Harrison Ford’s character has been cleared of the murder charge but there’s still a shocking surprise left for him, as revealed by his cop buddy John Spencer on a ferry ride home (find it at 1:51:09).
This scene used genuine, honest-to-goodness, old-school rear projection; it was brought aboard by the expert Bill Hansard, whose first credits in this arena date to around the time the earth cooled. Though the system’s use here is fairly pedestrian, it did what it was supposed to and was fun to be a part of.
The main requirements for rear projection are appropriate, well-exposed background plates and a large space within which to re-photograph them. Several days prior to set-up we went out on the Detroit River and shot the city skyline at a variety of ship speeds and angles from last light until about 11PM. The rest of the details can be found in the notes on the diagram.
You might wonder why Willis used a one-stop neutral density filter while conditions were under total control on a stage. This’s because it was easier to adjust for the exposure of the rear screen at the taking lens rather than at the projection lens. Many low key scenes such as this one were shot at T4; by shooting at T2.8 Willis took advantage of a shallower depth of field which helped sell the rear projection.
Everything else camera-wise was pretty much by the book. I recall doing a number of other shots – some of them appreciably wider and showing more of the rear screen – but they didn’t make it to the final cut of the film.