Announcer: "Nobody look at the camera! Nobody look at the camera!"
The practice of making sure that a character's mouth cannot be seen on screen, so if you have to dub over the character's lines, you wouldn't notice the difference.
There are many ways to accomplish this. One way is to change the camera angle so that the character is shot from behind, from a distance, or at a Dutch Angle. If done properly, the interesting camera work will override the fact that if you muted the sound, all you'd see is a static image. A more obvious way to do it is to have a foreground object obscure the character's mouth.
It's more common in animation, where it's harder and more expensive to animate a character's mouth moving. Not only do you save money by not showing the character's mouth, but you also provide more freedom to your voice actors without having to worry about Lip Lock. You could also do this stylistically and give your character No Mouth. The problem in animation is that it's easy to spot when it's poorly done, leading to a lot of static images and Dull Surprises. If this dubbing effect is forced into something that wasn't filmed for it, you most likely have Lull Destruction inbound.
In live-action, this is useful when stand-ins and stuntmen are needed, or when someone is playing two characters in the same scene. It can also be used to make it easy to add dialogue, noises, or music later after filming, or to change something in post-production.
Other variants include allowing for Mad Libs Dialogue or other situations where the dialogue can change although the rest of the scene stays the same, or by not showing an actor playing a musical instrument to allow dubbing in the music later without having to cast someone who can actually play it.
See also Fake Shemp and Obvious Stunt Double, where a character's face is obscured because he's being played by a different actor or his stunt double. It crosses over with Filming for Easy Dub if you've still got the original on hand to dub the lines and you want to obscure the character's mouth for that reason as well.
- The Kideo personalized videos used this trope to help "add in" children into popular cartoon series. Whenever the child's name is said, the character saying the name will be conveniently out of frame.
- One online commercial for Burger King's breakfast menu prompts you to enter your name, which is sung during the commercial. Every time the singer sings your name, his mouth will be conveniently covered by a breakfast sandwich.
- Lottery advertisements will often do this to announce the jackpot amount, which won't stay the same — as it increases every time it remains unclaimed, the new amount has to be redubbed every day.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion was infamous for running out of money midway through production, and one way the producers saved money was through techniques of this kind. Eagle-eyed viewers can spot the exact point in the series when the budget ran out, when the techies start covering their mouths with clipboards. From then on, every other scene was like this; characters would have long dialogues with their backs to the camera, and Gendo developed his famous "Gendo pose" partly so that his hands would obscure his mouth when he talked.
- .hack occasionally had people talking slightly out of shot.
- In Noir, characters sometimes spoke while holding their handguns in front of their mouths. Chloe is also almost always in a high-collared green cape that covers her mouth, likely for the same reason.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex does it more cleverly; members of Section 9 can communicate with a cybernetic form of telepathy, which also happens to allow long stretches of dialogue where the characters don't move their mouths. It's useful in-universe to avoid lip-readers (sometimes they'll even mouth completely different words while communicating telepathically), but either way, you don't have to worry about Lip Lock. The sequel went even further with a character whose entire face was a cybernetic customization that was totally expressionless.
- This seems to happen a lot with Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya, apparently an artifact from the Light Novels in which little distinction is made between Kyon's thoughts, Kyon's words as narrator, and Kyon's spoken dialogue.
- In Area 88, all the air combat sequences show the pilots wearing oxygen masks obscuring their faces. This allowed the English dub to give the pilots brevity codes during combat that weren't present in the Japanese dub.
- Death Note was fond of this, as whenever it wanted to get really philosophical, a character will monologue while the camera focuses on something completely different (Light's magazine collection, L's food, Near's toys, Misa's Gothic junk, Mello's hands, etc.)
- For the K-On! end credits music videos, Mio tends to hold her microphone in such a way that it happens to save the animators from having to lip-sync the singing.
- In Final Fantasy: Unlimited, any time Kaze fires the Magun, his clothes cover his mouth, allowing the animators to use the same sequence with totally different dialogue every time.
- Al in Fullmetal Alchemist is Animated Armor, but not so animated to have his "mouth" move — this made dubbing so easy that the 2003 anime used an actual boy instead of having a woman dub his voice.
- Many anime mecha pilots and superheroes have helmets that cover their mouths, for exactly this reason. Examples include Neo Human Casshern and UFO Robo Grendizer.
- Pretty much all the Medabots don't have a mouth or even a Talking Lightbulb, so it's very easy to dub over the dialogue. The English and Japanese dubs therefore show extensive differences; for instance, Metabee gets more dialogue when he supercharges with the Medaforce, the English dub adds a robotic filter, and Victor gets additional English dialogue during his Laughing Mad moment in episode 48 because his back happens to be turned.
- Attack on Titan's initial Japanese broadcast ran into problems when the animators were forced to finish episodes very quickly. They had to cut a lot of corners in the first half of the show, and this was one way they did it. There are several instances where you can hear something epic, but the camera is zoomed in on someone's face or on some nice scenery. The worst was around episodes 10-13, before a Recap Episode gave the studio enough time to get their act together.
- In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, there are many scenes where all the characters have to wear gas masks. Also, many of the older male characters have enormous mustaches that obscure their mouths.
- In a non-video variant of this, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda has stated that he started changing the shape of the word balloons so that it would be easier for English translators to fit in more text.
- SSSS.GRIDMAN: In episode five, when Rikka makes a phone call, the corner of the phone booth conspicuously covers her mouth. In this case, a deliberate homage to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- In the So Bad, It's Good B-horror movie The Beast of Yucca Flats, the soundtrack and dialogue was entirely dubbed in by director Coleman Francis. The few times someone speaks, their head is either turned away from the camera, out of the shot, or so far away you can't tell what they're saying. In the words of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew:
"Coleman Francis solves the problem of sound sync!"
- The Creeping Terror was forced to do this unintentionally; virtually all of the soundtrack was lost after filming, so it was replaced with narration detailing what our heroes are discussing as they mouth the words.
- Orson Welles's film of Othello was famously made in bits and pieces over several years on a shoestring budget, to the extent that most (if not all) of the footage was shot without sound. Welles found a way around this by beginning most of his longer soliloquies with characters facing away from the camera, forcing angles and avoiding close-ups, and using shadows and dramatic lighting extensively to obscure the faces. The sound was dubbed in later. Most critics agree that the movie turned out better for having a small budget, as Welles had to make it more cinematic than most Shakespeare films. It even won top prize at Cannes.
- Later The Pink Panther films did this when lead actor Peter Sellers' health started to fail, requiring him to use more stunt doubles. It came to a head when Trail of the Pink Panther was made after Sellers died, with unused footage of The Pink Panther Strikes Again redubbed to fit the new footage.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a Gag Dub of an obscure Chinese kung-fu movie, and as such it will employ this technique to avoid Lip Lock. Characters will speak off-screen, obscure their mouths with their hands, or turn out to be ventriloquists. Other times, they just say outright nonsense to match the lip movements; it is a comedy, so they can get away with it.
- For A Fistful of Dollars, an extra opening was created to make the whole thing more suitable for little children — without having Clint Eastwood at their disposal. It's shot like this, and it looks kind of ridiculous.
- Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is an example of this technique. Most of the time the actors' mouths aren't even close to being synced up to the dialogue, except for Santa himself, who has a beard to cover for him.
- School of Rock occasionally does this with Jack Black's guitar playing; at one point, when Jack breaks out a guitar solo, his guitar doesn't face the camera, so you can't see his hands playing it. This was because, at the time, Jack Black primarily played the acoustic guitar and wasn't familiar enough with the electric guitar to play more intricate solos.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and its sequel had to do this whenever the characters had to demonstrate their prowess as rock gods; you won't see the actors actually playing the guitar, and the sound is added later. It's most obvious with Rufus in the first movie, as his actor George Carlin had a Talent Double playing for him, and we never see Rufus' face and hands in the same shot.
- Casablanca had a serendipitous case of this, when the final scene was shot with Rick and Louis not facing the camera; only after the scene was filmed did the producer think to add Rick's famous line, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Humphrey Bogart dubbed in that line after the fact.
- The film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone did this to deal with the fact that the American version of the book had "Sorcerer's Stone" instead of "Philosopher's Stone". Every time someone mentioned the "Philosopher's Stone" in the film, their mouth was obscured so that they could be redubbed saying "Sorcerer's Stone" for the American release. It's most obvious when the heroes confront Hagrid about the stone and their mouths are obscured by his door.
- Labyrinth has a professional juggler do the famous routine where Jareth rolls the glass ball along his hands. One shot has Jareth shown from behind, and another has the juggler's hands held in front of David Bowie.
- In The Godfather Part II, Fredo answers a mysterious phone call late at night; his mouth is almost completely obscured by the mouthpiece of the telephone. In the director's commentary, Francis Ford Coppola explains that the dialogue was re-worked between shooting and final cut, but because he had shot the scene in this fashion, they were able to drop it in seamlessly rather than waste time re-shooting the scene.
- Sexploitation director Doris Wishman is notorious for this, as she could not afford sync sound. Any one of her films features copious shots of the backs of peoples heads, their feet, random furniture, and people shouting from adjacent rooms.
- Many of the scenes in the cheesy sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R. consist of dialogue dubbed over exterior shots of cars driving for the purpose of this trope. This is also probably the explanation for all the phone call scenes, where an off-camera character delivers a speech as another character sits on camera, listening.
- The Mummy (2017), as Half in the Bag noticed, features a suspicious number of voiceover narrations, especially over plot-relevant scenes. They suspected this was the filmmakers deliberately playing to foreign audiences, as the film was a severely-altered remake of a classic property starring controversial celebrity Tom Cruise, and such audiences would neither know about this controversy nor care about the older Mummy films.
- The Snowman (2017) had to shoot around Val Kilmer's throat cancer, leading to scenes of his character talking that are shot almost entirely over his shoulder.
- Doctor Who:
- In the First Doctor story "The Celestial Toymaker", William Hartnell's health was failing at that point and he needed a few weeks off, so they introduced the Toymaker, who was able to turn the Doctor intangible. This allowed him to be played by either no one or (for some scenes when the Toymaker makes only the Doctor's hand visible) a hand-double wearing the Doctor's Ring of Power, and for his dialogue to be dubbed in separately. In some parts the Toymaker even decides to make him mute, meaning they don't even have to do ADR.
- In the Fifth Doctor Doctor Who story "Black Orchid", there is a character named Latoni who is a South American Indian complete with a large plate massively extending his lower lip. Despite this, he is somehow able to converse in perfectly normal BBC English — but only long shots or when shot from behind.
- This is common in Power Rangers, as the characters wear face-concealing helmets, so it's easy to redub them after the fact. In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' second season, several actors were fired, and for eight episodes, their characters were filmed using body doubles, Stock Footage, voice doubles, everything. They were able to get away with redubbing some of the action scenes because the characters wore their face-concealing uniforms. Later, the trope was stretched to its logical extreme; the English dubbers asked the Japanese producers to shoot extra footage where the Japanese actors lip-synched their English lines.
- The old sitcom The Patty Duke Show had Patty Duke play a double role as "identical cousins". Whenever the two needed to interact, one was played by Ms. Duke, and the other by the back of a stand-in's head, allowing her to dub her lines.
- The Drew Carey Show employed this for its contests where a winner wasn't chosen by the time of filming, meaning the winner had to be named after the fact. They were prone to lampshading it, though; they've obscured their mouths with ridiculous things (including a baby), and once Drew just looked straight at the camera with his mouth open, with the winner's name very obviously dubbed over.
- Parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace, as are many other lazy production techniques. The episode "The Apes of Wrath" culminates in a long, Special Effects Failure-filled motorcycle chase with a malevolent ape-man. Afterwards, Liz asks Rick to explain how the circumstances of the episode occurred, which is clearly dubbed in with Liz's mouth hidden behind a stack of books. Then, the camera is fixed on a potted plant in the corner while Rick delivers several paragraphs of rapid-fire Technobabble explaining what was going on and how he saved the day.
- The Blake's 7 episode "Orac" combines this with Fake Shemp. The actor playing Travis was out sick with a hand injury when it was time to shoot the studio scenes, so they had a stand-in, only seen from below the neck or behind a tank of murky white liquid, then had Travis' actor loop the dialogue later.
- Arrested Development uses more conspicuous audio chicanery than any show in modern memory. Characters are often filmed at angles that keep their mouths obscured so that audio from different takes can be used on top of the visuals or looped in after the fact. Every episode features multiple instances when an actor's jaw isn't quite lining up with his speech, or the audio quality shifts when the actor's mouth isn't visible.
- This tends to happen in the Metal Gear series, especially with conversations between characters in the same room (most of them take place over the "CODEC" and feature the characters as talking heads). It's sometimes justified by the characters having to whisper or avoid lip-reading, but it's a bit too much sometimes. Metal Gear Solid 2 is considered the worst at this. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is an interesting variant, as the PSP's graphical limitations made this a necessity, but the voice actors were so liberated from Lip Lock that they gave an exceptionally good performance.
- In Final Fantasy X, Auron's voice actor uses this to great effect. Auron's mouth is covered by his high collar, and the voice actor, not having to avoid Lip Lock, was able to deliver one of the game's best performances.
- In Hand of Fate, the omnipresent, chatty Deadpan Snarker Dealer wears a face-concealing veil, allowing new lines to be freely dubbed or added without need for extra animation.
- Used in Homestar Runner, but not as often as you'd think:
- At first glance, the "sbemail" segments seem tailor-made for this, as we only see the back of Strong Bad's head as the camera faces his computer screen. His face is reflected in the screen, but only from the nose up. But early shorts did show his mouth and animated it as he spoke, and all shorts also animate his entire head rather than leaving it a static image, presumably to give us something interesting to look at. The animators have admitted that this is actually harder than just animating his mouth.
- Homestar subverts this entirely; even when not facing the camera, you can see his distinctive underbite move as he's talking. On the occasions when he's typing at the computer, and you can see his mouth's reflection in the screen, they'll animate two sets of mouths.
- The Abridged Series will do this even more often than the anime they're Gag Dubbing, mostly because they tend to be made on a shoestring and they don't want to have to match the mouth flaps. The better ones will choose shots where the characters' mouths aren't showing to make the dub less jarring. The few who will actually re-animate to match the dialogue, like Dragon Ball Z Abridged, are rare and notorious for Schedule Slip.
- Parodied in 5 Second Films' first compilation. They were in a competition to produce a short film based on the words "My eyes are killing me". To save money, their entry had the character cover his face with a cup so that they could dub the line over. It wouldn't have fit otherwise.
- The Amazing World of Gumball had one particularly dubious exchange between Gumball and Darwin in "The Boredom" occur with their mouths off-screen, possibly indicating that the producers expected it to be cut and didn't want to have to reanimate the scene.
- This sort of thing is quite noticeable in Filmation productions, particularly Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- In the making-of documentary for The Wrong Trousers, Nick Park mentions how handy it is to have shots where characters are speaking from offscreen or are holding up a newspaper in front of their face to accomplish this.
- The Simpsons ran into an issue when an episode referenced the teams playing in the upcoming Super Bowl, but was animated before anyone knew who those teams were. The dubbing was obvious, and it looked like crap. So, for a later Super Bowl reference, the makers of "Sunday Cruddy Sunday" lampshaded the trope by turning the whole thing into Mad Libs Dialogue and having the characters obscure their mouths with beer mugs as they name the teams with obviously dubbed-in dialogue. Then they do the same thing with a reference about "Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary" watching the game, because Clinton was being impeached at the time for lying about having an affair, the joke being that they might have to dub over Clinton's name (and marital status) as well by the time the episode aired. (This is presumably why re-airings of the episode never redub it for the latest Super Bowl matchup; it's always the Broncos and Falcons.)
- Incredibly subverted in The Super Mario Bros Super Show!; the series would sometimes waste animation time by mistakenly animating a character saying a line that was actually said by someone offscreen.
- The low animation budget for Danger Mouse meant that characters would often speak when seen from behind, in silhouette, or with their mouths otherwise obscured, especially in the early series. This is most obvious in scenes taking place in Danger Mouse's car; Penfold can only be seen from the nose up, while Danger Mouse frequently turns his head at just the right angle to hide his mouth while speaking.
- Traditionally, when animated characters are presenting an award during on a live telecast, Animation Lead Time means that the winner won't be known until after the scene is animated. The character will cover their mouth with the envelope to allow the voice actor to dub in the winner's name.
- In ReBoot, the villain Hexadecimal has an unmoving harlequin mask for her face. She snaps between a few pre-set expressions to match her current mood, but never emotes or moves her lips beyond that.