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Behind the Black

Strong Bad: What are you doing over there?
Homestar Runner: Oh, I'm pretty much here every week. It's just that usually I'm behind the black.
Strong Bad: Guess I should start looking to the right more often.

The tendency for something or someone to be completely invisible to the on-screen characters simply because it is not visible to the camera, i.e. "behind the black" - even when that object or person should be in clear view. Some TV shows, films, and video games are guilty of assuming that characters can't see something just off-screen because, well, the viewer can't, and the viewer is the center of their universe. And don't start on the countless cartoons where somebody hides "behind" a tree where even the viewer should be able to see them...

In any visual medium, every single time a character runs out in the street, and we, the audience, can’t see if it’s safe, that character will be hit by a truck.

One of the more common examples of this trope can be found in top-down RPGs, which feature hidden passages which should be obvious to the characters.

It's also typical that if a woman is seen naked against her will and shown from the waist up, she only covers her breasts and leaves her lower body completely exposed, as if the other characters also only can see her upper body.

A subtrope of Rule of Perception. The Stealth Hi/Bye often takes advantage of this.

See: No Peripheral Vision, Failed a Spot Check, Offscreen Teleportation, Off Screen Reality Warp, Tree Cover, Fog of War, and Obscured Special Effects.

Not to be confused with Black Screen of Death which is more about what you don't see.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Old Navy's 2009 Christmas commercials featured the mannequins going about town looking for Santa Claus. They think they might've finally found him at one point; he's got his back to the camera but he should be making eye contact with the mannequins, and they don't realize it's just some guy until he turns to face the camera, meaning he has his back to the mannequins.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The ability to step off screen and disappear to other characters is developed into an almost super-human talent in the anime and manga Kuroko no Basuke. The main character, Kuroko, becomes invisible to other characters by virtue of always being out of frame. He can also deliberately disappear or reappear by ducking in and out of view. This happens numerous times every episode, especially on the basketball court. But as other characters become aware of his special talent, the trick becomes less effective and they start to be able to see him behind the black.
  • In the third episode of Naruto: Shippuden Deidara says that his infiltration of the Sand village was a success, but then notices Gaara... who was off camera but right in front of him.
    • Happens twice in a row in the Wave Country Arc. While Kakashi and Zabuza are fighting on the bridge, Gatou suddenly appears with about thirty thugs, who've somehow managed to soundlessly climb up the side of the bridge and bunch together, while only being discovered when Gatou speaks. Maybe justified, as everybody was pretty busy at the time, and Zabuza's fog was lingering. But what is not justified is twice as many villagers showing up minutes later in direct view of the thugs, who don't see them until Inari shoots an arrow at them.
  • During the first fight between Hei and Wei in Darker Than Black Hei puts his own blood on his mask to make Wei think that he was hit, and we then see Hei falling off of the building, with the camera behind him. Hei and Wei were facing each other, though, so Wei should have been able to notice that the blood on Hei's face didn't explode.
    • In the second season, Mao was sitting on July's head when he disappeared, but didn't notice it until the camera showed him, whereupon he somehow also ended up on Kirihara's head.
  • It's implied in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei that if you can't see Matoi, it's because she's standing directly behind Nozomu. Every time she pops up in the middle of a scene to say something, they have this dialogue:
    Nozomu: You were there?
    Matoi: Yes, always.
    • Ai Kaga uses this to her advantage, she hides just outside the camera's view for the first 11 episodes to avoid ruining the show.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi rides his broom up into an entirely clear sky and somehow didn't notice a swarm of flying robots until they were less than 30m away and he was in the middle of them.
  • Happens several times in one episode of ARIA: a character will go into a flashback, and when it ends someone else will have joined the group with everyone suddenly surprised to find out they've been there for a while now.
  • Taken to the point of Refuge in Audacity in the Marineford arc of One Piece where neither the audience nor the armies of Whitebeard pirates and Marines notice Blackbeard's crew, which includes a building-sized giant until Marine HQ, the building they were hiding behind, was destroyed.
  • In the end of the first episode of the second season of Code Geass, a number of soldiers and a mecha sneak up on Lelouch from the front. Maybe because it was somewhat dark and Lelouch was distracted by the Mysterious Waif giving him The Call.
  • In Bleach, we get a close up of Hachigen's face so we can't see his arm is missing. Somehow, Barragan fails to notice this until the camera zooms out even though he was looking at Hachiken this whole time.
  • Happens about once per episode in Strawberry Shake Sweet.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san has an episode where Nyarko attempts to invoke an Adam and Eve Plot to get some sweet island lovin' out of Mahiro. Her plan is quickly derailed when the camera changes to reveal people and buildings...positioned immediately in front of Mahiro's field of vision. Granted, he wasn't going to fall for it anyway, given that Nyarko attempted this in an indoor swimming pool...
  • Hilariously lampshaded in a promo chapter for the A Certain Magical Index movie, which concerned a Space Elevator that had never before been mentioned.
    Saten: Isn't this what you call a retco-
    Uiharu: IT JUST! SO HAPPENED! TO BE! OUTSIDE! THE PANEL!
  • In the Valentine's Day Chapter of Ranma ˝, Akane is trying to give Ranma some chocolate which is a gift to him from a little girl Ranma helped. She tries to do it on the roof for the sake of privacy, but after having a short conversation, they notice something: the roof was already completely full of different couples with a girl giving a guy chocolate, all apparently oblivious to each other.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in an issue of New X-Men, where someone is trying to assassinate Professor Xavier in an airport. The assassin is covered in a shawl, and when some of the X-corp branch unmask the assassin, it is only then that the Professor, several yards away, tells Jean who it is. This is a telepath who should have been able to tell the other telepath who it was before the audience finds out.

    Film 
  • The killer worm B-movie Squirm had the heroine walk down a hallway and right into the arms of the worm-faced villain, who was standing the middle of the hallway, but just offscreen.
  • In Batman: The Movie, Robin fears Batman was killed by a bomb; but a moment later Bats pops up from behind a stack of pipes, startling Robin. The problem is that the Boy Wonder-Why-He-Didn't-See-Him is standing on the same side of the stack as Batman. Granted, pulling off impossible Stealth Hi Byes is kind of Batman's modus operandi...then again, this was the Adam West Batman, so he doesn't quite have that excuse.
  • Sergio Leone loved this trope. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Blondie and Tuco fail to notice they're walking into a Union Army encampment and a dozen soldiers standing on the road they're walking because they were hiding Behind the Black.
    • There's a scene where a boot lands in front of the face of an extremely sickly Blondie. Because it's Behind the Black he fails to notice that the boot has no leg in it.
    • Hell, the opening shot of the movie set the bar for the rest of the film, as Roger Ebert even noted several times. We see a wide, open landscape shot devoid of any signs of life. All of a sudden a guy moves into shot...in extreme close-up.
  • Top Secret! plays this for laughs as the main characters infiltrate the enemy camp by crawling along the ground, only to come up a pair of boots presumably belonging to an enemy soldier. The characters all look worried and then the camera pans back to show there's nobody there, just a pair of boots on the ground. Possibly a homage to the scene above.
  • In The Horror of Party Beach, a man discovers a dead body in the car. The dead person's face is pointed right at him, but he has no reaction. Then when he shifts the body so that the viewer can see the horribly mutilated face (and the character can't) that's when he reacts to it.
  • Cloverfield has a particularly unbelievable example. The characters are in the middle of an open area of a park, but don't notice a tremendously huge monster that's almost on top of them until they (and the shoulder-mounted camera) turn around. Apparently, it's a really stealthy million ton animal.
    • Earlier there is a scene where the characters, who are walking on an abandoned street, don't see the small army directly behind them until a shot is fired and the camera turns around.
    • Compounded by the fact that we, as the audience, don't hear either of these coming either.
    • The monster scene may actually be slightly justified. The survivors had just suffered a horrific helicopter crash. They would've been physically and mentally disoriented, and it's likely their ears were still ringing. And if you listen very carefully, just before the attack, the camera mic (which also may have been damaged slightly) picks up the sound of it approaching.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • The first scene between Will Turner and Jack Sparrow. Will reaches down to grab Sparrow's hat and Sparrow smacks his hand with a sword. There was nowhere that Jack could have been hiding where Will wouldn't have seen him.
    • On Stranger Tides has some issues with this in the early chase scenes. For example, there is a part where Jack is being chased down a set of stairs by several British soldiers. He reaches the bottom. The camera cuts to the soldiers who then reach the bottom and run down the hall. Cut to Jack hiding behind a table at the bottom of the stairs. Even given that the soldier closest to him in pursuit turned away for a second to yell for back-up, it's highly improbable he could have hidden there without the soldiers seeing him do it.
    • An even more egregious example occurs with the Spanish ships in On Stranger Tides; nobody on Barbossa's ship notices them until Gibbs points them out, even though they're practically bearing down on top of them.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: It is dawn, and the Three Hunters have been running for days. They crest a ridge, and Aragorn suddenly stops, wary. He signals, and he, Legolas, and Gimli run across the top of the ridge to hide behind a rock... and miss, by a matter of INCHES, being trampled by a huge freaking contingent of horses and riders that are coming over the hill. Okay, A) what, the keen-eyed elf didn't see them coming, and the ranger who can hear orcs ten miles away by putting his head to the ground didn't hear the horses' approach? B) What genius decides to hide by first running across the high ground? But that's okay, because C) it obviously worked, as the riders don't notice those folks that they just about ran over until they're several yards past... and then Aragorn shouts and that instantly gets their attention (over the noise of hooves, harnesses, tack, etc.). So many things wrong with that scene... it did look awfully neat though.
    • In Tolkien's original they spot the riders from very far off already (five leagues by Legolas' estimation): Legolas can see them in detail while the others see a little blob, and Aragorn can hear them when listening to the ground. They consciously move down to the foot of the hill so as to not present an easily visible silhouette, sit huddled in their Elven cloaks, and have to wait for some time, during which they can discuss at length the people coming their way.
  • In Carnosaur 2, a dude sitting in a chair is suddenly startled to find an eight-foot dinosaur standing directly in front of him, hitherto cunningly disguised by simply being off-camera. Incredibly - and this is not supposed to be a comedy, as far as I can tell - the dinosaur then proceeds to slap him, and he raises his fists.
    • Probably a No Fourth Wall moment, where the dino proceeds to do and say what everyone in the audience is thinking: "YOU DUMBASS!"
  • In Evil Dead 2, Ash gets tackled by a man he didn't see coming. From the open doorway he was looking at, directly in front of him. He also managed to not see the three other people behind the first one, all walking towards the open door of the cabin. In the director's commentary it is mentioned to be intentional because it catches everyone off guard by being impossible.
  • Attempt at a justification in The Great Race when Professor Fate and Max are hiding behind the same Rock but can't see each other because of the snowstorm. But given the lack of space, and the fact that they could hear each other yelling, it's probably Rule of Funny rather than a justification.
  • At the end of Legends Of The Fall, Tristan (Brad Pitt) is in the woods looking at a dead animal. He's somehow able to completely over-look a full-grown bear that's only a few feet from him. He only notices the bear when the camera is turned on him.
  • Played for laughs in Mars Attacks!: Sarah Jessica Parker grabs Michael J. Fox's hand, but the camera pulls back to reveal she is holding his severed hand. She realizes this only after the audience sees it.
  • Played straight in Men In Black II when a hideous alien shapeshifting into a highly attractive woman clad only in her underwear is mugged mere seconds after all her weird tentacle things have retracted into her head. From a mugger who had apparently been standing in front of her.
    • In the first film, J and K don't seem to notice the woman giving birth in Reggie's back seat until Reggie mentions her.
  • In D-War, for some reason bystanders never notice a 100-metres long giant snake until it is breathing down their necks...
  • Lethal Weapon 3 has a scene where Riggs sees his partner's daughter appear to be in trouble. After breaking up the situation with reckless abandon, Riggs discovers that the entire incident was all part of a movie set. It's only after he makes a mess that he notices the entire camera crew nearby.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman manages to hide from an entire dinner party (including The Joker) until the camera pans slightly to the right and he's suddenly there.
    Batman: Then you're gonna love me.
  • In Independence Day, Steve walks out the front door, picks up the paper, reads it, looks to the neighbors to his left and right packing up, then when a helicopter flies overhead he sees the giant flying saucer that's been in front of him the whole time. You'd think it'd be the first thing he saw when he opened the door. To make things worse, Jasmine makes the same mistake, not noticing it until she sees he's staring at it.
    • Partially justified for Steve since he was half-awake and most likely staring at the ground all the way to the paper. No excuse for Jasmine though.
      • Potentially. Steve was looking down most of the time, first just sleepily then after tripping over a toy left in the sidewalk. Jasmine was bringing Steve a brimming cup of coffee, so was likely watching that to make sure she didn't spill. Still, given the enormous size of the spaceship, rather unlikely.
  • In Jurassic Park III, the group arrives at the deserted beach to find a lone man in a suit calling out for them with a megaphone. There's no boats, no parachute, nothing to indicate where he came from. The beach, the sea, and the sky are all perfectly vacant. They run at him to make him stop, and all of a sudden an entire landing force, complete with several amphibious vehicles and helicopters, appears spontaneously on the beach.
    • Earlier in the film, the characters somehow don't notice the Spinosaurus, which is quite large and standing in plain sight of at least half the party, until a satellite phone in it's belly rings and gets their attention. Also strange because they could apparently hear the phone from quite a ways off, but somehow couldn't hear the sound of the twenty-something ton dinosaur coming at them.
    • In first movie, the T-Rex miraculously manages to come inside the Jurassic Park center, even though earlier T-Rex caused Bad Vibrations in glass of water.
  • Played with in Shaun of the Dead. Shaun is looking out the building for zombies that are within his field of vision, but not the screen, so he doesn't see them. Then the camera pans right:
    Shaun: Oh, wait. There they are.
    • This trick is also used during Phil's "death bed" scene. The scene actually takes place in an overcrowded Jag, but plays out as an intimate moment between Shaun and his step-father. Edgar describes it as artistic license to assume that the other passengers do not hear, and acknowledges the technique of cropping them out of shot to achieve this.
  • In ET The Extra Terrestrial, the boys are riding their bikes down a wide-open street as they escape the government mooks. C. Thomas Howell shouts "We made it!" at which point a dozen previously invisible mooks appear from left and right of frame and grab at them.
  • Marvin becomes very susceptible to this in Home Alone 2, missing both a ten foot hole that should be illuminated from Christmas and street lights coming through the door, and an equally large bright-green area of slippery goo, even though he can see a rope hanging across the room...
  • In Nightmare City, the main couple seeks comfort from a priest, only to see that he has been infected by the zombie plague. However, the uninfected side was presented to the camera, meaning that the couple should have seen his infection before he turned around.
  • At one point in Equilibrium, Christian Bale walks into a small circular room with numerous pillars. After a brief conversation with the bad guy on the opposite side of the room, they cut to a shot standing in front of the door, while bad guys step out from behind the pillars. The problem, is that they were on the same side of the pillars as Bale. Some even walk all the way around the pillar just to make for a better reveal, rather than just moving straight for their target.
  • Occurs in The Long Kiss Goodnight, when Mitch appears to deliver his 'ham on rye' line. He has to have been only a few paces behind Sam and the headhunter when they enter the alley but neither they nor the audience sees him.
  • Critters: Brad (Scott Grimes) is on his bicycle in the middle of the woods with his headlight turned on. Charlie, also on a bicycle with the headlight turned on, rides his bicycle into Brad, coming from the right side of the screen. There's no way the two of them would not have seen or heard the other one.
  • Toy Soldiers: Colombians are holding hostages in a school. Two men are in the bell tower. They've been shooting down helicopters and blowing up cars as they approach the school, but in the final battle scene, a Blackhawk helicopter sneaks up to the clock tower. The helicopter was not visible or audible to the Colombians until it rose up from an elevation lower than the clock tower. This would have been impossible.
  • Down Periscope: When Rob Schneider's character is walking the plank, Lt. Lake doesn't seem to notice he's going to fall safely into a fishing net until he actually does so. It should have been hard to miss the giant fishing boat right next to the submarine.
    • To clarify, Pascal (Schneider) is blindfolded, but Lt. Lake is just looking on and reacting as though she isn't in on the trick.
  • In Toy Story 3, there's a scene where several of the toys have to cross to the other side of a garbage dumpster. In the DVD Commentary, the filmmakers point out the toys could have simply walked around the dumpster, so they had had to very carefully set the camera angles on each shot to prevent the audience from realizing that.
  • Played for Laughs at the end of The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood get to the clerk's office, file their paperwork, and save the orphanage. Then the camera turns and about forty police officers and National Guardsmen are right behind them with guns drawn. Jake, Elwood, and the clerk didn't see or hear them come in, despite the fact that they were the opposite of stealthy in the buildup scenes and would have had to break through the Blues's makeshift barricades.
    • In the wide shot, the clerk (played by Steven Spielberg) is seen pointing a gun at the brothers from behind them. Despite the fact that literally a second earlier he was seated on the opposite side of the counter, unarmed.
    • Before that used for a joke similar to the Futurama one mentioned below: after Jake and Elwood have a conversation with a man about booking them for a big event in a steam room, the camera zooms out to show the entire rest of the band sitting orderly just off-screen.
  • In Minority Report, Anderton spends some time examining Crow's apartment before he notices that the bed in the middle of the room is covered in photographs.
  • In the Barney movie, one character is reminded to look both ways before crossing the street. He looks left, sees nothing, then looks right, sees nothing, then looks left again, and sees an entire parade with a marching band and jugglers. Where was the parade the first time he looked left, and how did it arrive so quickly?
  • Variant form in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in the "leap of faith" scene. The viewers cannot see the rock bridge because it's camouflaged against the rock wall of the chasm. But the viewers are watching a two-dimensional image; to the characters in the scene, anyone having binocular vision should be able to easily see the bridge, regardless of its paint scheme. (As a thought experiment, imagine the movie were converted to 3-D; that scene could never be made to work.) It also requires the person to be exactly the right height and standing in the exact middle of the ledge.
  • In Hard to Kill, an assassin sent to kill Segal's character (who is in the hospital) is confronted by a guard demanding to know who he is. He turns to face the guard, as the camera pans down to reveal that he's holding a gun behind his back. This means he was holding the gun behind him when the guard was looking at his back, yet somehow he didn't see it.
  • A simple-yet-trippy editing trick in the faerie scenes in the 1999 Michael Hoffman adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The camera cuts between Oberon and Titania like a conventional dialog scene, but then while Titania is still delivering a line looking off-camera to the left ... Oberon leans out from behind her in the same shot.
  • In the ending minutes of The Warriors, neither the Warriors, nor the Rogues give any indication of ever noticing what seems to be the entire Gramercy Riffs gang - some 100 armed black guys, clad in black karate outfits - approach them across an open beach on a sunny day, until the footage suddenly cuts to the Riffs, revealing them to be standing about ten steps away.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has Scotty walking down a corridor bragging that he knows the ship like the back of his hand before concussing himself on a bit of bulkhead that was jutting out. Not only should he have seen the bulkhead as he approached it, but he was actually looking at it from the corner of his eye right before impact.
  • In GoldenEye, Bond and Natalya are lying in a field having a romantic interlude with nobody around "within 25 miles". Then a squad of marines pops up, forgivable because they are camouflaged... then a group of helicopters appears. They were completely silent and apparently invisible until they were within frame.
  • In The Avengers, Hulk's hilarious smack-down of Loki involves this: Loki is looking straight at the Hulk as the latter begins his 'I am a GOD you dull creature' speech. There is enough distance between them that Loki would be able to see the Hulk's whole figure (so Hulk couldn't make any move without it being seen). But Loki is the only one in shot, and doesn't react until Hulk has already snatched his feet from under him mid-sentence so he can can whip him around like a ragdoll.
  • In 3:10 to Yuma, the eponymous prison train should be visible for miles down the track; it's a train, after all, and it does have a pretty good smokestack on it. Dan should have no trouble telling how soon it'll pull into the station, but it's kept Behind the Black to increase the dramatic tension during the final shootout.
  • Squishy of Monsters University is surprisingly good at doing this. He ends up using this to this advantage when scaring.
  • Wicker Man has every single character in the scene fail to see or hear the truck coming up the street the wrong way. Not even the audience can hear it until it crashes.
  • The Golden Compass has a particularly ridiculous example in the climax; Lyra and the children she's rescuing are facing the enemy mooks in big dramatic rows, an enemy Mook sends his wolf daemon to attack Lyra, it pounces, and gets smashed out of the air by Iorek Byrnison... who is a giant bear wearing loud, clanging armour, yet has somehow managed to get in between the two opposite groups with nobody noticing.
  • Godzilla (2014):
    • Godzilla manages to pull this off several times in despite his enormous size. For instance, during the Honolulu airport attack a helicopter shoots at the M.U.T.O. only to suddenly have to dodge Godzilla's dorsal spikes. Said M.U.T.O. itself doesn't notice Godzilla until he stomps down just a few dozen feet away from him.
    • Particularly egregious with the MUTOs in at least two instances, once when eating the submarine and once when it left a hole in the side of a mountain and was marching on Vegas in broad daylight and no one noticed until looking from the inside of the mountain.

    Live Action TV 
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers have many instances of a Humongous Mecha or giant-sized monster suddenly appearing in the middle of a fight. Typically, the Rangers are just about to be struck down by the monster when the Sixth Ranger stealthily appears out of nowhere in his own Humongous Mecha and parries the monster's would-be killing blow.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Cyberwoman", Ianto and his Cyberwoman love interest talk for approximately 5 minutes without realizing that four people are standing just beyond the screen's edge, until they reveal themselves through action.
  • As this video shows, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Weyoun could apparently only see what was in-frame. Somewhat justified as he explains that he has very weak eyesight, and his attention was with the guy he was talking to. Or he was deliberately treating Damar like a lackey. Or Damar had just entered the room and didn't enter Weyoun's field of view until the camera panned out.
  • In an early episode of Boston Legal, Denny and Alan have a talk about how Denny's so-called son is not in fact so biologically. When the talk ends, they find out said son has been standing there for the whole discussion without either of them noticing it.
    • Also, it was a recurring joke for Denny and Alan to talk about Denny's midget girlfriend Bethany, with Denny saying something wildly inappropriate only to be told by Alan to look down, to find she's been standing just below the shot the whole time. Hilarity Ensues
  • In the season 2 finale of the BBC's Robin Hood, Marian, Robin, and most of the Merry Men have been tied to stakes and left to die in the desert (they're in the Holy Land). They exchange touching farewells at considerable length before being interrupted by an ally who has come to rescue them and who has managed to ride up across the desert, dismount his horse, TETHER HIS HORSE (to...something) about fifteen feet away from them without being noticed by any of them until he speaks and the camera swings round to reveal him. Even though several of them are facing in his direction.
  • Chuck episode 2-14, "Chuck Versus the Best Friend", climaxes with Chuck taking a bomb and driving a car off. The car blows up, and Sarah, naturally, weeps, whereupon Chuck pops up about two feet behind her commenting on how sweet that was. They don't even bother to confirm that he was driving the car via the remote control Chekhov's Gun introduced less than ten minutes earlier.
  • Stargate SG-1 Season 6, in the episode "Nightwalker", a man is trying to follow the team when they notice him. They go down an alley and Teal'c hides behind a wall from the perspective of the camera, but in clear view of the guy following them. The guy runs down the alley, and stops next to Teal'c, who surprises and grabs the guy.
  • In the last episode of Boy Meets World set in high school, Cory and Shawn meet up with Minkus, who hadn't been seen in the show for years. When asked where he'd been the whole time, Minkus points at the camera and says, "Down the hall."
    "We don't go on that side of the school. You go on that side of the school and you never come back. . . "
  • Similar to the Lethal Weapon 3 example above, in Quantum Leap, Sam often leaps into a situation that is far different from what it appears. Several times, he ends up on the set of a play, a movie, or a TV show, leading the audience to believe he's actually in a real-life situation, but when the episode is seen, it's revealed that he's on a TV set (or something similar). The only way this could actually fool Sam is if he was completely blind to everything that is not seen by the camera.
  • Firefly featured an absolutely hilarious example in "Objects in Space" where Jubal Early steps out into an empty hallway and looks one direction; he then turns to look the other way as the camera pans to show a very confuddled Mal staring blankly at the intruder.
    • There's also the end of Shindig where Mal and Inara are talking in the cargo bay, and then the camera moves back a few dozen feet to show a herd of cows, all mooing noisily the moment the audience can see them.
  • An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger had Walker and the bad guy of the week talking to each other (probably trying to out-tough-guy each other) when suddenly Walker is hit in the face with an oar. This clip was shown on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, where Conan pointed out that, in order for that to make sense, Walker must have no peripheral vision.
  • An episode of The Tribe has Jack running down a hallway before Ebony sees him, the second he goes off screen Ebony appears on screen, there is no way they didn't see the other.
  • In Doctor Who the Doctor plays this for laughs after being captured by the Cybermen (though its clear he can see them):
    Doctor: Well, I've been captured, but don't worry Pete and Rose can still rescue me—
    (Pete and Rose appear at the edge of the screen)
    Doctor: —oh well, nevermind.
    • Also, in the episode "The Impossible Astronaut", a school bus drops Amy and Rory off in the middle of nowhere. As the bus leaves, they turn around to — surprise! — find the Doctor and a snazzy red car sitting behind them. However, they would have noticed him there as the bus arrived, if they had simply looked out the window.
    • Played for scares with the Weeping Angels, whose whole schtick is that they cannot move when anyone's looking at them. There are many instances, especially in Blink, where the character quite obviously cannot see them, but they remain frozen nonetheless, and only move when the camera looks away and the viewers cannot see them. Conclusion? The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You... until the middle of series 5, when we do see them move on camera. YMMV if this breaks the effect or not.
      • There's a bit of this in "The Angels Take Manhattan", when Rory turns around to talk to Amy, who's looking at him, only for an Angel to appear and touch him... in full view of Amy, even though the Angel should have turned to stone before it even made it. The exact same thing happens a minute later with Amy being touched in full view of the Doctor and River.
      • Made even worse by the Angel!Statue of liberty somehow managing to make it half way across New York without anyone spotting it.
    • In the opening scene of "Nightmare in Silver", the Doctor and company appear to have landed on the Moon, and he tries to explain to them that it's actually an amusement park ride. A moment later, soldiers surround them by entering through the ride's queue area which clearly has a sign stating it to be the "Spacey Zoomer Ride", an area that had been behind the camera until now but had to have been clearly visible to the Doctor's companions.
  • In Highway To Heaven, this is how Johnathan the angel enters and leaves a room. Other examples include:
    • The episode Alone has Johnathan the angel, Mark Gordon, and a retarded boy walking down a long alley. In the middle of the alley is a boy, both his parents and a car. Neither party notices the other until the camera shows them, which happens when Johnathan, Mark, and the boy are about 15 feet from the others. This is done for dramatic effect. Then, after a discussion, Johnathan uses his angel powers to make himself and Mark disappear. When the boy looks around for Johnathan and Mark, he's surprised they're gone, but he's the only one who is surprised.
    • Sail Away has an inversion of this trope. An old man (Frank) is seeing visions of his dead ex-girlfriend, Gemma, who he hasn't seen in 58 years. At one point, he's walking on the beach when he sees her. Obviously, it's her. She's wearing a green pea coat and has long, flowing hair. Without taking his eyes off her, Frank approaches her, but between camera shots, Gemma is replaced by Johnathan, wearing a leather jacket. At this point, Frank asks Johnathan if he's the only one there and asks him if he's seen Gemma.
  • In the live action adaptation of The Dresden Files, the warden Morgan frequently appears right next to Harry Dresden, sometimes with weapon drawn, in a position that would be impossible to reach without being seen. Harry believes this to be some sort of teleportation, but Morgan himself describes it as using magic to make Harry not see him. In the DVD commentary the creators explicitly state that, with regards to how Morgan appears and disappears without being noticed, "the editor likes him" and cuts away from him whenever he needs to not be seen.
  • In an early episode of Survivor Heroes Vs. Villains, Russel and Boston Rob are discussing strategy on the beach. Russel mentions that it's time to get rid of the weaker members of the Villains tribe. Boston Rob asks who he was thinking of. Russel says, "Well, them", and points to Sandra and Courtney who, as the camera pans out to reveal has been two feet away from them during the entire discussion.
  • On Leverage Parker frequently does this to the point that other characters don't even question her appearing at random.
  • Used in Alphas for an "Invisible Man" character whose Alpha ability is hiding in people's blind spots.
  • Played for Laughs in the Gunslinger episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. After observing a character in the movie engage in Offscreen Teleportation (due to poor editing), the characters do a sketch where Servo explains that he can do this as well by exploiting quantum mechanics. His "teleportation" is clearly just him exiting one side of the screen while another Servo puppet enters from the other side. Nevertheless, Joel and Crow initially look off camera wondering where he went.
  • A particularly egregious example occurs in The Walking Dead, wherein a main character is ambushed by a Zombie. In the middle of a flat, open field, on a full moon, within view of a house.
    • In the episode Prey Andrea is running from a road into some woods to avoid being seen by a car. We see her run up a hill and hide behind the tree with the camera always focused in the direction of the road. We cut to a close-up of Andrea as she rests against a tree with her back to the road; and bam! Suddenly a zombie appears behind the tree and grabbing her through a fork in the trunk. To compound the issue a further three zombies pop up in-front of her, wandering into frame, while she's being grabbed. The viewer should have seen the first zombie, ruining the Jump Scare and Andrea should have seen the zombies directly in-front of her before deciding it was a good time to take a breather.
  • Midsomer Murders' DCI Barnaby manages to pull off this trope from time to time. One notable instance occurs in the Series 7 episode "Sins of Comission".
  • Community pulls a rather funny version of this when Annie is in Abed and Troy's "Dreamatorium"; a small room they basically pretend functions as a holo-deck. While we see the scenery, it's repeated shown that Annie just sees Abed in a room, yet she ends up getting enough into it that she tries to storm off and runs into a wall.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Conquest episode "Undying Dream", Taja uncovers a corpse hanging in a cocoon, stares at it for a few seconds, turns it so that it faces the audience and only THEN reacts with a gasp of dismay.
  • In Death Comes To Town, the mayor's wife comes out of her house to water her plants, remarking on what a beautiful day it is, apparently unaware that her husband had been murdered the previous night. The camera slowly pulls out to reveal his bloodied corpse propped up with his head stuffed in the mailbox at the end of the driveway. She doesn't notice him until just before he's revealed to the audience, despite the fact that she was walking towards him the whole time and would have seen him the moment she stepped out of the house. To add to the (dark) humour of the scene, she starts screaming, at which point two of her neighbours from just out of frame successively pop in and start screaming, making one wonder how they hadn't noticed him either.

    Music 
  • In the music video for Don't let the bells end by The Darkness, Justin gets into a car during a snowstorm... and doesn't realise his sweetheart is sat in the passenger seat until after the wipers clear the snow off the windscreen.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Newspaper comic example: Sally Forth for March 3, 2008: Hilary's friend emerges from Behind The... er, Off-White, in the third panel to deliver some sage advice on how to make Sally feel better. His response? "Was [Faye] there a second ago?"
  • Used in one Garfield strip. Jon is sitting at a table eating, and Garfield's tail can be seen sneaking up on his right. Jon smirks and pulls the food away. Suddenly, the real Garfield pops up on his left side and devours the food, much to Jon's surprise. It is then revealed that the "tail" to Jon's right was a fake that Odie had strapped to his head.
  • Lampshaded in Cow And Boy: "How are we just now seeing this?"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Happens from time to time in wrestling, since the announcers use their monitors when calling the action, so that they'll talk about what the viewers are seeing. This can result in somewhat absurd cases of someone getting into the ring without the announcers even noticing that they're there until the camera angle changes, despite the fact that they're sitting at ringside.

    Video Games 
  • Tales of Symphonia has at least one "hidden passage" that works like this. It's a tunnel that runs through a wall. The overhead camera can't see it at all, but the characters on the ground should be able to. (A semisecret dialogue lampshades it. Lloyd has a line that amounts to "What kind of secret passage was that?")
  • Some Beat Em Ups will hide extra lives and health pickups behind pipes. The character would clearly see it but the player's view is blocked by the pipe. Final Fight 3 has a few.
  • Occurs quite often in Super Mario Bros.. Due to processing limitations, if you can't see an object, it pretty much doesn't spawn or move. You can use this to your advantage if you jump on a Koopa and make its shell move around by moving so far the shell leaves your view, then going back - the shell will be gone.
  • Justified in Super Paper Mario, as Mario is literally two-dimensional and must consciously move into the third dimension to find hidden goodies and avoid certain obstacles.
  • Shows up a few times in Super Mario RPG.
    • Mushroom Kingdom proper has an NPC standing up against the northeast wall of a building... which, thanks to the game's perspective, renders him completely invisible. Fortunately, he's more of an Easter Egg than anything else, as he'll only make meaningless comments about recent events if you manage to talk with him.
    • Far more evil is the secret entrance to Marrymore Chapel, which is located on a wall that faces northeast. When you first show up in the level, the bad guys lock the front door, so you have to either walk around the chapel and press yourself against every wall or read the strategy guide to proceed.
    • Fun, yet sadistic, example: Trampolines are scattered throughout the world of the game. Jumping on them generally launches you to a new area. There are even trampolines indoors—the new areas they launch you to have holes in the floors that you jump up through. By the time you've gotten used to the idea that every trampoline has a hole in the ceiling above it, you come across one in the Moleville Mines that, when used, sends you crashing violently into the ceiling and knocks you unconscious so the recurring minor villain can rob you blind. Naturally, you have to jump on this sooner or later.
    • The sunken ship features a room with a three-dimensional maze in which, due to the game's isometric view, Mario is completely invisible to the player, making it one of the most challenging platforming moments in the game. The room is skippable, provided that you already know the password to reach King Calamari.
  • This is averted in all third-person shooters where the player can rotate the camera around the character and zoom out. This allows the player to see around corners, over obstacles, and other impediments to line of sight without needing to expose the character. Until the game suddenly denies you camera control
    • World of Warcraft upgraded to a slightly more realistic form. You can still turn the camera around to look behind objects, but you can no longer scan for objects using your mouse (which used to show enemies even through solid stone walls).
      • But you can still use a keyboard command to show the lifemeters of all hidden enemies around you, including those below the floor you're on and behind walls.
    • Gears of War gives you the opportunity to not just look but shoot blind around corners and over obstacles. The flipside of being able to do this is that that you have no accuracy, so firing an automatic weapon in this manner is a case of spray-n-pray.
    • In turn-based games that keep track of what your character can see using fog of war, a four dimensional version of this can occur. Characters with enough movement points can pop out from cover, catch a glimpse of something, and return to safety all in the same turn. This often makes it impossible for other entities to react to or even SEE your character.
      • An especially vicious abuse of turn-based games is to perform an action (like taking a potshot at somebody) when you do this. Some editions of Shadowrun allowed heavily enhanced characters to open a door, run in, knife someone, run out, close the door, and lock it in a single turn.
      • Some turn-based games, usually based in some kind of action point model, mitigate this. They use a mechanic, sometimes called overwatch, that allows to use left over action points from your own turn during the enemy's turn, usually as a reaction from detecting an enemy character doing the above.
    • The latest Syphon Filter installments take this to the logical next step. Aside from knowing what's around the corner without actually exposing Logan, you can now pre-aim shots from behind cover! This results in "peek-a-boo" headshots, where the agent will come out of cover, shoot the mook in the head, and duck behind cover in just half a second. Granted, this "pre-aiming" is only effective at close range and in a rather narrow angle of coverage - many situations need the manual aim which requires the player to come out of cover. Still, Dark Mirror and Logan's Shadow takes the omniscience of the third person camera to a whole new level.
      • Also present in Win Back, which -when you sidle up to a corner- allows you to queue up multiple headshots for button-press execution.
    • Some games have very simple cameras. Oni did not push the camera in or clip outside walls, so you could swing it right through walls and see all kinds of things (or block your view with the other side of the wall Konoko's backed up against!). Since this bug wasn't fixed with Halo's 3rd-person vehicle camera, it might be the reason why Halo became a FPS.
    • Perfect Dark Zero and Rainbow Six: Vegas switch to a third person view when you're in cover, and you can pre-aim from here.
  • The Half-Life series tries to stay in a player-controlled first person POV whenever possible. In the commentary, the devs reveal that they sometimes have to work hard to manipulate the player into looking at an important plot point or visually impressive event.
    • Gears of War and a few other games will have a little icon pop up and a button the player can hit that will automatically center their view on the event of interest.
  • In all the platform games, it pays to check whether the screen scrolls even when that seems unlikely. Pharaoh Man's stage in Mega Man 4 is the best example: you're supposed to drop down the hole after the desert section, but if you try walking off the right side of the screen instead, you find more desert (leading to a secret item). Naturally, from Mega Man's perspective, this would be obvious.
  • The Mega Man X games are even sneakier, taking advantage of the fact that your movement through a stage is usually left-to-right; one capsule in X6 is "hidden" off the left side of the screen when you teleport in.
    • Since X can cling to walls, his games do this on the vertical plane as well. What may look like a Bottomless Pit for the player may actually lead to a secret chamber below, hidden only by the screen's limits (but which should be obvious from X's point of view.) Particularly notable in X2, where X needs a helmet upgrade to point out a "secret path" down a pit that he should clearly see into.
    • Similar with one of the sub-tanks and the entrance to Wire Sponge's level.
    • The Mega Man Zero games are particularly fond of hiding things behind foreground layers.
    • The Mega Man ZX series does this also, but gives Model P and Model L special abilities to help find such items.
    • Cyberworld areas in the Mega Man Battle Network series are seen from overhead, but there's no movable camera since battles don't take place there. This allows Capcom to hide items and secrets on lower paths so that the upper paths block your view — and man, they love to do it. These items are staring MegaMan.EXE in the face as he walks by, but he won't say a word. (His movement may tip you off, though; if he walks under a path and doesn't come out the other side, he's probably stuck behind an item.)
      • Also done in the real world, which uses parts of the foreground to hide a background. In 3, there is a hidden speaker that you can jack into, containing a memory up, in the zoo. It's hidden under a ceiling so you would only know it was there by going to the right spot and pressing "A", rather than movement impediment. This is done more times throughout the games. These are easier to spot because the areas that you can't see are smaller so you can just check them, as opposed to online where there are many overlapping roads.
  • Many games with top-down views, such as the older The Legend of Zelda games and Golden Sun, have "secret doors" that are only not visible because of the bird's-eye view the player has.
  • A great deal of isometric games, shot from a slightly slanted angle, will hide hidden characters or chests behind walls, staircases, or the like, waiting for an investigative player to find them.
  • In Illusion of Gaia, Will climbs a set of stairs and walks towards the camera, past a pillar. But wait! On the side of the pillar facing the stairs is a man carrying a Plot Coupon for the Bonus Dungeon! And you can't come back here later in the game to get it...
    • If you're paying attention, you can see this guy scurry behind the pillar as the camera scrolls up to the new room.
  • Resident Evil's camera is known for this. Some areas have cameras in odd angles that result in items and enemies being hidden from the player. Even if, say, it's a giant mutated zombie right in front of the player character two feet away, the camera makes sure it's hidden.
    • It leads to great, fear-inspiring atmospheric affects. In Resident Evil 2, for example, the player must head directly towards the camera, thus obscuring the character's actual view. When it switches to behind the player, you are treated the sight of a window and a scary creepy thing (shortly revealed to be a Licker) crawling by right outside the window!
    • Also worth noting that while enemies off camera are hidden from the camera, they are not hidden from the character. The auto-aim will easily pick up and track threats off camera, and in most games the character will turn his or her head to look at something important.
    • In one part of the B scenario, you turn on a security monitor, revealing that Tyrant has entered the room, and he smashes the camera.
    • Happens with Mendez in the cutscene preceding the Boss Battle with him.
  • In Animal Crossing, during the Harvest Festival, a turkey named Franklin, concerned about whether he was invited to have dinner or to be dinner, hides in different locations in your town... but always to the north of buildings. Sometimes that building is in the acre just south of the Wishing Well, where the festivities are being held. Anyone attending would have a good chance of seeing him.
    • In City Folk and New Leaf, sometimes townsfolk will want to play hide-and-seek with you when you talk to them. When this is happening, you have a set time limit to find him/her and one or two other people somewhere in the town outside of buildings. They generally hide behind buildings and trees, where the player would not be able to see very well in many cases because of the overhead view, even though the character would probably be able to see them in the first person.
  • Final Fantasy IV provides a well-known example of this trope. In a number of dungeons/castles/towns/etc., the character (if he knows to look for it or accidentally just walks into the right wall) will find a hidden passage. Many of the final weapons for the characters are found this way at the end of the game.
  • Final Fantasy V has these same hidden passages, but one of the abilities characters can learn actually lets the player see them as well. Apparently only thieves are capable of noticing gaping holes in walls that run North-South.
  • And the overhead view "hidden passage" trick is back again in Final Fantasy VII, in several caverns and the Nibelheim mansion.
  • The Gundam RPG MS Saga does this in the city of Eisengrad, where there are "secret pathways" that let you get on top of the buildings and find hidden items. These paths are hidden from the player by foreground elements that block one's view of the road, but would be in full view of the protagonist if the game were done in first person.
  • Subverted in Live A Live for the SNES. The hero of the Western chapter and his rival are about to duel... and as they turn around they only turn 90 degrees and shoot two gang members who were hidden by the trees at the bottom of the screen, totally invisible to the player, but totally visible for everyone there.
  • Silent Hill 2 does this on purpose, when the camera switches to show you the second half of a hallway you suddenly realize you are standing right next to Pyramid Head.
    • Another instance in the same area, at some point you go onto the roof, which is wide open and almost completely empty. After finding the door is locked, you walk up to a fence on the side (With the camera pointing right at it) only to be assaulted by Pyramid Head who wanders in from just off screen.
  • Used for a lot of the secret items in Castle Crashers. One even requires you to go "behind the black" with a certain animal before you can get the sword.
  • Used once in Sonic Advance. After the fight with Mecha Knuckles, Eggman is revealed to have been just to the right of where the fight took place. The second he gets scrolled on-screen, he panics and drops the level's animal capsule.
    • In one cutscene from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Dr. Eggman is standing alone, in the middle of a large window. There is nothing in view that could possibly be hiding a person. Sonic asks Eggman where Princess Elise is; the camera zooms in on Eggman, and without moving from his position, he pulls Elise into view from just off-camera.
  • Averted in the first Tenchu: Stealth Assassins game, which despite having a third person viewpoint has a camera which is actually pretty good at only letting you see what your character could realistically see from where he/she is.
  • Super Robot Wars has had to do this a couple of times in games with sequels; the standout example is Alpha 3, with the debut of Gundam SEED. What are we told when a colony cluster full of Designer Babies seemingly springs into existence? "It's always been there, we just never had any reason to pay it any mind."
    • The Alpha series also does this with series that leave and return; for example, the cast of Dancougar explained their absence in Alpha 2 by saying they had been assigned to a different front during that particular war.
  • Very few of the things that are "hidden" in God of War would be hidden to Kratos. They're just hidden from the player by the camera angles. A particularly ridiculous example is in God of War III, where Kratos somehow didn't notice Kronos until he picked him up, despite the titan being several hundred feet tall, shaking the ground with each step, being neither camouflaged nor concealed behind anything and generally being completely impossible to miss if Kratos had simply looked to his left.
    • Also because there's no way to control the camera, any enemy that you can't see can't attack you. And yes, it is possible to use this tactically by deliberately keeping troublesome enemies out of your vision.
    • Part of what made the Hades level in the first game so frustrating was that it wasn't always clear which rotating walkways you had to use to proceed, or which ones led to platforms with power-ups, so you had to test some out that went nowhere. Kratos should have been able to see where to go.
  • Similarly, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl/Platinum contains a "secret" entrance to Wayward Cave which is only hidden because it's under a cycling bridge and you have an aerial view. To make this even weirder it's apparently even unnoticeable to characters within the game, which seems to indicate that everyone sees with an overheard view.
    • Lots of people get stuck on HeartGold and SoulSilver's lighthouse. From an aerial view, you probably would not notice the open window you're supposed to drop through. From a first-person view though... well, it is the only open window in the lighthouse.
  • Shadow Complex absolutely loves this one, for hiding items. A lot of items are simply hidden from the player behind pipes or whatnot, but, given that it's a Metroidvania sidescrolling platformer, these should be completely visible to the protagonist.
  • A few times in the Metal Gear series:
    • In both Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and Ghost Babel, Snake has to identify a female soldier, but due to the eight-bit graphics he's incapable of recognising her as being, well, the only woman on the base. In the case of Ghost Babel, he persuades the woman to give him some way of identifying her:
      Chris: How about my hairstyle? I have long hair tied up at the back.
      Snake: But even amongst the mercenaries there are heaps of guys with long hair.
    • Several times in the text games, Snake can't recognise someone's voice due to it only being written down - such as with Gray Fox's and Big Boss's taunting at the end of Metal Gear 2. In Metal Gear Solid, he can't identify the voice of his best friend, due to this being the first game in which Fox had a voice actor.
    • There's a hint Pliskin gives you during the bomb-defusal early in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty which seems to indicate that the top-down third-person view the player has had since the beginning of the series is actually how player characters in this series see the world.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Pliskin's helicopter pulls a Stealth Hi/Bye on Raiden due to being hidden behind the boundaries of the screen. It's subtly done, but in the director's commentary Hideo Kojima points out that even though Raiden isn't looking at it, the noise real helicopters make is immense, and he'd be able to hear it for miles away. Of course, in game, we only hear it once we can see it.
  • Supreme Commander is an RTS with a massive scale. In the single-player campaign every mission starts in a relatively small area, and then the map expands as the mission progresses. In almost every mission this will reveal that the strategy you were using is totally inappropriate given the new info. Also, enemy units can fire from unrevealed parts of the map; your own units cannot fire back, even though they should be able to see them a few yards away.
  • The Donkey Kong Country series fiendishly uses this concept to make 100% Completion damn near impossible, especially given how many collectible items are in the GBA remakes. Fortunately, Rare was merciful enough to give occasional hints of secrets: that banana is visible through those tree leaves / half-off-screen / in that "bottomless" pit for a reason, and the field of view might gradually pan down / up / ahead, in preparation for a leap of faith.
  • A lot of Shoot Em Ups have the rule of "if it's off-screen, you can't shoot it". In other words, you could be firing everything when the boss is about 100 meters away, but until the boss appears on the screen you can't damage it. Similarly, your movement is limited to what's onscreen; if you're at the edge of the screen and cornered by bullets, you simply can't move further off to the side.
  • Arguably the solution to a puzzle in King's Quest V: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder!: in order to hide from some desert bandits, the player has to position King Graham behind some nearby rocks. It's not impossible for the bandits to fail to look to the side as they enter the cave, but there are places you can stand that will succeed while being clearly untenable in-universe (for example, sticking out halfway from one end.)
    • Space Quest II has pretty much the exact same puzzle, but the cover (a jungle tree) is much larger and therefore it works a bit better.
  • In both Legend of Legaia games, when entering a new dungeon, you'll often see cutscenes giving a general idea of its layout, or the dungeon boss gloating, or other scenes of that nature. These scenes incidentally occasionally reveal treasure chests and side-passages (which lead to more chests) that you might otherwise miss due to the limited camera.
  • Black Sigil has other "hidden" things, but one example stands out. In order to progress through the game, you must open an exit by pressing a switch on one side of the column in the center of the room (the game has a top-side view). Inside the room is also a human skeleton holding a note commenting about how he just can't find the exit. So, basically, this guy died because he couldn't find the super-stealthy-hidden-secret switch.
  • In Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia 2, there is no scrolling, so the camera suddenly shifts to adjacent rooms once the prince moves past the edge of the screen. Naturally, this is rife with opportunities for running into traps that the prince should see right in front of him but the player cannot.
    • The SNES version of the first game even has false walls in many levels (usually concealing valuable items), though because of the tilted z-axis to simulate depth, false walls that must be approached from the right really do look solid from the player's perspective.
  • Lampshaded in zOMG!. When Old Man Logan points out the Windmill to the player, the player replies that they can only see one screen's worth of scenery at a time.
  • The Streets of Rage series have enemies that can cheaply hide off screen or be half exposed on the screen border and yet the player cannot hit them even though the character can clearly see them.
  • In the first Golden Sun game, a bad guy once comes out of hiding from behind a big floating ball of light. Floating. It's unclear how high up it is, but the PC standing right in front of it should definitely have seen at least his feet. There are also some examples of invisible doors on the north of buildings in semi-aerial view.
  • In Suikoden, Fuma, a Highly-Visible Ninja uses the camera to hide from the player.
  • Occurs with offscreen-spawning enemies in FPS games. Conversely, they probably already know your position. Some such games, such as the original Call of Duty, even complain in the console when the player can see where the enemies are trying to spawn from.
  • The second GDI mission of the original Command & Conquer begins with the base you established in the first mission being nearly wiped out by Nod forces coming from a base whose perimeter is literally right next to the northernmost edge of the first mission's operating area. Then again, soldiers in this series typically can't see very far anyway..
  • The Syndicate games involve the agents going into buildings. This game is shot from a bird's eye view above. The game designers thought it would be great to not make the roof disappear so you can actually see what's going on. This results in you just blindly clicking commands for your agents to randomly stumble around the building.
  • The LEGO series of games (Star Wars/Batman/etc...) loves to hide things 'just' out of normal camera range. You can wiggle the camera a little bit to see some of them, but a lot are completely hidden.
  • Used well in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations with the assassin recruits. When they are signalled, they will often appear from just off screen as if they have been hiding out of sight the entire time. In awkward locations or when the camera's moving too much it is possible to see them appear out of thin air, though.
  • DuckTales had several passages to small bonus rooms that were hidden from view by the status bar at the top of the screen. Scrooge could have simply looked up.
  • In the demo for the 2008 game "Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis," the game developers needed to ensure that Watson remain near to the player at all times. Rather than have him follow along by walking, they leveraged this trope by causing him to stand still until he was outside of the player's line of sight, then instantly teleport to the player's side. The result was decidedly creepy, as the player could back away from a distant Watson, then rotate 180 degrees to find him standing at their side.
  • An unusual example in Batman: Arkham City. Batman rescues a criminal late in the game, who stands there musing to himself about the irony. The player must then guide Batman to hack through a locked door right next to him. The games mechanics has the camera zoom in on Batman's face to show his concentration on hacking. The criminal will attack you, but only as long as he isn't in the same camera shot as Batman.
  • Some of the Professor Layton games play with this by having characters who use the black edges of the DS screen to hide, such as Hazel in Unwound Future and Goosey in Last Specter.
  • During one of the flying segments of Kid Icarus: Uprising, two Monoeye enemies move in front of the screen, and Pit yells at the to get out of his way. Even though the Monoeyes were behind Pit and wouldn't have been hindering him at all; it only hurts the player.
  • Ao Oni: The Oni is very fond of using the opaque black text boxes to pop in this way. Played for laughs/parodied mercilessly in Version 6's South Park mode, where Takeshi actually screams at you when you try to talk to him.
  • Many if not most light gun/rail gun shooters use this. No matter how well you're covering your position, mooks will appear right in your face and make it damned near impossible to avoid damage. Lethal Enforcers is seemingly where this started, or at least became prominent.
  • Project X Zone just lives hiding chests and destructible items behind level geography. Fortunately, since the stages are 3D environments and you can wiggle the camera just shy of a quarter-turn from the default isometric angle, it's not too hard to scout each arena thoroughly.

    Visual Novels 
  • Parodied in My Magical Cosplay Cafe:
    You: Yamato-san was right! There are alot of people out here! Except... you can't see any of them in this image because, um... because.

    Web Comics 
  • This Shortpacked! strip lampshaded it.
  • The webcomic Adventurers!! makes fun of the video game version of this trope.
  • In The Order of the Stick, when Nale kidnaps Elan, Roy demands to know why Belkar was eating potato chips instead of protecting Elan. Belkar answers that A: he was dealing with one of Nale's minions, and B: that they were tortilla chips... as he lifts the severed kobold head into the panel, which Squicks Roy (especially when the salsa container is shown). Thing is, Belkar is 3 feet tall, and so any conversations Roy has with him would involve him looking down, at the aforementioned kobold-derived containers.
    • Of course, this being Order of the Stick, it is often intentional. Alternately, from the top, he could mostly only see the tortilla chips. It was only when he raised it up that Roy could properly see what he was eating them out of.
      • Roy failed a spot check yet again.
  • Zoe from Sluggy Freelance seems to have this problem with Sam.
  • One of the main criticisms with the Maltak arc of Dominic Deegan was that despite Maltak being a largely featureless plain, people repeatedly miss obvious things like other people walking up on them, or the context of a loud argument despite being right there, or armies attacking them until they appeared in-panel. Most egregious, however, is when the mountain the orcs were next to ditched them and no one noticed.
  • When Bob of Bob and George sends an army of Robot Masters to kill Mega Man, Mega Man doesn't notice the sheer number of Robot Masters until he orders the camera man to zoom out.
  • The lead in The Cartoon Chronicles of Conroy Cat is taught how to do this trope in this strip.
  • Questionable Content:
    • Elliot tends to quietly loom just out of frame. It's a problem.
    • Faye comments that she hasn't seen Penelope and Cossette for a while (ie, they haven't appeared in the strip lately) only for them to point out they've been just to her left all day.
  • Gengame has a running gag where the characters are foiled by "offscreen blindness." Possibly justified in that it's a video game, though it may just be a case of the comedic tone of the comic dictating the character's actions.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal plays with this trope here.

    Web Original 
  • On one episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd it is revealed that Kyle Justin, who sings the theme song at the beginning of every episode, is actually crouching behind the couch, just out of view, the rest of the time.
    • More precisely, he actually lives back there, on-set but off-screen. 'Cos, you know, the set is all that really exists in a video.
    The Nerd: "Why are you always behind my damn couch anyway?!"
    Kyle: "There are no other couches to go behind!!!"
    • Although, technically, it's more of a futon.
  • Happy Tree Friends has three characters, Handy, The Mole, and Cro-Marmot, doing normal actions off-screen.
  • Parodied on Homestar Runner in the 100th Strong Bad e-mail, "flashback": when Strong Bad turns the view "widescreen" (by literally pushing the edges away), he's shocked to find Homestar behind one edge, giving the page quote.
    • Also, the trope name itself refers to the fact that the website is a flash player surrounded by black background.
  • Seen occasionally in Sevenshot Kid.
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's review of the Digimon movie, he uses a Bat Signal to call upon JesuOtaku to help him review the film. The first attempt was unsuccessful because there weren't any clouds out in the sky. The second attempt is exaggerated, as it doesn't work because he does it in the daytime. Of course, both of these conditions aren't seen by the viewer until the camera cuts to the sky in both attempts.
  • When Donnie Dupre of Demo Reel hunts down Rob Paulsen to get him to sing Yakko's World, Donnie starts backing up down a hallway with the camera facing him, he declares that he will find Rob Paulsen. Then the camera swivels around, and Rob is right in front of him.
  • In To Boldly Flee, Darth Snob fails to notice that Luke is standing next to him out of shot until told, although to be fair he previously mentioned how much the Darth Vader mask restricted his ability to see/hear.
    • Earlier, The Last Angry Geek faked out the Critic this way. It looked like he'd left while Critic was trying to say something... but it turns out, Last Angry Geek was only hiding under the camera's view. Since he was still in the room, the Critic should have seen him.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 9, Sarge reveals the equipment that the Red team are going to use to save the planet from self-destructive earthquakes by drilling into the planet and setting off a bomb in the centre:
    Sarge: And there's the drilling machine!
    (Camera pans 90 degrees to reveal enormous machine right next to the Reds)
    Donut: Wow!
    Simmons: Amazing! You built this all by yourself?
  • Linkara has a running gag originating from his review of Superman At Earth's End, where he shouts "I AM A MAN!" and punches something off-screen. Often, his fist will come back in frame holding something, like his teddy bear, and at one point, Iron Liz.
    Linkara: Liz? Where did you come from...?
    Liz: I... don't know...

    Western Animation 
  • Garfield and Friends episode 7: "Weighty Problem" plays with this a bit. Jon wants to jog west, while Garfield wants, though only "wants" in the loosest sense of the word, to jog east. Jon assumes it's because it's shorter, and jogs off... promptly discovering the real reason when he falls down an open manhole.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has one gangster pursued by the Phantasm falling into a grave that's out of view of the camera because it's over the edge of a hill. However, he should have been able to see it from his point of view. Since it was night this may be a case of Hollywood Darkness, but no one else had any trouble moving around before.
  • Chowder once featured Chowder and Panini hiding behind the same dumpster, alternating which side they were on, and not noticing each other until the camera shift behind the dumpster.
  • One episode of Moral Orel revealed that the opposite side of his father's study (the one the 'camera' would be in) contains a vast, obvious hallway covered in weaponry. Orel says he never noticed it before, and is given the response "It sort of blends into the woodwork"
  • SpongeBob SquarePants once had Plankton stealing a Krabby Patty by replacing it with a cutout even though it was on-screen the entire time, and Krabs fails to notice that it's a cutout until it falls over, even though the facade was only on the opposite side as him.
    • This is Mr. Krabs... The man (crab?) has a grasp of reality about on par with the cardboard cutout.
    • In another episode, Spongebob suspects someone is following him (a jellyfish is, and two guys who want to sell stuff to him), and keeps turning around quickly to catch a glimpse of his pursuer. Each time he does, the jellyfish ducks behind a rock or other piece of scenery. The problem lies in that the camera perspective during this scene is always either behind Spongebob or off to the side of him, and the jellyfish ducks out of the camera's view, which should leave it clearly visible from Spongebob's angle.
    • In "Bossy Boots", Spongebob walks into the kitchen after having to take apart Krabby Patties to create salads (just a slice of tomato and lettuce). It takes him a minute to notice the grill is gone, even though he's been staring right at it.
  • At the end of the direct-to-video Wonder Woman movie, Diana and Steve Trevor leave work, banter for a minute or two, and start to get into a taxi before a police car speeds by with lights and sirens blaring, alerting them to an armed standoff with Cheetah, including over a dozen squad cars, all with lights going, that was taking place directly in front of them for the entire scene.
  • Near the beginning of Disney's Robin Hood, Robin has the Prince distracted while Little John robs him blind. At one point, he cuts a hole in the bottom of a chest and drains its gold coins out. However, there are four rhinoceros guards holding the chest on their shoulders. The only reason they cannot see or hear the seven foot bear in drag under the chest is because they are off screen.
  • Lampshaded in American Dad! when Stan and Steve talk about the current plot in the living room. Francine interjects with a comment as the camera zooms out to show her standing in the doorway. Stan questions how he was completely unaware she was there despite him having a perfect view of the doorway from his present position. When the camera zooms back in to Stan and Steve, Stan starts a sentence, but squints back towards the doorway, as though he's trying to tell if Francine is still there.
    • In another episode, Stan masters the art of the Stealth Hi/Bye, which works even when people are looking right at him, so long as he's just outside the frame. Gets spoofed when he tries it after being psyched out by a car salesman, only for the "camera" to pan over and show him with his head stuffed into the mailbox as he laments that he can't even vanish mysteriously anymore.
    • Roger has a similar version of this ability, being able to change his disguises so fast that all it takes is for the camera to do a closeup on the person talking to him, and when it goes back to a wideshot said person is shocked to find Roger wearing an entirely different outfit.
    • In the episode "With Friends Like Steve's" Stan runs a fingerprint test on his home computer. When the results come up on screen, the shot's positioned in such a way so that Stan's head blocks the portion of the screen saying whose fingerprints they were. Stan then comments that all he needs to do now is move his head so he can see the other side of the screen, and only then does he react to the information displayed.
    • In "Joint Custody", Stan doesn't realize Jeff's standing next to him in the shower.
  • Teen Titans has an interesting example. In "Betrayal" Terra sees Slade's reflection on a mirror, but when she turns around she can't see any sign of him. We're probably meant to believe that Slade simply left the room during the time it took Terra to turn her head, except that there is a very clear shot of Terra looking behind her while the mirror in front of her still shows Slade's motionless reflection.
  • In Megas XLR, Coop, Kiva, and Jamie go to the Speedimart, during which time Megas is towed away for being in a no-parking zone. Nobody notices the 80-foot tall robot is gone until they get to the sidewalk and Jamie points it out.
  • Unintentionally hilarious example in the Rankin-Bass version of The Return of the King. When Gandalf introduces the Minstrel of Gondor (who is standing in the corner of a fairly small room), all of the other characters look surprised. Apparently he was standing there the entire time without being noticed or introduced, just waiting for a cue. He's notably absent in the wide shots.
  • In Tom and Jerry, humans are always shown with their faces offscreen. In one episode this allowed a tiger to stand on its hind legs in front of a crowd pretending to be the Mayor. Nobody noticed, until its painted-on 'suit' was washed away and it dropped back onto all fours.
  • Futurama plays it straight while subverting a similar trope at the same time.
    Bender: Ah, the point is, it's all Morgan's fault. That pencil-pushing scazwag, why, if she were here, I'd... uh oh, is she behind me?
    Morgan: No. I'm in front of you. (camera shifts inches to the right)
    Bender: (shrieks)
    • In "Less Than Hero", when Leela flushes a letter down to her parents in the sewer. The camera pans to Fry and Bender behind her.
    • Yet again in "Bender's Big Score", when in the middle of a conversation Mr. Panucci mentions a seafaring relative. The angle widens to show said relative had been standing behind him the whole time.
    • Also parodied in the very first episode. Bender's (robot) arms fall off, and the camera zooms in to show him putting his own arms back in place...conveniently hiding the impossibility of this—how did he use a detached arm to pick up and attach his other detached arm?—off the edge of the screen.
    Fry: I don't know how you did that!
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, excited characters also have the strange ability to stick their heads in from behind the black, often in positions where they would have to be hovering several feet above the ground. Nobody questions this. Pinkie Pie in particular takes this to ridiculous levels. At one point, it's subverted as she promptly falls down.
    • Originally only Pinkie was able to do this. When other, generic, ponies do it in Winter Wrap Up, Rainbow Dash is definitely surprised by it.
    • It's also taken to a ridiculous extreme in Call Of The Cutie as an entire party appears out of nowhere while the camera is zoomed in on Apple Bloom's face.
    • Also done to a rather extreme in "Bridle Gossip" when Twilight and Spike first duck into Sugarcube Corner with Pinkie Pie. Twilight asks why she's sitting alone in the dark, to which Pinkie replies she isn't. At that, the camera zooms out to reveal all the other mane cast are also in hiding.
    • In "Secret of My Excess" Spike is able to steal everything in Zecora's hut when the camera zooms in on her and Twilight, including a brewing pot in front of them.
    • And now, in "Baby Cakes", Pinkie Pie is looking at the new twins, and phases under the window. In this case, The other ponies notice it.
    • In the 20th episode of season 2 "It's About Time" Twilight Sparkle fails to notice the entrance to the Star Swirl the Bearded wing of the Canterlot Library until Pinkie Pie points out that it is right next to them (just behind the viewer's point of view) right next to where they entered. Twilight Lampshades this by wondering how she could have possibly missed that, though to be fair she had been awake for almost 3 days.
    • In Equestria Games, after melting the giant ice block, Spike pulls an umbrella from just below the bottom of the screen. He opens it to shield himself from the brief downpour, then puts it back where it was, below the bottom of the screen. The camera cuts to a wider shot of Spike in the middle of the field. There's no umbrella, and nothing it could possibly fit behind.
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the Canadian artillery platforms come over the hill, and the camera pans back to reveal many more were already over the hill. The camera then moves over to the American general who expresses surprise, whose reaction is like he didn't see the entire Canadian artillery platoon until the camera panned out to show them all.
    • Played for laughs in the South Park episode "The Coon", where Cartman is pretending to be a Batman-like superhero. When he enters the police station, the cops look away for a second, only for Cartman to disappear and show up behind them. He then shows up in his original location. Then, he shows up a few feet to his left, with the cops apparently unaware until the camera pans to reveal him.
    • Used later in the episode "City Sushi", where Tuong Lu Kim (owner of City Wok) has failed to notice that a sushi restaurant has been built and opened right next door to his restaurant until Butters gives him a flyer for it.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Rabbit Fire", after Bugs and Daffy duck into a rabbit hole to avoid Elmer, Bugs pops up and says that using an Elephant Gun to shoot at rabbits is unfair, and Elmer should go shoot at elephants. The camera pulls out to show an angry-looking elephant, who apparently came out of nowhere, is suddenly standing behind Elmer, warning him in no uncertain terms not to even think about it.
    • This is generally just something Bugs can do. His antagonist will, thinking they got the better of him, turn their back on Bugs, only for Bugs to now be in front of him, ready for more, yet they never react until Bugs is on-screen, and often mutter to themselves for a moment or two before he appears.
  • In one episode of Arthur, D.W. is looking directly at her friend Emily, but somehow doesn't notice that her ears have turned green until the camera pulls back.
  • Humorously used in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Third": Darwin is looking at his reflection in a window, sees what he thinks is Gumball's reflection, turns around, and stares offscreen for several seconds until Gumball points out that he's not there but rather outside, on the opposite side of the window.
    • Whether the characters see Teri in full or as a nearly invisible line is based on her visibility to the audience, even when the character's position should give them a line of sight perpendicular to the audience's.
  • Cow and Chicken revealed on few occasions that Mom and Dad have no upper parts, but for most time the camera only showed them from waist down, or the rest was obscured by something in the foreground. However, they must have clearly been exposed to everyone else in the show, and somehow nobody had any problem with two pairs of legs walking around.
  • Similar to the Spongebob one, Jimmy Two-Shoes has a similar scene but decides to subvert it to the surprise of the viewer. When Heloise is on a date with Peep in the movie theater and Jimmy is sitting behind them and seething, Peep ducks under the chairs to raid them off gum. Heloise quickly pulls out a card-board cut out of him and places him in the chair and pretends she's laughing at a joke he just told. Cue Jimmy's comment:
    Jimmy: "Aw, even his card-board cut out is funnier than me!"
  • In the ReBoot episode "Nullzilla", Bob and his friends fail to notice the giant Null monster until Mike pointed it out.

    Real Life 
  • Averted By Real Life: Conceptual or inattentional blindness, where a person engaged in one or more attention-grabbing activities fails to see something which is also present, means for most humans, quite a lot of things are Behind the Black. Experiments on this concept have had experiment subjects fail to notice the sudden appearance of a gorilla, or in another experiment a clown on a unicycle, when they were focused on the other elements of the experimental videos.
  • Probably Older Than They Think; a slight subversion of this was used in traditional Japanese theatre in that you weren't supposed to pay attention to the black-clothed prop hands. This is where the stereotypical black ninja getup comes from, since the best way for a guy to hide is to pretend to be one of said stage hands, and then flip out and kill people.
    • Still in practice, as stagehands will either be in all-black or costumed to blend in with the actors.
      • Colloquially known as "ninjas," incidentally.
      • It was used very effectively in the stage production of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre. The daemons were represented by (rather beautiful) puppets, which were operated by black-clad puppeteers. In the scene where Lyra has to summon her Death, Pantalaimon's puppeteer stands up, removes his mask and announces that he is her Death.
      • Similarly, in stage productions of War Horse, the horse puppets are operated by puppeteers costumed to fit in with the cast. Even though it requires three of them to operate the puppets of the adult horses, after a while the audience simply stops seeing them.
    • Long time bunraku puppeteers work while clearly visible. Audiences that are watching the play find them very easy to ignore, even though they're three times the size of the actors and looming over them. Less experienced workers do wear the all black costume to make themselves less visible.
      • A combination of both the aforementioned tropes is Kankuro, one of the few ninja in Naruto who dresses like a traditional 'stagehand-style' ninja. And what's his specialty? He's a Puppeteer.
  • Any recorded program that features skits involving the changing of wigs, costumes, or hats. The live audience can see what's going on, but the cameras make sure the viewers at home can't.
    • Same for some in-the-round plays, where you may see actors changing costumes or operating scenery/props in the darkness just off-stage, but you're supposed to pretend you don't. The play and musical Vanities subverts this trope by having the cast change costumes, makeup, and wigs(in some productions) in full view of the audience. With literal vanity desks, hence the name.
  • Many magic tricks on television are blatantly made for TV only. In other words, if you were a live witness to it, you are most likely in on the trick. A lot of tricks involve mirrors positioned just perfectly for the camera angle. The worst are "levitation" tricks that barely allow the camera to look at the actual levitation (he's starting to float, time to view the audience's reaction!).
    • Probably the most blatant example of this however, came in one of those "Masked Magician" specials, where the titular magician made a tank disappear. The trick was accomplished by covering the camera and then shifting it 20 feet to the right.
      • But then, the Masked Magician devises tricks specifically to showcase particular magic trick techniques.
    • Another obvious example is in Criss Angel Mindfreak when the titular magician "walks on water", i.e. a piece of clear plastic suspended at water level. Everyone in the pool had to be in on it.
  • A lot of location filming carefully frames the shot to conceal objects that shouldn't be there, let's say for instance a production of Robin Hood set in an authentic-looking Sherwood Forest - next door to a parking lot.


Answer CutThis Index Happened Off ScreenBottomless Bladder
    Invisibility IndexChameleon Camouflage
Author PowersMetafiction Demanded This IndexBetter than a Bare Bulb
Rule of PerceptionSpectacleScenery Porn
Behind a StickA Safe Index To HideCeiling Cling
Beeping ComputersRule of PerceptionBishonen Line
Antiquated LinguisticsImageSource/WebcomicsCuteness Overload

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