7 Tricks Used by Old Hollywood that are Still Useful Today Hollywood is not just about CGI

The YouTube channel Insider published yet another video looking at the behind-the-scenes of movie production throughout history and this time around 7 tricks used in old Hollywood that are still used in one form or another today.

Holywood has countless ways of creating amazing visuals that are impossible (or extremely costly) to shoot in real life. Today CGI is in many cases the preferred way of creating those shots but this has not always been the case and even today some Hollywood productions use some aspects of those early techniques.

Substitution Splice

This trick is literally old as filmmaking and you can easily use it in your own productions big or small. All you need is to film a segment, stop and add another character or object to the frame. As long as you are able to keep this flowing it will look as if something or someone just appeared in your shot.

This old technique is still very much alive and used either for humoristic purposes or for dangerous stunts by combining two scenes together that can’t be shot at the same time.


This is another old technique that is not exactly gone. In the early days, movements of actors were recorded and projected so that artists can draw those life-like movements and create animations.

Today this technique has a life of its own with mocap (motion capture technology) which places sensors on actors creating a virtual “skeleton” for computerized characters.


The precursor to today’s blue and green screen was a black screen. In the original compositing techniques, a character would be covered in black with the background shot and then composed together. Today all of this is done by the computer with green/blue screen but the basics are very much the same.

Matte Paintings

This one seems a little off for those who grew up in the 21’st centrally but painting backgrounds was actually a thing for a long time in Hollywood. A matte blocking was covering all the areas around the actors and it was composited as a painting later on.

The main problem with this method is that a painting doesn’t look very realistic. Today instead of painting we have computer animation and advanced algorithms that can duplicate anything for a few people to a full stadium with a few mouse clicks (usually more than a few).

Multi-Plane Camera – Parallax Effect

This interesting method helps adds depth to a still image created as part of an animation. In the past, this was done by using a camera place above several layers of glass with different images that were stacked at different heights to create the depth effect. Today those same layers are created by the computer.

Rear Projection

Rear projections have been used in the film industry for decades. If you ever watched a car chase scene from the 1940s or 1950s these usually included some sort of rear projection. The main issue with that technique as it didn’t look realistic enough especially with color where you could see the miss-match of the front and rear scenes.

MOdern techniques evolved with Kubrick using a projector in front of the screen with a mirror creating a very realistic-looking background image for its time. In some recent movies, much more advanced technologies are used to project background environments using huge LEDs that not only project an image but also work in conjunction with lighting to create a seamless effect.


This complex technique is somewhat similar to the multiplane camera but used not for animation but for movies with real actors and was very time-consuming requiring meticulous and careful movements by the actors and composited characters.

Modern Movies still use blue and green suit actors to help act as scenes where later on CGI avatars will be injected. This helps the actors but also the CGI team create a more realistic result.

As always, you can find many more behind-the-scenes videos on the BTS section here on LensVid as well as previous videos published by Insider about the behind-the-scenes look of making Hollywood movies.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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