Conspicuously Light Patch
Guess which bush Amuro pushes aside.
I like how in old animation, you knew what object the characters would interact with. Because they were significantly less detailed than the stationary objects around them.
In some cartoons, it is obvious that a part of the background will be used. What makes
it obvious is that it is strikingly lighter in color than its surroundings. It might also have an obvious difference in detail or color saturation. Another telltale sign would be clear black outlines on the object: the three clearly outlined rocks on the cliff would be the ones to tumble.
A similar situation is where things that should
move don't, because they are made a part of the background to save time.
This is an unintentional artifact from the animation process. Foreground/animated objects are drawn by the main animators separately from the background and matte painters. Because the two processes were done at different times and locations and by different artists, consistent matching was very difficult. Additionally, the unpainted portions of cels were not perfectly transparent, so the colors on lower cels became more and more muted as additional layers were added to the top of the stack.
Film critic Roger Ebert
has called this the "Fudd Flag", after Bugs Bunny's nemesis, who uses it to determine which tree Bugs is hiding behind, which rock he needs to trip over, etc.
Nowadays, digital ink-and-paint and compositing has largely displaced the use of painted cels, meaning that colors can be matched accurately. The issue of lavish backgrounds contrasting with simple animated elements remains to some extent, but it is often avoided. Many TV cartoons now use backgrounds rendered in the same simplistic style as the animation, while theatrical films can now use CG to render "background" elements that can be animated... which can lead to a whole new set of problems
Something similar occasionally appears in older live-action productions. In particular, you may see an oddly colored sheen around the characters in shows featuring heavy use of Chroma Key
. In his review of the Star Wars prequel trailer
, Mr. Cranky dubbed this slight Special Effects Failure
a "mystical aura." The technique has since evolved to the point where it is mostly no longer noticeable. Mostly.
This also applies to mid-era point-n-click Adventure Games
, when the background would be painted or 3D rendered, while objects would usually be drawn sprites. However, this had a practical use, allowing players to easily locate collectible objects
, even small ones. Especially
small ones. A similar version can appear in action games that require you to destroy parts of the environment to proceed, again, mostly in older ones. The breakable parts would usually be a different color, and one can sometimes even see the seams where the object is supposed to break apart.
In early console games, some interactive objects might use a noticeably different palette than the background, since sprites and backgrounds have their own color spaces.
Also, it may be used intentionally
in video games to help point out certain objects or items, and often in different form than the accidental style mentioned above but the same spirit (something that looks out of place in a minor way that reveals it to be important) most often as a Notice This
Occasionally inverted by allowing the cel/object to exist and making it readily visually apparent, and then moving the background art instead of the cel.
This trope is particularly prominent in cartoons made during The Golden Age of Animation
Striking light objects
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Anime and Manga
- The Touhou doujin-anime Musou Kakyo: A Summer Day's Dream has this almost constantly.
- When the elephant eats bricks on Black Cat Detective... god that show sounds weird when you write about it.
- Dragon Ball Z had it, though not as bad as some other cartoons of the era. For example◊.
- Quite obvious at one point in YuYu Hakusho, when the part of the Saint Beasts' castle is collapsing. Two guesses on which part.◊
- Parodied in episode 15 of Pani Poni Dash!. When the bus is teetering on the edge of the cliff, every external shot of the cliff shows the edge of the cliff very obviously animated this way, indicating that the cliff is about to crumble. It never does.
- In the episode of Digimon Adventure 02 with the Dark Ocean, Kari is at one point inside a tunnel when part of the ceiling collpases. The bricks that fall are a shade lighter than the ones that don't.
- Purposely avoided in the second episode of Chuunibyou Demo Koiga Shitai!, a missing cat decorated like a chimaera is sitting on the shelf in a bedroom fill with the belongings of a chunnibyou. In full room shot the cat is purposely drawn like the background. However this is excusable since the said animal doesn't move till the next shot
- Which begs the questions as to why a cat would stay perfectly still and quiet on a shelf for longer than necessary while two strangers enter its temporary residence
- Lampshaded in Blue Seed as seen here.
- The video game Serious Sam, interestingly, features these. Behind a lightly colored spot on a wall, you could expect to find a secret by moving to it or shooting at it.
- Conspicuously Light Patches, along with other texturing and lighting tricks, were a staple in FPSes since Doom, as they were often a clue to where a secret could be, or where monsters would come from.
- The newer, Crystal Dynamics-developed Tomb Raider games constantly use white ledges to signify which parts of the wall Lara can grab. The older games didn't need these hints, as they were more obvious due to simple landscapes.
- In the first Mass Effect game, you would sometimes come across rows of weapons lockers in merc bases, and the only hackable locker would be a lot brighter than the rest.
- Games and Mods based on Quake-derived shooters such as Half-Life have this quite often, based on rendering limitations, until dynamic shadows became more prevalent in engines starting in 2004. Lighting effects were determined when the level was built, and didn't change during play, even if an object moved to a differently lit environment. Similarly, interactive objects didn't block light, meaning a bright light would shine right through a door or destructible wall as though it were glass. Levels had to be designed with the limitations in mind, by having near identical lighting on both sides, or leaving the light off on the opposite side until it was triggered.
- It's the case with most games that used the aforementioned lightmap model. In most cases dynamic objects and static models or map scenery would be treated differently lighting-wise - the LS 3 D engine used in Video Game/Mafia used dynamic shadows for characters and moving lights, but everything else is pre-baked.
- In Super Mario Bros. 3 brick blocks with jumping Goombas hidden inside became easier to pick out, as they didn't have the "shine" effect normal bricks did.
- Invoked in the LEGO Adaptation Games, where non-LEGO scenery serves only as background. All interactions involve only LEGO items.
- Epic Mickey deliberately invokes this as a homage to old cartoons. Toon objects, which can be affected by Paint and Thinner, are bright and colorful, while Inert objects look dark and menacing, and cannot be painted or thinned.
- Each level in Yoshis Island for the SNES had 20 red coins, disguised as and placed among regular gold coins. However, if you look very closely, you'll notice that the disguised red coins have a subtle red tint to them, which makes them easy to distinguish from the gold coins once you know what to look for. This trick doesn't work in the GBA port.
- In several Kingdom Hearts games, destructible obstacles have a different look from the rest of the landscape.
- In Golden Sun and its sequels, using certain Psynergy powers will cause the background to turn monochrome... except for items that can be dealt with by hand or affected by Psynergy powers.
- In Far Cry 3 the drugs you can take in the cave are a distinctly different shade of red from the rest of the bowl.
- When you walked around in Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire you would regularly run into some odd looking trees on a colored square background, in contrast to the trees around them with proper alpha channeling. if you poked the tree, it would fold up and a Ninja would pop out to challenge you to a battle.
- There's a particular bit in the 80s Flash Gordon movie where, as a rocket travels forward entering the Imperial Vortex, this bright, transparent... thing moves behind it. Instead of moving steadily behind the rocket, it sort of jumps whenever the rocket's going to go past it.
- Seen in many space films, actually. Exterior shots of the Leonov in Two Thousand Ten The Year We Make Contact have an aura, most noticeable when the ship moves toward the camera. Likewise, small ships in the original Star Wars trilogy are often surrounded by a light rectangle, particularly in VHS and earlier DVD releases.
- In the B-Movie Xanadu, Sonny gets one as he enters the muses' world, as seen at the bottom of this page.
- While Back to the Future Parts II and III did chroma-key well (managing to disguise, for example, when the flying DeLorean was actually a model), the original had two obvious Special Effects Failures: When the car first disappears, leaving the fire trails; and when Marty's hand begins to fade in front of his face.
- Hitchcock's classic North By Northwest has the climax take place on the front of Mt. Rushmore. If you look very carefully in the moments in which you can see the full monument, you can see the blue-tinted line.
- Extremely apparent in some Muppet productions, as Jim Henson liked using Chroma Key a lot in the mid-80's. It gets to the point where you can tell something's up when you see that "mystical aura" around a character.
- Done intentionally in the "Secrets of the Muppets" episode of The Jim Henson Hour. Henson explains how the room he is hosting the show from is blue-screened, then holds a bright blue necktie in front of himself, making his chest transparent and demonstrating the Chroma Key technique.
- And then subverted later on. Jojo (the Audience Surrogate) claims that he can now tell when Chroma Key is being used. When a Doozer from Fraggle Rock enters the room, he claims that it's obvious the character isn't really there, and is probably about three feet tall and standing in front of a blue screen somewhere. Jim then picks up the Doozer, demonstrating that it is actually a radio controlled puppet, and then begins the segment on how characters like that are made.
- On Babylon 5'':
- Some special effects failures let you see the characters were suddenly in front of a blue screen such that someone was going to do something that required a special effect to depict.
- Due to the way the widescreen version was produced you can spot the picture quality drop with every effects shot in Babylon 5 on DVD, at least on a good quality TV setup.
- Lampshaded on The Daily Show. During the 2004 election, a segment is done with Rob Cordry lying handcuffed on the street, with an extremely obvious Aura. After the segment, Jon Stewart comments that it "looked like the street was melting away from him."
- Happened occasionally with objects Al would walk through on Quantum Leap, or even Al himself.
- In Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker's eras of Doctor Who, the use of Chroma Key for lasers and ray guns meant that whenever a character was about to shoot their gun in a shot, they'd be surrounded by the mystical aura.
- Objects that are interactive but would not otherwise be obvious glow in the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
- In Metroid Prime 3, anything you could use the Grapple Lasso on shimmered yellow, and in all three of the games scan data would be Color-Coded for Your Convenience to tell you if you had scanned them or not. Justified, as Samus's visors are equipped with a HUD and her suit holds an internal computer. The Power Suit is highlighting these things for her.
- Crysis does the same thing as Metroid when tagging hostile targets.
- World of Warcraft
- The game frequently has quests where you have to pick up objects on the ground. These objects are scenery and can't be manipulated (and don't even light up when the cursor hits them) unless you're on the relevant quest. Since finding which book among the thousands of books you see in a building is the one you're supposed to pick up is annoying, Blizzard eventually made quest objects sparkle and glow to make them easier to discern.
- A variation on this is used in at least a couple of places, including the mines underneath one of the Mana Forges in Outland and during one of the Harrison Jones quests in Uldum. Dead NPCs that will spawn additional creatures lie on the ground. The ones that will spawn creatures use a different model and are rendered in higher detail than other "background" elements, making it very easy to tell which bodies will spawn mobs.
- Happens in most MMOs sooner or later, thanks to Players Are Morons (sort of justified on the side of the developers, because only the players who can't find the items will write long ranty bug reports saying finding the objects is impossible).
- It's come full circle in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where interactive items have a blue-tinged sheen to them, ordinarily conspicuous enough. But on snowy planets like Alderaan or Hoth, lighting gives everything a blue cast, meaning the player could glimpse a security chest out of the corner of their eye... nope, just a rock.
- In City of Heroes, items that must be found to complete a mission not only pulse with light, but emit a sound to alert players to their presence, earning them the nickname of "glowies" among players. This falls under the category of Acceptable Breaks from Reality. The "glowies" in didn't originally include the sound clue for finding them, but since some were tucked into corners and nearly impossible to locate by sight alone, the sound effect was added to relieve frustration and reduce GM calls. You can alter the file and make them emit any sound you care to, if the "wom wom wom" noise is too disruptive or irritating.
- Final Fantasy VII had the point-and-click-adventure-game example of this trope. Any object, person or thing that could be examined was rendered in rather blocky 3D (mind-blowing at the time, but extremely dated now, ten years on) against the smoother, less-dated pre-rendered backgrounds. In fact, the main character remarks on it once or twice in the Beginners Hall. Even more obvious in the PC version, in which the backgrounds are still 320x240 but everything else is in high resolution.
- Resident Evil:
- Want to know if a corpse in the PlayStation-era game is just a corpse or if it's going to bite your legs off as you walk past? Just check whether it's rendered like the background or like a character model. Smooth-shaded = dead dead, jagged polygons = zombie. Not nearly so easy in the Nintendo GameCube remake, however. The increased render capabilities make the zombies blend in a lot better to the remade backgrounds. Occasionally the series will fake you out, though, with a polygonal body that doesn't get up and try to eat you.
- Occurs with other objects as well, such as doors, paintings, etc. as they're usually noticeably brighter and more jagged than background objects. If a door looks like this, you can bet something'll come crashing through it sooner or later. Averted with breakable windows, which are hidden surprisingly well.
- Super Mario Bros. 3:
- One level featured enemies who hid in brick blocks; the blocks concealing enemies were easily distinguishable because, due to palette limitations, they didn't shimmer the way that normal blocks did. Naturally, in the Super Mario All Stars remake, there was no such giveaway, due to the SNES' more advanced graphics capabilities.
- If you pause the game, though, enemies are not drawn. So if you see bricks disappear...now you know.
- They're still a slightly different color in All-Stars, though that's probably intentional. Another example would be underground hidden blocks — on the NES, the starry background would be a noticeably (though not too noticeably) different color where a hidden block would show up. No dice on the SNES.
- Near the end of World 8-3 of the original Super Mario Bros., if you look very closely at the last brick wall in the background (it's behind the last Hammer Bros. there) before the flagpole, you can easily tell that one of the bricks making up the wall contains coins. What makes this obvious is the fact that the coin brick has a thin white line drawn above. In the SNES remake however, that brick is completely visible all the time as those walls have been removed and placed in a different background.
- The "different palette" version shows up a lot, albeit unplanned, when playing a monochrome Game Boy game on a Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance. Backgrounds are colored green and sprites are colored red. Fortunately, there's a couple different palettes you can choose when turning the game on that negate this effect.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the area of floor you have to bomb in order to reach King Dodongo uses a texture that doesn't quite mesh with the floor around it; if you look closely you can see the seams. Also, the rocks that you can bomb tend to be very obvious, as they all use the same model.
- The Nintendo 64 Zeldas were terrible about this. Most of the interiors and one very key town in Ocarina would be created with a painted background, thus the interactive objects would be very obviously rendered. Majora's Mask was a little better about this, but still suffered from the limitations inherit in the console. (ONE rock is in this canyon, guess which one you have to bomb?)
- This is true in any Zelda game - a stretch of wall or piece of floor or what have you that needs bombing will have something that makes it different from the rest of the area. This would be justified in that it serves as a clue for players to figure out how to move forward in dungeons and gives them a rough idea of where exactly to bomb (so that they don't use up all of their bombs trying to hit the right spot). Secret areas will seldom have this, requiring you to slash the wall in different places with your sword (bombable walls go "zipt" instead of "clang" when you slash them, a fact pointed out by a Goron in the Fire Temple.)
- If you see a patch on a wall in Mondo Medicals that is lighter than the rest of the wall, you can walk through that part. This is key to solving many of the game's puzzles, including "Counts to Fifteen" (15 is hidden behind one of the walls).
- While The Secret Of Monkey Island featured pixel-art backgrounds that meshed convincingly with foreground elements, backgrounds in the second and third were hand-painted. This was mostly averted; items that could be picked up were often also hand-painted and pasted in, and disappeared when you picked them up. This convention was completely thrown out in Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island, in which everything is 3D but the backgrounds are all pre-rendered and, more importantly, anti-aliased. So just look for the items with jaggedy edges.
- Circle of Blood averted this; everything (everything) was in the same cartoonish style, including things two or three pixels wide that you needed to pick up. People took to calling it Circle of Mouse because if you didn't mouse over every pixel in a new area, you missed something.
- Conspicuous in King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, the first SVGA King's Quest game, where the cartoonishness of interactable objects, in contrast to the backgrounds, sometimes make it ludicrously easy to figure out that, say, a statue is actually going to come to life and kill you.
- By extension, in almost every 90s Sierra adventure game you could tell what elements of the scenery were potentially inventory by the fact that they were lighter in color and simpler in appearance than the hand-painted backgrounds. This was practically the only way to figure out which items were inventory in some rooms.
- In Pokemon Red And Blue, Koga's Gym has "invisible walls" that you have to find your way around to get to the Gym Leader. The tiles with "invisible walls" on them have four white dots, allowing you to find the right path fairly easily. This was most likely intended as a hint for players, since it's not hard to make a tile have the properties of a wall but the image of a floor. It still wasn't THAT easy, since you sometimes walk into dead ends.
- In all of the Pokemon games, places where you can use HM moves stand out, from a different kind of rock being breakable, rocky slopes that can be climbed, and dark patches of water that serve as Dive spots. Not to mention the Ninja Boy◊ trainers disguising themselves as trees in Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald.
- Occurs often in Kingdom Hearts. If there's an object that looks like it's not stuck onto the scenery, chances are it's an important tool for continuing the game.
- Fallout: New Vegas has one companion perk which causes certain items to glow when the player aims. Useful in some of the darker caves and buildings.
Parodies and Aversions
Anime and Manga
- The anime Blue Seed had an omake sequence after one episode which parodied this; one character stops and monologues on the properties of a set of desk drawers, noticing that one is drawn more simply and in a different palette — therefore it must be the only one that moves, and contains the item he is looking for. In the same sequence, Matsudaira warns Kunikida not to step on a part of the cliff that was colored differently. Instead, the more complex part of the cliff collapsed.
- Averted in Spirited Away; the art book points out that CG was used to animate the dishes when Chihiro's parents start nudging them around with their pig snouts.
- Inverted in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, where the titanic Ohmu insects are made up of animated backgrounds.
- The creators of Doom 3 made a point of rendering both fixed and dynamic objects the same way for this reason, among others.
- The original The Legend of Zelda has identical dungeon walls whether a bomb will punch a hole in them or not. Fortunately, only the middle of any given wall needs checking. The overworld is far trickier, since bombable walls always face south, but otherwise can be in any location (when checking, keep in mind that bombing between tiles can let you hit two walls at once).
- Spoofed in Tell Tale Games's Point-and-Click Game Back to the Future episode 3. A bricked-up doorway features a obviously discoloured brick, the only selectable object upon the surface. It's just there to have Marty make a joke about it being "another brick in the wall". Subsequent clicks confirm its useless nature, with Marty commenting that it is just a brick.
- Peasant's Quest subverts the game version. At one point in the game, a conspicuously light candle appears on the screen. If you try to get it, the game says "It seems like you should be able to do that, doesn't it? Sorry. No dice."
- Space Quest:
- Spoofed in one of the first few screens of Space Quest 3. Using the parser to try and examine a very inconspicuous object gives a message along the lines of "We know what you're looking at, and we assure you, you don't need it."
- In one of the first screens of Space Quest 2 there was a suspicious square of grass outlined by dots, concealing a Pit Trap. The command "look at trap", which only worked on this screen, would tell you to stop being paranoid.
- With the modern trend of flash animation, there is almost no difference between backgrounds and cels, completely averting this trope altogether by the fortune of new technology.
- Animaniacs made fun of this. In one episode, the Warner Brothers (and Sister) were rented out to a Hanna-Barbera-esque company, and placed in a Yogi-Bear-esque cartoon with plenty of these.
- The Animals of Farthing Wood averted this by having certain objects painted on the animation cels so that the characters could use them without them looking conspicuous beforehand.
- Averted in The Simpsons by painting the backgrounds on cels, same as the characters. It succeeded most of the time, but there were still tell-tale "Fudd flags" visible at times until the production switched to digital rendering methods.
- In Gargoyles the animators worked very hard to keep the stone gargoyles from being Fudd Flags. When stone, the gargoyles are in background animation, appearing as any other inanimate object. When they come to life, they are in cel animation.
- Russian animation often averts this. Some of the examples are Firing Range and The Singing Teacher.
- Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (which is animated digitally) when Apache Chief picks up a telephone pole and it's suddenly a different color from when it was a background object.
- Mystical aura is spoofed in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with the Mayor's ad for Sardine Land, in order to make it all the more crapstastic. Ironically, since the film is made with state-of-the-art CGI, it took a bit of doing to properly simulate the look of bad Chroma Key.
- Averted in The Great Mouse Detective. When Basil and Dawson are crawling through some drainage pipes to get to Ratigan's hideout, they run into the end of one of the pipes, causing a cap on the pipe to rattle, despite being painted like the rest of the background.
- Doctor Who:
- There's two pre-Chroma Key examples in William Hartnell Doctor Who stories. In "The Keys of Marinus", it's obvious when the characters are going to use the teleportation devices, because they move in front of a completely black square of backdrop to do it - usually disguised as the inside of a doorway, but sometimes just a random black square hanging around for no reason. The effect of the seed shrinking in "Planet of the Giants" also takes place in front of a completely black panel in the TARDIS that was not there before and is never shown there again.
- It's quite easy to tell in the Classic series when a Dalek is going to get a severe thrashing, because it stops twitching its eyestalk, gun and plunger beforehand, due to there being no human inside for obvious safety reasons. This is especially noticeable in the scene where the TARDIS crew and the Thals storm the Dalek city at the end of "The Daleks" due to the minimal amount of editing possible with the No Budget conditions, so motionless Daleks are on screen for a surprisingly long time before Ian runs up to them and kicks them. In "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", you can even tell which Daleks in a group are going to be attacked by which ones aren't moving.
- In "The Claws of Axos", one of the TARDIS roundels is inexplicably blue. Of course later in the scene it is CSOed into becoming a viewscreen.
- In "Dark Water", a spare TARDIS key is hidden in a book which looks much newer than any of the other books on the shelf with it.