Post Production: How To Create a Binoculars or Telescope with Mattes

Mattes cut holes in one clip to allow portions of another clip to show through. Mattes are used to create binocular and telescope point of view shots that were common in older movies and TV shows. An example of this is a hero on top of a hill picking up a pair of binoculars to scout out the bad guy's hide out.

The sequence starts with a medium shot of the hero lifting the binoculars and then cuts to the POV, which is a matte of the two connected circles in a black border with a long shot of the hide out in the circles. This is a relatively easy effect to accomplish that requires compositing.

Step 1: Assemble the Necessary Elements

To accomplish this matte effect, you will need the video clip, two video tracks on your timeline, and black video. The video clip will go on track one and the black video will go on track two. The black video needs to be the same length as the video clip. 

Step 2: Creating the Matte

For this effect, you are going to use a graphic matte instead of a garbage matte. Garbage mattes are meant for removing unwanted elements from a video clip while graphic mattes are meant for creating shapes that will key out or key in another graphic or clip. 

You want to apply two graphic mattes to the black video. By using your program's effect controls, you are going to create two circles of equal size that are going to overlap each other. Using your eye and personal tastes will help you find the right combination to sell the binocular effect. If you're creating this effect to look like a telescope, then only use one circle.

Step 3: Working with the Edges

You want to adjust the edges of the matte so that there isn't a thin halo around them. You want the transition between video and matte to be sharp and abrupt.

Step 4: Distorting the Video

To help sell the effect, you should consider adding a distorting effect to the video to make it look like it is being viewed from a lens. Have the edge of the video slightly bend where it meets the matte. Worse comes to worse, you can always remove the effect if you don't like it.

Step 5: Getting the Effect on Camera

You can get this effect on camera when shooting the scene. All you need to do is place a cut out of the binocular look over the lens when shooting to get the effect. But, if you do it there you are stuck with what you got. If you get the effect in the editing room, you can make changes instantly.