Ant Pruitt

In today’s world of elevated privacy and trademarking, video footage could be denied public viewing. Or, you could face legal ramifications for showing something in your footage without expressed written permission.

Fortunately, there are video editing tools available within Adobe’s Premiere Pro to obscure unwanted objects or even blur faces in your video.

SEE: Choosing your Windows 7 exit strategy: Four options (TechRepublic Premium)

Identify and mask the subject

  1. First, determine the problem area in your video footage. Sometimes it’s a logo; other times it may even be a person’s face. The technique to blur and obscure an object or face is all the same. In this instance, we’ll use a T-shirt logo as an example.
  2. Inside of Premiere Pro, navigate to the problem area on your timeline.
  3. Duplicate the footage simply by holding your ALT (option on Mac) key and drag the footage up above to another track. The duplicate layer (Figure A) is needed because you’re going to mask out all of the other areas of the footage, but keep the problem area visible. Trust me, it sounds counter intuitive, but it works.
Figure A
Ant Pruitt

Next, make sure you select your duplicated layer and then navigate to your effects controls panel.

There, you’ll see an opacity effect labeled “fx Opacity.” This effect allows you to create a mask with an ellipse or polygonal shape, or you can just use the pen tool and draw a free-hand mask. For this example, we’ll use the ellipse mask because the logo is round.

When you click the ellipse mask, you may need to resize it to fit properly over the piece of footage. Just use your mouse to drag the ellipse where it needs to be. Also, click on the ellipse mask points to help resize it. Be sure to set the mask feather (Figure B) to 30 pixels.

Figure B
Ant Pruitt

Next, navigate to your effects panel (Figure C) and search for blur. This will display a list of blur types available in Premiere Pro. I recommend using the Camera Blur or the Gaussian Blur. I will use Gaussian blur in this example. Just drag the effect onto the duplicated footage in the timeline.

Figure C
Ant Pruitt

Inside of the effects control (Figure D), you can adjust how much or how little blur you’d like to add to the clip. Because we used a mask, only the duplicated footage is affected. It’s a pretty cool effect until you hit play on your video. Especially if the object being obscured is moving in the clip. Fear not, there’s a fix for that.

Figure D
Ant Pruitt

Premiere Pro has a pretty amazing motion tracker built into it. This motion tracker is attached to the “Mask Path” parameter of your ellipse mask. When you have the mask applied, make sure your playhead is set where it needs to be in the timeline. Then press the play icon on the motion tracker (Figure E). Premiere Pro will start loading a motion tracker dialog box. During this process, Premiere Pro will set keyframes indicating where the mask will be positioned in the footage. When the tracker is completed, you playback your footage to verify the mask properly tracked over the duration of your footage. If it misses the mark a little, just pause your footage and reposition the mask.

Figure E
Ant Pruitt

Depending on how much movement is in the footage as well as the contrast, this could become a tedious task. The tracker does really well when there’s more contrast in the footage and the mask is large enough. It’s a tough task when trying to track smaller objects with lower contrast. When you task is completed, your footage will have a blurred object as expected (Figure F).

Final View
Ant Pruitt

Premiere Pro does a great job obscuring objects in videos. Granted, After Effects has a great tool for content-aware fill that could do a great job, too. But, if you’re a Premiere Pro user, give this technique a try and see if you can obscure a person’s face or a logo.