May 21, 2024

Stupid Fake Scanlines Are Annoying

If you’ve ever watched reality TV shows or many video games these days you’ve probably seen them… The simulated scanlines. It’s the ‘indicator’ TV producers use to let viewers know they are watching camera footage. Umm… I’m watching TV so isn’t it all camera footage. I hate stupid fake scanlines. They’re distracting and unnecessary.

Fake Scanlines
Just in case you didn’t know, a camera took this picture. I added fake scanlines so you can be sure. Now there is no doubt that a video camera was involved.

Millions of dollars were spent over the years making TVs and the associated infrastructure needed for high definition, non-interlaced video and now they want to spend more money in post-production editing to add the stupid scanlines back in. WTF?!

I can see the dumb-asses in their production meetings now…
“I have a great idea! Let’s reintroduce all those old technological limitations, imperfections and defects back into modern high-def TVs! That will make it seem more authentic! Plus, how else will the viewer know they are watching video camera footage?”

So Dumb!

Low tech, low fidelity might have a place — to artistically present a mood or to portray past technology visually. I could even see it as a dramatic expression similar to ‘dream sequences.’ You know… white, foggy vignetting around the edges of the image — a sense of dreamy visions. Scanlines could show a time and an age. But 90% of the time it is gratuitously used as a lazy subtext for ‘hidden camera’ or ‘drone footage.’ It even gets used for shows that take place in modern times when we don’t have interlacing very often (occasionally I see 1080i but not that often, anymore).

What if someone is watching these shows on an older TV and they see fake scanline within real scanline? So meta…
There have also been instances where the fake scanline overlay caused the action to be a little unclear and I had to rewind and re-watch a sequence to see what was going on.

Now on video games… I hate to say it but when I see it in video games it almost makes some amount of sense, so I don’t hate it as much. For example, if you are walking through a surveillance center in the game and seeing monitors on the wall showing things happening elsewhere in the game or watching people as part of the story that drives the game plot forward. That sort of fits with the idea of being in a security office or seeing through a surveillance camera.

In a video game, you are there…  you are that person. You exist in that environment watching those surveillance screens. It ads a bit more to the scene to have the scanlines in that case. That game object is security footage or some such thing and might possibly seem more immersive.

TV and movie producers, I’m begging you to stop or at least think more about your reasons before using this weak visual device. It’s not helping and is often distracting. Video game producers almost get a pass — but be careful because I have seen it overused in games, too.



Chris is a creative and experienced website and web application developer with over 6 years of experience creating UI excellence and fluid User Experiences, bringing modern responsive web environments that engage users. Chris also has an additional 8 years of graphic design and publishing expertise that was perfected in the years prior to entering the web development world. Since modern website environments are necessarily and universally graphic and visual, both skill sets blend together perfectly. Chris’ focus on teamwork, coordination, and communication makes him a valuable asset to any team; creating interactive websites and spectacular graphics, in addition to demonstration videos for trade shows and training.

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