Speed Stripes

"Man, I wish I had swishy lines behind me when I did stuff."
Narrator, a Cartoon Network Teen Titans spot

In animated shows, characters moving at high speed often appear in front of a set of moving colored lines — usually blue background with yellow stripes, although depending on the impact, any color combination may be used. This is usually done because drawing a proper background moving behind the character would require drawing a large background from a camera angle which would only be seen for a split-second. The direction of the lines indicates the direction; if the lines seem to be coming from a central point, then it is because the character is moving toward or away from the screen.

A variation of this is the Moving Punchout, where two characters are fighting and obviously moving (usually in the same direction, although sometimes towards each other), with speed stripes as the background.

This is a Manga Effect, and is indicative of a stylistic difference between the west and Japan in the depiction of movement. While speed lines in the west are traditionally drawn on the character and leave the background in focus, the Japanese artist traditionally speed-lines the background, leaving the character in focus. In the western version, the observer is a stationary bystander being passed or approached by the character, but in the Japanese version the reader is moving with the character. Incidentally, it's useful for reducing the budget by avoiding having to draw a background, so you can reuse the footage to your heart's content.

A slight variation which can appear in both Western and Japanese works is the practice of using Speed Echoes in the same way.

Not to be confused with racing stripes. Or motion blur.


Alternative Title(s): Speed Lines