I'm trying to blur a portion of a video using FFmpeg (specifically to blur a face).

I have been trying to use a combination of timeline editing and the various bluring filters, but I cannot find a way to blur only a section of the video.

I'm hoping for something like:

-vf boxblur=enable='between(t,10,100)':width=20:height=20:x=400:y=200

Where width/height is size of blurred box and x/y are location of blurred box.

Is something like this possible?


It is possible to apply temporal and spatial blurring to a segment/section – assuming the area you want to blur is a static location.

Black lab pup
Original black lab pup image.

Using a mask image

enter image description hereenter image description here
Grayscale PNG mask image and resulting blurred image.

You can make a grayscale mask image to indicate the area to blur. For ease of use it should be the same size as the image or video you want to blur.

Example using alphamerge, boxblur, and overlay:

ffmpeg -i video.mp4 -i mask.png -filter_complex "[0:v][1:v]alphamerge,boxblur=10[alf];[0:v][alf]overlay[v]" -map "[v]" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -movflags +faststart maskedblur.mp4
  • The white area is where the blur will occur, but this can easily be reversed with the negate filter for instance: [1:v]negate[mask];[0:v][mask]alphamerge,boxblur=10[alf]...

  • You could use the geq filter to generate a mask such as a gradient.

Blur specific area (without a mask)

Black lab pup with blur effect

ffmpeg -i derpdog.mp4 -filter_complex \
 "[0:v]crop=200:200:60:30,boxblur=10[fg]; \
  [0:v][fg]overlay=60:30[v]" \
-map "[v]" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -movflags +faststart derpdogblur.mp4

Note: The x and y offset numbers in overlay (60 and 30 in this example) must match the crop offsets.

What this example does:

  1. Crop the copy to be the size of the area to be blurred. In this example: a 200x200 pixel box that is 60 pixels to the right (x axis) and 30 pixels down (y axis) from the top left corner.
  2. Blur the cropped area.
  3. Overlay the blurred area using the same x and y parameters from the crop filter.

Multiple blurs over specific areas (without a mask)

enter image description here
Blurred areas in top left, near center, and bottom.

"[0:v]crop=50:50:20:10,boxblur=10[b0]; \
 [0:v]crop=iw:30:(iw-ow)/2:ih-oh,boxblur=10[b1]; \
 [0:v]crop=100:100:120:80,boxblur=10[b2]; \
 [0:v][b0]overlay=20:10[ovr0]; \
 [ovr0][b1]overlay=(W-w)/2:H-h[ovr1]; \

Specific area not blurred (without a mask)

enter image description here


Additional stuff

  • Thanks so much for your response. That all makes great sense. As a side note, it also made the split filter make sense finally! Also, could it be possible through arithmetic expressions to dynamically move the blurred box around the image? I.E. for the purpose of blurring someone's face as they move in a non-linear fashion? – occvtech Apr 15 '15 at 21:49
  • Thanks again! I'll take a crack at it. I know that a non-linear editor would be 1000 times easier here, but I'm hoping to batch process multiple files and don't want to wait through the import/key frame/export process. Thanks again! – occvtech Apr 16 '15 at 15:11
  • 1
    does FFMPEG offer other shapes besides boxes, such as circles? – Sun Sep 23 '15 at 16:09
  • @LordNeckbeard I'm using cmd and I want to use Example 1 but when I execute the code I get this error Unrecognized option 'filter_complex[0:v]crop=200:200:60:30,boxblur=10[fg];[0:v][fg]overlay=60:30[v]-map [v] -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -movflags +faststart output.mp4'. Error splitting the argument list: Option not found – Jim May 3 '17 at 18:10
  • 1
    @Jim I noticed that my example command was missing a quote. You command should look something like this: ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -filter_complex "[0:v]crop=200:200:60:30,boxblur=10[fg]; [0:v][fg]overlay=60:30[v]" -map "[v]" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -movflags +faststart output.mp4 – llogan May 3 '17 at 19:51

For whose which didn't get how to specify a duration, here's an example

ffmpeg -i derpdog.mp4 -filter_complex \
 "[0:v]crop=200:100:60:30,boxblur=10:enable='between(t,60*2,60*2+10)'[fg]; \
  [0:v][fg]overlay=60:30[v]" \
-map "[v]" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -movflags +faststart derpdogblur.mp4

The blur will appear at the x=60, y=30 with a width=200, height=100 from second=120 to second=130


For the case when one dislikes the sharp edge of the blurring, I made a script that layers different stages of blurring so that the edge is not sharp and it looks like this:Softly_blurred_image

Instead of this:Original image

It is a python script:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
import os,stat
def blur_softly(matrix,video_in="video_to_be_blurred.mp4",video_out=""):
    if video_out == "":
        video_out = video_in[:-4] + "_blurred" + video_in[-4:]
    s0 = "ffmpeg -i " + video_in + " -filter_complex \\\n\"[0:v]null[v_int0]; \\\n"
    s1 = ''
    a = 0
    for m in matrix:
        blur = m[6]
        multiple = m[7]
        width = m[0]+blur*multiple*2
        height = m[1]+blur*multiple*2
        x_cord = m[2]-blur*multiple
        y_cord = m[3]-blur*multiple
        timein = m[4]
        timeout = m[5]
        step = m[8]
        margin = m[9]
        for i in range(blur):
            ii = multiple*i
            s0 = s0 + "[v_int0]crop="+str(width-2*ii+(margin//2)*2)+":"+str(height-2*ii+(margin//2)*2)+":"+str(x_cord+ii-margin//2)+":"+str(y_cord+ii-margin//2) + \
            ",boxblur="+str((i+1)*step)+":enable='between(t,"+str(timein)+","+str(timeout)+ \
            ")',crop="+str(width-2*ii)+ ":"+str(height-2*ii)+":"+str(margin//2)+":"+str(margin//2)+ "[blur_int" + str(i+1+a)+"]; \\\n"
            s1 = s1 + "[v_int"+ str(i+a) +"][blur_int"+str(i+a+1)+"]overlay="+str(x_cord+ii)+":"+str(y_cord+ii)+":enable='between(t,"+str(timein)+","+str(timeout)+ ")'[v_int"+str(i+a+1)+"]; \\\n"
        a += i+1
    s = s0 + s1 + "[v_int"+str(a)+"]null[with_subtitles]\" \\\n-map \"[with_subtitles]\" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -crf 17 -preset slow -y "+video_out+"\n"
    file_object = open('blur.sh', 'w')
    st = os.stat('blur.sh')
    os.chmod('blur.sh', st.st_mode | stat.S_IXUSR | stat.S_IXGRP | stat.S_IXOTH)
matrix = [[729,70,599,499,14.96,16.40,25,1,1,90],]

You can change the parameters in the last and penultimate lines, the last two parametres between quatation marks are path to your video and output video (assuming they are placed in the working directory). In the penultimate line:

  • the first two numbers indicate the size of the initial area to which maximum blur will be applied,
  • the second two indicate the x and y coordinates thereof (top left corner),
  • the third two indicate the times in seconds when the blurring should be applied,
  • "25" in this example indicates that there will be 25 boxes applied on top of each other)
  • the next "1" indicates that bigger boxes with less blurr should be just one pixel wider than their predecessors
  • the second "1" indicates that blurring should increase by one until until maximum of 25 (from above)
  • "30" indicates the margin that is taken into consideration for applying the blur, so increasing this makes the blur respect more of its surrounding. Increasing this value also solves error texted like Invalid chroma radius value 21, must be >= 0 and <= 20

By running it, one should get an output like the following (it gets written to a filethat can be run and printed on the output that can be copypasted and run):

ffmpeg -i video_to_be_blurred.mp4 -filter_complex \
"[0:v]null[v_int0]; \
[v_int0]crop=869:210:529:429,boxblur=1:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=779:120:45:45[blur_int1]; \
[v_int0]crop=867:208:530:430,boxblur=2:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=777:118:45:45[blur_int2]; \
[v_int0]crop=865:206:531:431,boxblur=3:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=775:116:45:45[blur_int3]; \
[v_int0]crop=863:204:532:432,boxblur=4:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=773:114:45:45[blur_int4]; \
[v_int0]crop=861:202:533:433,boxblur=5:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=771:112:45:45[blur_int5]; \
[v_int0]crop=859:200:534:434,boxblur=6:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=769:110:45:45[blur_int6]; \
[v_int0]crop=857:198:535:435,boxblur=7:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=767:108:45:45[blur_int7]; \
[v_int0]crop=855:196:536:436,boxblur=8:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=765:106:45:45[blur_int8]; \
[v_int0]crop=853:194:537:437,boxblur=9:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=763:104:45:45[blur_int9]; \
[v_int0]crop=851:192:538:438,boxblur=10:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=761:102:45:45[blur_int10]; \
[v_int0]crop=849:190:539:439,boxblur=11:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=759:100:45:45[blur_int11]; \
[v_int0]crop=847:188:540:440,boxblur=12:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=757:98:45:45[blur_int12]; \
[v_int0]crop=845:186:541:441,boxblur=13:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=755:96:45:45[blur_int13]; \
[v_int0]crop=843:184:542:442,boxblur=14:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=753:94:45:45[blur_int14]; \
[v_int0]crop=841:182:543:443,boxblur=15:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=751:92:45:45[blur_int15]; \
[v_int0]crop=839:180:544:444,boxblur=16:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=749:90:45:45[blur_int16]; \
[v_int0]crop=837:178:545:445,boxblur=17:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=747:88:45:45[blur_int17]; \
[v_int0]crop=835:176:546:446,boxblur=18:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=745:86:45:45[blur_int18]; \
[v_int0]crop=833:174:547:447,boxblur=19:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=743:84:45:45[blur_int19]; \
[v_int0]crop=831:172:548:448,boxblur=20:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=741:82:45:45[blur_int20]; \
[v_int0]crop=829:170:549:449,boxblur=21:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=739:80:45:45[blur_int21]; \
[v_int0]crop=827:168:550:450,boxblur=22:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=737:78:45:45[blur_int22]; \
[v_int0]crop=825:166:551:451,boxblur=23:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=735:76:45:45[blur_int23]; \
[v_int0]crop=823:164:552:452,boxblur=24:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=733:74:45:45[blur_int24]; \
[v_int0]crop=821:162:553:453,boxblur=25:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)',crop=731:72:45:45[blur_int25]; \
[v_int0][blur_int1]overlay=574:474:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int1]; \
[v_int1][blur_int2]overlay=575:475:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int2]; \
[v_int2][blur_int3]overlay=576:476:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int3]; \
[v_int3][blur_int4]overlay=577:477:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int4]; \
[v_int4][blur_int5]overlay=578:478:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int5]; \
[v_int5][blur_int6]overlay=579:479:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int6]; \
[v_int6][blur_int7]overlay=580:480:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int7]; \
[v_int7][blur_int8]overlay=581:481:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int8]; \
[v_int8][blur_int9]overlay=582:482:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int9]; \
[v_int9][blur_int10]overlay=583:483:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int10]; \
[v_int10][blur_int11]overlay=584:484:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int11]; \
[v_int11][blur_int12]overlay=585:485:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int12]; \
[v_int12][blur_int13]overlay=586:486:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int13]; \
[v_int13][blur_int14]overlay=587:487:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int14]; \
[v_int14][blur_int15]overlay=588:488:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int15]; \
[v_int15][blur_int16]overlay=589:489:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int16]; \
[v_int16][blur_int17]overlay=590:490:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int17]; \
[v_int17][blur_int18]overlay=591:491:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int18]; \
[v_int18][blur_int19]overlay=592:492:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int19]; \
[v_int19][blur_int20]overlay=593:493:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int20]; \
[v_int20][blur_int21]overlay=594:494:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int21]; \
[v_int21][blur_int22]overlay=595:495:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int22]; \
[v_int22][blur_int23]overlay=596:496:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int23]; \
[v_int23][blur_int24]overlay=597:497:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int24]; \
[v_int24][blur_int25]overlay=598:498:enable='between(t,14.96,16.4)'[v_int25]; \
[v_int25]null[with_subtitles]" \
-map "[with_subtitles]" -map 0:a -c:v libx264 -c:a copy -crf 17 -slow preset -y video_to_be_blurred_blurred.mp4
  • If anybody knows about a easier way to achieve blury edges, I would be interested. Also, this is rather slow. – sup Feb 22 '19 at 9:46
  • Apply a box blur to the mask before merging it. – Gyan Feb 22 '19 at 10:45
  • @Gyan What do you mean? I think I am doing that already. – sup Feb 23 '19 at 11:26
  • Anyway, I improved the code further on, I am still not sure I am doing what you recommended. – sup Feb 24 '19 at 13:43
  • How about using an image mask, as in @llogan's answer? – Ondra Žižka Mar 3 at 2:46

Since you are asking specifically about blurring a face in a video, not blurring a region using ffmpeg:

There's the Deface project which splits video into frames, detects faces using OpenCV and a trained neural network, and applies a blur to those places.

Blurred faces sample image

The results are so-so, it is not usable for any serious anonymization where it really matters, because there are a lot of false negatives. But there is a clearly visible unobstructed face not at the edge of the video, it does the job.

A few simple improvements of Deface could fix the false negatives/positives, see the project's tickets. So if you happen to be a programmer, I encourage you to fork and implement those :)

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