MovieMask: Introduction

Written in June 2002 - MovieMask has since gone out of business (if, in fact, it could be said they were ever "in business").

Start with a grainy, black and white shot of a father and his kids. The kids are bored and unhappy, and dad's looking sternly at the TV.

It's a lazy Tuesday night and you want to do something with the kids. How about a movie? Great! You just rented...uh...Saving Private Ryan. Gee, you'd love to share it with the family, but there's all that icky blood and swearing. What to do?

My friends and I talked about MovieMask quite a bit online, and we had some great quotes that I wanted to share with you, but this story's already so ungodly long. So, you can see them with these little optional popup things.

Suddenly, ba-DING! He's in color, and everyone's smiling, and he's holding a box labelled MovieMask. All the swearing and messiness is magically whisked away, and dad's sharing quality time with his kids, who are watching the TV, munching popcorn, and happily swinging their feet while watching the G-rated version of Saving Private Ryan. Practically sells itself, doesn't it?

Back in November, I ran across an article about MovieMask. I archived it if you want to read the full version, but here's the setup:

NEW YORK -- Have you ever watched "Saving Private Ryan" with your kids, only to squirm in the midst of so much violence and bad language? Does that scene in "Titanic" in which Kate Winslet is topless make you uncomfortable?

It doesn't have to.

Soon you'll be able to transform R-rated movies to PG or even G versions with the help of "Movie Mask" digital software from Trilogy Studios.

By using the software, which will work with DVDs or any kind of digital video, viewers can digitally change the sound or video as the movie runs. Tom Hanks' bad words are muted, and Winslet's breasts are covered with a corset.
<tieboy> list of movies Movie Mask has done:
<spinn> I suppose tomb raider involved masking a lot of bulky sweaters
<spinn> not to mention erin brokovich
<tieboy> Ha ha. I want to watch Fight Club with my kids, but don't want the violence or language.
<spinn> the blair witch project...masked so that a couple kids go camping and roast marshmallows
<spinn> Memento is now a film shot in reverse about a man who is looking for his lighter
<spinn> jaws.
<spinn> JAWS.
<spinn> dum dum dum dum DUMDUMDUMDUM AKKA AKKA AKKA AKKA "look, mom, it's a dolphin! wheee!"
<tieboy> Want to know more about Long Island Sound?
<tieboy> how about boats? do you like boats, kids?
<tieboy> Sleepy Hollow: We've added a head onto the horseman so he's not so scary
<spinn> heheh
<spinn> and we replaced Christopher Walken with Paul Reiser
<tieboy> Romeo Must Die: Not in OUR opinion!

Wellll...okay, I can sorta see the benefit here. For years, they've cut scenes and masked audio to tone down "offensiveness" when playing movies on broadcast TV. Given that the public has been renting movies for over two decades, it makes sense that there'd be a product that would bring this ability to the home. Plus, they're saying they're a step beyond cutting and bleeping: even if you think editing a movie to remove offensiveness is foolish, you can appreciate that painting clothing on Kate Winslet preserves the story more than putting a blocky digital censor over her, or than deleting the scene entirely.

<spinn> terminator 2
<spinn> kid wakes up, goes to school
<spinn> buys lunch
<spinn> gets a b on a biology test
<spinn> comes home and makes a sandwich
<spinn> this movie brought to you through the magic of MovieMask
<spinn> Buy Coke
<tieboy> "Would you like to know more about sandwiches?"
<tieboy> "Would you like to re-edit the movie so he gets his sandwich BEFORE he takes his biology test?"

<spinn> Fight Club: well, we have to start with the title, don't we
<spinn> Dinner Club
<spinn> "First rule about dinner club: nobody forgets paprika."
<tieboy> In Pillow Book, Ewan McGregor's penis has been replaced by a laser penis
<tieboy> Life is Beautiful... you know, life IS beautiful! Especially since we've taken the Nazis out of this film!
<spinn> I wanna watch saving private ryan, but instead of blood, I want to see hot roasted peanuts
<DML> Schindler's List: instead of the lines headed to the incinerators, have them headed into Space Mountain!
<babich> Cujo viewing loads Snow Dogs, and Cuba is white and named Todd
<Down10> Cheech and Chong are chewing bubble gum in every movie
<mdxi> the "Dirty Harry" collection, MM edition, is a 3-disc set of 1950s Hygene films

All fine and good, until I continued reading the article and found the stupid.

But Breck Rice, co-founder of the two-year-old company, said scenes are often reconstructed rather than removed entirely so that the story line isn't affected. In a scene from "The Princess Bride," for example, two characters who are fighting would use laser-light swords instead of real swords.

Laser-light swords? Instead of real swords? They slip this in kinda sneaky, halfway down, with no explanation or elaboration. What's the danger of seeing real swords? How does exchanging them with laser light protect anyone? And protect whom, exactly? And...okay, how? And we are talking Princess Bride here, right? This is no hack-and-slash movie, and that first sword fight between Inigo and Westley is excellent. Why do we need to be protected from that?

And, um. How do lasers accomplish this, exactly?

<spinn> actually private ryan is probably made by cutting scenes together to make new sentences
<spinn> "I -pfft- love -pfft- my -pfft- country -pfft- and -pfft- president -pfft- Bush!"
<tieboy> "What's FUBAR?" "It stands for gzzt Follow pfft George Bush ssk and our Lord Jesus ctzzk donate to pfft Jerry Falwel gzzt"
<tieboy> "Look out, Germans are attac -ggzzzt - we won!"
<tieboy> "Oh no! A panzer ta -ggzt A BIG BAG OF LOLLIES FOR THE KIDS"
<spinn> heheh
<tieboy> "Lay down some suppressing f-- sskt A SLIPPERY SLIDE"

<spinn> "hi, I make soap -fft- similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental"
<tieboy> heh heh
<tieboy> persons living or d- not feeling so well
<spinn> heheh
<spinn> persons living or living on doggie island where they eat steaks and play all day
<tieboy> steaks made from cows who agreed beforehand that they should give up their lives to feed others
<spinn> man, the funnier this gets, the more depressing it gets

I had to go see for myself. They have a site,, but at that time it was essentially a press release with some graphics and basic explanations around it. Over the next few months, it went through a number of transformations, showing they were very good at redesigning their site, but no indication of how they were at making the software.

<tieboy> from the FAQ: If you want to leave the violence and nudity, but you don't want to hear the profanity, then you can choose to watch a movie that way.
<tieboy> if you want to see fucking and bloodshed but NOT hear a bad word
<spinn> "let me see your blasted mammaries before I cut them the floop off!"
<Machival> how about if I want to see people get wounded, but not the weapons that wound them?
<spinn> I wanna hear cursewords that start with M, but that's it.
<Machival> I want only the characters with blue eyes to appear in the film. the rest must be digitally edited out.
<spinn> I want the D&D Cleric version of the movie. I'll take violence as long as there aren't any sharp edges.

Highly short-sighted of me not to have copied their FAQ while I had the chance, which went away two or three redesigns ago, unfortunately. It was pretty crappily written, but the only piece of it I have is the following which was intended to explain why their product is, er, superior:

Our software will allow you to skip frame by frame or mute frame by frame which alone makes it supeior to anything that is avaliable. It is a very clean and seamless process just as you are use to on edits that are done for TV

<tieboy> "Our software will allow you to skip frame by frame or mute frame by frame which alone makes it supeior to anything that is avaliable. It is a very clean and seamless process just as you are use to on edits that are done for TV"
<tieboy> bad, bad, bad
<spinn> no, not bad
<spinn> supeior
<tieboy> i am use to supeior
<spinn> "Another in-expensive solution is to buy a video card or dauthger card with a tv out port."

I'm really wishing I saved it, because it looked like it was slapped together at the last minute by a tech guy who was told to type something up in fifteen minutes and didn't get a chance to proof it. At that point, it was the only entertaining thing on the site.

Until February, when they got a demo online.


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