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While watching a behind the scenes video on some of the visual effects in Black Swan, they show how some of the mirror effects are done and point out that a "hero plate" was used along with green screen:

What exactly is a hero plate? And what is its purpose in filmmaking?

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I don't know this for sure, but here is my educated guess. In this featurette they're using the word "hero" to identify the "real world" Nina. There are 2 Nina's in those shots. One is the "hero" (main character of the film, whom the audience identifies with and empathizes with) and then there's the evil reflective Nina (in one shot called the "reflective element"). There's also the green-screen element. Put all of those together, and you get the final comp (comp = composite shot, which is a shot made up of multiple elements).

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    So you're saying that, unlike "green screen", "hero plate" is not a technical term, but rather just an identifier for "the take where Natalie Portman is playing the real-world Nina"? – Thunderforge Jul 29 '16 at 19:54
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    "Plate" is a technical term that is used in VFX and compositing. It just refers to the footage that was shot. So you'll often see reference to a "background plate" or the like. In the video above, the "hero plate" refers to the footage of the main character. Later in the video you'll see a "Lily plate," a "Nina Plate" and so forth. It's just a way to identify the pieces of footage that are then composited together or act as the base for the VFX that are generated. – djmadscribbler Jul 29 '16 at 20:34
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I believe the other two answers are slightly off. In this case, the effects team is using a term more commonly applied to props and costumes: The "hero" (or "hero prop"/"hero sword"/"hero vehicle"/"hero costume" etc.) is the most visually detailed of a set of similar items fabricated for the film.

Think of Finn's stormtrooper helmet. At various times, the character will need to perform stunts, do long nights on location, and remove the helmet in closeup. The stunt man will need several cheap, well-padded, under-detailed helmets. The lead actor's helmet for normal full-body shooting will require comfort and durability, but more detail. For the climactic removing the helmet scene, he'll need a "hero" prop, with working lights, interior detailing, and some real heft to it.

In the Black Swan clips, notice that the plate (shot meant for compositing with other shots) referred to as the "hero" is always the one featuring the actress most prominently, with the most set visible, the least greenscreen, and the most careful lighting. Essentially, it's the "beauty" portion of the final shot, charged with establishing the reality of what we're seeing, so that the effects team can disrupt it.

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    I would agree with you, but if you watch the scene where she backs up to the mirror and turns around, the 'hero plate' shot and the 'reflection element' shot are lit exactly the same, with the same props, camera angle and everything else. The only difference is in Natalie's movement, showing that the only difference between 'hero' and 'reflection' in that example is who she is portraying in each take, white or black swan. – TheBloodyPoet Jul 29 '16 at 22:11
  • Your answer gives a great definition of "hero" that mine didn't give. Upvote. I do agree with @TheBloodyPoet 's comment but I still understand the use of the term "hero" in that context, since Natalie's reflection (turning around) is the "smaller" element in the composited shot. The "hero plate" takes up much more of the screen. – BrettFromLA Jul 29 '16 at 22:14

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