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Fluorescent Footprints

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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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dr. STONE, Senku distracts Homura with a flash grenade long enough to grab her, but she easily overpowers him and runs off. Senku then reveals that he only grabbed her to plant scheelite dust on her, allowing him to track her footprints by making them glow with his new invention, a black light.
  • This is briefly featured in Sword Art Online when Kirito uses a tracking skill to find Sachi.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Coco, Pepita can illuminate footprints with her breath which helps to track down Miguel and Hector.
  • Taken Up To Eleven with Captain DuBois of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, who not only can see the tracks of animals but colorful afterimages of their whole bodies as they re-enact their last movements.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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 handheld 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.
  • The Mandalorian's helmet is shown to have this ability, first demonstrated in "Sanctuary".
  • 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 from his POV.

    Video Games 
  • In ANNO: Mutationem, during some side-missions, Ann can use the Grom System to scan the area to follow a footprint trail and find who left it.
  • 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.
  • The Batman: Arkham Series has this as one of the staple components in the Dark Knight's arsenal, referred to as "Detective Mode". It allows the user to see enemies through walls and note important items like destructible walls and Ridder trophies. It also shows the active heart rate of an enemy as they go from calm to nervous to terrified.
    • In Asylum, Batman uses several specialized programs in Detective Mode when he has to follow a trail, such as alcohol vapor, tobacco trails, fingerprints, etc.
      • For owners of the PS3 version and the Return to Arkham remaster, the Joker is available as a playable character in Challenge Mode and possesses a pair of X-ray glasses that serve this purpose in Predator challenges. However, in contrast to Detective Mode, these must be selected in the gadget wheel, and when in use, Joker stands completely still and looks through a first-person perspective.
    • In City, in addition to Batman, Robin, and Nightwing's Detective Mode, Catwoman possesses her own version of this, called Thief Vision. It isn't as advanced as Detective Mode, only showing her where enemies are through walls and, for a specific quest, indicating which enemies possess a piece of the loot Two-Face stole from her.
    • In Knight, towards the mid-point of the story, the Arkham Knight's Militia begins deploying specialists that use tracking technology allowing them to detect the signal generated by using Detective Mode; long periods of usage risk Batman's discovery. This can be turned into an advantage in a number of ways, such as using the Disruptor gadget to cause the tech's activation to neutralize its user or, more amusingly, standing right behind the specialist and letting Batman be counter-detected, whereupon the soldier is utterly baffled.
  • The Siren in BioShock Infinite leaves behind glowing footprints as she moves unseen throughout Emporia.
  • A Call of Duty mainstay, the Tracker perk, allows you to notice where the enemies passed through in the last 60 seconds.
  • 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.
  • Footprints and handprints of the culprit appear this way in the Detective Barbie games when using the magnifying glass.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Sveta's Track ability works like this, but only sees use once or twice.
  • Agent Norman's ARI in Heavy Rain highlights the footprints this way.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Justified because Aloy is wearing an Augmented Reality device called a Focus that can highlight the tracks of a scanned machine or creature, letting her see its patrol path and unerringly follow it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the player can track Gollum by going into Wraith mode and following the glowing footprints.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • In Persona 5, the Third Eye is a special ability that, when activated, highlights enemies(the color determines how strong or weak they are in comparison to you), usable objects and otherwise hidden things, among others. Using this ability can highlight footprints at a few points in Kamoshida's Castle, leading you to the switches that you need to pull.
  • Phasmophobia and the act of finding fingerprints (as a clue to identify the type of ghost you're dealing with) and footprints is basically this.
  • A variant in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, during the last cases Apollo uses Ema's fluorescent around the crime scene and finds a trail in the room leading towards the sealed coffin at the center.
  • In Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, Aura Vision allows you to see footprints leading to secret rooms and secret messages.
  • Rainbow Six Siege has Jackal, whose special gadget highlights and scans enemy footprints to expose their owner's location.
  • 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.
  • Skinwalker Hunt: If your cursor is over a Skinwalker footprint, it'll glow orange-ish yellow.
  • Spider-Man 3: In the first Daily Bugle mission, Spider-Man is able to use his own senses to follow the footprints of the lizard men, making them appear as such.
  • Star Trek Encounters: In one of the early levels, you have to track a spaceship by its warp trail. Just sweep your sensors through space, and swoosh! a bright neon green track will be found!
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, tracking a quarry for a quest often involves following a trail illuminated by focusing Geralt's Witcher Senses.
  • "Senses" mode in X2: Wolverine's Revenge. See the world through Wolverine's enhanced senses, which includes glowing footprints, smells, and mines.

    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 
  • In King of the Hill episode The Exterminator, Dale finds a rat by detecting urine trail through a bright light.
  • The Owl House: One of Eberwolf's spells turns his eyes into spotlights that reveal footprints.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Young Justice has the villain Cheshire have an infrared camera inside her mask.

    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.