Derek Wilcox: [Chuckles] No, no, no, no. The sign was way in the background. I was standing in the foreground going like this when Jillian took the picture, so by forced perspective, it looks like I'm holding up the whole sign.
Peter Griffin: I don't believe you. I think you are a God. And I will die for you or kill others.
An intentional exploitation of the camera's 2-D vision. Place an object closer to the camera, and so long as it's in focus, it looks bigger. Or, place something in the distance, and it looks smaller. This is one of the oldest Camera Tricks, and dates back to early still photography.
In the pre-CGI days, this was one of the most commonly-used techniques to make sets appear larger than they actually were. This can be augmented by placing children or "little people" into the miniature background so that they look like they're full-size adults, although this only works if they are seen from a distance.
The only real complicated part of this is focus. You need a camera lens that will focus on both long and short distances at the same time, or one or the other will end up blurry.
- In 1927 Film/Sunrise used Forced Perspective to make the city set appear larger.
- The original King Kong (1933) used multi-layered Forced Perspective shots to integrate actors, painted scenery, and pre-filmed clips of stop-motion creatures.
- There are no special effects in this◊ shot from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's simply a forced-perspective trick achieved by placing a model ship next to the camera.
- Star Wars
- The famous opening scene from A New Hope uses this. The Rebel Blockade Runner model is bigger than the Star Destroyer. Though it's not quite the same thing — the models were filmed separately and composited using Blue Screen.
- In Episode III Lucas used Forced Perspective to make Darth Vader seem much taller than Palpatine.
- The Empire Strikes Back employed children dressed as Rebel soldiers and technicians in the background of shots to make the Echo Base hangar look larger than it was.
- The Last Jedi even humorously references this, when a massive robotic limb comes down over the camera with ominous music and plentiful dramatic steam spouting everywhere - only for a zoom-out to reveal that it's an extreme close-up of a clothing iron.
- Referenced in Galaxy Quest. When "Captain Taggart" tries to explain that they're actors, he holds his fingers about two inches apart and says, "The ship is that big."
- The Lord of the Rings
- Used to great effect in the movies to help the average-height actors playing hobbits and dwarves seem to-scale with their man and elf co-stars — as noted in entry #6 of this Cracked article.
- Also used in reverse in one shot from The Fellowship of the Ring: While climbing Caradhras, Frodo falls and drops the Ring. There is a shot of the Ring lying in the snow in the foreground—the filmmakers used a much larger model of the Ring in this shot to make it seem closer, while still in-focus.
- The Rings movies also pioneered moving forced perspective. Normally, FP only works if the camera doesn't move. By having parts of the set and either the "big" or "small" actors on tracks, moving in synch with the camera, the creators were able to eliminate this limitation.
- The filmmakers also lucked out by casting the quite tall John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, as his height compared to the Hobbit actors was the same as what the difference between dwarves and hobbits should be, so that they could be filmed together and require fewer composite shots.
- Used to terrible effect in the B-Movie Future War. By holding dinosaur puppets right next to the camera, it looks just the like the protagonists are fighting giant dinosaur puppets.
- Back to the Future Part II:
- The scenes set at the 1955 construction site of Lyon Estates were filmed on a soundstage with the background scenery laid out in forced perspective. The filmmakers did not want to return to the remote location they had used in the first film.
- The tunnel is much shorter than it appears to be. The filmmakers made it look longer by placing the lights further from the camera closer together.
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People used it for the scenes where Darby interacted with the Leprechauns.
- Used on the Harry Potter movies for Hagrid.
- For the airport scenes in Casablanca, scaled down airplanes and midget extras were used to make the airport set look larger than it was.
- In 20 Million Miles to Earth, to set up a confrontation between the alien Ymir and an elephant, Ray Harryhausen needed establishing shots of a real elephant with a zookeeper. A small actor in a zookeepers' uniform was used to make the live-action elephant look bigger than it really was, so that it matched the scale of the animated elephant used in the fight scene.
- Star Trek movies:
- For the Engineering set first used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the intermix shaft that runs along the back of the Enterprise's secondary hull to the warp engine pylons was built in forced perspective. In one shot, you can see a man standing at the end of the coil - it's actually a child.
- Almost exactly the same trick was used in a deleted scene set inside a Klingon prison from Star Trek (2009). A hallway was made to look bigger by (you guessed it) casting children as the guards. Also, Kirk was played by a child on a scaled-down set in the shot where he runs into the ice cave on Delta Vega.
- The turbolift shaft from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is done with forced perspective. Unfortunately, the illusion is destroyed if you do what they did in this movie: they took the camera straight towards and very close to the background so that the difference in angles was noticeable. (Of course, the deck labels going up to 78 also breaks the illusion.)
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan uses a forced perspective trick in the Starfleet Headquarters scene with Kirk and Spock, using miniatures in the foreground to make the set look much bigger than it actually was.
- An unusual use of Forced Perspective happens in the 1987 film The Gate, where a zombie menacing the kid leads falls to the floor and breaks up into little demons. The demons are full-sized humans in suits, filmed in forced perspective bunched up in a roughly humanoid shape (animation is used to transition between the fall and the breakup). You can see the scene at 1:15 in the trailer.
- The Terminator used forced perspective a lot. The scene where an automated hunter-killer is rolling over human skulls, the skulls are actually about the size of golf balls and the HK is merely a model. The ship that flies overhead is actually built from several model planes sold in hobby stores.
- The famous Space Jockey-set from the first Alien movie was too much smaller than it appears, with the Jockey actually the size of a normal human. The gigantism was achieved through clever use of perspectives and child actors.
- In Spellbound the climax is a POV shot of the villain aiming a gun at Dr. Peterson then shooting himself after she convinces him that he can't get away with it. Because the optics of the day couldn't allow both the gun and Dr. Peterson to be in focus, the gun was a large prop attached to the camera, making it a sort of inversion of the usual forced perspective shot.
- Hitchcock also did this in The Lady Vanishes, making a pair of poisoned drinks look more threatening by using enlarged prop glasses in the foreground.
- Lampshaded in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur and his men made it to Camelot.
"It's only a model..."
- Also lampshaded in the trailer, where Camelot is a small cardboard cutout on the horizon that falls over partway through.
- Used on the 1993 remake of Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. A vast improvement over the original, which had to make do with a papier mache hand and double-exposure.
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army used such shots frequently. The alleys in the underground market were designed with the diminishing height trick to make them look longer, and the shot of the intricate "egg" opening in the elven prince's hand is actually a mechanical puppet the size of a trash can in a set of model fingertips, with the actor acting about ten feet further in the background.
- Equinox was Dennis Muren making an homage to the classic monster movies. It was shot when he was fairly unknown with a tiny budget as a student project. They used these tricks very effectively to create fights with giant monsters and ordinary humans. The giant is just a normal man seen in forced perspective with his victims - off in the distance - nailing the timing of their choreography.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had oversized furniture and props built for some scenes to reduce Deep Roy, already only four feet high, down to Oompa-Loompa size. Other scenes with Oompa-Loompas used animatronics or CGI.
- Used in Little Shop of Horrors to show the "growth" of the small Audrey II prop.
- The iconic opening shot of future Los Angeles in Blade Runner was a highly detailed trapezoidal model fifteen feet deep using forced perspective and a lot of smoke to give the illusion of an entire city.
- In City Girl a failed shot leads to a surreal effect. In this film about life Down on the Farm, a shot was staged with a reaper in the foreground and a model of the farmhouse in the background; the idea obviously was to move the model of the farmhouse to make it appear that the reaper is moving. But onscreen it looks like the reaper is stationary (which of course it was) and the farmhouse is floating by on a sea of wheat.
- A variation was used on Stand by Me when the boys are trying to outrun a train on a bridge. A telephoto lens was used to compress the depth of the shot and make the train seem like it was barreling in on them, when it was actually a safe distance away.
- In Innerspace, after Scrimshaw and Canker are shrunk 50%, there are a few scenes where they are seen with full-size actors. These shots were filmed using forced perspective. For the car scene, the rear of the car is actually twice as large as a normal car rear, and was about 20 feet away. During the scene half size hands and double-size heads were used. Using this method, the film makers didn't have to worry about compositing two separate shots in post production, so the shots could be completed quicker. Even in the final scene with the suitcase, the case was twice as large, but the hand that closes it was real, closer to the camera in sync with the closing.
- The final scene of the so-called American version of Strangers on a Train has Barbara and Anne Morton waiting for Guy to call on the telephone. Alfred Hitchcock wanted the phone in the foreground to dominate the shot, emphasizing the importance of the call, but the limited depth-of-field of contemporary motion picture lenses made it difficult to get both phone and women in focus. So Hitchcock had an oversized phone constructed and placed in the foreground. Anne reaches for the big phone, but actually answers a regular one.
- This shot was parodied on Top Secret!, with the phone revealed to be an oversized prop when the character answered it.
- In Hot Shots! Part Deux, this is played for laughs with the helicopter flying in with Topper into the military base. It looks full size, even knocking over tents at it approaches, but as it comes in for a landing, it turns out to be a small remote-controlled helicopter, and a nearby officer yells for someone to pick it up before people start tripping over it.
- When making his experimental short film Eaux d'Artifice, Kenneth Anger wanted to make the fountains in the ornate garden look bigger. So, instead of casting a full-sized woman as his actress, he hired a little person.
- In the "French Revolution" part of History of the World Part I, King Louis (really, The Garcon de Pisse [Piss-Boy] who is doubling for him) runs down the hallway of the Louvre (when it was a royal house), and the floor slopes upward as the walls shrink inward.
Garcon de Pisse: (Exasperated) Who designed this place?
- Used in various sequences in The Dark Knight Rises to make Tom Hardy as Bane seem much bigger than Hardy's 5'9" stature. This is readily apparent in the sewer scene with Jim Gordon, in which various techniques (shooting Hardy from behind and having the other actors stand farther away, shooting him from below, and a good ol Scully Box) are employed to give the sense that Bane is a massive human being.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 Used this a few times.
- In the episode where they watch the aforementioned Future War, Mike is inspired by the film to run to the back of the theater and start "threatening" the bots with forced-perspective shadow puppets.
- The end of the The Screaming Skull episode sees Observer shrink Bobo—this is achieved by having Bobo stand at the back of the room, while Observer sticks his hand in front, pretending to hold Bobo. The makers of the show were well aware of the hypocrisy of using this "special" effect after having made fun of it so many times.
- Beakman's World used the perspective to good effect in one of its segments on Optical Illusions. The trick is, of course, to fool a viewer into thinking the assistant is in the rat's hand.
- A minor example in Supernatural usually used to make Dean, played by 6'1" Jensen Ackles, seem taller, or at least not puny compared to his 6'5" younger brother.
- In the "Making of" episode of Walking with Dinosaurs, paleontologist Kent Stevens first appears to be gazing at a life-size Diplodocus statue, which is revealed to be a miniature model as he walks closer to the camera.
- Done in-universe in an episode of Northern Exposure where they're putting on a production of Bus Stop and the stage is quite shallow, so the back wall of the diner set has very low doors to make it look like it's further away than it is. Chris has to duck his head in order to get through.
- Frequently used in Doctor Who to make model spaceships or bases look full-size during location filming. A particularly awful example of a shot of this type is when the Brigadier summons a model kit tank to fight the K-1 Robot in "Robot", represented by pushing it into frame with the robot in the far distance - unfortunately, it just lets us get a good look at the plasticy fake tank and the grass on the ground gives a really clear idea that the robot is further away than we're supposed to think it is.
- The Graham Norton Show did a hilarious opening joke with Graham showing off his ride to actor and car enthusiast Matt LeBlanc and urging him to take it for a drive. Then Matt walks up to the "car", which is a little toy strategically positioned in front of the camera.
- Canada's Worst Driver used this to set up a gag in the first episode of Season 13. Andrew announced that in view of all the complaints about what the bad drivers do to cars on the show, they were going to do all the driver training with remote control cars instead. One of the RC cars on the table was actually the season's "hero car", parked at the far end of the runway to make it look the same size as the toys.
- OK Go used this throughout the video for "The Writing's on the Wall". It started with the text "The Writing's on the Wall" appearing the middle of the screen not by overlay, but by painting the letters on objects in front of the band and on the wall behind them. There were a set of boxes, some of which were real, and some of which were just painted on the ground; a conglomeration of random objects that looks like Tim when viewed from above; and a picture of the band except for Damian painted on the wall and floor, with Damian standing in the empty space. It ended with another sign saying "The Writing's on the Wall" on the back wall, and the pillars in the warehouse, making it nearly undecipherable until the camera moves into the correct position.
- Disney Theme Parks use this trick liberally. All of the parks have a Main Street leading to the central castle. The castles all look bigger than they really are because the buildings in Main Street are built on a progressively diminishing scale both horizontally and (as is the castle itself) vertically.
- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest shows what appears to be Donkey Kong Island from the first game way in the background of K. Rool Keep. However, it turns out to be Klubba's Kiosk, which you can easily access right there.
- The paintings for Tiny-Huge Island in Super Mario 64 also make use of this. The one in front is of normal size, but the other two on the side appear to be, too... until you approach them.
- Star Wars: Rogue Leader plays this when inside the Death Star's reactor. The entire room is rigged to look far, far larger than it actually is through use of high-res textures, forced perspective, and slowing you down considerably. It looks amazing at first, but if you fly down toward the floor the whole illusion falls through and you can see clearly that you're just moving slowly through an average-sized area.
- In Dangeresque Roomisode 1: Behind the Dangerdesque, Dangeresque tries to force perspective to make it look like the guy in the window of the next building over is being attacked by something on the windowsill in front of him, in order to fake the photo evidence he needs.
- Some of the puzzles in RiME involve getting multiple objects to form an arch when viewed from a certain angle.
- In Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, the rune puzzles work this way. From the correct angle, some background objects align so to form certain runes, which you have to focus on to open the door. The Valravn puzzles are similar, but instead of background objects, there are shining fragments hanging in the air, and you have to find the right perspective for them to form Valravn's sigil.
- Used frequently in Red vs. Blue for the character Junior, a baby alien. Since the game engine does not allow the player to resize their characters, the makers used a regular sized Elite, but just stood him in the background.
- Awful Hospital has a living version of this: thanks to the uniquely subjective Multiverse of the Perception Range, Bloodstain appears to the protagonist and the reader as a, well, bloodstain across any number of surfaces that forms a humanoid outline from the viewer's perspective — even when viewed from multiple angles at once.
- The Order of the Stick: When Roy finds a piece of the rare and precious Starmetal to reforge his Ancestral Weapon, it appears to dwarf him at first, but then he walks up and picks it up in the palm of his hand.
Roy: Typical, really.
- Referenced on Adventure Time when Finn and Jake are making a movie. Finn equips a frog with a miniature chariot and instructs Princess Bubblegum to stand back so that she appears to be riding the chariot.
- Rick and Morty: When the family looks for a new planet to settle on, their first choice looks remarkably Earth-like. When Rick starts to take the spaceship down for a landing, he suddenly bonks the ship into the planet, revealing that it's much closer and much smaller than it appeared.
- A similar gag was used on Futurama. As Fry watches the view outside the Planet Express ship and marvels at how big outer space looks, a planet that first seemed far away suddenly spatters on the windshield and is wiped away by the windshield wiper.
- Watching TV or film, which forces your viewpoint, are the main contributing factors when you see celebrities in Real Life and were Expecting Someone Taller. If you, the fan, are taller than average in the first place, the effect is VERY notable.
- Researchers have observed male bower birds seemingly using forced perspective to make themselves look larger to potential mates.
- One very common cause for forced perspective visual effects failing in film and television is whenever there is fire involved. Just about anything in shot can be scaled appropriately, given enough attention to detail, but fire always remains roughly the same size. Thus a small model that is on fire will appear to have (comparatively) huge flames coming off it compared to if the full-sized object was burning.