Creating Censorship in After Effects CC

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Censorship is a commonplace practice with today’s television standards. Whether you are an editor censoring some bits from a hollywood film for television, or you work in reality television; censorship is a necessary tool for all editors to know. There are a few common styles that are associated with censorship, including the ‘black bar,’ the ‘blur out,’ or the ‘pixillation’ approach. These can be used on logos, to profane gestures, to nudity, and more. Each director, editor, or corporation may have their own preference, so I am going to show you how to create each style in After Effects CC.

Please note that in order to match the censorship to a moving object, you must track the motion and link your censorship to the tracked footage. I go more in depth on how to track footage in a previous tutorial you can read here.

THE BLACK BAR

Creating a black bar in After Effects CC is a fairly straight forward approach. To create a black bar simply go to LAYER >> NEW >> SOLID. You will be presented with a dialogue box for the SOLID SETTINGS. By default, After Effects sets the color to black which is exactly what we need here, so you may proceed and hit OKAY.

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You will notice now the black solid takes up the entire composition.

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To reduce the size and shape to cover your desired target, you will first want to switch to your SELECTION TOOL by hitting V on the keyboard, or by selecting the arrow on your tool bar.

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You can now CLICK AND DRAG on one of the four corners of the BLACK SOLID and resize it to the desired shape. Also, by clicking and dragging within the shape itself allows you to reposition the solid on your composition.

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THE BLUR OUT

Some reality TV studios prefer to blur out logos or profane gestures in hopes to make a less visually jarring and subtle censorship on their image. To start, you will need to create a new ADJUSTMENT LAYER by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. No immediate change will be seen in your composition, but if you look in your layers panel, you will see the layer sitting above your video layer.

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An adjustment layer is sort of like an empty bucket that is just waiting to be filled. You need to fill this bucket with the blur effect. To add the blur effect to your adjustment layer go to EFFECT >> BLUR AND SHARPEN >> GAUSSIAN BLUR. In your EFFECTS CONTROLS PANEL, you will see the BLURRINESS is set to zero. Go ahead and increase the number to about 75.

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You will notice the whole composition is now blurred out. To blur just the target, you will need to choose the ELLIPSE TOOL.

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With the tool selected CLICK AND DRAG to create an ellipse in your composition.

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In order to get rid of the hard edge CLICK to HIGHLIGHT your ADJUSTMENT LAYER in the LAYERS PANEL, and then click M on your keyboard TWICE.

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This will bring up your MASKING CONTROLS. Here you can increase the MASK FEATHER to blur the hard edges on your ellipse, as well as increase or decrease the MASK EXPANSION.

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PIXELATION

Another approach that is commonly used in mainstream media to censor nudity and profane gestures is through pixelation. For the most part, the steps to follow are nearly identical to the ‘blur out.’ First, create a new adjustment layer by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. Next, add the pixelation effect by going to EFFECT >> STYLIZE >> MOSAIC. In your EFFECT CONTROLS, increase the horizontal and vertical blocks to about 30 each.

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At this point, just as with the ‘blur out,’ you are going to use the ELLIPSE TOOL to create an ellipse around your target, and then use the MASKING CONTROLS to blur the edge and control the expansion of the ellipse.

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