MovieMask: Who masks the mask?

Trilogy Studios, the company responsible for MovieMask, wants to sell the software, obviously. However, this presents them with a dilemma. They want to show how their product works, so there are clear "before" and "after" examples they can give. But how do you show the "before"? If you start with the assumption that your target audience is generally prudish and/or squeamish, you can't be alienating them by showing them boobs and/or death.

<tieboy> Trilogy is a DBA of Nova Group, Inc.
<tieboy> I will follow this trail until it leads directly to Satan
<tieboy> or SETA or something
<spinn> well, "trilogy", though
<spinn> might as well call it For The Greater Glory Of Our Lord, Inc.
<spinn> gotta be easy to get from there to satan


This is what they did in their demo, in fact, and we got a good chuckle out of that. A company based on protecting us from sex and violence kindly provided me with the only scene in Titanic I'd really be interested in. But I can appreciate the tightrope they were walking. They had three choices:

1) Show the original unaltered. You get a good idea of the way MovieMask works, but you're confronted with images you're supposedly interested in avoiding.
2) Don't show the original at all. Avoids the unpleasantness, but how do you show the benefit of the software?
3) Mask the offensive parts in the original, but do it in a different way than MovieMask.

That last one's tricky. If you mask the original well, it will most probably be simpler than the full MovieMask treatment (if you've ever tried believably modifying a photo with Photoshop, you know what a difficult process that can be; now multiply that by 30 frames a second). But if you show people masking that is good, but not as complex, you'll start them wondering: why does this thing need to be so expensive? Can't we just take the blocky digitizing and make the product much cheaper?

Someone at Trilogy must've realized all this, because a few months after they first released it, the demo was updated with huge blocks labelled "Original". I have to hand it to them; this is a superb piece of marketing in a difficult situation. Not only do the blocks adequately cover the offensive parts, but they're highly annoying and make the MovieMask version look stellar in comparison.


Oh, though I'm reminded I didn't go through that The Patriot edit of theirs. The original: bad guy is holding a knife to Gabriel's throat. Gibson throws an axe, and it cleaves the bad guy in the middle of the forehead. The edit: Gibson throws the axe, then cut to a shot of Gabriel alone, crumpling to the ground; the implication is that the axe hit the bad guy and he's already fallen, so we don't see him in the shot.

<tieboy> i don't. understand. why they erased the axe guy
<tieboy> his hand is there. aren't kids gonna be confused?
<Machival> "if you throw an axe at someone, their hand will come alive and try to cut your throat!"


Or...that's the intention, I suppose, but this clip makes it look odd. After 15 minutes of going back and forth by single frames, I finally realized what's going on: the bad guy slides down behind Gabriel, axe in head, still holding the knife. Problem is, since they cut the part where the bad guy spins and slumps down on the carriage, it look like this: Gibson throws an axe, and then it gently wafts downward while Gabriel wrestles a knife-wielding disembodied hand to the ground. The axe you can see in the clips takes nearly a full second to travel that distance.


They end that part with a shot of an onlooking kid crying, which seems an odd place to cut it. Maybe they were showing that he was upset after seeing an axe drift to the ground in clear definace of God's plan for creation.

<tieboy> what about star wars? What did they do about the laser swords?
<spinn> replace each one with a "we're #1" foam hand
<Machival> the light saber is replaced with another light saber. only a differently colored one. a lighter, less intimidating color.


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