When to blur video and when to keep it sharp. 

Blur effects can punctuate different shots in your videos. Discover how to supplement your video editing skills with a strategic use of blur.   

To blur or not to blur.

Blur is one of the more common effects you see in videos, photos, and advertising. Because it’s a very useful effect, blur often appears more than necessary. A good blur can serve practical purposes as well as artistic ones, and discovering how you can use it best when you edit video is a powerful part of the post-production toolbox.

 

Practical reasons to blur video.

A few of the most important and common reasons you’d need to apply blur to a video are:

 

  • To protect someone’s identity by blurring their face
     
  • To hide sensitive information like license plates, logos, etc.
     
  • To eliminate distractions so you can highlight a specific area of your footage

 

Blurring is a frequently used effect for preserving privacy. Check in with your interview subjects beforehand about how they want to appear within a documentary film — this is essential to properly protect privacy to prevent your film from running into liability issues. In some cases, documentary footage requires releases from participants in order for them to appear on film. Most of this paperwork is handled in pre-production, so when your film goes to a video editor, they'll know exactly who or what to blur, resize, or pixelate. 

 

Artistic reasons for blurring a video.

You can add certain types of blur to video for aesthetic reasons. Often referred to as bokeh, which is the artistic use of focus throughout a given film sequence, these blur effects can add storytelling, mood, and more.

 

Different lenses, or adjusting the depth of field for a given shot, can cause blur. But the reasons for blurring are more difficult to define. It can be helpful to break blur use cases down into two categories: drawing focus and special effect.

First, blur can draw focus and attention to a particular part of the frame or the subject. By blurring a video background element, you emphasize what’s in the foreground, and vice versa.

 

Second, blur can create a special effect, simulating a point of view or establishing something otherworldly. If you have a mystical character, blurring the edges around them or softening their image with a blur effect can help emphasize that character’s magical status. Or, if you have a character who is unconscious and then wakes up, using blur effects to show that character’s perspective coming into focus can also be effective. It comes down to identifying what your film needs and adding blur as necessary.

 

Key concepts for creating blur in post-production.

With video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro, you’ll have full control over your footage, so you can add blur effects, masks, and other effects with ease. Here are the main tools you’ll use for blurring video.

 

The Timeline panel

The Timeline panel is where you will assemble and apply effects to your video clips and manage your various video tracks. Understanding the different tools that the Timeline panel offers helps when you start applying keyframes and masks. Because you often apply blur effects to individual clips or parts of clips, knowing how to manipulate these effects — zoom, hide, and cut through each scene — makes them easier to apply.

 

Keyframing and masking

When you’re blurring video, especially video that has a moving subject, you need to add in keyframing. Keyframes are specific points within a clip where you can assign spatial position, opacity, and a number of other effects. When you have multiple keyframes at different points in a clip, Premiere Pro will interpolate the space between them, which animates the movement from keyframe A to keyframe B and so on.

 

A common way to use keyframes to blur part of a video is with masking effects — this is one of the best ways to blur a face. A masking effect is a feature within Premiere Pro that helps you create a blur effect over an entire clip, and then have that mask move as the subject moves.

 

Blur effects

Beyond a simple mask, Premiere Pro gives you multiple options for creating blur effects and video effects that simulate different types of camera movements, colors, and cinematic tricks. You can select from different types of effects within the Effects panel:

A Gaussian blur is applied to soften an image of cars driving at dusk
A blur is applied to the background of an image to enhance the focus on the subject riding a bike
  • Gaussian blur: blurs and softens the image and eliminates noise on horizontal or vertical axes
     
  • Fast blur: similar to Gaussian blur, but covers larger areas
     
  • Channel blur: blurs the clip’s red, green, blue, or alpha channels, creating blur within certain colors
     
  • Compound blur: an effect that can be used to simulate smudges or fingerprints
     
  • Directional blur: blurs an area of a clip to give the illusion of motion (sometimes referred to as motion blur)

 

No blur effect is impossible to undo, so as you’re learning keyframing and how to use blurs, it’s okay to make mistakes and experiment until you get the effect you need.

 

With Adobe Premiere Pro, you get all the video editing tools you need to blur, sharpen, and enhance the vision of your video. Creating blurred video is easy on Mac and PC, and you can also expand your knowledge of film editing with a wealth of helpful tutorials and guides. Then you can export videos with effective blur before you share them online.

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