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

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 Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.