Activision Is Looking To Hire A Professional Screenshot Faker

As someone who relies on friends to recommend games after they’ve been out for awhile, I’d never heard the term “bullshot,” but now that I have, it makes perfect sense. It refers to a promotional screenshot that looks, um, a little too good… as if it had been… doctored somehow…

Technologizer says that Activision is looking to hire someone to create these bullshots full time:

In a job posting for “Art Services Screenshot Associate,” one of the listed duties is to perform “advanced retouching of screenshots and teach skills to others as needed.” You might want to cast a skeptical eye when images surface for the next Wolfenstein, Call of Duty and James Bond titles.

Activision Looking for “Bullshot” Artists [Technologizer]


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  1. nicemarmot617 says:

    I do this at my job. Of course, for my company it’s just to show what things will look like when they’re done, rather than pretending they’re nicer than they are. I’d think doing it fulltime would be rather boring, though.

  2. Courteous_Gentleman says:

    There is a difference between retouching for ads and stills, and blatantly re-rendering scenes with better mapping, polys, etc…

    The Bullshot in question in the PA comic is the latter.

  3. tc4b says:

    I always assume claims made on ANY box for ANY product are inflated or otherwise dishonest.

  4. Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

    Reminds me of the circulars for TVs, which traditionally say “screen shots simulated”

    I always used to think that was just a CRT thing (since they don’t photograph well), but they do it with LCD and plasma, too.

    • ekthesy says:


      Yep. In the industry those are called “screen fills.” The advertising agency working with the TV manufacturer provides hi-res screen fills to the retailer’s circular artist, who resizes them as needed and inserts them into the TV “frame.”

    • MikeGrenade says:

      @Ash78: For what its worth, photographing a live screen is rather difficult.

      • Traveshamockery says:

        @MikeGrenade: You’re right, but I’d say prohibitively difficult. As someone who’s tried it, it’s virtually impossible to photograph a moving image (even paused) and get anything comparable to the actual picture quality in real life.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I think the most notable case of this is the notorious Killzone demo on the PS3 a few years ago. The whole video was a “target video”, but people got the impression it was rendered on the PS3…or the impression that the developer wanted us to believe it was rendered on the PS3.

    Either way, it caused quite the stir.

    • Raekwon says:

      @AlteredBeast: Except all the reviews I’ve read say they matched or even surpassed what they initially showed.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        @Raekwon: Oh, that is true. From what I know the game didn’t dissapoint.

        The issue there, I think, is that most gamers who follow game development are savy to these kinds of “adjusted” screen shots.

        But in the case of Killzone, it was a CGI movie, not just a doctored shot. I can see why people felt they were being dupped. Luckly their target video was accurate, but I think the controversy over it has made companies wary of relasing a “target video” without making it very clear that is what it is.

    • Parapraxis says:


      I believe there was also that persistent rumor that the demo cutscenes were made at 1/5 the speed, and sped up because the engine wasn’t optimized for the PS3 at the time…

      don’t know if that counts as bullshot or movie.

      • Raekwon says:

        @Parapraxis: Early builds do normally look like crap and are doctored. I would say it doesn’t become bullshot if it is well beyond what the company knows they can do or the end result comes up short and the company still releases edited screens anyway. Case in point, when Ninjabread Man (best video game name ever!) released screens they were bullshots since they knew they would never reach that level. Killzone always planned on reaching the level of their initial hype and so I wouldn’t classify theirs as bullshot. Had they not succeeded and kept releasing similar doctored shots/movies then it would classify as bullshot.

  6. Plates says:

    You don’t want to know what they do to food in ads.

    • theblackdog says:

      @Plates: You mean like the mashed potato “milkshakes”?

      • MostlyHarmless says:

        @theblackdog: They add artificial colors to the items. Which is pretty scary if you ignore the fact that no one is going to eat that particular piece :P

        • Raekwon says:

          @Lucifer_Cat: A lot of times they hire professional food sculptors for things like ice cream and they sculpt it into the perfect looking scoop often with spacers and other supports you don’t see from the angle of the shot. Food photography is actually quite elaborate and interesting.

          • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:


            Food photography is a unique area of photography.

            Here’s a couple of my favorite examples:

            That hamburger you see in the ads with the perfect grill-lines? Actually, it’s practically RAW – just cooked enough to brown the outer surface, and then they take a hot skewer and carefully burn those grillmarks into place.

            How about that juicy, delicious turkey, all glazed and shiny? Barely cooked, and doused in motor oil for that “Fresh on Thanksgiving” look.

            Often times the product you see is not the product being photographed. Like a previous poster said, they use spacers that are out-of-frame to keep things perky, and in just the right shape.

            Next time you order food and you think to yourself, “This looks nothing like that picture” you can be thankful that it doesn’t!!!!!!!

          • Garbanzo says:

            @Raekwon: Have you ever noticed how photos of food done without professional food photography skills, like on the menu board of a local mom-and-pop eatery, look AWFUL?

          • mariospants says:

            @Raekwon: My cousin married a professional food photographer. Apparently it can be an insane amount of effort.

    • CaffiendCA says:

      @Plates: I worked in an Ad department of a chain of supermarkets. They did their own circulars, and had a food stylist to do the food. The turkeys were browned with a creme brule torch. Insides would be raw/frozen. They used the tilt-shift lenses to get perfect focus. It wasn’t nefarious, but done to expidite the process. All in all pretty amazing.

    • Parapraxis says:


      we already knew!


    • Sndtrkman says:

      @Plates: Don’t forget that for the cereal commercials, they mix in glue with the milk to keep the cereal in place. I remember that little tidbit from my Econ class back in High School almost 10 years ago.

      • Etoiles says:

        @Sndtrkman: I learned that one from Consumer Reports kids’ magazine, maybe 20 years ago? (They had an article on CD interest rates and one on how the Gap determined what colors were in for the season, too.) One of those childhood facts that’s always stuck, hehe.

        • Traveshamockery says:

          @Etoiles: Zillions! I loved that magazine! (But kind of hate CR…mainly because their TV reviews suck. Stick to toasters and cars, guys.)

    • Mirshaan says:


      Keep in mind also, that not all of those practices are done to be shifty or to dupe the consumer. I used to work in the creative dep’t for a major appliance manufacturer. Shooting things like ice cream, frozen drinks, or other cold items is near impossible without using something different. These things melt almost instantly under hot photography lighting. So the ice cream was Crisco and food coloring (or something similar)… iirc, the frozen margs were not even anything edible… photgraphing food is a tricky operation, and the food stylists know ways to make food appetizing, and still hold up throughout the photography process.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @Mirshaan: When you are talking about food photography its pretty reasonable to assume the food is being altered. I don’t think anyone thinks that a scoop of ice cream is going to look EXACTLY like the one in the commercial. Ice cream only lasts a few minutes if you are lucky in the hot summer heat before melting so I can’t imagine it lasting much longer under hot lights. I haven’t heard many complaints about this issue either. Frankly I am not looking at my food long enough to worry about how it looks, when I am hungry I just want to eat it!

  7. Victor15b says:

    Consumerist wins mad cool points for linking to Penny Arcade

  8. zlionsfan says:

    So basically, the bullshots have just about as much to do with the actual gameplay as the trailers we typically see (both in-game and in RL).

    not a surprise.

  9. 1stMarDiv says:

    This is sorta related, but it kind of reminds me of the screenshots used on the boxes of sports games like Madden or NBA Live. Ever notice how they never put in-game graphics on the back of the box? It’s always the replay shots which look much better. Kinda shady but fortunately I know better.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      @1stMarDiv: I know what you mean. Even if a cut sceen, or replay shot, is rendered with the in game graphics engine, I still find it a bit missleading not showing what the game looks like while you are actually playing it. You see that with role playing games too, like Final Fantasy. Lots of screen shots of in game cut scenes, with a handful of gameplay shots.

    • Mirshaan says:


      I always use that as a sort of measuring stick on game commercials and ads…. are you showing me gameplay or cutscenes? Do I see any sort of HUD going on in the commercial or screenshots, or is it all cut scene renderings? If they can’t show any gameplay, it’s usually not a good sign… they’re hiding something behind glossy graphix…

  10. boxiom says:

    Seems like a cool job.

    What do you want them to do, post up shitty shots of the ingame? Its no big deal, you kind of know what to expect from an xbox 360 or a PS3.

    This is done everywhere. I even heard those Whoppers on the menu are painted.

  11. moore850 says:

    Hey Activision, Nintendo called from 1985 and recommends you use the actual game in the commercial, it will sell way better.

  12. mariospants says:

    This is a SERIOUS pet peeve of mine. When Nintendo was showing off shots of the upcoming (at the time) Zelda: Twilight Princess they were sending out beautiful 720p shots that were clearly from a development PC as the Wii quite obviously can’t output anything greater than 480p.

    That’s not just misleading, that’s wrong. You’re essentially selling people a misrepresentation of the product (like selling an abused, base-line used car by using stock photos of a new fully-equipped top-of-the-line version – actualy, it’s worse because there is no “top-of-the-line” wrt2 the Wii).

  13. Anonymous says:

    Activision was doing this with their Atari 2600 games back in the 80’s … some things just don’t change, even when video game systems do HD imagery.

  14. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Well Fuck. This is exactly the sort of job I am qualified for. Except that I haven’t *touched* Maya or 3dsMax in the 2 years I’ve graduated from college and wasn’t good at modeling to begin with. But posing things *other* people have modeled and taking pictures of them?! IN CALIFORNIA?!


  15. Nytmare says:

    @Plates: @Dooley:

    I found it amusing to see some of the burger photos on the Wendy’s menu are identical except for the extra patty or cheese slice photoshopped into the triple compared to the double.

  16. Outrun1986 says:

    Whats wrong about it is when you use a PC to demo something and dupe people into thinking its a console game system.

    I remember at one of the E3 Expo’s when the Xbox 360 was first demoed that they either had an empty display unit of the console and put the real guts in the back of the unit where you couldn’t see it or they put PC guts in a Xbox 360 case to make it seem like you were playing the Xbox 360 but what you were getting wasn’t really the Xbox 360. I think Sony was also found to have done the same thing with the PS3. So if you go to these Expo’s for the demo stations, you should definitely be aware of this.

  17. Corporate-Shill says:

    Gee Whiz. I guess somebody has never seen a doctored up trailer for a TV show or Movie either.

  18. harlock_JDS says:

    I used to do this for a home shopping network website auctions. We would take pictures of the gemstone/jewelry, and then photoshop it so it looked better.

    Largely this was done to remove color distortions from photography but pictures went out looking better than the real product all the time.

  19. Murph1908 says:

    Excerpt from the interview for this position:

    HR: “Can you make a bullshot?”

    Candidate: “Can you make a shoe stink?”

  20. puddleglum411 says:

    In fairness, usually games look better in motion than still shots, so it does make sense they would want to spiff things up a bit to give a better idea of how it will look. That being said, this goes back to the dawn of 3D console gaming. I remember being peeved when Acclaim release what were obviously PC renders of Turok:Dinosaur Hunter for N64, and even had the audacity to say “This is what the game will really look like!”

  21. wow_just_wow says:

    Touch ups are the norm for media. That fast food burger will never look as good as the commercials, celebrity magazine covers are severely photoshoped and no one will look as good in those jeans as the model.

  22. ThickSkinned says:

    I work in the game industry and I’ve taken thousands of screenshots for various games I’ve worked on. While I have been asked to massage the shot to make it look better, it is not the standard for every shot. “advanced retouching of screenshots” could mean pulling some shenanigans with the images, but usually it means resizing or the image > adjustments pulldown in Photoshop. Depending on when the shots were taken, the rendering engine may not be fully complete, so color balancing, brightness/contrast, and level changes are needed to make the image look good in print. As long as no subject matter is being added to or taken from the image, this is advertising pure and simple. If you’re afraid the game won’t look as good as the screens, then rent it first.

    This is my favorite horseshit screenshot. Wondering what’s wrong? Check out the half erased player on the far left. Here’s a link to the full sized image, []

  23. banmojo says:

    zOMFG I had no idea a new Wolfenstein was in the works – hope it ROCKS like RTCW did, holy shit I played that well over 35 times by now. SO good, so good, so bloody fvckin good.

  24. kyle4 says:

    The biggest bullshots were the entirety of the original Killzone 2 trailer. That was just one big bullshot that the company regrets. There’s a lot of times where you see the graphics in a magazine, they floor you, then you get the game and you realize they were touched up. This isn’t a supermodel who you look at but don’t get, this is advertisement for a real product. It should fall between fake advertising.

  25. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    agh, penny arcade is not, never has been, and never will be funny!
    (but that comic illustrates your point well, meg)

  26. Sparkstalker says:

    One thing a screenshot, touched up or not, can never show – how fun a game really is. Some of my buddies and I have been on a Halo 2 kick recently. It’s five years old and looks like it, but you know what? It’s stll a helluva lot of fun.