(Not to be confused with Pixilation
, which is the Stop Motion
animation of live actors.)
Video editors alter a section of the screen by averaging or mildly scrambling the color values of the image across larger areas than the original pixels, producing a blocky effect that obscures detail but retains much of the original hue and contour information.
Used to blur out faces (of criminals, crime victims, and undercover police officers; people who didn't sign releases to allow a show to use their likeness), offensive body parts (mostly breasts on women, the middle finger when used as a rude gesture
, and anything below the waist on both sexes — that includes front and back), obscene words and written messages (mostly on T-shirts, billboards, and signs), trademarked product names and logos which have not paid for placement (MTV does this a lot to their rap videos and on most of their reality shows, like The Real World
), extremely graphic injuries (particularly the bloody stumps left behind when someone loses an arm or a leg or wide open head wounds), depictions of marijuana (be they the actual leaf or a rolled joint that's been lit and smoked), and even the years on closed-circuit date stamps (done a lot on reality shows that focus on police chases and crime, such as America's Dumbest Criminals
or World's Wildest Police Chases
A black square
is still used in some cases. When played for laughs, the censor box or pixellation instantly becomes a Gag Censor
(for example, superimposing a crown over the crotch of a streaker during a royal visit in Britain).
The whole screen is lightly pixellated (or blurred) in some cases, usually for a reconstruction scene in documentaries about battles.
It's interesting that a movie may have given impetus for another practice: blurring people's lips when they say an obscenity that has been "beeped" over. In the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
his deputy tells the sheriff how a local TV station broadcast a tirade the sheriff made when he came in contact with the reporter: "They bleeped you out but my momma read your lips on every 'hell', 'goddam' and 'shit'." So now, a number of programs not only 'bleep' someone's bad word, they also blur the area of their lips so you can't read them.
Large pixels look plain ugly because of the chunkiness, so the pixels may be made smaller— perhaps so small as to just be a "fog" over the offensive material. Fogging like this may be a reversible transformation. A sufficiently skilled person with the appropriate software can, given a blurred image, reconstruct the original without blurring. Very large pixels make the reversal more difficult, and a solid block is of course impossible to reverse.
In return, many anime have begun to use it for non
-censoring purposes, covering an object or such, and letting the viewers' imaginations run wild deciding what it is. This can also be used as a form of Innocent Innuendo
, making something look perverted when it's (later revealed to be) really not.
Compare Censor Steam
and Censor Box
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Anime and Manga
- Parodied by the card "Censorship" from Magic: The Gathering's joke expansion set Unglued. This card also parodies the Censor Box (which, in a lot of cases, is used in similar fashion to pixellationnote .
- In one Mai-HiME Shizuru/Natsuki 4koma, Natsuki wonders what exactly happened in the Dude, She's Like, in a Coma! incident late in the series, the exact nature of which is under debate in the fandom, but decides she can't ask Shizuru herself because she told her not to worry about it. Yukino, who witnessed the incident, offers her a DVD, then reassures her that she put Mosaic on it, shocking Natsuki.
- DVD releases of Grease blur out all Coca-Cola logos in the diner scene. This probably wouldn't have even been noticeable were it not for the fact that there's one part of the scene where two characters are conversing in front of a wall-sized Coke ad...
- Likewise, in a TV edit of Superman II, General Zod is thrown into a giant blurred red-and-white Times Square advertising sign. In a shower of equally blurred sparks.
- An early example of this appeared in 1936's Charlie Chan At The Olympics, which were, of course, held in Berlin that year; all the numerous swastikas that appear (including on the Hindenburg) are carefully blotted out.
- One cut of Highlander: Endgame has a distracting example of this during a rooftop fight scene. There's a very obviously blurred-out JVC sign in the background. The sign is not censored in the "earlier cut" of the film which comes as a DVD extra.
- The final scene of Captain America: The First Avenger is set on Times Square. The extended cut on the scene seen on the DVD visibly blurs one of the signs on the background.
Live Action TV
- Clothing brands and store names receive this treatment in the Korean Series You Are Beautiful.
- Korea has recently allowed dramas to show product names, but puts a disclaimer at the start of each episode informing the viewer.
- Korea blurs it out whenever someone uses a knife as a weapon on a television series.
- In an episode of Seven Days, pixellation was used to cover up the relevant bits during a college streaking event for exactly the opposite of its official purpose. Unfortunately, the pixellation wasn't thorough enough to hide the fact that none of the actors was actually nude.
- MythBusters will (over)do this with the names of hazardous chemicals used in experiments that they don't want the viewers to know and, summarily, use to recreate the experiment. Also, when part of the process that uses such chemicals is needed to be stated in a scene, a variety of humorous sounds (from a cat's meow to a firetruck siren) will play to block over the chemical's name, and - if the Mythbuster's face is being shown as they explain what they're doing, their mouths will be masked over by a graphic of whatever sound is being used to cover the chemical name, just in case any of the viewers can read lips.
- This was lampshaded by Adam: "This ingredient is made of blur. Ha! And this has blur in it too. Blur is very dangerous. You don't wanna mix blur with blur."
- He lampshaded it again when going into a swear-heavy myth, noting that blurring the footage costs money so to save everyone the trouble, he's making mouthguards for people to wear to cover up their foul mouths without the need for editing. Sound Effect Bleeps are okay, though; "bleeps are cheap."
- Cranked up to eleven for the MB episodes used in the new Science Channel show Head Rush. Even the writing on Adam's shirts gets blurred out. But then, the Science Channel is a commercial-free zone. It's probably simpler to blur out anything that might qualify as Product Placement than risk a lawsuit.
- The Walking with Prehistoric Beasts series documents the rise of mammals post-dinosaur all the way up to humans. In one scene it shows protohumans engaged in the revolutionary new method of having sex face-to-face rather than back to front, and apparently they're close enough to humans for this new method to be blurred out.
- A lot of the gore was pixellated on Takashi Miike's six-episode TV series MPD Psycho.
- In the Discovery Channel program Man vs Wild, host/survival expert Bear Grylls must occasionally be completely nude when drying his clothing to avert hypothermia. For obvious reasons, he is seen blur-clad in these shots.
- The quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks has a round called What Have We Pixelated? where they play sections of music videos with a pixelated item which the panel must guess the identity of. A hard round which has included items such as a person, an upside-down table on a ceiling, and a hand in a box.
- In one episode of Backpackers, which takes place in D*** Land, EVERYTHING but the main characters is pixelled out. However, due to the motion of the images and the objects being filmed, it's easy enough to recognise Mickey and Goofy.
- British automobile Magazine Show Top Gear often uses pixellation of a person's mouth in conjunction with audio bleeping when presenters or guests let loose with profanities on the show. Very common during the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, as the celebrity drivers get a bit excited doing the lap around the Top Gear test track.
- And their survival instructor in the Arctic episode, an ex-special forces guy, is described as "a man with a pixelated face".
- And the Porsche-branded tobacco pipes, in syndication after someone with too much free time complained at the three smoking said pipes in the original broadcast, shortly after smoking in workplaces was made illegal.
- For one of the 2010 Christmas Specials, whilst driving through Iraq, Jeremy Clarkson "brought in our special weapons man, who had learned in the armed forces how to have a pixellated face."
- One challenge was to see how long it would take a car thief to breaking into their cheap car. Three professional car thieves were brought on the show under the condition their faces to be pixellated... but the guy handling special effects had apparently just had his car stolen, so their shirts were pixellated instead.
- The Daily Show uses pixelation to obscure things that would otherwise upset the censors, such as Jon giving the finger. A Running Gag during the Bush presidency, based on the way that the Vice President's residence was blurred out on Google Maps, was that "Dick Cheney can pixelate things just by touching them".
- One segment about Jason Jones getting a vasectomy included various bizarre pixellated shots of Jason celebrating his times with his genitals, and is then averted when we see the procedure with a shot of Jones's completely uncensored scrotum (though not his penis).
- When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aired its induction ceremony of 1998 on VH-1, Paul McCartney was joined onstage by his daughter Stella, and her shirt was pixelated. It was hiding an F-bomb on the shirt but, since Stella was a fashion designer, there may have been people wondering if it was hiding something else.
- In one episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, a giant eyeball raping a hospital patient (seriously) had its phallus pixellated. This is followed by an interview clip of Dean Learner saying he feels it's sad that they had to pixellate it.
- Both pixellation and blurring were part of the game on Headline Chasers.
- Older episodes of Pizza pixelated the advertisements on the eponymous pizza place's cars to hide the store's telephone number. Oh, and they censored the frequent nudity.
- There was a MADtv sketch where a man (Will Sasso) goes to his doctor (Aries Spears) with a bad case of pixellation which appears whenever he takes off his pants. The doctor tells the man that pixellation is normal and commonly found on genitals, women's breasts, and middle fingers when shown on network television.
- On most National Geographic documentaries about developing countries, topless women and naked children are censored. Often, they will just censor the nipples of the women.
- Buster's stump on Arrested Development. Instead of creating a fake stump for Tony Hale to wear, they just made him hide his clenched fist in his sleeve and pixelated it. In some episodes, you can recognize fingers on Buster's "stump".
- On Howard Stern's televised version of his daily radio show on the E! network, pixels were almost always present to cover up the graphic images, acts, and women that had appeared naked on his radio show days before.
- The Colbert Report: Stephen's interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange parodies this; intended to obscure Assange's face and voice, the effects are instead applied to Stephen, while leaving Assange uncensored. Realizing this mistake, he turns to Jimmy, his director:
Stephen: You know what, uh, Jimmy? I think you were right. I think it's only better to pixellate [Julian] and affect his voice rather than mine. Has his face been on camera? Have they seen him?
Jimmy: Yes, they have.
Stephen: Oh, he's a dead man. Go ahead and take it off. Take it off. [Pixellation disappears and his voice returns to normal]
- Used to interesting effect in some "surprise camera" sections of Japanese variety shows. When the host visits an unsuspecting celebrity at home, all background around their house is pixellated, making it look like they live in Cubeland.
- Brooke Burns opening ''Dog Eat Dog''◊
- When Craig Ferguson swears on his show, they cover his mouth with an Italian, Spanish or French flag (pardon my French) and dub over with his own impression of a stereotypical person from that country.
- It'sa cominago!
- Eye caramba!
- The Office (US) uses this from time to time, which makes sense given its mockumentary style. But it's quite hilarious in the episode Benjamin Franklin when a few characters visit an adult bookstore and pretty much the entire backdrop behind them is pixellated.
- Used once on Cake Boss, when they had an order for a stripper-themed bachelorette party cake.
- On Arrested Development, whenever Oscar smokes a joint it's blurred out. Six years later on Community, when Britta does the same, they don't have to.
- In Canada's Worst Driver, stop signs cover the mouths of the contestants when they swear (along with the accompanying bleep). Punk rocker Jakob and his nominator Stacy from season five got anarchy symbols instead. Blur is also applied to license plates on the contestants' cars and on brand names (labels on fast food containers, for instance).
- Some Reno 911 skits had the actors who normally played the police officers portray perps. The "perps'" faces would be pixellated much like on COPS when the criminal's or victim's identity must be kept under wraps.
- Ryan Stiles joked about this on Whose Line Is It Anyway?: "Hey, wanna see my finger get all blurry?"
- Parks and Recreation does this whenever Andy takes off (at least) his pants. Its most extensive use of pixellation comes when Tammy strips completely in the public library to keep Jamm from breaking up with her.note
- Dirty Jobs applied Censor Blur to the naughty bits of horses in the episode where Mike collected semen from a stallion and inseminated a mare.
- Americas Funniest Home Videos does it with naughty bits when videos have naked children, probably justified.
- Animal Cops also often does the COPS style face blurring of criminals.
- Played with on The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, since they would blur women's breasts and genitals but not their hindquarters.
- Border Security pixellates license plates, addresses and anyone who doesn't wish to have their faces shown on television (everyone must sign a consent form for their story to be included on the programme, but can ask the cameras to stop filming or their face to be blurred at any time).
- In some edits for the video for Lady Gaga's song Telephone, the recipe used to prepare the poisoned food is blurred out ... despite that all of its ingredients were all fictional poisons from various sci-fi works.
- Rap videos from the 1990s (and some even now) use pixellation to blur everything from women's asses in thongs (or women's breasts in skimpy or see-through tops) to marijuana leaves (and lit joints) to guns to brand-name logos and products that appear in the video without express written consent from the company.
- Beck's "Loser" video had a shot near the beginning with him wearing a Storm Trooper helmet - for trademark reasons, the helmet had to blurred out when it was aired on MTV.
- WWE pixellates its previous logos from when it was the World Wrestling Federation when showing archival footage; this is because of a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund over the use of the initials.
- The WWF also used pixellation as part of one of their storylines, when Ric Flair showed up with a title belt, claiming to be the "Real World Heavyweight Champion". The belt in question was actually the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, which Flair had held at the time he jumped to the WWF, and which the NWA had refused to return his security deposit on, so he decided to keep the belt instead. After Flair was forced by court order to return the belt, the story continued onwards, with Flair using a heavily-pixellated WWF Tag Team Championship belt in place of the NWA belt (a lampshade was hung on this by WWF president Jack Tunney, who claimed he had ordered the pixellation since the WWF did not recognize Flair's belt as an actual championship, and thus will no longer show it on TV).
- On the E! reality series Total Divas, several WWE wrestlers have had their faces blurred out on some occasions.
- The Sims, both the original and The Sims 2. The game creators felt the need to pixellate the whole bodies (in the original) or just "obscene parts" (in the sequel) of The Sims. All of this despite the fact that Sims use the toilet through their clothing, and, as anyone who's been able to turn off the censorship pixels knows, a naked Sim is about as naughty as a naked Barbie or Ken doll—they don't even have nipples, much less genitals.
- However, since you can easily add custom skins, it was literally a matter of days from the release of either game before this "problem" was corrected. And the noninteractivity of "Woohooing" got changed quickly too.
- As Copy Protection on The Sims 4, everything gets pixelated if a player is playing a pirated copy.
- Saints Row 2 uses huge pixellation to cover up anything that isn't covered by a particular choice of clothing, or when naked for the streaking minigame.
- Crotch-pixellation still occurs when the player character is wearing pants or a skirt, but no underwear.
- Saints Row: The Third continues the crotch-pixellation policy described above, however includes a partial workaround by allowing the in-game purchase of pasties which can be made flesh-colored (and with a dark centre to simulate nipples, yet!). This removes the pixellation on breasts of any size. Flesh-colored thongs can be purchased to simulate lower nudity, but not as convincingly. The streaking mini-game still features full pixellation. The pixellation of clothing worn with no underwear has been removed, except in the case of skirts and high-slit dresses that would normally reveal the naughty bits (donning the aforementioned thong is the workaround).
- Both WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy for the N64 feature a taunt where the wrestler in question moons their opponent. Their ass is pixellated. As the taunt was created for Billy Gunn, assigning it to a created wrestler with either trousers or a dark skin tone can produce the funny effects of (a) not having the wrestlers trousers move in any way while white pixels suddenly show up around their butt and (b) having a very implied bleached ass compared to the rest of themselves.
- Darwinia is a rare non-censorship example. Most of the enemies and programs have pixellation filter on them; it gets worse the more damage the unit takes, but it's still rather mild compared to most of them here.
- In Noels gag ending in Blazblue the food she served is blurred out.
- During a very disturbing level of Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, the two protagonists are brutally tortured with a box cutter completely naked, and when they escape, are forced to fight their way out nude. (Very, very NSFW) The game pixellates their front sides, but not their backs. Also, anyone shot in the head gets their noggin pixellated.
- In My Girlfriend Is the President, Yukino's cooking gets covered with censor mosaic.
- In zOMG, Gaia Online's MMORPG, using the Sweetheart ring at full rage covers your avatar in pink pixels, with blush lines where the cheeks would be, and that of the avatar you just hit with it.
- The SNES implemented pixellation in hardware as a special effect (the "mosaic" effect), and several games used it for transitions, drunkenness effects, and such. Examples of this include Super Mario World and Final Fantasy VI, among many others.
- Used to cover up the indecent act between Luigi and the Head Miko in Something Else.
- Parodied in a recent Rooster Teeth short, in which everything from tattoos to brand labels are censored in real life, much to the confusion and annoyance of some of the characters.
- Helix from Freefall has PG-13 vision system - he sees black bars in place of "inappropriate" body parts.
- The DesuDesBrigade uses 'Cover Otter' when naughty bits show up, if they can't be cut around. Especially prevalent in the Kekko Kamen and Bible Black reviews.
- Oddly, used apparently straight in several strips from VG Cats, for rude body parts. Doesn't affect crude immature scrawling done by the characters, but any show of breasts or penises (or anything that'd resemble them closely) gets pixelated.
- Occasionally, Bob and George would censor profanity with pixellation, but a black bar was used just as often. Naturally, this was parodied in this strip, in which an entire dialogue box is censored. Note that it usually didn't shy away from that.
- Whenever a character is naked in The Order of the Stick (usually Elan), pixellation is used for covering the person's genitals. Even though s/he does not have any, on the basis of being a stick figure.
- Used in The KA Mics here
- In God(tm) pixellation is used to cover up corporate logos and names of products.
- In Homo Sexience, a woman was having trouble getting her boyfriend aroused, so she was talked into buying a new type of lingerie featuring this. It worked, and was lampooning Japanese censorship issues in porn.
- Phineas and Ferb has one example where Agent P is on a talk show with a pixellated face. The trope is lampshaded when Agent P takes off in a hurry and leaves behind the pixellation, which the host then yells to him about.
- On the Simpsons episode where Ned Flander's wife dies ("Alone Again, Natura-Diddly" from season 11), Homer videotapes Flanders showering as part of his dating video. Judging by how long the pixels extend, Flanders has nothing to be ashamed of..
- Also used on the season six episode where Marge becomes a cop ("The Springfield Connection"): When Marge goes to investigate a domestic dispute involving Principal Skinner and his mom, Skinner tells the camera man to digitally blur out his face to conceal his identity.
- Another episode had a horrified cameraman exclaim, "There isn't enough pixels in the world!" after seeing Homer's naked ass.
- Parodied in the first episode of Drawn Together, where Princess Clara couldn't tell that Foxxy was flipping her off because her middle finger was blurred...then realized it when she extended her middle finger and saw that it got blurrednote .
- Parodied in Futurama. The characters are watching a futuristic version of COPS. The two cops come to arrest a giant centipede alien and his face is blurred out (much like on the show to protect the identities of the would-be criminals). One of the cops tells the centipede alien to unblur his face, and the centipede alien does just that.
- Played with on Invader Zim. Dib goes on a paranormal talk show with some footage of an unmasked Zim and GIR. When GIR eventually shows up as a surprise witness, his face is pixellated...even though he makes no other attempt to hide his robotic identity. He moves a lot as he speaks, even occasionally leaving the cover of pixellation.
- He also claims to be a woman named "Stacy" during this appearance.
- The Boondocks had an episode where prosecutor Tom DuBois had a nightmare about dropping the soap in the prison shower. An inmate calling himself The Health Inspector demands he bend over and pick it up. The pixellation went down to floornote .
- Used in the Total Drama series either to cover up an offensive body part or whenever someone flips the bird, which happens a lot more often than you might think.
- On The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball's crotch is pixellated every time he's naked. In the episode "The Meddler", Gumball and Darwin are in the shower, and Darwin's feet are pixellated, since he only wears shoes.
- In Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., when Spider-Man is unmasked, his face is pixellated. Justified because the series is a set of recordings by Rick Jones, and he probably respected not giving away his secret identity.