Thursday, 13 June 2019


Anybody seen Nikolai?

Two videos went viral last week. Both were crudely altered to make NANCY PELOSI, Trump's new worst enemy look (1) drunk, (2) disoriented.  After the videos were trashed as low-level fakes, Trump Trump tweeted the second to his 60+ million twitterites.  FACEBOOK refused to remove the faked videos saying, 'let users decide for themselves'.  Today Googles's logo 'Do No Evil'  sounds like a sinister joke. 

Info on the INTERNET: TRUE or FALSE?  Would you take a bet on which gets the most hits.  Eki says anyone with off-the-counter equipment can make videos. There's an army of crap-content providers, who use the black-magic of editing to create their own version of the truth. Even if countries like Finland and France teach their citizens how to tell the difference between FAKE and REAL, do people care,  if the message is what they want to hear.

Eki edits according to laws and copyrights. He will never let me get away with a BIG LIE. But I've learned, after watching him all these years, how he can change scenes and the message. There are tons of pros and amateurs making videos.  Crazy and outrageous seem to have the best chance of going viral. Misinformation can spread in seconds. Most IT users don't cross-check content. And providers (Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) don’t. can’t, or won’t,  always edit bogus information.  Is Orwell sending us a message from the grave: READ '1984'?

Sources: Washington Post, personal experience

Next week: Who the hell is ANDREW YANG? And why a pal and I joined the YANG Gang

Note: Okay, there's a lot i could say about this. In fact, i could go on for hours ;-)

First of all, i make my living creating fake videos - in other words, visual effects are bread and butter work for me. We run a green screen studio, and if you want to put the actor on a surfboard catching a big Hawaiian wave - and it is winter, in Finland - we can do that (and have). Space? Jungle? News studio? No problem. The thing is, all this cheating is acceptable, as the viewers know they are watching a work of fiction.

But the same techniques can be used for much more sinister purposes than selling candy bars. And they are, always have been. Staged scenes or outright tricks have been used to push the desired narrative for ages. Both in still images (retouching did not start with Photoshop, just ask Nikolai Yezhow, who used to stand next to Stalin in this blog entry's headline picture, before being retouched out of life and imagery).

What is completely new, is the ease at which these tricks can be done, also on live video, by anyone. And the fact that anyone can publish them to a worldwide audience - instantly.

Currently, one still needs skills to pull off more sophisticated effects than the Pelosi video Maggy writes about, but that is rapidly changing. Recent developments in artificial intelligence (A.I.) are very promising for someone like me who craves for every possible tool to pull off ever better visual effects wizardry, but also extremely frightening.

Essentially, soon anyone can make a video, where a convincing virtual version of any public figure says and does whatever the video maker wants. These techniques are still in their infancy, but the progress is extremely rapid, and the skill level to pull the effect off will decline from current "one needs to be a computer enthusiast" to "Maggy could do it on her iPhone" in just a few years.

There are multiple techniques involved, but perhaps the scariest so far is so-called "deep fakes". With this technique, all you need is a lot of video footage of the person you want to puppet (which is readily available for e.g. politicians), and the A.I. will learn how they look and act. You then make a recording of an actor (or yourself) doing and saying whatever you wish to make your puppet do. And the puppet faithfully repeats your moves and words. The quality is already frighteningly convincing and will get better.

Imagine a video like this of, say, a presidential candidate emerged just a day before the elections - there would be enough time for it to go viral and hit the front pages, not enough time to prove that it was in fact a fake. That would be a case where visual effects change the course of history.

And on the other hand, even if someone was caught red-handed by a camera they could always semi-plausibly claim that the video evidence was faked.



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