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Obscured Special Effects

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"Are you trying to hide something from me, Bad Company 2, you coy little strumpet? Do you maybe not want me to actually see the destructo physics in action, in case I notice that it’s done by some kind of fairy godmother making entire sections of wall vanish magically into the ether?"
Yahtzee Croshaw, on the overuse of vision-obscuring dust in Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Let's say the crew behind some movie or TV episode is in charge of portraying a creature, vehicle or object through Special Effects. However, the effects budget, effects technology and/or the skill of the effects team are somewhat lacking. They can't show their special effects asset too often or openly without running into Special Effects Failure, but the nature of the story means that they can't not show the asset and hope the audience will just use their imaginations either.


So the solution is to find ways of showing only glimpses of what the special effects team has come up with. This can range from positioning the camera to only show small portions of the object to cloaking the object in heavy rain, fog, smoke or shadow. That way, the audience can get a good idea of what is on-screen without the effects budget being depleted. Furthermore, when the time comes to show the asset fully, the team will have conserved their money for that crucial shot.

This can be a double-edged sword. Done properly, the concealed special effects can build suspense and mystique around the portrayed object while keeping on budget. Done poorly, this can work a lot like the Streisand Effect, in that the concealment can call attention to the fact that the effects aren't up to snuff.

Sometimes this approach is executed intentionally for artistic reasons. Budget may not be the issue, but audience expectations and prejudices may be, especially when it comes to certain genres. This may be a drama story which just happens to include fantastic elements that the creator wishes to minimize, at least onscreen. As a result, the focus remains on the acting, characters, and story. It also serves to avoid having the film or show be categorized as just another science fiction or fantasy, genres that many viewers and critics view negatively. This approach is often found in Fantastic Romance, frequently those involving time travel.


Note that many of the examples from 3D animated mediums aren't about hiding things like flying or explosions but instead about obscuring relatively mundane actions, such as a character marking something with a pen or adjusting their hair; 3D animation is very efficient at making objects move around, but much less efficient at altering the shape or texture of objects. Since these things aren't that interesting to look at, many directors will choose to use an obscure camera angle rather than sink hundreds of hours into a second of uninteresting animation.

See also Nothing Is Scarier (a trope that shows how using this in horror works especially well) and Filming for Easy Dub (obscuring character's lip movements to avoid having to animate them or to make it easier to add in dialogue). Coconut Superpowers is a Sub-Trope. Contrast Gratuitous Special Effects.



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    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen (2013): While Letting Her Hair Down during "Let It Go", Elsa's braid passes through her left arm. The animators found this couldn't be fixed without breaking Elsa's model, so they obscured it a bit by having her body block the view of the phasing. This is a surprisingly common trick in 3D animation.
  • From the BIONICLE films:
    • Masked characters from the first three movies are never fully shown without their masks, their heads are always obscured or seen from the back. This is because their 3D models had no faces, just a metal slab with eyes under their masks, which can technically be seen by freeze-framing at the right points. The one time when showing the maskless and comatose Turaga Dume was crucial to the plot, he was still inexplicably portayed with his mask on because he had no face-model, and viewers simply had to pretend it wasn't there.
    • According to the DVD Commentary of Mask of Light, the animators didn't have the tech or time to render fluid simulations for scenes like Tahu surfing on lava. So the lava effect was faked by a mixture of moving 3D models and loads of unconvincing sparkly particle effects, with lots of quick cuts and angles showing as little of it as possible.
    • The fourth film, The Legend Reborn used full-screen flashes of light or cutaway reaction shots to hide transformations like Click turning into his shield form and back or Mata Nui using the Mask of Life to transfigure things. The cage holding Kiina and Berix is also obscured by a hefty dust cloud when it falls apart and its model is replaced.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Many critics have noted how Godzilla (1998) has all of its New York scenes filmed at night and/or in heavy rain as a means of obscuring the CGI-heavy Godzilla himself; CGI can do smooth and shiny surfaces really well and thus looks better in rainy nights, as exemplified by the T. rex escape in Jurassic Park. This also means an implausibly long continuous downpour over New York that seems to last at least two weeks in-story; even during the day, the city seems to be perpetually enshrouded in gloomy weather.
  • The animatronic shark in Jaws is used sparingly, not so much because it's unconvincing, but because it was malfunctioning all the time. Therefore, Steven Spielberg cut out the parts where the shark was constantly malfunctioning. This decision helped rack up the suspense, making the film all the more effective. In the sequels, the shark model worked a lot better, allowing the filmmakers to avert this trope - and the end result isn't anywhere near as scary.
  • Star Wars:
    • The above is the same reason why so little is seen of the garbage compactor monster in A New Hope. A full animatronic was built and primed for the creature, but it ended up looking so dumb and fake that in the final cut, we don't see much more of it than a bunch of flailing tentacles.
    • Only brief, partial glimpses of the wampa in The Empire Strikes Back are shown in the original version of the movie, as it let the guy portraying it just wear portions of a suit at a time. But for the Special Edition, George Lucas decided to include shots showing the whole creature. Same thing with the aquatic creature that swallows and spits out R2-D2 on Dagobah.
    • In Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi, Luke wears a black glove on his mechanical right hand. In-universe, it's to conceal the damage to his artificial skin; and also gives a connection to Darth Vader. Out of universe, it allows for money to be saved on animatronics and makeup.
  • The first take of the giant squid fight in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was filmed on a clear day in calm waters, which made the hydraulics moving the squid evident. It was reshot with rain and wind effects to simulate a storm, which along with hiding the mechanisms, also made it more dramatic.
  • Most of the time the aliens are shown in Monsters, at least one of several things occurs: we see small portions of them, they are shown through blurry amateur video or night vision, or they are seen when it is very dark. This was done to conserve the very low budget for the few shots where we do see the whole creature unobscured. Plus, anything more elaborate would have been a nightmare for director Gareth Edwards, who did all the special effects by himself with off-the-shelf software.
  • The 1988 film adaptation of Heart of a Dog only shows Sharik in his initial dog form and in the later stages of his transformation into a human, where he can be portrayed by human actors in makeup. The way he appears in the initial stages of his transformation, which the original novel describes as him looking like a freakishly-proportioned dog beginning to walk on its hind legs, is obscured by the curtain around his hospital bed to avoid having to show anything other than a furry arm.
  • The Xenomorphs in the Alien movies are often shown in the dark or not shown in full at all, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks themselves. Alien: Resurrection makes the CGI of the otherwise practical creatures obvious by having them do things such as swimming or climbing ladders.
  • One major action scene near the midpoint of Alone in the Dark (2005) has the heroes fighting off a wave of superpowered humans and Xenomorph Xerox monsters. While the human foes are shown unobscured, the monsters are only seen when gunfire flashes briefly illuminate the unlit room.
  • The Terminator has the title character wear his iconic Cool Shades in part so the movie doesn't have to use the practical effects to portray his exposed red robot eye in the latter half of the movie. Though it's subverted at times as the animatronic head from the eye removal scene is used in some shots afterward, such as during the truck chase.
  • This is done in The Thing (1982), not because the effects are unconvincing, but because it's scarier that way. The complete lack of this obscurity in the prequel is frequently cited as one of its weaker points.
  • Most of the conjuration (Coffee summoning) and transformation (Bruce changing clothes, transforming his car and enlarging his girlfriend's boobs) in Bruce Almighty takes place off-screen, presumably to avoid the infinite power of God looking like bad CGI.
  • When we do finally see the yeti in The Abominable Snowman, they're mostly in shadow. This helps to cover up any flaws in the special effects, naturally (this being a movie from The '50s, when even the good effects weren't that good), but also helps to preserve the air of mystery around the creatures themselves.
  • The Signal (2014): Nic covers up his transparent legs with tape and sheets so he doesn't have to look at them. This saves on the special effects costs, too - considering he's a main character. Also, while Nic's legs are cool and see-through, Jonah's hands are not. This allows for them to be simply practical-effect gloves for the actor to wear. They even save on him wearing those by having him wear the biosuit gloves even after the reveal.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, the underwater shots of the subs never take place in shallow or well-lit water so the CGI could be masked.
  • In The Troll Hunter, the trolls are primarily seen in the dark and through a night-vision camera.
  • Done for the opposite reason in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: When the filmmakers saw the footage of the animatronic human sacrifice being lowered into the flames, they decided it looked too real, and added some flames to the foreground to make it harder to see. This same effect was used for the exploding heads at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Contamination suffered a similar case as the shark in Jaws, in that the monster prop just did not work! As a result, the director had to change how the scene was handled, how it was lit, etc, and with many quick shots, and as a result is often considered the most competently directed part of the film.
  • The live-action Halo adaptations, made for much smaller budgets than the games, take advantage of this:
    • Most of the first half of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn focuses on the trials of human cadets at a military academy on a very Earth-like planet. When the Covenant attack late in the story, it takes place at night, and the Covenant infantry and ships are typically seen from a distance, obscured by fog or dirty glass, or seen reflected off helmet visors. Even the one Elite featured for an extended chunk of time spends most of it cloaked.
    • Halo: Nightfall starts on another Earth-like planet, with the Elite that Locke and the others chase seen primarily in fleeting, long-distance glimpses. When the action moves to a shard of a Halo, the scenes there take advantage of the numerous charred valleys to avoid having to frequently show the surreal vista of the damaged Ring World Planet. The fact that most scenes take place during "night" on the shard also means that the CGI-heavy colony of Hunter worms can be similarly obscured as needed.
  • Used rather tastefully in Back to the Future: Marty's original jump to 1955, his entry back to 1985 and cinema crash, and Doc leaving for 2015 at the end of the movie, all happen either as a POV inside the car or entirely off-screen. Since Marty leaving 1955 and the signature ending shot of the film are depicted fully (as well as Marty witnessing his first jump once returning to 1985), the audience doesn't pick up on it.note . On a larger scale, while time travel obviously makes up a large part of the story, it's ultimately a B Plot used to get Marty to meet his parents when they're his age, which is the true heart of the film. Time Travel is the A Plot in Part II thanks to Part I normalizing it, but Part III once again sets it aside so that Marty's insecurities and Doc falling in love with Clara can take focus.
  • Similar to the Back to the Future examples, in The Fly (1986) while the audience does see the actual moments when inanimate objects or baboons are teleported away in an enveloping flash of light, the moments when Seth does the same thing aren't shown, likely because the effects were difficult enough to pull off with the former. However, this is handled with enough flair that it's easy to miss. In the climax, the audience does see the moment in full when Seth, now wholly Brundlefly (which is an animatronic effect), is accidentally teleported with part of the pod's door and wirings. Also, anyone who is teleported is initially obscured by mist upon arriving in the receiver pod (the larger the being the more mist there is), which builds suspense as to what has or hasn't happened to them. In the ending, the mist also helps obscure the "offstage" workings of the final Brundlefly animatronic as it crawls to Veronica and begs for death, but the audience still gets an eyeful of the effect.
  • The Crawling Eye uses this for Monster Delay, keeping the aliens wreathed in a strange fog (which they are using in-story for Hostile Terraforming purposes) until the climax, when we finally get a proper look at them.
  • The above Crawling Eye was a big part of the inspiration for The Fog (1980), which keeps its ghostly killers hidden in the eponymous fog. We rarely see more than a silhouette.
  • The Mist has a whole plethora of monsters, obscured by the eponymous mist. We do get a pretty good look at a few of them, but others - including perhaps the most iconic creature in the movie, the gargantuan, six-legged Behemoth - are barely more than ghostly silhouettes, looming through the mist. The Mist also had a rerelease in Deliberate Monochrome, which adds to the '50s sci-fi Genre Throwback feel of it, and plays up the obscuring effect of the mist in comparison to the color movie.
  • Downplayed in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, where the first look we get at the beast is obscured by a blizzard - but we still get a pretty damn good look at the thing, and the effects hold up pretty well today.
  • At the climax of Boys From County Hell, a major character loses his leg, and in the film's epilogue, he is seen hobbling around on what, he tells us, is a peg leg. The camera never pans far enough down for us to see the prosthetic, however, presumably because it would necessitate using CGI to digitally remove the actor's real leg, and there were better things to focus time and money on than this minor moment.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many times in Doctor Who:
    • Classic series:
      • In "The Daleks", we never get to see the creature inside the Dalek casing, save for a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of a dark hand-like organ twitching underneath a coat. This was because they'd already blown all the budget on building loads of the metal Dalek tanks in which the aliens travelled, but it fortunately worked as Nothing Is Scarier horror as well. The "Dalekmania" tie-in media intentionally censored the appearance of the mutant in its Dalek cross-section diagrams for these reasons.
      • We very rarely see the TARDIS materialize in the Hartnell stories, because the special effect (a Stop Trick with a fade) was incredibly difficult to do at that time (the BBC could only afford two edits per episode, and the effect required an edit). Usually, we see the crew in the TARDIS interior while the sound effect plays, the Doctor confirms that it's safe outside and opens the doors, we see a glimpse of the new location through the doors from the crew's perspective, and we then cut to the characters emerging outside, seeing the TARDIS already standing wherever it is. Eventually, as technology improved, the effect became easy and cheap to do to the point where the effect could be used to introduce Doctor Who actors appearing on chat shows or Blue Peter and so on — the TARDIS is shown materializing and dematerializing whenever necessary with no fanfare by Tom Baker's tenure. Even reconstructions of Missing Episodes can animate this one with a bit of clever Photoshop and a fade...
      • In "The Web Planet", scenes with the Zarbi are shot through a greased lens in an attempt to obscure how unconvincing the cheap ant costumes are. It doesn't work, mostly because they have a pair of hilariously human legs in trousers and shoes sticking out.
      • The Knockout Gas used by the Atlanteans in "The Underwater Menace" is invisible — although this overlaps with Fridge Brilliance, because the Doctor explains it's high-pressure nitrogen, presumably to invoke the famous diving hazard of "the bends" where nitrogen under high pressure begins to act on the body like laughing gas (of course, in reality you'd probably just suffocate, but it goes with the undersea theme of the episode quite well).
      • In "Spearhead from Space", the enemies are Autons, sapient and malevolent shop window dummies. The BBC didn't have the budget at the time to show the dummies breaking the glass, so instead we just cut to the faces of shocked onlookers while the sound effect plays. This was gleefully played with in the New series Auton episode ("Rose"), in which they did have the budget to break the glass, and so we got several pornographic, slow-motion shots showing the Autons doing it again and again...
      • In "The Mind of Evil", a hallucination of a woman transforming into a dragon is only shown in an extreme closeup of her face. The intention was to show more but the dragon costume was absolute Nightmare Retardant, forcing the director to rely on showing only its decent-looking head. Similarly, the Skarasen in "Terror of the Zygons" was obscured as much as it possibly could be due to the awful prop used, shown only in quick flashes of its scales or head closeups.
      • "The Mutants" has to show Ky transforming from a Human Alien to an insect-like monster. This is done with a Stop Trick and fade with an extreme closeup of his hand only, saving full-body makeup.
      • "The Curse of Peladon" features Alpha Centauri, whose Unfortunate Character Design was disguised at the last minute with a yellow cape. (It doesn't help.)
    • New series:
      • Any time the Sontarans are seen, we only see the faces of a handful of them, while the larger majority are shown wearing their large helmets that imply the presence of their large heads. Same thing with the rhinoceros-headed Judoon, who travel in groups of three or more but only one has his helmet off.
      • "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" mainly shows its eponymous dinosaurs lurching through the dark, foggy halls of its eponymous spaceship.
      • The New Paradigm Daleks are rarely shown moving, because the awkward design made them very difficult for the operators - too small to stand up in, too big to sit down in without being blind.
      • "Cold War" mainly portrays Ice Warrior Skaldak in a suit of armor made with practical effects. But when the time comes for scenes where he sneaks through the submarine without his armor, only his arm reaching down from the ceiling is shown most of the time, while a close-up of his face is done in the shadows. Only near the end is his unarmored, unconcealed face seen, and then not even for more than half a minute.
      • Vastra, a lizard-like humanoid, wears a long face-covering black veil most of the time. This makes sense from a story perspective, but has the upshot that she doesn't have to wear her extensive makeup in those shots.
      • In "Flatline", Clara busts up a wall using a sledgehammer — only the wall is just out-of-shot and we never see any actual damage.
  • A common complaint about Heroes. Many characters have Coconut Superpowers, but others have very flashy powers that they... happen to use just off-screen. Most notably, a fight between the two most powerful characters is shown as just flashes of light visible below a closed door.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • At the start of the show's run, the "Vampires Exploding into Dust After Being Staked" effect cost $5,000 per use. As a result, the majority of vampires in the first few seasons are staked just off-screen, with the disintegration sound-effect playing. Later, when the show's budget had gone up and the cost of CGI had gone down, vampires had long ceased to be the main threat on the show — which, naturally, let Buffy kill scads of them when they infrequently show up.
    • In earlier episodes, when vampires shifted to vamp face, the actual shift usually occurred off-screen. As the show's budget increased, vamping out onscreen became more common. Furthermore, in many cases you can tell the shift is something of a "jump cut" between pre-makeup and post-makeup; once Season 2 comes around, the "game face" effect is a more gradual, CGI-based shift.
    • In the Angel episode "Blood Money", Wesley and Gunn fight a two-headed, fire-breathing, twenty-foot tall monster. Neither it nor the battle is shown on screen. This might be because it wasn't particularly crucial to the plot. "Expecting" featured the Haxil Beast, a huge demon that was nonetheless shown on-screen for quite a while.
    • This is done with invisibility in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight". We get one quick CGI shot of a floating baseball bat and at one point the invisible character hits another character with a baseball bat... the hand of which is just off-screen.
    • Another one relating to the seventh season. The Big Bad can take the form of anyone that has died and its true form is only seen a couple of times. Quite lucky that Buffy herself has died twice in the show's continuity, which means that Sarah Michelle Gellar could easily double up and appear as the First when they didn't want to stretch the budget by bringing back old cast members for every episode.
  • Many times in Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • Several battles are depicted where the enemy ship either is either not seen onscreen or only as a blip or flashing light ("Journey to Babel", "Errand of Mercy", "Arena"). This is because building and filming of model miniatures is expensive, especially during the 1960s where the labor involved cost many times more than the actual model which was often cheaply built from wood scraps and pieces of plastic toy models. The Klingon warship doesn't appear until the third season, despite Klingon ship encounters occurring throughout the first and second season. Prior to that, Klingon ships are not seen since no models had been designed or built. "Errand of Mercy", for example, only shows footage of magnetic pulse bolts hitting the Enterprise. This actually works to establish that starship battles are very much like submarine battles (or even modern aerial combat) where, unlike the Space Dogfight, the enemy ships cannot see each other with the naked eye. As a result, the space battles on the original series are often postulated as an example of what realistic space combat might look like.
    • Also the show would always jump at a chance to use a costume to cover a Vulcan or Romulan's ears, thus saving on makeup costs.
  • Played for Laughs in Batman (1966). In one episode, Mr. Freeze shoots beams from his fingers at the Batmobile: just as they hit the car we cut to Batman and Robin's stunned faces before cutting back to the frozen car. This saves having to do an expensive "car getting frozen" animated effect.
  • The X-Files has an episode where the Monster of the Week is a humanoid insect monster. The suit that was created for this creature ended up looking very silly, so it was obscured with motion blur effects to create a sense of buzzing, insect-like movement—which made it that much scarier.
  • Red Dwarf: The Unspeakable One, a being born from all of Rimmer's self-loathing, is only briefly glimpsed and never shown in full. This is because the creature was a puppet that already been passed over by Doctor Who for being too crummy for them to use, a decision the Dwarf crew clearly agreed with.

    Video Games 
  • Fairly often in Metal Gear, a shot will be done in a slightly strange way to avoid showing something difficult to animate in a game, usually things that involve textures or models changing gradually (like writing on something or removing an article of clothing), when the easiest way to do it is with the Stop Trick -
    • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, after the suspension bridge leading to Zanzibarland's detention camp is blown up, Gray Fox shows up piloting the new Metal Gear D model. Rather than actually animating Metal Gear showing up, the upper half of the screen turns black momentarily only to gradually unveil Metal Gear's feet. It then switches to one of those "talking heads" sequences between Snake and Fox before the Metal Gear walks out from the area off-screen when it resumes to regular gameplay.
    • In Metal Gear Solid, Meryl's gunshot wounds are obscured with white flashes as the texture switches.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty:
      • There's a part where Vamp slices himself across the chest in closeup. The actual 'slicing' is obscured cleverly by his arm as the sound effect plays. It's actually really difficult to tell it's hidden unless you're looking for it.
      • When Pliskin removes his balaclava, he reaches to the top of his head, and we cut to Raiden's (lack of) reaction in the reverse shot while the foley of the cloth plays. Then we cut back to the shot of his face and his subtitle.
      • When Fatman drinks from his wine glass, we hear the sound of him guzzling but the shot is taken from a vantage point below the glass, obscuring how high the level of wine is (and that the wine is not actually being depleted). When he smashes the wine glass later in the scene, he just throws it off screen and shards of glass fly up.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the Boss pulling her shirt open is shown from behind, before cutting to her front to show her scar.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, when Drebin writes 'RAT PT 01' on the floor in chalk, we only see his face while he's writing, and then cut to the completed text.
  • In Doc Louis's Punch-Out!!, if you knock Doc's chocolate bar out of his hands, he'll take off his red jacket, revealing a leopard-print shirt. We only see Doc opening up his jacket before cutting to Little Mac's reaction. When we cut back to Doc, he's already tossing his jacket away.
  • Whenever one character hands another character something in Star Wars: The Old Republic, expect the cutscene to be framed shoulders-up. The player can see just enough body language to get the "one person gives the other an item; the other accepts it" gesture without at any point seeing the item they're supposedly exchanging. Which is because the item isn't rendered and often doesn't have a world model in the first place, and making the item's animation look believable was incredibly difficult at the time.
    • Transformation effects, like the "cybernecrotic" infection on Tatooine, are commonly shown either offscreen or in violent bursts of light to conceal the exact moment of the transition, allowing the developers to use a "before" and "after" model without any complicated blending.
  • Mass Effect provides several examples:
    • If an item exchange is occurring, chances are it will have this in effect. A frequent example is a character giving another a Datapad, as well as items in the first game that are given but only implied, yet are given vector icons in the Missions screen. The Prothean Trinket given to you by the Consort is another notable example.
    • When Vega takes his shirt off to show his new tattoo in the Citadel DLC, you never see the T-shirt move. The camera cuts imply that he's taking it off his topless body, but the shirt itself isn't actually visible. Similarly, whenever Commander Shepard is in bed, they'll always be sleeping on top of it, avoiding having to animate or simulate the blanket being moved.
  • In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, one of the cinematics involves a Dominion Battlecruiser launching Drop Pods. The part of the ship from which they are launched is covered in fog, most likely because on the stock model used for the cinematics, the pods are much smaller.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has a scene where Talion unwraps an item given to him for his quest. The way the scene is shot shows him grabbing the linen from one angle as the camera slowly pans from right to left, whereupon we see him dropping the loose linen on the ground from the now unwrapped object.
  • When DiZ/Ansem the Wise unwraps his face wrap in Kingdom Hearts II, we cut to the cloth piling on the ground, and then up to his undressed face. Similar camera cuts are used throughout the series whenever a character wearing a Black Cloak puts on or removes their hood.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VII, when the possessed Cloud is turned upside down by Sephiroth, a white flash is used to hide the animation. An animation was made for this (and placeholder textboxes in Dummied Out versions of the scene reveal that one had been especially requested for this sequence) but it was discovered it looked glitchy in the simplified polygonal style VII uses for its characters.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has one of the silliest examples of this in the entire medium. The musicians don't have a walk cycle, so in order to prepare them for a gig they ask Yuna to 'push them' out of the door. This is handled as a bizarre pseudo-Mini-Game in which Yuna must run into them to slide their models across the floor. (No new animation or particular strategy is involved.)
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, at one point in the Endwalker expansion, you travel to a world of people who are about 20 feet tall, with furniture to match. After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to get out of the room you're in, an NPC offers to "make you bigger". To avoid having to deal with rescaling the room, you have to close your eyes first; the screen goes black in the "giant" room, and comes back with everything at the usual size.
  • In the original Resident Evil trilogy on the PlayStation, characters are almost never actually shown opening or closing doors. When a character besides the player (or even a monster) enters or leaves a room, it is often done off-screen. The tiny handful of exceptions can usually be spotted ahead of time by a door that's rendered from polygons rather than being part of the background.
  • Video games require thousands of hours of animation, especially in terms of facial expressions, and if you do it wrong it’s extremely easy to fall into Uncanny Valley. Destiny, amongst other science fiction franchises, often solves this problem by sticking everyone in helmets or making them faceless robots.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach: The Daycare Attendant's fairly drastic transformation between Sun and Moon forms is given a Hand Wave by never being depicted onscreen. The only time the switch is actually depicted has Sun fall off a desk below camera and rise up again as Moon. Understandable, given how the animatronic isn't designed with any visibly transformable parts and especially given that the two forms have different color schemes and fabrics.
  • Due to time and budget limitations, the only characters who have unique models in the original BioShock are Andrew Ryan and Sander Cohen (not counting Frank Fontaine's One-Winged Angel form); other characters like Atlas and Brigid Tenenbaum simply use re-skinned splicer models, hidden by either being kept in the dark or being kept at a distance.
  • During The War Sequence of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the dark lighting and thick fog allow the game to render a relatively small number of enemies at a time while maintaining the illusion that there are loads more offscreen.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon features multiple occasions where a scene fades to black to avoid animating stuff, such as when you open gates in Hau'oli to get in the tall grass sections or during the subquest where you have to pick up stranded Pyukumuku and throw them back in the sea. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon feature even more situations where fading is used to not animate stuff, such as when you climb on an Exeggutor's neck or the cutscene featuring two kissing Pikachu.
    • Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! also does this in various occasions, which is more baffling because Nintendo Switch is clearly more powerful than Nintendo 3DS and should be able to feature cutscenes showing more action than "characters stand around and talk". The trend continues in Pokémon Sword and Shield and Pokémon Legends: Arceus, growing increasingly noticeable as the games start to shed more and more of the artifacts from the 2D sprite-based era.
  • One of the reasons most levels in Crash Bandicoot (1996) took place in thick rainforests is because the big tree leaves of such a setting could be used to obscure parts of the level that needed to be unrendered to keep from straining the limited hardware of the Playstation.
  • In the arcade version of Double Dragon, we hear Machine Gun Willy and his lackeys take off on their motorbikes after they walk out off-screen with Marian at the start of the game just as Billy and Jimmy are stepping out of their garage. There are no on-screen motorbikes in any part of the game.
  • In Disco Elysium, developed by a small indie team using Kinects for motion capture, a fade to black is frequently used to obscure essentially mundane actions like Joyce riding off on her boat or the two Detectives carrying the corpse to the Kineema, and other actions are just described in dialogue without appearing on screen at all. In one particular scene - where the player character has to climb a rickety and broken ladder - a high level Rhetoric check will appear to Break The Fourth Wall:
    Yes — climbing it would be too *expensive*. The animations your body needs to make, interacting with the ladder, are beyond your capabilities at this moment in your career.
  • Super Mario 64 has an example that's not obscured by in-game imagery but by picture resolution. Whenever Mario moves with the camera zoomed out very far, his model will be replaced with a very low-polygon version to save on graphical resources. The CRT televisions on which gamers would have first played the game in 1996 were sufficiently low-resolution to disguise this change, but playing a high-definition rerelease of the game (especially 720p or higher) makes it easier to see what's happening. This is a very common trick in video games even today — the term for it is LOD, short for "level of detail". While the swap is pretty obvious in older games like Mario 64, newer games are more subtle with how they switch, and usually have multiple models depending on how far away an object is.
  • In the Japanese version of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, if you choose to join the Shadow Queen as a servant, then a flash of white light is used to hide Mario’s model being swapped with a brainwashed/lobotomised version of him. The localised versions remove the model swap, but keep in the flash.
  • Whenever a character tears his shirt off in the Yakuza games (it happens often), they grip the front of their top before a quick cut and the sound of cloth shows them shirtless having ripped it and their jacket off in one fell swoop. It helps keep the ninkyo eiga style the games emulate.

    Web Videos 
  • The Slender Man Mythos:
    • In order to contribute to the Nothing Is Scarier atmosphere, Marble Hornets and other video series in the mythos generally portray Slender Man at night, at a distance, and/or filtered through some Ominous Visual Glitch (the visual and audio glitches are also used to imply his presence even if he isn't actually in the shot). This also helps to hide the fact that Slendy is actually a guy wearing white gloves and a featureless white mask. In fact, one early Marble Hornets entry became somewhat controversial among fans because it didn't try to conceal him and gave viewers too good of a look at him.
    • And then Adam Rosner, creator of Tribe Twelve, a series known for visual effects, went "Fuck that" and decided to show off his talent with the Adobe Cloud. Notable instances include the famous Mary Asher Phone Call video, in which Slender Man bullrushes the camera without moving a single bit, stop-motion style. Then, as Noah is running away, he turns to look back at Slender Man... who is completely unobscured, looks horrifically real and has his Combat Tentacles. The entire video is mostly free of distortion, giving everyone a good look at the series's strong point: It looks real.
  • Noob is set in a fantasy video game, but any enemy that can't be rendered by putting someone in a costume will not be seen and happen to be a fire-breather with only its attack showing onscreen.
  • In the commentary for the A Nightmare on Elm Street episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd, James Rolfe and Mike Matei explain they kept Freddy Krueger's face hidden in darkness to make up for the fact that they were unable to apply proper makeup for the character. The only time where Freddy's face is seen is at the end of the episode, when he shapeshifts into the Nerd to taunt him.
  • H.Bomberguy's video Scanline: The Power of VHS (co-written with Shannon Strucci) praises the use of this trope in movies like Alien, Aliens, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as heightening the tension by not showing us the thing we're supposed to be afraid of, keeping us in the dark about where - and sometimes, what - the threat is. He extends this not just to the filming techniques themselves but also the poor picture quality of their VHS releases, which he feels helps to make effects seem a bit more real. He gives the example of a memorable scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, when the T-1000 melts up out of the floor: as a kid watching the scene on VHS, he was terrified, but in the crystal-clear picture quality of a newer release of the movie, the dated CGI is distracting. He also discusses lower budget movies that deliberately mimic earlier picture quality, like V/H/S and WNUF Halloween Special.

    Western Animation 
  • In the PAW Patrol episode "Pups Save Tiny Marshall", whenever the Shrink Ray is used, its target always happens to be just out-of-frame in order to avoid having to animate the characters shrinking or growing.
  • Star Wars: Rebels:
    • An unusual example: the Stormtroopers are Faceless Goons, as in the movies, but so are the crews of Imperial ships. Every imperial crew member has the peak of their cap pulled very far down over their face so their eyes are obscured. This means that the creators don't have to animate eyes, and it obfuscates the fact that every imperial crew member has the exact same character model.
    • Similarly to the Destiny example above, Sabine often puts on her face-concealing Mandalorian helmet for missions. This cuts down on tricky facial expression work for the animators.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: Screwy Squirrel lampshades and plays with this, often presenting a tremendous crash or almost any random combination of sound effects accompanying a blacked-out screen, followed by Screwy lighting a match and remarking "sure was a funny gag — too bad you couldn’t see it!"