How to add subliminal messages in movies

Written by nick grimes
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How to add subliminal messages in movies
Splice subliminal messages into movies for an uncanny effect. (film image by saied shahinkiya from

The editing suite gives filmmakers access to a host of tricks to enhance their movies after shooting has wrapped. Jump cuts can lend footage a sense of urgency and speed ramping can give your movie the look of Hollywood movies such as "The Matrix" and "300." Another trick is interspersing subliminal images, as seen (or not seen) in pictures such as "The Exorcist" and "Fight Club." This is where an image flashes onscreen so quickly that the viewer doesn't know they saw it, provoking unconscious feelings of unease.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Computer with editing software
  • Video footage

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  1. 1

    Open the movie in which you wish to add a subliminal message in an editing program such as "Final Cut Pro" or "Adobe Premiere."

  2. 2

    Open the program's "File" menu and choose "Import." Navigate to the image or footage that you wish to splice subliminally into your film. If you're using written text, use a program such as "Paint" or "Adobe Photoshop" to create a still graphic containing the text in your desired font, size and colour, then save this graphic and open it in your film editing program.

  3. 3

    Open your subliminal video or graphic in the program's editing window and set an in-point at the place where your desired subliminal image is displayed. If you're using a still image, the in-point can be any point on the time-line.

  4. 4

    Skip forward over one frame then set the out-point at the next frame. Your subliminal image should now have a run-time of two frames, which is displayed as "00:00:00:02" in an hour-minute-second-frame time-line readout. Any longer and viewers will recognise the image; any shorter and it will be lost in compression.

  5. 5

    Drag your subliminal message onto the point on the timeline where you want it to appear. Subliminal images placed in the cut between two other images have a subtly perturbing effect; placing a subliminal image in the middle of a shot, breaking the flow, is more jarring but also easier to spot, especially on a smaller screen.

  6. 6

    Open the "File" menu and select "Export" to output your movie with the subtle message.

Tips and warnings

  • If using subliminal text, short high-impact words work best. Placing a full paragraph of text on a screen for two seconds does nothing for viewers, even subconsciously. Images should be similarly simplistic, but you can choose an image with colours and subject matter that blend with the surrounding shots or stand out to jolt the viewer, depending on the effect you want to create in your film.

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