Don't Always Believe Your Eyes On The Internet

There was a time when photographic evidence of an event was a sort of gold standard, but over time it became clear to most of us that photos can be faked. In the age of consumer video, we normally assume if something is on video that it was recorded "live", and is a good representation of what actually happened. Er, no, not really - and with the soaring popularity of Internet video sites like YouTube, we see a lot of "trick photography".

Old school fakery

Sometimes videos are presented just to show someone's skills at digital video editing or manipulation - as an online resume for a budding movie maker or effects artist, or just simply for "bragging rights". Other times it's left ambiguous as to what we are actually seeing, and sometimes it's just out and out fake.

We understand that digital animation and other tricks are used widely in movies these days (sometimes in very subtle ways that most of us never notice - not just to create three story tall fighting robots), but we don't necessarily think of the kid down the street doing the same kind of thing with a digital video camera and a laptop.

I have a few different examples here, and you can see how sophisticated some of these are. A lot of the trick is in the context; if you present something incredible, but it's filmed as if it was shot "live" as it happened (complete with shaky camera work, and suitably breathless audio comments by the "videographer"), then it's more likely to be received as the real deal.

Here's a recent popular one in that vein turns out to be some work by digital animation students at a Canadian University, showing a toddler apparently being grabbed then dropped by a swooping eagle! Looks real to me - but it's not.

This next example is from a Dutch man who made a short flight in a human-powered flying machine - except he hadn't, regardless of the fact this showed up on national TV as seen below. He later 'fessed up that it was faked - I think some hoaxers can become a little unnerved when these things "go viral". There is even some helmet cam footage from the "flight " as well, just to give a little extra "you are there" feel.

"The Faking Hoaxer" (TFH) lives up to his or her name by producing videos of various kinds, usually with a UFO or space theme. TFH makes no attempt to present these as real, but people may repost them as such and further confuse things. The brief but intriguing video below shows an example - and how it's done, from start to finish. Needless to say, UFOs and Space Aliens are popular subjects! 

To be honest, in this day and age, I would be hard-pressed to believe almost anything incredible that I see online - UFO's, ghosts, Nessie, Bigfoot, et al - but if you take it the right way, it can be entertaining. Let's just hope the 10 0'clock News camera people don't start doing this to goose up the ratings during sweeps...

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