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In the past I've seen scenes in documentaries containing a branded product which (I assume) didn't pay for product placement, so somehow they manage to subtly blur out its label in post production. I think I've seen a similar technique being used to subtly blur license plates.

Any idea how this effect is commonly produced? I don't think it's your run-of-the-mill Gaussian blur in Photoshop. I feel like it must be some clever use of a spot healing brush-like technique to "scramble" the product label in a subtle way so that it becomes very hard to read.

I cannot find any good examples of this right now, unfortunately.

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    The example image is blurry and suffers greatly from video compression... are you sure that the logo is blurred intentionally? – J.E Aug 14 '18 at 10:21
  • @J.E I'm not, I was just trying to find an example because the community rules suggest it. I'll remove it. – Pieter Aug 14 '18 at 17:48
  • I don't think the blurring is done because the product owner didn't pay, but rather to avoid the appearance that product is endorsing or being endorsed by the video. There are many different ways to handle that, from using phony labels to obfuscating the labels somehow to avoiding the display of packaging at all. It's hard to say what type of blurring you're talking about without an example. Also: if you're asking about this in the context of still photography, you should make that clear; questions about video are off topic. – Caleb Aug 15 '18 at 1:42
  • I'm asking about it in the context of photos, although I imagine that video uses similar techniques (except that the motion of the blurred object has to be tracked). – Pieter Aug 15 '18 at 6:04
  • "I cannot find any good examples of this right now" - but you can make one. Are you looking for that very specific effect or do you just need some way to blur out a brand? Why not take an image yourself and see how far you can go with the "run-of-the-mill Gaussian blur in Photoshop" and include the result in your question? Then you can clearly point out what you like/dislike about it and will receive better answers. – null Aug 15 '18 at 16:58
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Photography

In many cases, it would be easier to entirely remove the logo using cloning, healing, or in-painting techniques.

In cases, such as faces where it makes more sense to obscure, different blurring methods are available, such as median blur and gaussian blur. Their strength can be controlled by adjusting parameters, such as radius and strength.

To pixelate a face, you can use any of a set of "Pixelate" filters, such as Mosaic. In GIMP, they can be found listed under "Distorts".

Videography

Your question specifically references documentaries and other video contexts. Consider searching for an answer at video.stackexchange.com. For instance, Selectively blur many but not all of the faces in a video suggests using motion tracking with keyframing to move a gaussian mask.

The example image you provided does not appear to have had any special processing to obscure the logo. Everything in the image is generally not sharp. This is likely caused by small sensor size, small aperture, and low resolution. Also apparent is low dynamic range and a fair amount of noise.

Consider the amount of additional effort required to "subtly" obscure logos vs their simply being unreadable because of the technology or techniques used to capture them.

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Obscuring part of an image, as in a logo, can be done in ImageMagick, where the position and size of the logo on the main image is defined by its geometry, to which a mask is applied. A blur is then applied to the masked area. The blur can be as aggressive as required.

This can be set up in a script and repeated over a number of images or, assigned to different locations (geometry) for individual images.

Rather than copy the work of others, the linked threads use syntax for use with Unix systems, Windows is not too dissimilar.

Example

Example from this thread

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The most common way of doing what you want (and probably the easier and the one that renders the best results) is in postproduction with photoshop (Akvis Photo or a similar retouching tool):

  1. Use the original photo as the background layer, duplicate it as a regular bitmap layer and make the background inactive and disable its visibility.
  2. Make a copy of the previous bitmap layer copy as new bitmap layer, use the selection tool this latest layer to create a selection for the logo layer and convert it to a mask the layer. Set the properties of the mask to soft edges (a few pixels).

  3. Use the the cloning tool on this last layer to remove the logo from this bitmap layer, enable/disable the mask and invert it as needed.

Now you’ll have two pictures: one without logo, when you enable the show/view property of every layer (you can keep the background layer disabled if you wish) including the uppermost masked layer, and another with a logo when you disable the show/view property of the upper most layer.

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