The Null Device
The technology for electronically
faking video footage
is coming to fruition. And we all know how the
street finds its own uses for new technologies...
A demo tape supplied by PVI bolsters the point in the prosaic setting of a
suburban parking lot. The scene appears ordinary except for a disturbing
feature: Amidst the SUVs and minivans are several parked tanks and one
armored behemoth rolling incongruously along. Imagine a tape of virtual
Pakistani tanks rolling over the border into India pitched to news outlets as
authentic, and you get a feel for the kind of trouble that deceptive imagery
could stir up.
Suddenly those large stretches of programming between commercials-the
actual show, that is-become available for billions of dollars worth of
primetime advertising. PVI's demo tape, for instance, includes a scene in
which a Microsoft Windows box appears-virtually, of course-on the shelf of
Frasier Crane's studio. This kind of product placement could become more
and more important as new video recording technologies such as TiVo and
RePlayTV give viewers more power to edit out commercials.
With just a few minutes of video of someone talking, their system captures and
stores a set of video snapshots of the way that a person's mouth-area looks
and moves when saying different sets of sounds. Drawing from the resulting
library of "visemes" makes it possible to depict the person seeming to say
anything the producers dream up-including utterances that the subject
wouldn't be caught dead saying. In one test application, computer scientist
Christoph Bregler, now of Stanford University, and colleagues digitized two
minutes of public-domain footage of President John F. Kennedy speaking during
the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Using the resulting viseme library, the
researchers created "animations" of Kennedy's mouth saying things he never
said, among them, "I never met Forrest Gump."
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