris Millar

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:11 PM

I hadn't noticed it myself...

I imagine in the comp stage that the segment would have been repeatedly watched over and over - *someone* would have noticed - my assumption for now is that the color is intentional.

Color is a pretty major tool in a cinematographers and production designers kit.

But then, I don't have enough data limit to watch it again right now. If it's subtle that might work against that theory.
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#11 jasonsing

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 06:37 PM

Good day
Please see the following link to a scene out of the 2009 film Mr Nobody filmed by Christophe Beaucarne.



I would like any advice on shooting a shot similar to the following scene: A character walks towards a mirror in a room, the camera follows from behind. We see the character look at himself in the mirror. The camera tracks into the mirror and it moves to show a full frontal POV shot of the character looking directly into the camera, as if he is looking at himself in the mirror. The camera then follows the character out of the room, even though it appears as if the camera is moving further into the direction of the mirror.
I was able to work out that the character is looking into, what was on set, a green screen. By excellent blocking, the actor was able to mimic his movement that was taken on another shot almost perfectly (a very small delay is seen in his head movement when looking towards screen right).
My question to the forum is whether anyone has advice for a cinematography student shooting this scene for a short film on how to pull this shot off.

  • How is the shot taken that was masked in the green screen? i.e. the “reflection of the mirror” shot. Was the camera in a static position until the movement took place where the camera moves around to face the character directly face-on?
  • Did the production designer have to “flip the set” in order to make the shot in the mirror look like an actual reflection?
  • How does one block an actor that well when he is only looking into a green screen and has no reference point?
I have a cricket dolly and steel tracks as well as a steadicam available to shoot this shot, so either piece of equipment could be used to pull off this shot.
I apologise for the long post but there are many questions that I am asking myself, and for the life of me I cannot exactly figure out how this shot was achieved so seamlessly.

Regards
Stephan Guldenpfennig

 

Stephan,

 

Did you ever attempt to mimic this effect? I still cant figure out how to shoot the plate B which should be on the green green of the mirror. Sorry im new to this, but should I put markers on the green screen of mirror ?


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 08:21 PM

You would probably put tracking markers on the green screen, but being limited to the frame of a mirror, probably the compositor could just use the corners of the mirror as tracking points.

 

Other thing to keep in mind is that when they shot the element to be matted into the mirror, the reverse angle on the room through the missing wall, facing the actor, the actor himself is not facing a mirror but a camera and missing wall -- it wouldn't have been hard to put a video monitor right above the camera, or even use a teleprompter mirror rig, to play back the first shot so the actor could time himself better.  And even if not, after the take, they could have run a split screen on set from a video playback person showing both takes and directions to see where the mismatches were.

 

They also probably shot everything slightly looser to allow them to zoom into the frame in post for the ability to reposition two elements.


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#13 jasonsing

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:39 AM

That's just good choreography and rehearsal. A good actor will be able to figure his natural movement out, and replicate it well. Also note that in order to pull off a good mirror scene, you have to measure and mark avery thing perfectly, including your lens height. You'll have to measure from the focal plane to the mirror, back to the actor's face; That will be your measurement for the turn around. When you flip around, stay on the same side of the actor (in this case, it's the actors right side), then flip the image horizontally in post to get a mirror flip.

 

Alan,

 

Could you elaborate on the measurements required. I quickly attempted this today and it came out very shitty.  


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#14 jasonsing

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 03:40 AM

Stephan,

 

Did you ever attempt to mimic this effect? I still cant figure out how to shoot the plate B which should be on the green green of the mirror. Sorry im new to this, but should I put markers on the green screen of mirror ?

 thanks for the reply Stephan. I attempted this today and figured this out as well that just placing the camera in front of the mirror doesnt work. 


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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 10:37 AM

The camera has to be the distance "inside" the mirror wall away from the mirror that it was away from the mirror in the reverse angle.  So if you were in an over-the-shoulder shot about four feet from the surface of the mirror, then the plate for the reflection has to be shot four feet inside the wall behind the mirror, which is why you need a set with a wall that you can pull.  And of course the plate will have to be flipped in post.


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#16 Alan Rencher

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:10 PM

Yeah, what David said.


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#17 Nicolas Courdouan

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 06:06 AM

Another pretty interesting mirror scene:

 


Edited by Nicolas Courdouan, 06 September 2013 - 06:06 AM.

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#18 René Moreno

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Posted 04 January 2016 - 02:03 AM

Stephan, look at RodeoFX video “VFX Breakdown for Mr. Nobody.”
On minute 03:49 you could see the heavy compositing needed to do that scene.

The shot inside the mirror is probably shot as David suggest (on a bathroom set wit a movable wall).


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