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Ominous Visual Glitch

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. It might be 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.

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Genei Wo Kakeru Taiyou has the screen go all staticky and distorted when a daemonia is nearby.
  • The Bleach anime would show distortion whenever a character with really strong spiritual power showed up.
  • In No Game No Life, towards the end of episode 8, appropriately called "Fake End", the screen and sound occasionally glitch out as if an old TV has a wonky reception. It's especially heavy when Sora is supposed to show up during the Ending Theme, which he doesn't. And just before he had been shown to simply cease to exist.

     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.


  • 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.
    • The cursed video itself often utilizes ominous static screens as scene transitions.
    • Samara, just after crawling out of the TV screen. Her glitchiness allows her to instantaneously appear right in front of Noah, scaring him.
  • 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.
  • The video feed goes staticky and skips occasionally in Tape407, especially when the creatures are nearby. Whether this is due to Camera Abuse, an anomalous effect manifested by the creatures, transmission errors, or damage to the media is unstated. Bizarrely enough, the glitches are more along the lines of film artifacts than digital artifacts.
  • In one of the stories of the anthology film V/H/S the monster itself is a glitch, only viewable through a camera.

     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 "Duane Barry", the TV at Duane's place goes out and static fills the screen. The room is flooded with light and Duane starts to levitate. There is a flying saucer above his house and he's abducted.
    • In "D.P.O.", Darin Peter Oswald can control lightning and electricity. He changes channels on TV that his mother is watching, and if she tries to change it back, it gets static. At the end of the episode, Mulder and Scully watch institutionalized Darin who stares not quite at a TV in the room. Camera pans over to show the screen, channels changing. There's a shot of deadpan Darin, then the whole screen gets static, and it goes into credits.
    • 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.
  • As of season 3 of Person of Interest, Root's appearance in the opening credits is glitchy, with color fluctuations and rectangular visual distortions appearing.

     Video Games  

  • Fez has several glitchy elements to represent the world coming apart.
  • 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 Phazon, 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.
  • Nanashi no Game: This, in combination with Ominous Audio Glitches, is used as foreshadowing in the Game Within a Game. As the days progress and the curse worsens, so do the glitches.
  • Super Meat Boy has Glitch Levels, which are unlocked by rescuing a glitchy Bandage Girl. The levels themselves are similar to Retro Levels, except with scrambled text and sprites.
  • Towards the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, strange visual glitches start plaguing Adam at certain points in the game. It is eventually revealed that his control chip is faulty and needs to be replaced. Except that's a lie: his and other aug's chips are being remotely sabotaged to force them to replace them with actual faulty chips that can be manipulated by the Illuminati at whim. If you choose to do the chip-replacing sidequest, you gain respite from annoying glitches but make the penultimate boss fight of the game ten times harder—because your augmentations are shut down just before he attacks—and visual glitches become the least of your concerns.
  • Metal Gear:
    • A lot of the stranger effects in the final stages of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are this - the level name text changing to read nonsense, the Pause menu map showing an aspidochelone, a weird video of a woman playing in the Radar screen, arguably even strange platform of the final level that's covered in Tron Lines and makes strange hexagon glitches when hit...
    • When Snake is low in health in Metal Gear Solid 4, the screen begins to judder with static and digital artefacts when he's hit. Occasionally images of puppet strings attached to him glitch into appearance as he dies.
  • Crypt Worlds uses glitches with complete awareness, in a successful attempt to make the game... Weirder.
  • The Matrix Path Of Neo has a level designed around glitchy effects. It's a white and black, static-filled sword fighting simulation, that randomly deletes parts of the floor and causes cracks in the wall, and at the end it bursts into flames. It's lampshaded by Tank.
    Tank: Mouse's been messing around in the code again.

     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.
  • Questionable Content has Hannelore and the space station A.I. staying up all night tracking a weather pattern. The station burned out a few processor banks trying to trace it back, and its holographic avatar displays this.

     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.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd once had to deal with the Game Graphic Glitch Gremlin, who likes causing these.

     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.

Off-the-Shelf FXSpecial EffectsRubber-Forehead Aliens
Odd-Shaped PanelPainting the MediumPictorial Speech Bubble
The Autobiography of Jane EyreImageSource/InternetExtra Credits

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