Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Spyhole Fisheye Effect


I'm shooting a horror short and the script calls for the protagonist to look through a front door spyhole to see who's knocking. Of course there isn't anyone at first....

My question is: how to achieve this effect (the hero's POV through the spyhole) on a micro budget - e.g. no special lenses or lens attachments in the budget. A fisheye is possible, but my initial hunch is that's not how it's done since the fisheye who remain static as the protagonist's POV slowly pushes into the spyhole. The director wants to "feel" the spyhole ring in the shot as well as see what's going on outside.

I've searched the CML archives for the answer but, alas, am unable to find the answer.

This is a basic shot I realize, but it's got me scratching my head. My apologies to all who been there, done that...

Thanks in advance

David Cain

Simplest of all questions . . .

what happens if you simply put the camera where the protagonist's eye would be in an actual spyhole?

Probably you'd need a long lens so that the spyhole is big enough in frame, and of course the spyhole ring will be grossly out of focus: but that's how it would be to the eye anyway. I guess the "view" through the spyhole would focus at a fair distance (if you can call what most of them do "focus". May need to mock a similar device up using better glass.

Otherwise it might be a double-exposure trick in the camera: pass one for the door, pass two for what's outside, with a fish-eye lens and a matte cut-out.

I'm probably missing something fundamental: but it doesn't always need to be difficult.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

I did this exact shot recently using a miniDV camera with a zoom lens. I put the lens right up to the peephole and zoomed in so the ring of the hole pretty much filled the frame. I set the focus somewhere out near infinity, and then used the macro to bring the hole sharper. I played around with doing tiny zooms in and out which brought the focus back to the subject standing at the door and had a similar feel to a "Dolly in/Zoom out" effect. Rocking the lens left and right aided this feel as well.

Good luck...

Robb Fischer
Milwaukee, WI

Just did it on a 35mm feature, it was a last minute thing that the director wanted. 25mm lens, glass (as in drinking glass) with suitable bottom (a tumbler worked a treat) cut out black cardboard to fit mattebox, shoot. I can show you a picture if u wish. What was good was the vignetting and horrible distortion created.

Franz Pagot AIC
Director of Photography/Underwater Cameraman

Another budget method would be to use a small magnifying glass as the spyhole lens and have someone paint, or Photoshop a photograph of a distorted 'fisheye' backdrop of a hallway, which would only need be about A3 sized. You then light this as required.

As you dolly in with a macro, or boroscope lens the effect is as if you have your p.o.v thru the spyhole.

Daniel Bronks

Wide lens (12mm-14mm or the widest that is in your set) with a round black matte in the mat box. Experiment for size. Get the subject to stand really close to the lens for maximum distortion. Worked fine for me a few times.

Have fun,

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Directeur-Photo / Director of Photography
Montréal, Canada

Thank you all for the information. Sounds pretty manageable...


David Cain

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