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Real-Place Background

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Holy crap, that is my house!

"She refers to a phenomenon of moviegoing which I have called certification. Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere."

Everyone loves some good Scenery Porn every now and then. It's a wonderful means of immersion. If the creators make the background and scenery vibrant and detailed enough, you might even be able to convince yourself that you're actually there!

...Wait a second, is that my house?

Congratulations, you have just encountered the Real Place Background — a subset of Scenery Porn where the scenery in question is based on a real location. This goes beyond just simply making use of notable landmarks. Sometimes every building, storefront, stairway and streetpole will be lovingly re-created for the purposes of the show, no matter how inconsequential.

Locations used for this purpose tend to become the subject of otaku "pilgrimages", a prime example being the Washinomiya shrine which is used in Lucky Star.


This is far more common in TV shows, comics and games that are set in real places (e.g., New York, Tokyo, or Paris).

See No Communities Were Harmed when the setting is highly recognizable, but never gets mentioned by its proper name. Even a mix is possible, when the town is never mentioned by name, but settings like train stations or streets are. Attention to detail in backgrounds is one possible aspect of Shown Their Work.

Not to be confused with GIS Syndrome.


Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Mr.Wolffy, Mr.Right! takes place in a building clearly modeled after the Creative Power Entertaining company headquarters. You can see the company entrance in several shots complete with the company logo and there are often posters in the background of Creative Power Entertaining's other shows.

    Comic Books 
  • Many of the locations in Scott Pilgrim are based on actual Toronto landmarks and businesses. This is preserved in The Film of the Book, which filmed on location wherever possible, including hunting down the hole-in-the-concrete-wall apartment author Bryan Lee O'Malley used to live in.
  • Spider-Man: The Marvel Universe was renowned for being set in New York as opposed to the fictional cities of DC heroes, but even then Spider-Man still stood out originally for being the most tied to the city since the Fantastic Four had global and cosmic adventures while Dr. Strange likewise was an esoteric figure:
    • A number of famous stories and plots use real-life places and monuments. Most notably, Gwen Stacy died at the George Washington bridge (though confusingly Romita Sr. modeled it on the Brooklyn Bridge in the issue) and it's not uncommon for real life tourists and visitors to treat the real bridge as a memorial to her fictional death. Likewise, Peter and MJ's famous Make-Out Point is the top of the Empire State Building, celebrated as their spot since the Wedding annual, and revisited in Matt Fraction's "To Have and to Hold" as well as Spider-Island.
    • Marvel actually got into trouble for this in Amazing Spider-Man Issue #138. Ross Andru, Gerry Conway's collaborator, was fond of taking photographs and inserting real architecture into his backgrounds. However for one issue he used a real house in Queens and made it into the location of the Mindworm. Readers in that area however recognized the house and immediately went over and pestered the owners about its unintended celebrity as the lair of the Mindworm which led the owners to sue Marvel and settle, and after that Marvel saw fit to disguise their use of locations better.
    • This trope is played halfway in West Coast Avengers. The Avengers compound is stated to be at 1800 Palos Verdes Drive in Palos Verdes Estates, CA. That's an actual address, but rather than being right on the coastline as the comics depict it, it's actually a little bit (maybe a half mile to a mile) inland, and is a walking trail right next to the campus of Palos Verdes Intermediate School, a trail the locals call "Agony Hill".
  • Attempted in the very early issues of Diabolik, as it was set in Marseille but then abandoned due the extreme trouble in documenting for a Milan-based publisher in the pre-internet days.
    • Done in a number of non-canonical stories set in various Italian cities for particular occasions. In particular, "A Stradivarius for Eva Kant", created for the Cremona-stop of the 50 years exhibition, depicts perfectly not only various parts of the city but even the shore area of the Po river, with the farm Diabolik takes shelter after the story's heist being easily recognizable as one of the many set directly on it.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • True for most locations in the Watership Down animated film. This is fitting, because everywhere mentioned in the book is a real place.
  • Also true for The Plague Dogs, which was also directed by Martin Rosen and based on a novel by Richard Adams. You can look at photographs of the locations in this film, and they look exactly like the backgrounds (especially in Ravenglass).
  • Ralph Bakshi is fond of using real photographs as the basis of the backgrounds for his films. This is especially true of his rotoscoped films, particularly The Lord of the Rings and American Pop. In some early films he even superimposed his characters against live-action footage.

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz was was praised in its time for its vivid use of actual Berlin street-names and places, actual newspapers, as well as cut-outs of real-world events into the text. It's often considered a German equivalent of Ulysses. The 1931 Film version was shot in the real-life Alexanderplatz, however Fassbinder's miniseries could not really achieve thisnote  so he more or less set most of the action in interiors rather than exteriors (except for the finale set in the forest).
  • Walker Percy's The Moviegoer describes this as "certification", and it refers to a scene in the novel (set in 50s New Orleans) where characters go to see Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, a Hollywood movie that was shot on location in New Orleans (and made in the fifties'note  and experience this feeling after seeing familiar streets and locations and then stepping out the theater and noting how uncanny it is to see the same world outside that was on the screen.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses was famous for its meticulous use of real uses and locations, down to street names and addresses. Joyce used actual guidebooks, phone directories and other reference material to achieve his vision.
  • Emilio Salgari, author of Sandokan and many other novels, was well known for his ability to accurately portray the locations in his books, something even more notable due him being an overworked dime novel writer in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth. The only errors he actually made was depicting a lake near Mount Kinabalu, something all atlases depicted before the area was fully explored after he published the novel set there, and depicting the island of Mompracem (an important location in the Sandokan novels) as separate from Keraman rather than the earlier name for Keraman, caused by the only map available to him doing the same error.

  • High Speed has the playfield freeways labeled after their Real Life counterparts — the Bayshore Freeway (route 101), the Santa Monica Freeway (interstate 10), and the San Diego Freeway (interstate 5).
  • The backglass for Checkpoint features Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle in the background.

    Video Games 
  • The fourth game in the Police Quest series took this approach, using photographs of real-life LA scenery and scanning them in as the background shots.
  • True Crime: Streets of L.A. featured a rather extensive 240-square-mile re-creation of Los Angeles and its surrounding area, down to the individual street names and landmarks.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series, starting with San Andreas. Many a player was surprised at the level of detail that went into the fictional versions of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Likewise for GTA IV and NYC.
  • The World Ends with You contains a remarkably faithful recreation of Shibuya, barring the stylish yet impossible angles of skyscrapers and the fact that none of the stores are the brands they should be.
  • The tracks in Project Gotham Racing 2 are so accurate that one Scottish gamer was able to identify a store he used to frequent on an Edinburgh track.
    • More so in its Dreamcast predecessor Metropolis Street Racer, with recognizable landmarks like the Picadily Circus, the London Eye and the Buckingham Palace, among others.
  • A lot of effort was put into replicating London in The Getaway. You can find the pub you burn down in real life; the screenshots are as similar as the page image.
  • The MMO Silkroad Online is based on the real Silk Road. Most of the deserts, docks and cave entrances are identical to the actual Silk Road.
    • To a lesser extent the cities, being much smaller than the real life counterpart, only a small part of the cities is present in the game.
  • Fallout 3 uses the Washington Metro area for its Capital Wasteland. Of course, the scenery is all blasted and post-apocalyptic, but there are several places where you can see what the real-life equivalent would look like if it got blown up.
    • Fallout: New Vegas is even better at this. Even the little ghost town you start the game in, Goodsprings, is a real-life location; the bar and general store are lifted straight from the real ones. At least in the broad strokes, the biggest difference between the New Vegas map and the actual map of southern Nevada is that the distances are a lot shorter in the game. In most cases the relative placement is fairly accurate (though some of the buildings on the New Vegas Strip itself are on the opposite side of the road from their closest real world analogue).
  • The first level of Obsidian involves real-world footage of Yosemite National Park, with the titular structure integrated into it as a matte painting when seen from afar, and a CGI model in closeup. It also acts as a threshold of sorts, as the rest of the game is in CGI dream worlds.
  • Project Reality includes several real cities and locales among the map roster, such as several cities in Iraq and Lebanon.
  • The STALKER series contains numberous locations recreated painstakingly from the Real Life Chernobyl exclusion zone. In some cases the only differences are the distances between locations. And the mutants. We hope.
  • The Modern Warfare series loves using real places as backdrops for its levels.
    • The first game's missions "All Ghillied Up" and "One Shot, One Kill" take place in Pripyat, Ukraine. The levels are themselves an accurate recreation of the desolate city's environs modeled from photographs of the real thing.
    • Modern Warfare 2 combined this trope with Scenery Gorn in their depiction of Washington, D.C., to horrifying effect. Fight in the trenches in the National Mall! Take out SAM sites atop the Robert F. Kennedy Building! Obliterate the World War II Memorial with a minigun!
    • The very first level of the third game has a reasonably faithful interpretation of Wall and Broad Streets, the Federal Hall, the New York Stock Exchange (including a firefight on the trading floor), and surrounding environs. It's immediately followed by a swim through the (collapsed) Battery Park Tunnel out to New York Harbor, and a further level has a Chase Fight through an actual, operating London Underground tunnel from Canary Wharf to Westminster. And while the name has been changed to "Hotel Oasis", it's still pretty obvious "Dust to Dust" takes place inside a recreated Burj Al-Arab.
  • In the background of one of the levels in the Japan-only PSX platformer The Adventure of Little Ralph, a damaged Florence Cathedral sits randomly among other ruined European-esque structures.
  • Kentucky Route Zero is set in the real-life US state of Kentucky and the area shown on the map is a section of Interstate 65 between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green. The roads on the map actually exist and their real-life names and highway numbers are used. However, the actual locations such as Equus Oil and the burning tree are fictional.
  • DayZ uses the same map as ARMA II, so the geography and building placement are lifted from a real area in the Czech Republic. The in-game map is so accurate that you can actually use it to navigate the real area.
  • ARMA III is so dedicated to this, that some of the devs got in trouble when the research they were doing was mistaken as being espionage.
  • The Carol Reed Mysteries use real locations in Norrköping, Sweden as that was the creator's hometown. He and his wife would take thousands of photos of their town and use it as the setting in each game.
  • Several towns in Ragnarok Online are based off real-life cultures. Players have spotted buildings that correspond to their real-life counterparts that you can visit in real life.
  • Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is set in Tokyo and it shows - the player's Mission Control is in the shopping mall Nakano Broadway, you can go to Shibya, you can stand outside the Sega building in Akihabara (and this doesn't need to be pointed out - it has Sega's actual logo) and the famous railway station is even a dungeon.
  • Akiba's Trip, which is set within Akihabara, faithfully recreates Akihabara down to the finest details.
  • Inverted for Assassin's Creed, where a screenshot of the game was accidentally used in a news report about the Middle East.
    • Assassin's Creed generally is known for using recreations of historical settings, with notable landmarks that are still standing like the Florence Duomo and St Peter's in Rome.
  • The Division 2 is set in Washington DC, and unlike the previous game which condensed NYC into something more manageable, Ubisoft very proudly claimed it "is a 1:1 recreation of the renowned capital of the United States." While all the notable landmarks are there albeit changed for story purposes, even the road layout and styles of buildings in the game are seemingly correct, according the players based in the area.
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance uses a recreation of a small part of actual Bohemia, with its villages, rivers, castles and monastery, as its setting.
  • L.A. Noire is based in a meticulous recreation of 1940s Los Angeles.
  • Many of the areas in Farnham Fables are based on real-life places that the games' creator, Andrew, has been to, mostly in his hometown of Natick, Massachusetts. For example, Episode 2 starts off at the Natick First Baptist Church. Lampshaded in Episode 4, where one room, the Unprocessed Area, uses one of his reference photograph as its background (which is used for the forest entrance area).

    Visual Novels 
  • 7th Expansion's sound novels use mostly photo-shopped filtered photos as backgrounds, so this is bound to happen.
  • Filtered photos, this time of Brown University, are also the basis for Katawa Shoujo's Yamaku Academy.
    • The local geography, though, is largely based on the city of Sendai, with Yamaku apparently sitting on the steep hill between the Sendai Zoo, the ruins of Aoba castle, and two campuses (Aobayama and Kawauchi) of Tohoku University.
  • In general, any indie visual novel that utilizes filtered photos as backgrounds will invoke this.
  • Nekopara is set in Yokohama and uses a few real places within that city, most notably by the bay.

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Tom Siddell based the backgrounds of Zimmy's Dark World off actual locations in Birmingham. Hence the Fan Nickname 'Zimmingham'.
  • Because Paul Taylor, the author of Wapsi Square, has a background in photography, the backgrounds in the comic match up quite nicely with the actual geography of Minneapolis, even to the point where the fanbase can identify the exact street corner a scene is taking place at.
  • Orange Marmalade does this for the backgrounds, using photographs of Korea taken by internet photographers (after getting their permission) revealed in one of the bonus strips.
  • Thad's World Destruction: Before Destruction is centered on Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal is full of these.
  • Moperville North High School in El Goonish Shive is based on Naperville North High School in suburban Chicago.
  • Questionable Content features locations easily recognizable by residents of Northampton and Easthampton, Massachusetts. Some realistic representations of existing stores undergo a subtle name change : For instance, the real-life pub "The Dirty Truth" becomes "The Horrible Revelation".
  • David Willis has based most of the locations for Dumbing of Age on real locations around Indiana University, and has made periodic trips to the campus and the surrounding area to take pictures so that he can keep the area current.

    Western Animation 
  • Apparently the design team for Spider-Man: The Animated Series thoroughly researched New York and almost every rooftop has some sort of real-life counterpart.
  • The crew of Avatar: The Last Airbender traveled around the world looking for the best backgrounds possible to use as a basis for the show's areas.
  • The Establishing Shot of the Griffins' house in Family Guy features the actual Providence, Rhode Island, skyline in the background.
  • Motorcity is set in a quasi-post apocalyptic version of Detroit, and as such has featured grunged up versions of actual locations, such as a (slightly more) tagged up version of Michigan Central Station.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball has backgrounds literally made from photos of real places. Some of them are stock images, but others were taken specifically for use in the show. In particular, most residential area backgrounds are made of pictures from Vallejo, while the front of Elmore Junior High is made from photos of the front of Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco.
  • Bluey occasionally uses real places in Brisbane, drawn in the show's style.
  • Code Lyoko: The Factory is based on real-life Renault factory in Boulogne-Billancourt, a suburb in Paris (the factory was later demolished in 2005 and replaced by a music auditorium). There's also a school, Lycee Lakanal/Lakanal High School, a few kilometers away, which of course is the basis for Kadic Academy.
  • Hanna-Barbera used photographs of U.S. landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and the St. Louis Arch as backgrounds in its pitch film for Duffy's Dozen circa 1971.
  • In Aardman Animations's Angry Kid, the locations used to film Angry Kid and others usually involve real-life backdrops of suburban England. One stand-out example is in the episode "Speed" where most of the episode overviews Stapleton Road in Bristol.
  • The Snowman is set within the Sussex Downs, like its source book, with one of the several live action intros (the one featuring creator Raymond Briggs) even morphing from a real shot of that countryside into an animated one. This is most clear during the flight sequence as the characters pass over Brighton with its distinctive murghal-gothic palace the Royal Pavilion and its Palace Pier. True, the town is rather sparser in terms of other buildings than in real life but then given that the film uses hand-pencil-crayon-coloured animation for moving helicopter-type shots you can forgive the reduction in detail.
  • Miraculous Ladybug is set in Paris, and besides the obvious monuments like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the locations in the show are based on various other areas in the city. This blog goes into detail about this.


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