Created By: XFllo on June 30, 2013 Last Edited By: XFllo on July 23, 2013
Troped

Ominous Visual Glitch

Intentionally created glitches to show that something weird is going on

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

Some works intentionally create special effects that resemble real life glitches. The image can be distorted or it can look like it was shorted out. There can be stripes, lines, little squares, rectangles and other geometrical shapes, grains or pixallated images, often combined with freaky colours. Often it will be accompanied by sound effects like static sound.

These effects are used to show that something weird, unnatural or paranormal is going on. It can be used to imply that there is something wrong with the character's mind, for example they're hallucinating or they are influenced by Subliminal Seduction.

It's frequently used to show A Glitch in the Matrix. When the person trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine realizes that what they see is not real, the image is distorted and torn down.

Subtrope of Painting the Medium, and very close to Camera Abuse. It's related to False Camera Effects. In video games, it may overlap with Interface Screw. Spooky Photographs have glitches as well, but they are present on the paper as opposed to screen.

Examples from media:

Fan Works

Film -- Animated
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • The character Vanellope Von Schweetz gets pixelated during her glitching fits caused by King Candy rearranging the game's code to make himself the main character instead of her. She also sometimes causes anyone in contact with her to glitch; this is used to create the Big Reveal that King Candy is actually Turbo.
    • The end title card glitches in a parody of the Pac-Man "kill stage". The same is done with the end of the Bit by Bit making-of documentary on the Blu-Ray.

Film
  • After Jerry gets magnetized in Be Kind Rewind, the images warps momentarily as if the camera itself was being affected by Jerry.
  • In Fight Club, Tyler shows up in a glitchy Freeze-Frame Bonus for Subliminal Seduction before being officially introduced as a character. Tyler can also Break The Fourth Wall and point out "Cigarette Burns" in the film.
  • The Ring. After someone watches the videotape and is marked for death by Samara, any attempt to take their picture results in their face appearing distorted.
  • While giving an interview via satellite, the title character S1m0ne begins to pixellate because the computer that's generating her is running low on memory and clock cycles. The effect is attributed to a fault in the satellite feed.

Live Action TV
  • The title sequence of Falling Skies contains digital artifacts. It symbolizes that it's After the End, so getting clean signals through is difficult.
  • Fringe: When Olivia sees something from "the other side", it flickers and shimmers visually. Usually this indicates a serious problem. In this case, it is the audience theoretically seeing what Olivia sees. (When Olivia herself goes to the other side, she doesn't seem to suffer this. Perhaps it's a skill she learns to turn on and off at will.)
  • The Koz Zone, a 1989 local Chicago tv series by the once and future Svengoolie where he would "break in" to the local station's broadcast and pirate-show an old, crappy film. It would have intentional glitches as though he as breaking into the feed.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Future Imperfect": Commander Riker is trapped inside of a Lotus-Eater Machine. Once he realizes the reality is strange and doesn't make sense, he is moved to another "real" world, but the setting has simply changed to a new illusion. The shift between several illusions uses distortion with little squares.
  • The X-Files:
    • In "Wetwired", distortions of the picture implied that a person is under influence of subliminal transmission that triggered the person's worst fears and compelled them to kill.
    • In "Demons", Mulder underwent an extreme psycho-treatment to induce his memories of Samantha's abduction. His "memories" (probably hallucinations) were showed in freaky colours with distorted people, and the picture is intentionally grainy.
    • "Kill Switch": Mulder is trapped in a virtual reality simulator. When he realizes that it's not real, the reality from his perspective starts to short out. He sees the glitches and "Scully" dissolves into an image of animated person.

Video Games
  • In some Kingdom Hearts games, simulations would cause distortions to show something was going on. Re Coded even had the main character deal with glitches.
  • The spinning squares in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess invoke this kind of feel. And they mostly show up when the twilight realm is growing or shrinking.
  • Metroid Prime has the visor fade to noise as you get close to the radiating unobtainium, going out completely when you get hit by some attacks.
  • Taking damage or killing civilians in the Assassin's Creed game series is represented by white lines appearing and disappearing all over the screen, representing Desmond's ancestor's avatar being out of sync with the original's memories. This has the side effect of implying that Desmond's ancestors never took a single hit in all of their lives. They were just that good.
  • A recurring trope in Crysis, where high Ceph activity sometimes makes Nomad's HUD fade blue and go staticky.

Web Comic
  • Homestuck uses this a lot. Dave Strider, author of the deliberately awful in-universe comic Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, finds a way to manifest objects from SBAHJ in real life, complete with jpeg artifacts. Later, Disc 2 of Homestuck itself gets a nasty scratch, resulting in visual glitches reminiscent of an unreadable DVD. This leads to Doc Scratch taking over the narration while he fixes the disc. This happens again when Homestuck part 3 shows up as a game cartridge and gets clogged with "special fairydust". Entire planets get covered by visual glitches, scenes get skipped over because they're "unplayable" (and the protagonists don't remember anything that happened in these unplayable parts), and text glitches prevent some characters from understanding each other.

Web Video
  • When "The Entity" was nearing in Atop the Fourth Wall, it was causing glitches in the show.
  • In The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, Jane claims she has an old and broken camera. The glitches it creates in episode 13 look very spooky. Combined with ominous shadows and strange noises, her vlog very effectively captures gloomy elements of the original Gothic novel.
  • In Marble Hornets, static, visual tear and other distortions occur whenever The Operator is around. Early in the series, Masky used to cause a similar distortion, and characters suffering from "Slendersickness" can also distort the video. Other vlogs from The Slender Man Mythos also use similar techniques to indicate paranormal activity.
  • Welcome To Sanditon has The Friendly Ghost of Sanditon. It's a fan-submitted creation but part of the show's official feed due to extensive Audience Participation. The ghost's apparition is shown as Clara Breton's image gradually changing into a classic bed sheet ghost.

Western Animation
  • The CGI episode of Adventure Time, "A Glitch is a Glitch", has Ice King installing a virus on the universe's motherboard, causing everything to glitch uncontrollably.

Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • June 30, 2013
    henke37
    The spinning squares in The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess sure invoke this kind of feel. And they mostly show up when the twilight realm is growing or shrinking.
  • June 30, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • While giving an interview via satellite, the title character S1m0ne begins to pixellate because the computer that's generating her is running low on memory and clock cycles. The effect is attributed to a fault in the satellite feed.
  • July 1, 2013
    nemui10pm
    Web Video:
    • In Marble Hornets, static, visual tear and other distortions occur whenever The Operator is around. Early in the series, Masky used to cause a similar distortion, and characters suffering from "Slendersickness" can also distort the video. Other vlogs from The Slender Man Mythos also use similar techniques to indicate paranormal activity.
  • July 1, 2013
    henke37
    • Metroid Prime has the visor fade to noise as you get close to the radiating unobtainium, going out completely when you get hit by some attacks.
  • July 1, 2013
    nemui10pm
    This is probably a Sister Trope of Camera Abuse, and also related to False Camera Effects.
  • July 1, 2013
    spacemarine50
  • July 1, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Nope. Interface Screw is a Video Game trope about messing with the player's controls to cause him extra challenge. This is about visual effects that resemble glitches as a way to tell that there is something unnatural happening or that there is something wrong with the character's mind.
  • July 1, 2013
    XFllo
    Thank you for examples and comments. Keep them coming.

    I was quite surprised we don't have this trope when I asked in Lost and Found forum and searched various indexes, but it might pop up yet.
    Question: Are all subtropes of Painting The Medium considered sister tropes? If yes, the description needn't mention Camera Abuse, but I agree that this one is probably the closest.
  • July 1, 2013
    undefined
    • After Jerry gets magnetized in Be Kind Rewind, the images warps momentarily as if the camera itself was being affected by Jerry.
    • The character Vanelope VonSchweeps in Wreck It Ralph gets pixelated during her glitching fits caused by King Candy rearranging the game's code to make himself the main character instead of her. Also, the end title card glitches in a parody of the Pac Man "kill stage".
    • The CGI episode of Adventure Time, "A Glitch is a Glitch", has Ice King installing a virus on the universe's motherboard, causing everything to glitch uncontrollably.
  • July 1, 2013
    DracMonster
    Special Defects? Or does that sound like Special Effects Failure? (Although the current title kinda sounds like that too.)

    Intentional Glitch Effect maybe? Not very elegant, but clear.
  • July 1, 2013
    XFllo
    I do like the word intentional. There is after all a trope like Ascended Glitch... They shouldn't be confused.
  • July 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Ring. After someone watches the videotape and is marked for death by Samara, any attempt to take their picture results in their face appearing distorted.
  • July 2, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Taking damage or killing civilians in the Assassins Creed series is represented by white lines appearing and disappearing all over the screen, representing Desmond's ancestor's avatar being out of sync with the original's memories. This has the side effect of implying that Desmond's ancestors never took a single hit in all of their lives- they were just that good.
    • Many Pokemon fanworks portray Missingo as actually causing the glitches seen in-game. For example while the player might not really notice tiles being switched around, in-verse it's a profoundly disturbing side-effect of being near an Eldritch Abomination.
  • July 2, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ So the first one goes to Video Games and the second to Fan Works? Hard to tell when you don't use Name Space and don't post which folder it should go to. :-( Feel free to correct me if I put it in the wrong place.
  • July 2, 2013
    StarSword
    In video games, may overlap with Interface Screw. And yes, you got Chabal2's sorting right.
  • July 2, 2013
    Duncan
    In Fight Club, Tyler shows up in a glitchy Freeze Frame Bonus for Subliminal Seduction before being officially introduced as a character. Tyler can also Break The Fourth Wall and point out "Cigarette Burns" in the film.
  • July 2, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Koz Zone, a 1989 local Chicago tv series by the once and future Svengoolie where he would "break in" to the local station's broadcast and pirate-show an old, crappy film. It would have intentional glitches as though he as breaking into the feed.
  • July 2, 2013
    XFllo
    I gotta ask, which title do you prefer? Special Defects might be growing on me because: witty. I might set up a crowner soon.
  • July 2, 2013
    StarSword
    Special Defects is punny. I like it, but careful it doesn't get confused with Special Effect Failure.
  • July 4, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    • When "The Entity" was nearing in Atop The Fourth Wall, it was causing glitches in the show.
    • In some Kingdom Hearts games, simulations would do this to show something was going on. Re Coded even had the main character deal with glitches.
  • July 5, 2013
    MetaFour
    Webcomic:
    • Homestuck uses this a lot. Dave Strider, author of the deliberately awful in-universe comic Sweet Bro And Hella Jeff, finds a way to manifest objects from SBAHJ in real life, complete with jpeg artifacts. Later, Disc 2 of Homestuck itself gets a nasty scratch, resulting in visual glitches reminiscent of an unreadable DVD. This leads to Doc Scratch taking over the narration while he fixes the disc. This happens again when Homestuck part 3 shows up as a game cartridge and gets clogged with "special fairydust". Entire planets get covered by visual glitches, scenes get skipped over because they're "unplayable" (and the protagonists don't remember anything that happened in these unplayable parts), and text glitches prevent some characters from understanding each other.
  • July 6, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    I put Glitchy Foreshadowing on the crowner.
  • July 6, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Not really descriptive.
  • July 6, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Yeah, realized that. Go ahead and downvote it.
  • July 7, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    I now put up Ominous Visual Glitch. Hopefully that fits better.
  • July 7, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ That's not bad.
  • July 8, 2013
    keithtyler
    • Fringe: When Olivia sees something from "the other side", it flickers and shimmers visually. Usually this indicates a serious problem. Though in this case it is the audience theoretically seeing what Olivia sees. (Note that when Olivia herself goes to the other side, she doesn't seem to suffer this. Perhaps it's a skill she learns to turn on and off at will.)
  • July 9, 2013
    m8e
    Ominous?
  • July 9, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ As "this is an omen that things are going bad". In trope names, it's a way to say this is a foreshadowing trope.
  • July 9, 2013
    dragonquestz
    Could it at least be edited into the OP list?
  • July 10, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I will add that.

    That said, I (as OP and trope sponsor) don't mind at all if you make reasonable edits in the draft yourselves.
  • July 10, 2013
    Generality
    Hologram Projection Imperfection would be a subtrope.
  • July 10, 2013
    dragonquestz
    ^ Is it meant to be significant, or just to make it clear it's a hologram?
  • July 13, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    We may be able to call the crowner on Monday, unless it tightens before then.
  • July 15, 2013
    JonnyB
    The title sequence of Falling Skies contains digital artifacts.
  • July 15, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ And the meaning of it? How is it ominous? (I think it might be an example, but careful with Zero Context Example.)
  • July 18, 2013
    TheHandle
  • July 20, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ ?
  • July 20, 2013
    JonnyB
    ^^^ I think it symbolizes that it's After The End, so getting clean signals through is difficult.
  • July 22, 2013
    XFllo
    I'm not a mod so I cannot really call a crowner, but it has been open for a long time, and the word at ATT is that rules for crowners in YKTTW are more relaxed.

    Results: In green:

    In red:
  • July 22, 2013
    StarSword
    Video Games:
    • A recurring trope in Crysis, where high Ceph activity sometimes makes Nomad's HUD fade blue and go staticky.
  • July 22, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ Yes, according to what DragonQuestZ said earlier, the result was supposed to be clear last monday already.

    However, I wouldn't launch this with the current page pictures. To me they just seem blurry pictures of a woman and a room with nothing "ominous" in them.
  • July 22, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Do I sense hints of negativism? ;-)

    The images were meant as purely provisional and to illustrate what I meant when I published the first version of the draft with few examples. However, I'm not sure if there is a picture that will clearly spell out the ominous part. It will always need some knowledge of context. I'm open to suggestions, or we may open IP once it gets launched.

    The results were by no means clear last Monday. Hey, they are anything but clear now. If we wanted a clear consensus on the crowner, then we would have to wait some more. You could have said "let's call this" earlier yourself. (BTW once when I wanted a mod to close a YKTTW crowner that was winning with much clearer consensus and proper ratio, they nixed it saying it's too long, so I try to be careful.)

    It takes time to shape up a trope.
  • July 22, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    I wasn't being negative, I just wanted to note that the result of this crowner has been a foregone conclusion from the start. Most of the crowners I've seen haven't got nearly as many votes before they were wrapped up.

    What it comes to the page picture, I was thinking something like these pictures of good ol' Slendy.

    Also, aren't examples like the one taken from The Ring already covered by Spooky Photographs?
  • July 22, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz.
  • July 22, 2013
    XFllo
    ^^ If you set up a crowner, there are some ways of getting at least some votes. To me it wasn't as clear as it was to you. I honestly didn't know.

    I've actually never seen The Ring in its full. My guess is that both tropes will either overlap if something happens to the "screen" (like Camera Abuse), but if the glitch is only on the photographs, that would be only Spooky Photographs. I'll add it as a related trope.

    I kind of like the first picture if it was cropped. The other three really look just like creepy photographs.

    EDIT: ^ This has received its fifth hat just today. Please leave Just Launch It Already to drafts that deserve it. ;-) BTW I indeed intend to launch it quite soon, but there is no hurry. This has been a rather quick ride, compared to my other experience with YKTTW.


    EDIT: Now it has three hats again. Tech bug? Or ff you remove a hat, please leave a note saying why.
  • July 23, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ I said that because then the hats will go down if you don't launch quickly...
  • July 23, 2013
    XFllo
    I am determined to treat this as if this had five hats. Nobody explained why they took them away. Had they said what the issue was, we could address it. As it is, there is anything I can do as a trope sponsor.
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