What is Forced Perspective?
Forced Perspective is an optical illusion whereby a smaller object is positioned closer to the viewer than a larger object also visible, altering the perspective (or in simple terms, making something look much bigger than it actually is)
But why is this important? Well every so often a story appears in the press or online such as this example from March 2016, where The Evening Standard (London, UK) reported on the discovery of an incredibly large rat the size of a child1, but are wildly exaggerated through the use of forced perspective.
Forced Perspective – Examples
Forced Perspective has long been used by film makers, especially where there are large differences between the sizes of characters. One example you may be familiar with is The Lord of the Rings film series where Hobbits, short in stature, are often filmed next to tall men and elves. The LOTR filmmakers mastered the technique so well that they were even able to create the perspective with a moving camera.2
Forced Perspective allows film makers to present a deception which delights us in a knowing and creative way, but other people have used the technique to try to convince us of facts which simply are not true.
Giant Rat – London, 2016
The giant rat reported by the Evening Standard in 2016 was captured by Gas Engineer Tony Smith who captured what he described as the biggest rat he’d ever seen whilst working on a block of flats.
“I’ve got a cat and a Jack Russell and it was bigger than both of those put together.”
He claimed that the Rat weighed almost two stone and estimated it to be four foot long, twice the size of the largest known Rats. He believed that this was due to Rats feasting on open bins providing them with a diet high in calories but, although this may result in larger than average rats, four feet long is a bit of a stretch (pun intended!)
Soon after the article was published however, many people expressed their doubts about the authenticity of the story and suggested that this was just a case of Forced Perspective. Tony himself denies this and insists that it’s not just a camera trick but really in an enormous Rat that could have been someone’s exotic pet.
Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox
The Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is a rare species of Megabat currently at risk of extinction. It is uniquely found in forests in the Philippines and, with a wingspan of up to 5.6ft, it truly is an enormous Bat. Despite it’s impressive size, people often exaggerate the scale of this majestic bat using Forced Perspective. This image for example shows a Bat-like creature attached to a beam of wood which, compared with the men below it, would appear to have a wingspan of 12 feet or more. Many who see it believe it to be a Chupucabra, a mythical beast as of yet unidentified that feeds on the blood of animals. In reality, however, it’s most likely to be a Giant Golden-Crowned Flying fox which feeds mostly on fruit.3
Very few people will ever see this rare animal in the wild so it’s easy to understand why forced perspective images such as this can make us believe that the Flying Fox is much larger than it really is, or even that it is another beast altogether.
The majority of the time, Forced Perspective is used to enhance an effect for creative purposes, but occasionally someone will try to use it to deceive us and make us believe in things that just aren’t true. So next time you see a picture of something that looks bigger than it should be, just remember, Forced Perspective may be at play!