I'm trying to achieve a specific effect based on the idea of the famous Escher "Hand with Reflecting Sphere" image, but instead of reflecting a modeled environment, I want it to reflect a real image of myself holding the sphere. I first saw this effect 25 years ago in the video The Mind's Eye, which contained a part an animation called "Prime Corporate Video".

You can see specific part of that video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP2g4uprgx4&t=4m3s

I've always wondered exactly how that animation was made since I first saw it 25 years ago. The animation was made in 1986 so I don't think the hand in the video was rendered, so maybe raytracing wasn't even the technique used and it was just some photography/greenscreen trick.

Either way, I've been trying to reproduce a scene like this and haven't figured it out. I usually end up with image mapping issues like circular regions that look distorted and the sphere reflecting part of the background instead of only the real image. I'm wondering if maybe I have to use some tricks with render layers.

Below is an example of what I've been able to produce using a world background image using "Object" Texture coordinates that have been vector mapped 0.5 xyz location, rotated -90 on X and scaled x 0.3 and y -3.9. The background is just an image on a plane sitting behind the sphere. This is all done using nodes in Cycles.

Any ideas?

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ tried to map your image on the sphere with reflection texture coordinates on a diffuse or emission (no glossy)? $\endgroup$
    – Bithur
    Feb 21, 2015 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ A good idea and this does get rid of the problem of the background reflection, but this won't work when I add the hand object (based on my hand) into the scene because it won't be reflected. Also, the image distortion problems still exist. $\endgroup$
    – deltaray
    Feb 21, 2015 at 21:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: blender.stackexchange.com/q/2030/599 $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Feb 21, 2015 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ The original 1986 animation? A selfie. He is holding the camera in his hand, then used something like a fisheye lens to distort that to create the video. You know they were making visual effects on film before computers ;) Even without rendering you can take a selfie and distort it in the compositor or gimp/ps. $\endgroup$
    – sambler
    Feb 22, 2015 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps and I am open to that possibility, but the company that made it specialized in 3D rendering. If you watch the beginning of the video as well there is a similar animation that turns into a more obviously 3D rendered scene, but still with real video elements. How can you explain that his real hand is being reflected so precisely in the virtual sphere? And the lighting matches exactly. They were not making hands/scenes and people this real back then. If you watch these two animations frame by frame, you'll have trouble believing it was just a photographic trick. $\endgroup$
    – deltaray
    Feb 22, 2015 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


Do compositing using a lens distortion node to give a bit of sphere effect on your image, add this to your rendered glossy sphere with modeled arm with the sphere objectID as factor/mask enter image description here

the render of the sphere and hand has to use a black background (because you'll add your reflection) and also you have to check tranparent in render settings/film options

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for answering, but your solution is more of a work around than trying to find the correct texture mapping I was looking for. Either way, I'll accept your answer since its the only one. $\endgroup$
    – deltaray
    Mar 1, 2015 at 19:29

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