I experimented with photo filters to see I could make an invisibility effect.
Is it possible to become invisible?
I was experimenting with displaying my webcam in a browser and adding color filters. The first thing I tried was switching the RGB colors. Switching red and blue could make a blue shirt look red on camera.
With some picture filters I could alter the brightness, rotate the hues and alter the contrast. One of the filters I added could hide colors. Only show blue and only your blue shirt shows on your computer screen.
I wanted to see if I could make an invisibility effect that would make me invisible on camera. So I started an invisibility experiment. The goal was to see through objects by making them transparent.
- I could hide colors in a video while it was playing.
- I could hide colors from my webcam display.
- I could record a new video with transparent images.
- I could play a video in the foreground and another underneath.
- I made an invisibility effect.
- I became invisible on screen.
How to Make an Image Transparent
It is possible to get the color for each pixel in an image. After storing the information in a variable you can change the red, green, blue and opacity values. Set the opacity to 0 and it becomes invisible.
Making part of a picture transparent is like cutting a whole in it. When you put it on top of another image you will see the background image behind it where the holes are. Change the transparency by using a graphics program designed for editing pictures.
You can see through a window or a thin white t-shirt. In digital images there is an opacity range of 255 to 0. Most transparent images are created by erasing the background but the range allows you to create semi-transparent colors. The effect is similar to colored glass.
Foreground and Background
To make something invisible you need to display a foreground and a background. Record a video. Then play the video while displaying the webcam to combine the images. The transparency should be added to the foreground so it is on top of the background. For a live demonstration add the transparency to the webcam display while a loaded video is displayed in the background.
The advantage of making a transparent video and using the live image as the background is that the filter is not running while it is displaying the webcam and playing a video. The filter checks every pixel for every frame. That was 1,228,800 pixels for each frame for my webcam. If your computer does not do it fast enough then the video will be choppy.
Choosing a Color
Covering parts of an image is fairly easy. The hardest part is picking the right colors. Objects and people tend to be different colors. Things that are the same color may appear to be different colors depending on the way the light hits it. When you try to hide an object you may find other things in the picture are missing.
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To make it easier start by using bright colors. For my test I used a red towel.
Another option is to change the global opacity so the whole picture is semi-transparent. Everything is still visible but you can see the background image underneath. The two pictures merge together. It is an easy way to make ghost images.
A Working Invisibility Cloak
Turn a regular cloak into a working invisibility cloak using a webcam and a computer program. When you wear the cloak the parts covered by the selected colors will be hidden. It can be as easy as putting on the cloak and and clicking a color filter. If you don't have a cloak you could use a large towel or rain coat. The color matters more than than object you are using.
Get out of the way and record the background you want without any filters. Load the video and have it play in the background. Filter the live webcam video so the cloak is invisible. Wear the cloak or put it in front of you to become invisible. When you look at your computer display it should look like the camera is looking through you like you are not there.
Creating a similar invisibility effect in the real world is possible but not very practical and it could be expensive. You would need a screen in front of you that shows what is behind you. Wearing a flat screen TV might work but I don't recommend it. Moving around would be difficult and you could scratch the screen.
The Invisible Man
Five months after I figured out how to become invisible on camera there was another invisible man movie. In previous films and TV shows the scientist drinks a potion or injects themselves with a serum that alters their body. Another method seen in sci-fi shows involves bending light around the subject.
In The Invisible Man movie released in 2020 a wealthy scientist used a suit with hundreds of tiny cameras and display screens to become unseen. Using cameras and screens is the easiest, safest and most realistic way to become an invisible man or woman.
What would you do? As an effect I recommend using it to make images and videos. Becoming invisible in real life would probably end badly. Most peope don't hide their identity to do good deeds unless they are donating money. It is hard to think of nice ways to use it.
I used two methods to make things invisible. The first method was to change the transparency of the pixels. You can see the canvas background color where the hidden pixels are. The second was to copy the background image onto the foreground image.
You might think the things you don't see are not there. If it is hidden because it is transparent then you or someone else could bring it back. The colors and transparency are still there when you record the video. Increasing the transparency might reveal everything.
When I typed 'invisible filter' into the Google search box the first terms it displayed were remover, fail and remove. People search for ways to remove filters. Think before you post. Most picture filters are supposed to be fun. The programmer probably did not test to see if the effect could be reversed.
Don't post videos or pictures that still contain images you don't want people to see.
Challenges and Ideas
- Become invisible using an invisibility cloak or towel.
- Make a whole in your chest by making it see-through.
- Levitate by sitting on an unseen object
- Do the invisible box challenge with an invisible step stool or box.
- See through a wall or clothes using x-ray vision. I did a background video with my shirt off. Then I put my shirt back on. When I made my shirt transparent it did an x-ray vision effect.
- Make a green screen. Find or make a background that you can turn invisible and only record yourself. Then add yourself to videos or a webpage.
- Become partly out of phase like a ghost. So you are visible but see-through.
- Create a spooky shadow person effect.
- Make it look like you moved or levitated an object without touching it.
- Hide your body but show your clothes.
Invisibility Experiment Results
I was able to achieve partial invisibility. Becoming partly invisible by hiding colors was easy but becoming completely invisible is harder. The program I made works. My problem was that it was difficult to find objects that appeared to be the same color. Hold up a red towel and it has wrinkles and edges that look different from the rest of the towel.
Based on my results becoming fully invisible on screen by covering colors is possible. You just need good lighting and an object or material that appears to be the same color
Making everything transparent is easier. The colors and the lighting do not matter. I just went outside, placed my camera on the wood pile and recorded a video. Then I used it to make a see-through ghost effect. Later I used the same video for a shadow man effect.
It is not very practical but becoming invisible on screen can be fun and you can make some nice videos and images. A picture or video of me being completely transparent would look the same as it would without me. If you and your clothes are not visible then something should be visible that you can move.
When I set the filter to only show blue I did not show up in the video at all. I put on a pair on blue jeans so you could tell I was there.
Can You See Me?
Using edge detection allows you to only show the edges of an object. The effect looks similar to a drawing an outline. By itself it reminds me of a cartoon sketch that has not been filled in. When used with a background it is good for making ghost pictures or videos. You could also use it to become an invisible man or woman.
The foreground only shows the edges. The background shows the full unfiltered images. Objects that were in both look the same. Things that are just in the foreground will be partially invisible or transparent. As I mentioned before, partial invisibility is better than full invisibility for pictures and videos.
An obvious barely visible effect works better than being hard to spot.
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All of the image and video effects were made using a color filter for photos. The program is on an HTML web page. So it opens in a web browser like Google Chrome. You will be prompted to give the program permission to use your webcam and microphone.
Press 'Background' to move the webcam to the background. Choose video to load a video or picture. Uncheck 'Hide' to only show the selected color. For the invisible in jeans video I only showed black and blue. Uncheck 'PNG' if you want to save the photos as JPEGs. You may need to alter the color values to get the results you want.
Start by loading 2 images with the same background and checking a color or unchecking hide. Then try out the other options. The green screen tries to separate the background from the foreground by matching colors. It detects differences in the photos.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Michael H