Facial Unrecognition Part 2 – Obscured by Software

by Jeremiah Hall (doddleNEWS)

(FIG 1)  In Part One we looked at various camera and lighting tricks to obscure the identity of the person you are interviewing.  Now let’s take a look at how to do it with software.

In the old days, before desktop image manipulation was cost-effective, people did it the old-fashioned way:  the blue dot.  The blue dot is now the purview of sitcoms and insurance commercials.

Ms. Blue, a.k.a. "Dot."

Now we tend to use a blur filter.  The blur is unobstrusive, uses the surrounding colors, and is less jarring then it’s blue-dot and mosaic counterparts.

Here’s how to do it in Premiere Pro.

1.  Cut your story.  Go back to the clips in your sequence where your interview subject is shown.  Copy each clip, and paste it into the next video track above your first track.  Make sure all of these copied clips are on the same video track.  I have pasted my clip onto Video 2, with the original staying on Video 1.  Be sure each copied clip lines up exactly with the original clip on the timeline.  Leave your timeline scrubber sitting on a frame of video with your interview to be blurred.

Use the Title Tool to make a new object to use as a matte.

2.  Make a new title.  Go to the tab that says “TITLE” on top and click it.  Hold your mouse over “NEW TITLE.”  Several choices will appear to the right side.  Click the one that says “DEFAULT STILL.”  A dialogue box will come up asking for the new title’s video settings.  You can also give the new title a name.  They default to the sequence’s video settings, which is what you want anyway.  Click okay.  Now the title tool is open.

Give your title a new name.

3.  We are going to make a new shape to cover the face of our interview subject.  We will later make this into a matte to choose what we want blurred.  We will choose an ellipse shape, since people have round heads (if you had to do this for a license plate or a framed photo, you would use a rectangle shape instead).

Choose ellipse.

Click the ellipse button on the side. It is underneath the triangle button.  Move your cursor over your subject’s face.  Click close to your subject’s forehead and swoop down across the person’s face.  You should now see a white circle around their head.  There is a white box surrounding your circle.  Touching the edges reveals small white boxes.  Use these boxes to adjust the shape of your white circle.

Use drop shadow to fake a feathered edge.

4.  Under TITLE PROPERTIES you should see a checkbox for SHADOW.  Click it.  Go ahead and use the defaults.  This puts a small dropshadow on your white circle, which fakes a feathered look on the final results.

5.  Exit the title tool.

6.  Your title will be with the rest of the clips in the project tab.  Highlight the new title, then go to FILE and hover over EXPORT.  Several choices will pop up.  Click on TITLE.  Choose whatever directory you wish to save your title, just make sure you remember where you save it.  You will need to know later.

7.  Highlight the first copied video clip on the timeline, from step one.

8.  Click the Effects Panel.  Double-click Video Effects.  Double-click Blur & Sharpen.  Click and hold Camera Blur, dragging it onto the clip you want blurred.

Effects Controls.

Click Effect Controls in top left-hand window.  Adjust the blur percentage to between 60-80 percent.

9.  Go back to your video effects on the bottom lefthand window.  Scroll down to KEYING and double-click.  Click and hold IMAGE MATTE KEY and place it on the video clip.  IMAGE MATTE KEY will now appear under CAMERA BLUR in the effects controls.

The little arrow pointing at a box selects the matte image.

Click the little arrow next to a box.  It is sitting between the words IMAGE MATTE KEY and an upside down arrow.  Premiere Pro now wants you to select a matte image.  This is the circle you made in step three.  Remember where you exported the title.  Open that directory, choose that title, and hit OPEN.

See your subject's face vanish.

Check your timeline.  You should now see a round blur over your subjects face.

10.  Now for the easiest part of this.  Under Effects Controls, CTRL+Click CAMERA BLUR and IMAGE MATTE KEY.  Then hit CTRL+C to copy.  Highlight the next copied clip of video on Video 2 (or whatever video track you decided to use for your copies).  CTRL+V to paste in the CAMERA BLUR and IMAGE MATTE KEY.  Do this for each piece of the interview you need blurred.

11.  Play it back, and make sure your haven’t inadvertently missed a piece of interview.

12.  Export.

And that’s it.  Your story is finished.  Or is it?  Just because they can’t see your interviewee’s face doesn’t mean they can’t identify them when they talk.  Next time, we’ll discuss altering your interview subject’s voice.

About Jeremiah Hall

I am a videographer living in the Cincinnati, OH area. I have over fifteen years experience, with my name on a couple of Emmys and a Murrow or two. When I'm not in front of After Effects or teaching editing techniques, I like to play with camera equipment and as much tech as I can find the time for.

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