If it's a sensational video, it's likely a fake video: Internet Scambusters #544
Is it possible to tell if a sensational piece of film you saw on the Internet is really a fake?
Probably, if you're a scientist or an expert on video special effects that is, but possibly not if you're anyone else.
However, there are some things you can do to raise your skepticism factor, and we list 10 of them in this week's issue.
But first, we urge you to take a look at these top articles from our other websites:
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Give the Gift of Amazon Prime: Let's take a closer look at a new service called Amazon Prime that would make a fabulous gift!
And now for the main feature...
10 Ways to Spot a Fake Video
How many times have you passed on an amazing video clip that landed in your inbox, only to learn later it was a fake video?
The Internet is teeming with them, from phony UFO encounters to a bogus clip of a man who can supposedly sculpt faces on a lollipop in his mouth!
Some of them are incredibly convincing and painstakingly made. Some do not even start out as intentional hoaxes but are picked up by web surfers and attached to a hoax story.
An example of that would be the highly sophisticated instrumental animations we featured a few weeks back in our around-the-states urban legends compilation.
Most fake videos are harmless. Often they're good entertainment. But sometimes they can be frightening or stressful -- for example, supposed ghost sightings or political videos that have been doctored to create alarming, sensational behavior or comment.
The fact is that video technology has made it simple to fabricate a convincing looking fake.
Some people even make a living from it -- special effects artists at movie studios, for instance.
A visit to almost any movie theater these days will show you just how advanced these techniques have become.
Things have certainly come a long way since the days of those grainy film shots of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster!
Clever-looking fakes can now be churned out by amateurs on desktop computers.
Can You Spot a Fake Video?
So, is there any way you can identify a fake video?
Possibly not, unless you're a physicist like Rhett Allain who put together this remarkable scientific explanation concerning gravity, trajectories and a host of other scientific tests for authenticity.
However, there are plenty of things you can do to arouse your suspicions when one of these video sensations arrives in your email or crops up on a website.
Before we list them though, as always we warn you to be wary of clicking on any email attachment or link.
If, as is most likely, the video purports to be on YouTube, Vimeo or one of the other big online streaming services, make sure that's where you are by checking the location in the address bar of your browser.
And don't allow any link or attachment to install what it claims to be a special viewer or update that it says you need before you can watch. That's almost certainly malware.
On with the list...
10 Ways to Spot Fake Videos
First, always raise a skeptical eyebrow when you see anything that's sufficiently out of the ordinary to make you want to pass it on, or the subject seems to be acting out of character.
For instance, if this young man could really hit balls as accurately as this, it'd truly be a miracle:
And then there's the oral sculptor we mentioned earlier:
A video that's blurred, lasts just a couple of seconds or is shot in poor light, between buildings or obscured by trees, has a high chance of being a spoof.
Here's the famous woolly mammoth, supposedly filmed in Siberia that caused a sensation when it appeared in 2012.
Although viewers later said the creature really looked like a bear with a large fish in its mouth, whatever it was, it was certainly not on the original video shot by a respected scientist.
Someone superimposed it later.
Or, how about this UFO "sighting," which has now been confirmed as a fake:
TV's Discovery Channel recently aired a news clip in which they interviewed a British video hoaxer who explained some of his techniques.
- Make it convincing -- that is, not too far-fetched.
- Make it a poor, blurred shot.
- Don't show the aliens!
If the camera itself doesn't move, in other words it's static, the chances are it's mounted on a tripod.
If the video then purports to be of something the shooter just happened to encounter, then it's likely a fake.
Check the surroundings in the video frame. Are objects and people the right proportionate size?
Does everything behave or move the way it's supposed to?
For instance, check out this recent classic -- the fake video of a child supposedly being plucked off the ground by an eagle:
This was made by a team of Canadian animation students. If you look carefully enough, slowed down, you can see the child appears to hover in the air after the bird has supposedly released it.
And why was the video shooter following the bird in the first place?
Investigate whether there have been any previous, authenticated, real-world instances or reports of a similar incident/subject matter.
If not, chances are high it's a fake.
If the subject is outdoors or in an illuminated room, check if it casts a shadow in the same direction as everything else -- or indeed, if it casts a shadow at all.
Are any sounds what you'd expect to hear?
Did that UFO make the leaves of the nearby tree whoosh as it went past?
Is the outcome of the event/incident consistent with how it should be? For example, if someone falls, jumps from an extraordinary height, or is supposedly involved in a crash, do they end up as you'd expect?
Does the object resemble something else you've seen, perhaps just shot from a weird angle?
Check any comments others have made underneath the video. Hoax experts will often spot a tell-tale sign you might have missed and report them there.
(Warning: Some comments may be abusive or contain bad language.)
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do an Internet search using the name of the video file and the word "hoax" or "fake."
If the video has been around for more than a couple of weeks, someone will have identified if it's phony.
But don't be too bothered if you do get caught out. Even TV companies and other media have been successfully hoaxed.
Just remember, we live in an era of advanced video technology when the camera can and increasingly does lie. The fake video is here to stay.
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!