Follow TV Tropes


Fluorescent Footprints

Go To
Aragorn, eat your heart out.

Rather than track by means of conventional detective skills, the character uses something akin to Aura Vision to track the footsteps of their prey. Even on surfaces or terrain that would never show their passing otherwise, or where their tracks would disappear into those of a crowd. The Empath may even be able to tell the emotional and physical condition of the person being tracked by the color of their footprints.

Robots and characters/animals with Super Senses can get in on this too by using infrared sight to track the heat left in their prey's footsteps. Here the downside is that in extremely hot environments it's useless, or if too much time passes.

This is usually because of the Rule of Perception: if the trail didn't light up, it wouldn't be visible to the audience. The Scarily Competent Tracker usually has their tracking and/or Super Senses depicted this way.



    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In a deleted scene in TRON: Legacy, Rinzler uses this to determine the heroes fled on a Light Train.
  • Not quite footsteps, but in Short Circuit 2 Johnny Five is able to spot tyre tracks in a similar way.

  • In the Discworld novels, Angua in her wolf shape sees the world through a sort of synesthesia: smells show up as different trails of colors, which she then follows.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series an Inept Mage trying to hide his squad's tracks in the snow instead makes them glow in the dark.

    Live Action Television 
  • V (1983). The Visitors use a Scarily Competent Tracker to track down La Résistance members. He wears a fold-down eyepatch that makes their footprints appear as this trope from his POV.
  • A variant in a The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode. One agent sprays the soles of his shoes with a chemical before carefully walking through a minefield with a hand held detector. His partner who lacks a detector uses a pair of special goggles to see the ultraviolet footprints left by the first agent and walks in his footprints to also safely pass through the mines.
  • Michael and Fi in Burn Notice found infrared paint a thief planned to use to retrace their footsteps after they stole an item and shut off the power in the building. This turned out to be a diversion that the real thief used to frame a patsy.
  • The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian's helmet is shown to have this ability, first demonstrated in "Sanctuary".

    Video Games 
  • On tailing missions in Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood you can turn on Eagle Vision to have a glowing trail appearing after the target you're trailing. There's also the mystical red footprints in modern day Monterriggioni in Brotherhood. The red trail is where a bleeding Ezio entered the villa after he was shot.
    • Word of God states that the footprints in modern day Monterriggioni were simply put there to lead lost players back to the hideout; the red color (which led to some Wild Mass Guessing by fans) was simply an oversight.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum displays clues this way in Detective Mode.
  • Agent Norman's ARI in Heavy Rain highlights the footprints this way.
  • In the Metal Gear series, footsteps can be seen this way with the aid of thermal/night vision goggles, notably in MGS4, where there is an entire segment based on following footsteps this way.
    • "Whose footprints are these?"
  • In Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, Aura Vision allows you to see footprints leading to secret rooms and secret messages.
  • "Senses" mode in X2: Wolverine's Revenge. See the world through Wolverine's enhanced senses, which includes glowing footprints, smells, and mines.
  • The Trace biochip in The Journeyman Project.
  • One quest in Dragon Quest VII requires the heroes to Invoke this by collecting some glowing moss and spreading it on the feet of a monster so that they can track it to its hideout.
  • A variation exists in the Mount & Blade series — in the world map, tracks of NPC parties are depicted as bright arrows, giving more information on the party leaving the tracks on mouseover (the information available depends on your or your highest-skilled party member's tracking skill).
  • Doom 3:
    Ethereal Whispering Voice From Nowhere: "Follow me!"
  • In MySims Agents, your magnifying glass has the power to make regular footprints (among other things) that would otherwise be rendered invisible into highly visible, colorful trails for you to follow.
  • Duke Nukem 3D level "Rabid Transit": in a certain area, you can use your night vision goggles to see big bearpaw footprints (that lead you to a secret). The message "TELLTALE FOOTPRINTS" also becomes visible nearby.
  • Star Trek: Encounters: In one of the early levels, you have to track a spaceship by it's warp trail. Just sweep your sensors through space, and swoosh! a bright neon green track will be found!
  • In Crysis 2, one of Stealth modules for the Nanosuit is the Tracker, which displays recently-made footprints of enemies. In multiplayer, it can be upgraded to display the direction the enemy was walking, and then upgraded again to display the footprints almost immediately after they appear.
  • The Siren in BioShock Infinite leaves behind glowing footprints as she moves unseen throughout Emporia.
  • The Mask of Kan'ami in The Secret World can see the trails of people who are feeling strong emotions. These emotion trails are shown as brightly colored ribbons of light.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess uses a floating colored fog of scent which you track using your wolf's senses. It also prevents you from taking in much of the scenery.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Sveta's Track ability works like this, but only sees use once or twice.
  • Evolve uses this on the monster's footprints, allowing hunters without more specialized gear to track the monster. The monster can also use this to see the hunters tracks while smelling, allowing it to track down fleeing hunters or locate cloaked ones.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, tracking a quarry for a quest often involves following a trail illuminated by focusing Geralt's Witcher Senses.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the player can track Gollum by going into Wraith mode and following the glowing footprints.
  • In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Luigi's Mansion 3, Luigi can use the Dark-Light Device to track the pawprints of the ghost dog Polterpup and, in the latter game, the ghost cat Polterkitty.
  • Invoked by the Scoutflies in Monster Hunter: World, a swarm of tiny bioluminescent insects carried by hunters to track their quarry. They trail out along a monster's scent and illuminate footprints and other signs of their passage.
  • Footprints and handprints of the culprit appear this way in the Detective Barbie games when using the magnifying glass.

    Web Animation 
  • Elements of Justice has a more justifiable version of this trope in the first mystery case: at the crime scene for a murder, a trail of footprints is revealed to have been made by someone who had touched fluorescent paint, but it is only visible in the dark or under a fluorescent flashlight.

    Western Animation 
  • Young Justice has the villain Cheshire have an infrared camera inside her mask.
  • In TRON: Uprising, Dyson is able to create fluorescent footprints just like Rinzler. Which is a brilliant bit of an homage considering his former boss Tron becomes Rinzler
  • In King of the Hill episode The Exterminator, Dale finds a rat by detecting urine trail through a bright light.
  • Used in the 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Kooky Space Kook."
  • In the The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment, the town holds a meeting regarding pranksters who have been pulling tricks through a magic stopwatch. Mayor Quimby reveals he covered the room with ultraviolet powder to find out the culprits and turns off the light to reveal glowing footprints leading to Bart and Milhouse.

    Real Life 

  • When walking or driving, you actually warm up the ground a little bit as you pass by. An infrared camera can actually pick this up. Googling for infrared footprints can get you a lot of examples.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: