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December 20, 2017 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to find more instances of the trope of finding hidden content on video in movies/tv/books. NOT the "enhance!" trope. PLEASE DO NOT LINK ME TO INSTANCES OF "enhance!" because I'm not interested in those.

Two that very specifically come to mind (mild spoilers for movies/books that are 15+ years old):

The Ring
In The Ring there's a scene where Naomi Watts is in the video editing room looking at the haunted tape and does some kind of tape-looking-at business to see hidden content on the edge of the tape that doesn't show up in the regular tv screen video view. It's SECRET hidden content that she finds because she's looking for it.

In Contact the apparent audio radio message from Vega can be viewed on screen because it's actually got video content, too. After manipulating things around on screen for a while, we see that it's an actual earth TV broadcast hidden in that signal. After more manipulating, we see that there's yet another visual message there.

Weirdly, neither of these are on TV Tropes so I don't know quite what you'd call them.

Both these scenes have characters finding plot forwarding devices hidden in video--findable by anyone willing to search. It doesn't require any impossibly high resolution zooming, no lucking out that we can read something off a reflection in a window, etc. In both cases the hidden content is intentionally part of the video being viewed.

Surely there have to be other examples of this?
posted by phunniemee to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'll be a bit pedantic and say these clues were available to anyone able to search, not just willing. Those both take a few steps to discover the clues, beyond just watching the screen closely (though I'm sure freezing a video has played into some plots, if you'd count that as a match).

I make this distinction because the first thing that came to mind was hidden images in songs, specifically in the spectrographs. You can view these images, but it requires special software. The image is "there," but you need to be able to see it.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

National Treasure has a bunch of this (with the caveat that “findable by anyone” means in some cases “findable by anyone willing to start a heist to borrow the Declaration of Independence.”
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I could be wrong, but are you looking for steganography? (Those examples are pretty weak, though.)

I can't think of examples off the top of my head, though.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2017

My heart currently wants more magic VCR action, but that steganography page led me to this public secret message tv tropes page, which lists the weird DVD extras from the Doctor Who ep Blink as an example that nearly scratches this itch for me.
posted by phunniemee at 1:14 PM on December 20, 2017

Hidden in Plain Sight is another category that gets close, but none of those examples seem to involve a video tape.

I thought of a couple of inverse examples where we, the viewer, see the hidden message, but the in-story character doesn't:

In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Roy Neary is always looking away when shots of Devil's Tower appear on the TV news. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ed Rooney just misses seeing Ferris at Wrigley Field on the snack bar TV.

There's one from a cartoon that fits-- in the Steven Universe episode The Message, a strange signal is concealing a message similar to the Contact example.

Oh! I thought of one for real, VCR and everything-- the wedding video in Love, Actually. (Ugh, IMO the most cringe-inducing storyline in the movie, sorry....)
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 1:30 PM on December 20, 2017

we, the viewer, see the hidden message, but the in-story character doesn't

reminds me of a great Far Side cartoon!
posted by spacewrench at 4:01 PM on December 20, 2017

These are probably too Real Life, but you can hide photos in songs.
posted by gregr at 6:11 PM on December 20, 2017

In the second season of Stranger Things, Joyce examines video footage and is able to make an outline sketch based on what she finds (trying not to spoil).
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also I feel like there are several instances of this trope in the X-Files series, with Mulder poring over video.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:33 PM on December 20, 2017

The TV Trope Rewind, Replay, Repeat comes close to what you’re looking for. I found it by plugging in Blow Up, which is about a guy finding a piece of crucial evidence in a photo, so not exactly what you’re after, but it does have a very young version of The Yardbirds doing a cameo and a lot of other swinging 60s goodness too.
posted by googly at 7:08 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Message episode of Steven Universe, perhaps
posted by chrisulonic at 1:37 AM on December 21, 2017

Blow-Up (1966) and Blow Out (1981), Brian DePalma's tribute, both involve seeing/hearing something in the background that turns out to be quite significant. Neither of them is about finding things in video, but I hope they may be otherwise useful.
posted by the sobsister at 2:15 PM on December 23, 2017

In William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition, the plot revolves around mysterious video footage posted online and the search for its creator.

ROT-13 encoded spoilers: Gur fbyhgvba vaibyirf fgrtnabtencul. N frevrf bs ahzoref ner sbhaq gb or rzorqqrq va gur sbbgntr, naq bar senzr unf na vaivfvoyr znc bs gur ahzoref gung riraghnyyl yrnq gur cebgntbavfg gb gur sbbgntr perngbe'f rznvy nqqerff.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2017

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