Amazing Back To the Future Forced Perspective Tutorial

by Barry Andersson1 Comment

Anyone who has taken any of my training courses knows just how much I am a fan of forced perspective. Joey Shanks from Shanks FX on YouTube sent us this great video talking about what you need to know when shooting a forced perspective shot.

They shot a cool video based off the Back to the Future movie.  Did I mention they have miniature models of the famous Delorean from the movie that they are putting into real locations via in camera forced perspective?

I have seen other making of videos showing the behind the scenes of miniatures and forced perspective but I haven't seen anyone explain the basics for calculating how to set up a shot.

There is a simple mathematical equation to figure out where to place your camera and your subject. The basic equation is as follows:

Scale of the object in relation to the distance from the camera (1 foot) equals the distance to the background image. So for instance a 1/15th scale model with a camera 1 ft away from the model will need to be 15 ft away from the background you are trying to use.

What is great is you can use your expertise in lenses to create your look but also use perspective to sell elements, models or locations to your benefit.

Check out their entertaining video and add another tool to your tool kit. Please send us any forced perspective shots you create. Happy shooting.

BACK TO THE FUTURE “Forced Perspective” | Shanks FX | PBS Digital Studios

Via Youtube Description:

In our 2nd BACK TO THE FUTURE installment, we tackle the technique of “Forced Perspective”.

Forced Perspective is a visual effect that can make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is.

We followed a simple formula to get our 1/24th & 1/15th scale Delorean to match our backdrop.

Distance from Camera (ft) x Scale of Model =
Distance between FG model & BG

We were shooting on a Canon 5d Mark II with a 17mm wide angle lens. This formula may change with different type of lenses used. This formula is a good guide to get you close to where you need to be, but tinkering will always be necessary.

Part 3 will go into how we created our miniature Hill Valley, and also some composting techniques used in post production.

Also I thought it would be interesting to provide the clip from the Clock Tower with no effects added to it. And let you guys take a stab at compositing your own effects as the Delorean gets struck by lighting. Since I always do these effects “in-camera” I thought it would be cool to see what other looks and styles are out there. So here is the link…

The file is an H264 and is 24 frames per second. Please share what you guys come up with !

Music by: Big Fok

In Association with PBS Digital Studios

GIF clips from the video





(cover photo credit: snap from Shanks FX)

Barry Andersson

Barry Andersson is an award-winning director and cinematographer. Mr Andersson takes his real world experiences and shares those images and lessons with everyone from the US Marine Corp combat camera teams, many of the leading teams of the four major sports leagues, leading universities around the US as well as leading productions looking to take advantage of the latest technology.

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  1. Unfortunately, most of shots look like a miniature moving in front of a full-scale background,
    It looks as if the miniature was photographed at a greater distance than the background. This is probably because the background is less than 1/24 as far away as the 24th-scale model.

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