Rear Projection

Still from Backstory (dir. Mark Lewis, 2009)

Rear projection is a special effect technique that is used in film productions. It is the effect of combining the foreground with an existing background that could be filmed beforehand or painted or computer generated images (CGI). It is commonly used in the film industry, mainly in driving scenes or to show some form of background motions. This effect is to create an illusion that the characters are in a place they are not in, very similar to a blue/green screen effect.


Still from Panic in Bangkok (dir. André Hunebelle, 1964)
The actors would have to stand in front of a giant screen while a projector is positioned behind it to show an image for the necessary background. The background usually would appear much fainter than the foreground, and it could be a still image or a moving image, but they are both called the “plate” and one might also hear “Roll plate” in a film set where rear projection is used to instruct the crew to begin the projection.[1]
In order for rear projection to work and not showing any faults in the plate, the sound stage camera has to be in perfect synchronization with the projector. Both the camera and the projector has to be operating at 24fps, so that there will be no fringes or any halos appearing in the screen.[2]

The rear projection was mainly used to film actors in driving or any moving vehicle scenes, which is in fact a vehicle prop that is set up in front of the plate. In such cases, the actor would seem very odd compare to the projected background, because the projected background was not shot steadily and the bumping movement of the background was not recreated by the actors. [3]

A much advanced technique over the rear projection is the front projection, which uses a special material to create the screen that allows the plate to be projected from the front rather from the back. This way it creates a much better image quality.[4]


Still from The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1951)

This technique is certainly not new and it has been used professionally as early as 1913, however the widespread application to professional film production is dated from the late 1920s and the early 1930s. [5] It have also been said that Norman Dawn was the first to use the projection in the 1930s, but with their technology of their camera it didn’t really work out.[6] It was not until the 1930s, when the three major components for rear projection to work were developed. The first and most important component was the development of the camera and the projector itself. The camera and projector can now be linked up together and be perfectly synchronized. Second was the introduction of Eastman Kodak’s panchromatic film stock in 1928, which allows the camera to expose more of the projected background than the orthochromatic stocks that was used before. Lastly, there were much more powerful projection lamps, which could allow the projection screen to be brighter and properly exposed as well.[7]


Image showing a setup for rear projection (Taken from 'The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography' pp. 248)

The equipment used for rear projection may be as simple or as complicated as one desires, depending on the type of composites that are involved, such as the size of the set and the studio,
the way in which how the foreground actions are performed, also the amount of money that is available for such an effect. [8]

Whatever the rear projection might be, there are four kinds of equipment that has to be involved with[9] :
1.) The camera
2.) The projector
3.) The screen
4.) Interlocking controls for projector and camera (this is only for moving background scenes)

Also, the selection of equipment is determined, basically, by the type of background desired[10] :
1.) Still images of the background (no motion within the scene or by the camera, such as landscapes without any human figures or moving objects)
2.) Fixed-frame of a prerecorded motion picture of a moving background (the camera is immobile and the actors and other objects can be seen in motion within the frame, such as a city street)
3.) Traveling shots of background action (a moving camera shot, photographed from an automobile as it is moving)

==Famous Movies with Rear Projection effects[11]

- Pulp Fiction, in the taxi ride sequence

- Used throughout Aliens, such as the crash of the Dropship

- Used throughout the Austin Powers series; this is to recreate the style of old spy movies.

- North by Northwest, to show Cary Grant being attacked by a crop duster plane

- 2001: A Space Odyssey, to produce computer screen effects

Pulp Fiction (1994).
Pup Fiction, 1994:

External Links



Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography. London: Focal, 1985. Print. ISBN: 978-0240512341


  1. ^ Rear Projection. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  2. ^ Rear Projection and other challenges. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  3. ^ Rear Projection. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  4. ^ Rear Projection. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  5. ^ Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects pp. 248
  6. ^ Anderson, Scott. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  7. ^ Rear Projection. Retrieved 10/24/2010
  8. ^ Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects
    . p.248
  9. ^ Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects pp.249
  10. ^ Fielding, Raymond. The Technique of Special Effects pp.249
  11. ^ ==
    Rear Projection. Retrieved 10/24/2010