Video blurring isn’t necessarily the sexiest topic in the world, but sometimes it’s necessary. Why? Because cameras don’t make real-time omissions for items that legal departments will find objectionable down the road.
Video blurring doesn’t mean making your whole video blurry. It means targeting select areas of a shot that are problematic and obscuring them. Video blurring is the way to get the shot you need, then remove the aspects you aren’t allowed to show later on. Video blurring is less destructive (and therefore less distracting) than a big black box. In many cases, it can blend into the background of a shot and no one will ever notice.
Obviously, the absolute best thing you can do is make sure that you’re allowed to show everything in your shots. Use gaff tape to cover unwanted logos, get releases from all the people present, etc. But the fact of the matter is things get missed, logos or signs are too big, or you find out later that something you thought was fine, wasn’t.
For projects like documentaries, or anything that shoots in a public space, it’s very hard to shoot around logos, pedestrians, or storefronts and still get the shot you need. So what do you do? You get all the permissions and releases you can, and you remove what you absolutely can’t remove at the time of shooting later, with video blurring.
Effectively blurring a video is far more involved than blurring a photograph. Every frame of a video is different from the ones before and after it. If you’re shooting handheld, that means the things you’re blurring are in a different place on every frame, even if they aren’t moving on their own. If you’re locked down on a tripod, you still have to stick with people as they move across the frame.
This technique is called rotoscoping (which you can learn all about here!). It’s when you trace over footage frame-by-frame to integrate animation or other footage sources realistically into a scene. To use a famous example, we’ll take the lightsabers in the original Star Wars trilogy. The weapons’ glow was added in post-production and tracked over the matte rods the actors were holding.
Video blurring is the same thing, except with translucent blurs over faces and logos instead of glowing light over props!
When you blur an image, you create what’s known as a mask and track it over whatever you’re trying to blur. We use Adobe After Effects to do this. It can be tedious, but it’s not really difficult. However, when something else moves in front of what you’re trying to blur, things can get dicey.
A blur is an overlay on your footage. It can simulate depth, but it’s always right there on the surface. That means anything that crosses in front of your subject gets blurred, too. It looks bad. And, as we mentioned earlier, part of your goal with blurring is to be unobtrusive. You can’t leave the blur up, but you also can’t have it disappear completely the second something or someone crosses it’s path. Not only might you reveal the subject to the audience, but it, again, looks… bad.
Your only choice is to reshape the mask for each frame where the subject of the blur is partially visible. It takes not only time, but skill to reshape masks correctly and seamlessly work them “behind” moving objects in the foreground.
At ECG Productions, our talented animators and editors a lot of experience working blurs into projects. No client wants other brands showing up in their content! We help them make that happen. Just look at some of the work we’ve done with Dutch Masters on their Craft Syndicate series (LINK REQUIRED).
No one wants to blur their video, but sometimes you have to! Especially when the alternative is losing the video altogether.
Got a video that needs burring? Contact us! We can help you get your content out there.