Features and Columns · Movies

How Filmmakers Make Cameras Disappear in Mirror Shots

Mirror, mirror on the wall … why don’t you reflect the movie camera that is obviously pointed at you?
Inception Mirror Shot
By  · Published on August 25th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores how filmmakers make cameras disappear when scenes feature mirrors.

When people talk about “the magic of cinema” they aren’t being cute. Filmmakers are real-deal illusionists; hiding wires, false walls, and gaffer tape in plain sight to suspend the disbelief of their audience. Sure, artistic movements like cinema verité go out of their way to disassemble the highly constructed artifice of the medium. But even movies concerned with the highest flights of fancy generally attempt to shield their audience from the sweaty reality of how the sausage was made.

As far as “things that will remind you you’re in a movie” are concerned, nothing really beats catching a glimpse of boom mics, cameras, or black-clad focus-pullers on-screen. It’s almost always a mistake. And it always feels like seeing the Wizard of Oz having a lunch break behind his velour curtain. Or spying Bigfoot through the underbrush taking a leak. Sure, it can temporarily leave you with a smug high. But I find that instances where I’m shocked that I can’t see the camera and its crew are far more satisfying than ones where I can.

The following video essay spotlights a number of notable instances in movies where filmmakers used movie magic to make the camera’s reflection disappear in a shot involving a mirror. While it’s true that most mirror trick shots are a result of the simple (but effective) combination of plates and matting, others (like the mirror bridge scene from Inception) are liable to leave even the most die-hard SFX head scratching their head.

Enjoy, and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. No one told him that the altered aspect ratio would mean he’d be in-frame.

“How Filmmakers Make Cameras Disappear | Mirrors in Movies”

Who made this?

This video essay on how filmmakers make cameras disappear in mirror shots is by Paul E.T., an Australian YouTuber who has been at it since 2017. You can follow Paul E.T. on Twitter here. And you can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.