Motion Blur

You know how, in comics and western animation, they indicate that something is moving really fast by showing it as just a blur, perhaps with contrails?

Motion Blur is the recording of this phenomenon.

Interestingly, it gets used in live-action film, too. This usually requires special effects, as anything in Real Life that moves fast enough to be seen only as a blur is usually barely seen at all, and that usually isn't what the filmmakers are aiming for.

In animation, the effects of motion blur may be shown as either the moving object becoming stretched in the direction it moves (termed "smear") or the moving object being shown multiple times ("multiple"). Some CGI cartoons, especially of the zanier sort, may use a combination of smears, multiples and genuine motion blur.

Human Hummingbird, Speed Echoes, Speed Stripes, Sword Lines and Wheel o' Feet are subtropes.


Anime & Manga
  • Most Anime in general use different types of motion blurs. This ranges from the kind pioneered by "The Dover Boys" (see below), to a version wherein the immediate area around the outline becomes jagged. Most of the above mentioned subtropes are also implemented on a regular basis.

  • Between 1980 and 1993, "Go Motion" (a process developed by Industrial Light and Magic and Phil Tippett for use in The Empire Strikes Back) was used in a number of films to add motion blur to the subjects of traditional stop-motion animation in order to get a more realistic portrayal of movement. It was eventually abandoned after the advent of computer-generated effects, as it is far more expensive and time-consuming than CGI.
    • Not completely abandoned. It's used in the Wallace & Gromit shorts (see below).

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of The X-Files involving teenagers that could slow time down for everyone but themselves, had a key plot-point where school security footage was found to show a strange blur. Using experimental technology to colorize it the agents reveal the blur is made up of the school colors, implying that it comes from the jacket of one of the superpowered teens.
  • Smallville is a fan of this any time Clark, Kara, or Bart use their superspeed. At one point Jimmy Olsen even caught a picture of Clark in action, but all the picture showed was a red and blue blur, which led to everyone referring to him as The Red-Blue Blur. Later this was shortened to just The Blur. Clark's still not going by Superman on the show yet, so The Blur works fine for him.
  • Sometimes averted in sports broadcasts. Cameras with short exposure times per frame produce sharper images for purposes of slow motion and freeze-frame analysis, but look unnatural at normal speed due to the lack of motion blur.
  • In Supernatural, ghosts frequently move from one place to another in a blur (often accompanied by a Scare Chord).

  • Bob Marley: The album cover of Live! shows Bob while dancing on stage. Due to the movements he made the photo is a bit blurry and slightly out of focus.

Video Games
  • While most recent videogames use motion blur in some form or another to smooth motion between frames, they tend to come into two forms:
    • The cheaper method, used in games like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Resident Evil 4, has each frame fade over the next, creating the impression of "afterimages". It's a cheap effect, and as such is mostly used in older games.
    • The more expensive method, used in Crysis and most current-gen games, models the exposure time of an actual camera. This looks both smoother and far closer to the feeling of "motion" seen in the trope picture.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog can do this. He's even nicknamed "The Blue Blur".
    • In some of the 3D games, Sonic can create a blur by Spin Dashing. In fact, everyone who can use the Homing Attack has their own Motion Blur.
  • Gamespite has an interesting discussion of how Street Fighter III's Makoto is animated so as to suggest more movement than there are animation frames. Check out some examples here.
  • Games with limited animation tend to blur fast moving body parts in addition to applying speed lines. When a blurred character or body part remains slow enough for the player to control the effect is quite surreal.
  • Crysis implemented a motion blur system that applied the effect to individual moving objects instead of simply the entire scene as the player moved the mouse around. With config file tweaking, the full-screen motion blur could be turned off while leaving the per-object motion blur on.
    • Which every AAA video game since has decided to adopt, often without the ability to turn it off. While some praise it for an added realism (or something) to the graphics, others believe the reason for the wide adoption is that it allows developers to cut corners in the animation or other details.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask uses motion blur in great amounts, usually in cutscenes but sometimes in real-time gameplay. And this is on the Nintendo 64. Granted, the game was released in 2000 and uses the 4 MB RAM expansion pack, but the use of motion blur in real-time is still quite amazing for a mid-90s console.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends, being a Crysis Wars mod, carries over Crysis's amazing motion blur system, though it's disabled by default for the sake of performance. Early versions of Mechwarrior Online had sickening amounts of motion blur, which were toned down in later patches.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The various animated appearance of the Flash from the DC Universe have used this to suggest his super-speed.
    • Done with Superman from time to time too.
  • Quicksilver, another speedster from the Marvel Universe, uses motion blur in the same way.
  • In Looney Tunes the quick characters are portrayed this way:
    • Road Runner;
    • Speedy Gonzales;
    • Anyone who needed to leave/arrive in a hurry, really.
  • The Chuck Jones Merrie Melodies short "The Dover Boys" pioneered the use of the smear, in which the characters appear elongated for two or three frames as they zip from one pose to the next. The technique has been used by animators ever since, most notably on Johnny Bravo.
    • Here is a Tumblr blog dedicated to smears and similar tricks.
  • For the chase scenes in the Wallace & Gromit shorts, the camera was attached to whatever vehicle was involved (a toy train, a motorcycle, etc.) and moved along during exposure, resulting in a blurred background - basically a revival of the "Go-motion" technique, as the audio commentary for "A Matter of Loaf and Death" points out.
  • In another Stop Motion film, ParaNorman actually went so far as to sculpt these. You heard that right, they sculpted Motion Blurs as replacement faces for the puppets. These were utilized in the facewarping effects of Agatha among other techniques.
  • On The LEGO Movie, there are scenes where blurs made of Lego bricks are used for characters moving really fast, such as when Benny the Space Guy builds his spaceship.