How do I best create an anonymous video of myself?
June 8, 2009 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I want to record and post a video of myself talking to camera etc, but want to make it anonymous. Are these two things mutually exclusive, or is there a way of doing this right?

I'd like to effectively mask my own voice and face, but where possible keeping the surroundings visible. I'd also like to avoid physically covering my own face for the video.

For the video itself, I'd be looking for software-based or physical solutions, as I don't have any hardware beyond a camera. I'd also be keen to hear tips and tricks about where and how best to post the video anonymously, etc.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you could try:

intense backlighting to cast a shadow on your face

behind a sheet or semi-translucent drapery that's backlit - will obscure your face more than just backlighting. Not sure if this falls in the category of "covering your face" - I interpreted that as not wanting to wear a ski mask or bandanna and sunglasses.

facing away from the camera, wearing a hat or something else to cover hair, if you can be identified by your hair or lack of it.
posted by dubold at 8:30 AM on June 8, 2009

Most video editing software will let you obscure or blur certain parts - this part is pretty simple. I use Adobe Premiere, but it's fairly pricy if you have to buy a legit copy. Others may have cheaper/free solutions.

As far as posting anonymously, I'd use a laptop and find an open wireless connection somewhere.

Use software to change the MAC address of your laptop for the upload and then change it back to default when you are done. Obviously you will create dummy email/youtube accounts to do this with as well.

I'd start by posting it on youtube, and then linking it on a site like reddit with an interesting title (something that encourages viewers to copy it and reupload it elsewhere - if you can get the video to go viral from your initial upload, it will be out there forever.)
posted by davey_darling at 8:32 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

As far as the lighting goes, if you brightly light whatever is behind you, and set the camera to expose for that amount of light, then place yourself in front of that area, but without any light on you, it will produce a sillouette. This is a common method used by many TV shows. Be aware that you will have to be able to manually lock exposure settings. Also be aware that it may be possible for someone with the right equipment to boost the exposure on their end and see facial details.

Of course there's always the fake beard, big sunglasses, and wig or hat method.
posted by The Deej at 8:41 AM on June 8, 2009

Most of those effects, from bad/backlighting to the blur/pixellate effects found in video editing software, can definitely be reversed, so don't count on it for anonymizing you at all.

Famous example. Basically, if you use some procedural trick to hide visual information, there's almost always* a way to apply the reverse process to make the information clear again.

So, again: don't count on that. Make sure your actual face is not on camera in the first place. That's the only way.

* yeah, yeah, yeah... I know. I said 'almost'. Back off, geeks.
posted by rokusan at 9:08 AM on June 8, 2009

Or the hood method, as in the IRS hearings in the late 90s.
posted by jgirl at 9:08 AM on June 8, 2009

If you don't mind your profile being shown, then you could record your side-profile shadow's cast against a wall. Note that this is different than the back-lit silhouette method that The Deej and dubold mentions.
posted by suedehead at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2009

Most new shows do this to a point with anonymous people (abuse victims, mob informants and the like).

Like they say, light it so you are in shadow, so only a silhouette of you is visible. Assuming you are of a common body shape then identification will be virtually impossible; if your body shape is more unique at least it's deniability.

Then run your voice through SEVERAL distortion filters. keep in mind if you only do one filter, someone with audio software and use the opposite of that filter and have a close approximation of your original voice again
posted by arniec at 9:39 AM on June 8, 2009

A (reputedly crazy) coworker had the same issue. He ended up shooting himself in silhouette, digitizing the footage, and using After Effects to create a moving mask. The mask obscured his facial details with a solid dark brown/black color. It didn't stand out as unnatural but couldn't be reverse-engineered.

For the voice disguise, he simply had an actor loop his monologue.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2009

MrChiCity33 is a popular YouTube channel. He never shows his face on camera. (He doesn't disguise his voice, though.) FYI, most of his videos have NSFW language. Images SFW.
posted by desjardins at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2009

Basically, if you use some procedural trick to hide visual information, there's almost always* a way to apply the reverse process to make the information clear again.

I'm a geek, and this is roughly true. Although you might get somewhere with a random gaussian blur or mosaic convolution that changes every frame. It'd at least be a pain in the ass.

But, if you want it to really work, you can't just move around the information, you need to destroy it.

Ain't nothing anybody can do if you just cover your face in a blue circle. You can't digitally recreate a face from a circle of 0x0000ff.
posted by Netzapper at 12:25 PM on June 8, 2009

« Older Do they really know?   |   Restaurants in North Port FL Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.