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It always makes me wonder how do they place the cameras and crew members while filming a scene which is opposite to a reflecting object, such as mirror. Because, when filming the reflected objects we should see the camera and cameraman because of their reflection. But this does not happen in the movies.

How do they film the scenes with an actor facing a mirror? Why don't we see the cameras and crew?

What is the technique they use to film the scenes with reflecting objects?

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Reminds me of this great shot: Mirror scene in Contact –  atticae May 3 '12 at 10:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 86 down vote accepted

If you look closely, you'll almost always note that the mirror is angled so the camera is out of its view. This is sometimes masked by the actor looking directly into [the reflection of] the camera, which gives the impression that he is looking at himself in the mirror.

However, there are at least two other options for getting a shot in which the camera should, by rights, be visible but isn't:

  • one is using visual effects (optical or CGI) for the reflection.
  • The other was used by James Cameron in Terminator 2: Cameron wanted a tracking shot (camera moving sideways) behind Linda Hamilton removing a chip from Ahnold's head in front of a mirror. If done with a mirror, the camera would have been visible as it moved around behind the actors.

    Rather than do this with effects, the set was built so that the mirror was actually a window, and on the other side was a complete mirror-image version of the set on the camera side. Schwartzenegger and Linda sat on the far side facing the camera, and a fancy Arnold puppet and Linda's twin sister sat with their backs to the camera, mimicking all of the moves of their counterparts.

Other example are:

  • In the case of Being John Malkovich, where the shot was from his POV the camera man just stood in front of an emtpy frame in the wall with Malcovich standing 'inside' the wall on a reverse set of the scene...

  • In the bad attempt of Sucker Punch scene in the dressing room when Sweet Pea, Rocket and Blondie talk about not helping Baby Doll, their movements not matching their mirror images (especially Sweet Pea's). Doubles are being used. This is done so the camera can move behind them without being reflected. You can watch it at this link

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I believe the mirror scene from "Brad Stoker's Dracula" by Coppola used a body double as well. –  System Down May 4 '12 at 17:47
This prank uses the same basic method employed in Terminator 2. –  Flimzy Dec 30 '12 at 19:38
The basic method used in terminator needs a lot of aptitude in mimicry indeed! –  Mistu4u Dec 31 '12 at 6:34
In Birdman I thought the camera was cleverly positioning itself between mirrors to avoid reflection, but occasionally it would move to where it should have been clearly visible. Thought that it seemed like some nice VFX in a calm movie like this...until other things happened. –  Nick T Feb 22 at 19:56
No mention of tilt shift lenses? –  GiantCowFilms Sep 28 at 16:07

Black Swan featured several shots in mirrored dance rehearsal studios where the crew were digitally removed - see this Black Swan Visual Effects Reel for some cool examples.

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There are several techiques when mirrors or reflective surfaces are involved in movies. One is simpy is to remove digitally the camera and the crew that could appear in the reflection. Sometimes this (already classic) technique involves taking pictures of the real set, and using them to "cover" what should not be in the image.

And a more interesting technique is to use another cameras to capture "what should be seen in the reflection". This means that the main camera keep the story going, but another cameras placed in strategic points register what might be seen in reflective surfaces. Example of this could be seen in Divergent (2014) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Divergent example:

Snow White and the Huntsman example:

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One simple way is using tilt-shift lens. It's often used by photographers for static images although I'm not sure if it's commonly used for animated movies or not. Simply put the camera aside from the mirror then shift the lens towards it. The perspective will be fixed by the lens so that viewers will think that the camera is in front of the mirror. However those lenses are very expensive so nowadays people may use a normal lens then correct the perspective later by Photoshop or similar softwares.

Read more:

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