How much, how long, and just plain how do they blur sensitive things on TV shows?
November 19, 2010 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I watch a lot of non-fiction shows, like Mythbusters and the First 48. Throughout these shows, often things are blurred on purpose. In Mythbusters, they blur brand names. On the First 48, they blur numbers, license plates, faces. I was just curious (A) how much something like that would cost in terms of dollars, (B) how long it would take to do - say an episode, and (C) what computer program they use to do this. Thanks!
posted by Sully to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Best answer: Haven't actually done this, but I'd imagine:

a) No more than their editors normally get paid.
b) Probably just add an hour or two of editing work, since they could do it in the course of editing the show.
c) Either a plug-in in their normal editing software (AVID or Final Cut), or possibly After Effects or some other effects program.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:50 PM on November 19, 2010

It's easy to do this in Final Cut Pro. If there are a lot of items to blur and/or they're moving around a lot, it can be slightly more work, but it's still not really that big of a deal.
posted by sharding at 7:59 PM on November 19, 2010

It's probably easier and cheaper than it would cost to pay a clearances person full time to get permission to use the logos in question.

Phone numbers, license plates, and most addresses are never free to use, so they would always need to be blurred regardless. Faces are blurred as a matter of course if they could not get the individual to sign a clearance form.
posted by Sara C. at 8:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: its very simply - and most of these shows are cut on Avid. There's a plug-in that you use (actually more than one), but essentially you just draw the outline of what needs to be blurred and then move it a bit each frame when it moves. Its not any harder than putting lower thirds on (names and titles) or building video into separate boxes on screen and you don't get paid any extra for it, its just part of the job. If its a well produced show they'll do their best in the field to make sure people aren't wearing logos or get releases for everyone who makes in on camera. Clearly, there are always circumstances that can't be shot around though.
posted by Unred at 8:15 PM on November 19, 2010

Sara C. nails it. Figure clearance person at day rate of around $500. FX in Avid or FCP session is much cheaper.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2010

ha ha - Ideefixe obviously doesn't understand the vast chasm of difference in paying a PA on set versus an editor and renting an edit room. Its always better to catch it in the field.
posted by Unred at 9:04 PM on November 19, 2010

Unred, I agree about catching it in the field, but if your E & O depends on a PA, well, best o' luck to ya. (On set? For reality?)
posted by Ideefixe at 9:26 PM on November 19, 2010

Yeah, quick and cheap in mainstream editing software. Turning a bunch of guns into walkie-talkies for the re-release of your blockbuster movie still needs considerable frame-by-frame pixelwork, but just blurring stuff is now something the work-experience kid can do.

The extent to which they take the brand-avoidance in Mythbusters can be pretty hilarious. That backwards-car show they just did, for instance; there was at least one Porsche 928 on screen for a large portion of the episode, but never was the word "Porsche" spoken!
posted by dansdata at 12:46 AM on November 20, 2010

(Actually, you can say whatever you want, company names be damned. You just can't show the logos. You can show cars, but you can't do a close-up on the car company logo.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 PM on November 20, 2010

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