Illusion in Movies

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures” – Voltaire

Do you remember those 3D images that have more than 2 images in one if you move them around like on tazzos or the hidden numbers in shape? That is exactly what illusion is. However, before moving forward let’s learn what exactly is an illusion!


An illusion is a sensory distortion that reveals how the human brain regularly organizes and interprets sensory input. Wow, that was a mouthful! Well, we do need to know that to understand illusions so let’s continue. Despite the fact that illusions affect our perspective of reality, most people share them. There are many different types of 2D optical illusions. However, 3D has also been studied in depth. Cinematographers and scene designers can skew the visual experience of their audiences in a variety of ways. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Types of Illusions

Illusions skew one’s perceptions. Most illusions deceive the eyes, hearing, and skin, but other illusions may cause distortion due to changes in interior body systems. Optical illusions, auditory illusions, and tactile illusions are the three basic types of illusions.

1. Optical Illusion:

An optical or visual illusion is a type of deception in which the images received through the sense of sight are false or misleading, leading to perception mistakes. The process by which the brain generates a visual world in one’s mind utilizing one or both of these two sources: previous memories stored in it and the current presence of the object in the environment is an optical illusion.

The brain strives to arrange sensory information about the object gathered by the eye in order for perception to occur. A percept is formed as a result of this process. If there are any gaps in the percept after it is produced, the brain tries to fill them in. The percept, on the other hand, may not represent or interpret the stimulus’s true physical measurement. Oof, too many technical words, I know right! Don’t worry the imagery will make the words easier to understand.

As a result, an optical illusion is created. Here’s a list of some of the most incredible optical illusions:
Blivet is an enigmatic figure.

  • The Bezold effect is when a color appears to be different because of the colors around it.
  • The Ebbinghaus illusion is a perception of relative size illusion.
  • Hermann Grid Illusion — against a white background, ghost-like grey blobs emerge in the center of black squares.
  • The Necker cube is a mathematically impossible cube with edges that appear to be solid beams.

2. Tactile Illusions:

Tactile illusion is seen by patients who have had limbs amputated. While optical and auditory illusions are common manifestations of numerous psychological diseases such as schizophrenia and psychosis, a tactile illusion is experienced by patients who have had limbs amputated. The phantom limb is a tactile illusion in which the patient continues to feel pain in a leg, arm, or digit that has been removed.

3. Auditory Illusions:

Auditory illusions trick the hearing through sounds, whereas optical illusions deceive the sight through visual representations. These noises are typically not present in the physical stimuli but are heard by the ears and perceived as a sound related to the stimulus in the surroundings. There are other auditory illusions caused by “impossible sounds,” such as hearing a missing fundamental frequency if other parts of the harmonic series are present, and various psychoacoustic lossy audio compression tactics.

What is forced perspective?

Forced perspective is a perception manipulation technique that uses optical illusions to make objects appear larger, smaller, further, or closer than they are. Human visual perception is influenced by perceiving the relationship between sized items and the camera or spectator’s perspective position. Filmmakers frequently utilize forced perspective to show fictional realms in which humans are much larger or smaller than other characters. The camera can create unique visual effects in forced perspective photography, allowing humans to interact with objects or other subjects in previously inconceivable ways. One individual stepping on the Eiffel Tower is an illustration of this.

It appears that writing about forced perspective is less useful than showing you how it appears. Here’s a video that explains the illusion’s basic physics.

What is forced perspective?

Some examples of Illusions

“How do they do that?” you might exclaim while watching a movie, before swiftly dismissing the mind-boggling illusion as CGI. But don’t be a fool: Even when CGI was just a glint in a filmmaker’s eye, there was perceptible magical wizardry at work in front of the camera. Clever movie editing, prosthetics, and (obviously) sleight of hand illusions were on hand to make audiences across the world ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ over seemingly impossible spectacles. Here are 50 of the best cinematic illusions, plus we’ve gone into detail on how they accomplished it…because magicians should never keep their secrets to themselves.

1. Gandalf’s Special  Cart

In Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, the core concepts underpinning the Ames chamber were also used for other sorts of props. Most of the natural optical illusions observed in these films are based on the notion of forced perspective, which refers to an object appearing larger or smaller, closer or farther away.

The cart that Gandalf and Frodo ride through the Shire at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring was one of the more well-known special props used to achieve this effect. “…the trolley is broken into two sections,” writes Rhett Allain of Wired. The side with Frodo has a higher setback than the side with Gandalf. “How to Make a Hobbit with Forced Perspective” explains how to get the chairs lined up to appear seamless.

Gandalf’s cart with forced perspective

In a film, a well-balanced combination of the real and the unreal adds to its aesthetic value. It can also fool the eye of the viewer. There are a plethora of additional illusions that are being used and will always be a part of the film industry. Optical illusions are likely to become increasingly widespread as human intelligence and inventiveness advance.

2. The Recruit

“Nothing is what it seems.”  A newspaper is torn in half several times, only to be unfolded again completely intact. What Were They Thinking When They Did That? A similar technique was done using a second, hidden newspaper that remaine undamaged, but what about Pacino’s method? That’s all there is to camera editing.

The Recruit scenes

3. Twilight Zone

Steven Spielberg is, in a nutshell, a filmmaking genius, despite the fact that not all of his films have been enormous hits. (He also directed a portion of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983.) Spielberg uses reflections throughout the original and famous Jurassic Park (1993). The “bloodsucking lawyer” first appears as a reflection in the water, helpless on a flat.

When the T-rex pursues Ian Malcolm and the other passengers in the jeep, Ian looks down at the water-filled footprint, which wrinkles with each step the dinosaur takes. Ian’s reflection is also visible. However, during the desperate kitchen episode, the most famous and magnificent shot containing a reflection in the entire film occurs. Lex, John Hammond’s granddaughter, diverts the attention of a Velociraptor away from her younger brother. As a result, the raptor pursues her.

The scene deludes the audience is easily fooled into believing that the raptor is about to slam into Lex. It, however, collides with a mirrored reflection of herself on the side of a metal cabinet. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

CGI was unappealing to the filmmakers, who preferred to keep things as authentic as possible.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry had a similar goal in mind. With just the right amount of camera trickery, he might drastically reduce the quantity of CGI. The production team built a forced perspective kitchen to give us a child-sized Jim Carrey in the scene where Joel brings Clem to a childhood recollection.

There are a variety of approaches to get this look in filmmaking. However, if you don’t have the time or money to develop sets or even smaller props, there are plenty of ways to create the effect by just manipulating your surroundings.

5. Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The title sequence of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was not a CGI creation but rather achieved practically at a foundry using molten metals, reclaimed redwood, sparkler dust, argon pours, liquid hydrogen, and more. Phantom Flex 4K camera shot multiple pours of molten metal until the creators got the exact effect they were looking for.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power BTS

In an era where CGI and visual effects are so common the makers of Lord of the Rings chose to use the old way of optical illusions. This all is extremely fascinating! Do watch the video below.

The illusions, however, appear to be computer-generated, like in recent films such as Doctor Strange and A Wrinkle in Time. Natural optical illusions, on the other hand, appear less frequently. They shouldn’t overlook natural illusions as they can do things that CGI has yet to achieve.

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