Naked bodies, naked bodies, whatcha gonna do? You’re gonna blur them, that’s what! COPS post producer Mitsuo Goto is the man who keeps this 25-seasons-old Fox docuseries (mostly) respectable with the magic of pixelation. Here, the cover-up artist – who’s been with COPS since season 7 – talks about the types of imagery that require his attention, how much butt crack he can show, and the strangest thing he’s ever had to obscure.
What does he blur?
Whatever Fox’s standards-and-practices department deems unacceptable, which is usually nudity and overly graphic wounds. For legal reasons, license plates, credit-card info, phone numbers, faces of people who don’t sign releases to appear on camera, and undercover cops also get digitized. Per Fox’s instructions, he obscures brand logos. (A gas station clerk standing in front of a cigarette display = a lot of little blurs.) Blurs, he says, are used instead of black bars because they are less intrusive. “The blur blends into the background, so the story will not be disrupted,” explains Goto. “Our job is to be as natural as possible.” For the record, a tricky one-minute blur on-screen could take up to five hours to complete.
How much butt crack is too much butt crack?
“Any crack,” Goto replies. “If it’s a little crack, I try to match the skin tone of the crack [to make it] look like one big butt without a crack.
If it’s a big crack, we have to do it ‘edge to edge’—I need to blur part of the leg.” (He says Fox allowed COPS to be slightly more revealing before Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. Since then the show has, uh, cracked down.)
Does technology make his job easier or harder?
Both. Computer tracking can help him pixelate moving objects in about half the time, as he used to have to paint frame by frame. On the downside, the show’s switch to high-def in season 21 meant that people and objects in the background became much clearer, requiring more blur work.
What other tricks of disguise does he employ?
“Cloning” comes in handy. “This transvestite was wearing a really, really mini skirt, so we could see most of the panties,” recalls Goto, “so I cloned the skirt portion to make the miniskirt a little bit longer and hide the panties.”
Who’s harder to blur: an angry drunk or a crazed drug addict?
“Addicts move fast…but a drunk man can move unexpectedly,” says Goto, before quipping, “Whoever keeps their pants up is easier.”
What’s the weirdest thing he’s ever had to blur?
Belly is an honorable mention. Once in a while, an obese man will have a stomach that hangs so low, it technically covers his genitals, but Goto will wind up blurring the bottom portion of the guy’s paunch anyway. “Standards-and-practices thinks that’s naked enough,” he explains.
But here’s your winner: In a prostitution case from season 11, the police entered a house and the cameras captured a shirtless man lying on the floor with a yapping Chihuahua on his back. “It was a funny shot, so Fox used it in on-air promotion,” he remembers. “And then the same guy called Fox and said, ‘This dog is an actor, and he has an agent, and I didn’t sign a release for him.’ ” Goto had to reopen the episode and blur the Chihuahua’s face, and even obscured another barking dog in the room. Watch his canine cover-up below.