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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Forced Perspective

This is old technique that gamers and movie makers have been using for years. I have looking for an opportunity to try this out in terrain for a while since my initial experimentation and I wanted to share.

The concept is simple: your brain and eyes have been trained to see things a certain way. Objects far away are smaller than objects up close within the same frame.

Gamers have been doing this forever. We paint the recesses of our models darker than the base coat & highlight the upper edges to make a 0.5mm edge seem like epic forged armor.

Movie makers have done the same and you make not even have realized it. Make in the 1930's, model makers (how cool was that job?) would create objects in exaggerated scale to show sizes that look out of this world. Some examples that are probably in your DVD collection:
  • Godzilla is a guy in a rubber suit. The city of Tokyo he is trashing is a bunch of scale models. The scenes with screaming people running for their lives is actual footage. The original background was cut out (by hand) and the film was superimposed on the footage of the guy in the rubber suit, giving the illusion full sized people are being chased by a giant monster..
  • The opening scene to Bladerunner (the most awesome terrain scene ever) is a brass etch model filmed by a camera on a crane arm
  • Don't be fooled by the hi tech wizardry of green screening: the concept is the same only you don't need to hand cut the film anymore. And you can use Photoshop to erase wires that are holding up flying actors
  • Many film sets, especially in spaghetti westerns, the bottom floors of buildings are full size but the unused upper floors are only 75% of the actual size to make the building look taller. The same technique is used in the original George Reeves Superman show & on Main Street USA at Disney
  • Model Train guys use different scale models to make backgrounds seem farther away. Lets look at that in depth

The basic concept starts with breaking your scene into segments. We will start from front to back:
  • The Foreground - This where the action is. This your full scale model and should have the maximum detail
  • Partials - this is the first layer of your background. This should be full scale & still have as much detail as your foreground. The trick is that these are not full sized models. Instead, the look great from the front but when you look from the size, you will see the object is only a fraction of the depth.
    •  In the movies, prop makers will build a full size house front, but the house will only go back 3 feet. Clever window dressings and keeping the door closed keeps the illusion alive.
    •  In modern movie making, the windows and doors are replaced with green screens so movie footage can be added to the scene later
    • For example, your favorite starship commander is not looking out his view screen at a space battle. He is staring at a green screen with a taped X so he knows where his eyes should be focused.
  • Flats - this layer is the critical layer for the execution of the effect. The objects in this layer should be 75% the size of the true scale counterparts. The detail here is minimal, maybe some raised sections but not nearly the level of your other elements
  • Background - the farthest most object, usually a wide landscape or picture. Items in the picture should be about 50% the size of your foreground items.
Using Kevin's display board, let us put this into use

First I cut Foamcore to size. Notice I spring for the black foam to help hide unsightly white edges, and I use a metal T Square to ensure straight lines
Attached Background Image using spray adhesive to ensure an even (ie no bubbles) application

Now I work on the flats. I cut out the portion of my original background image that the artist intended to be in front of the background. I cut the Foamcore to match the shape of the image

Attach image via Spray Adhesive

Even upside down (damn camera phone) the illusion that the hills & shrubs are in front of the background hills

As you can see, it is a illusion. The block of wood holding the Flat to the Backdrop is only 3/4" thick

Backdrop with Flats. The key is getting the spacing between Flats & Backdrop is essential. Too close, not effect. Too far, looks cartoony. Most recommendations is 1/2" to and 1"

Now we add the partials. In this case, I used dark colored hills that are 2" tall. The color creates contrast between the background, flats, and foreground. The 2" height is essential to gauge a size relationship between the models on the foreground & background elements

As you can see from these angles, the illusion is only 3" deep, but from the front it seems to stretch the view into the far distance

Finished illusion

Try this on your display board or on your gameboard's short edge. I did this where the short edge butt up against the wall of my basement

Hope you enjoyed and please comment below


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