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Behind The Scenes Of Flim Making

How Characters Look Big and Small

By Stacy-Ann CockingsPublished 4 months ago 3 min read

Isn't it wonderful to explore the behind the scenes of the film making industry and to know how our beloved characters are able to shine through on screen? Let's be real we all have wondered how certain scenes were made to capture all its essence; I know I have. Let us dive into some of these ways and get some insights while we wait for our next best movies to come to light.

In "Avatar: The Way of Water," the monitors can be observed. Upon closer inspection, the performance of the actor portraying Quaritch, a 9-foot-tall Na'vi, becomes visible. The robotic monitor served as a reference for both the actor in the scene and the VFX team, who later added the computer-generated giant. This marked a significant advancement from the first "Avatar," which had only a few scenes featuring interactions between humans and Na'vi compared to the sequel. Filmmakers have been altering the height of actors for over a century to create illusions.

However, ensuring that the scale appears realistic without compromising the illusion is where the true challenge lies. Wētā, the visual effects company responsible for groundbreaking CG characters in films like "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Way of Water," is one of the pioneers in this field. Eric, a member of the team, explains that various techniques are employed in film to achieve the desired effect and obtain convincing performances from actors of different scales. For instance, if the characters are 6-foot tall, the tree they interact with would need to be 30% smaller. This necessitates careful planning. Filmmakers have been grappling with this puzzle since the early days of cinema. An example of forced perspective can be seen in the 1909 film "Princess Nicotine," where a tiny fairy appears next to a normal-sized human. In reality, the fairy was standing on a platform positioned far behind the table. Forced perspective relies on a sharp depth of field to ensure that both the foreground and background are equally in focus.

This requires ample lighting. In fact, during the production of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" in 1959, so many lights were used for forced-perspective shots that they caused the circuit breakers at a nearby power station to trip. While forced perspective works well when the characters are physically separated, complications arise when they need to interact with each other. This was a challenge encountered by Peter Jackson. By filming actors in front of a green or blue screen, filmmakers can replace the background with digitally created environments, allowing characters to interact with computer-generated elements that can be scaled to any size. This method was pivotal in making the giant robots in "Transformers" appear massive.

Furthermore, the film industry uses practical effects like miniatures and scale models. Filmmakers create scaled-down versions of sets, vehicles, or characters and film them separately. Through editing and compositing, they integrate these miniature elements seamlessly into the scenes to give the illusion of size difference. "Star Wars" used this technique extensively with its miniatures of spaceships and creatures. Additionally, costumes, makeup, and prosthetics can be used to physically transform actors, making them appear more substantial or imposing. For example, oversized props or sets may be used to accentuate a character's size.

In summary, the film industry employs forced perspective, green screen technology, and practical effects like miniatures to make characters appear bigger or smaller on screen, creating captivating and visually stunning cinematic experiences.

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