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Ask Slashdot: How To Determine If a Video Has Been Faked? 237

Posted by timothy
from the justice-for-marion-barry dept.
BStorm writes "The Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been making headlines around the world, for allegedly smoking crack. This story was first broken by gawker.com, which is now crowd-funding $200,000 to buy the video in question. What do you look for to determine if a video has been faked? Of course I am only interested in the technical details and not the tawdry details related to this case ;) I live in Toronto, so the video still frame posted on Gawker certainly does look like Rob Ford."
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Ask Slashdot: How To Determine If a Video Has Been Faked?

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  • by buy59 (2930821) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:53PM (#43804433)
    If you want to edit or create videos, there's no better software than Windows Movie Maker [microsoft.com]. Create real or faked videos - it's all possible.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:59PM (#43804479)
      Yes, fake movies are best produced with a fake movie editor.
    • what about the video toaster?

      • What, they're still making that stuff? It was awesome for the time...
        • The TriCaster [newtek.com] is the direct descendant of the Video Toaster. The last hardware product called "Video Toaster" was the Video Toaster Screamer, a MIPS-based machine sold in 1993.
          • Wow, I didn't even know that they had gone through a MIPS phase. I thought that after their Amiga period, they switched to PCs (I vaguely recalled Video Toaster NT). Fascinating...
            • Yeah, I was in that boat too until doing a bit more research. It looks like the name's last gasp was the TriCaster VT[5], where "VT" stood for "Video Toaster".
    • Coward! Windows Movie Maker actually interprets(some) standard formats, and has an interface that feels like having a pro editing studio at your back compared to the horrors of Sony Movieshaker [wikipedia.org]!(Even better, Movieshaker is exciting and mandatory if you were... questionably sensible... enough to purchase one of Sony's pricey 'MicroMV' cameras, which were vaguely DV-like, except totally incompatible.)

    • Microsoft clearly has the fastest stuff. It has Super Frist Post Powers(TM)!

      You posted so fast, with such insightful prose. I wish I was you, because you are awesome!

      When you get first post that survives moderation, usually it means you control the majority of the discussion. I hope it works, because Microsoft is teh bestorz! I really want in on this, why should the rest of us post for free? We want to be paid for our first posts too. I need to get me some of that software Microsoft is supplying you and

  • The pixels! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:56PM (#43804451)

    I usually look at the pixels. I've seen a lot of them in my time, so I can usually tell when they're fake.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:05PM (#43804551) Journal
    Here's a blog post on why the moon landing could not have been faked.

    http://www.geek.com/news/why-it-was-impossible-to-fake-the-1969-moon-landing-1537386/ [geek.com]

    It's fairly similar reasons why the Ford Video is real, and explains why His Immensity hasn't had anything to say since the story broke.

    • Mayor's smoke crack. Barry and now this clown. Yawn. Make drugs legal already.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:17PM (#43804699) Homepage

      Here's a blog post on why the moon landing could not have been faked.

      Of course, even easier is the science behind the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment [wikipedia.org].

      Since it relies on placing a retro-reflector in a known position on the lunar surface, and understanding the physics behind it, you'd have had to have been there to do it.

      Of course, for those who believe the moon landing was fake (or anything else which involves a blatant denial of science), no amount of refutation of their claims is ever going to work -- they're too invested in their beliefs to be swayed by facts.

      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @03:45PM (#43806351)

        Ok, first and foremost, we landed on the moon. I'm not arguing that we didn't. I'm not an idiot. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. If John Glenn reads this I kindly ask that he not punch me in the face.

        Now. All a retro reflector proves is that we landed something on the moon. Landing 'something' is a lot easier than landing people. The Russians could have very trivially mounted a retro reflector to their lunar rover and we could bounce lasers off them the exact same way you can bounce lasers off the reflectors the Apollo astronauts left behind. There are many good pieces of evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a manned lunar landing happened; the Lunar Ranging Experiment isn't one of them.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          The LRE is a PERFECT example.

          The second retroreflector installed had to be hand-aimed.

          Which means you had to be there in PERSON. July 21, 1969, Apollo 11 crew. They installed the second retroreflector.

          Let's not forget Apollo 14 and 15, which put larger retroreflectors on the surface, and aimed them back at Earth.

          • by swalve (1980968)
            I thought the whole point of a retroreflector is that it reflects back at the sender no matter where it is "aimed".
    • Uh... perhaps you linked to the wrong one.

      But the reason no one could have faked the moon landing has to do with the state of video technology in 1969. Essentially, the hoaxers claim the video footage was faked by just slowing down people walking in normal Earth gravity. However according to Collins, the camera required to do that didn’t exist at the time.

      Similar reasons for this video you say? I... what?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:36PM (#43804951)

      The moon landing could not have been faked because:

      The USSR.

      (unless your conspiracy theory includes the Russians using their own space tech to observe no moon landing taking place, and then deciding not to tell anyone, because they were secretly best buddies with the USA)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The moon landing could not have been faked because:

        The USSR.

        (unless your conspiracy theory includes the Russians using their own space tech to observe no moon landing taking place, and then deciding not to tell anyone, because they were secretly best buddies with the USA)

        Close. The landings themselves weren't fake... we landed on the Moon, alright. But the footage of it is fake. NASA also faked the Russians. Completely fake nation.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @03:17PM (#43806057) Homepage Journal

        well,

        actually they(moon landing conspiracy theorists) believe that USA and USSR did everything in orchestration, even the fall of the USSR.
        and well, everyone in europe being in the same conspiracy boat as well. they think that pretty much everyone else is "in" the conspiracy.
        it's pretty hard to explain why they would fake the space race though whilst staying sensible at all, so quite many of them seem to believe in UFO's as well - and in that the government has antigravity technology they received from the aliens and that the space race was just a diversion.

        it snowballs pretty quickly... which might be an indication that they did go to the moon.

    • by prelelat (201821)

      I like to point out to people that, the astronauts put a mirror array on the moon which reflects lasers back to earth. You can do some pretty sweet stuff with it too if you have the right equipment. There are a number of observatories around the world with the tech to do it and they track the distance to the moon(which changes) and lots of other cool stuff. Without that special mirror array placed by the astronauts we wouldn't be able to do that. Would be cool if there was one on mars I hope if NASA doe

      • by DriveDog (822962)
        I'm guessing a Mars mirror wouldn't work quite as well since Mars has an atmosphere with dust and stuff blowing around. Now... if they could plant mirrors on Phobos and Deimos... then the only worry would be the Doom monsters.
    • by barc0001 (173002)

      Actually what I think was stunningly telling was what his lawyer said about it the day it broke. His lawyer only said that you couldn't tell on the video what the people were doing. He didn't say it wasn't Ford in the video. That to me pretty much says Ford told him that the video is legit and he's trying to spin it for the inevitable reveal as Ford was not actually smoking crack/goofing around pretending/smoking *tobacco* or some similar bs. Much like other famous people photoed/videoed taking a bong h

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      with "some dude smoking crack" it's a bit easier.
      a fat dude, makeup and some crack.

      not that likely though. wouldn't pay 200k for the video though. also I don't see why the original would matter, is it some home vhs recording? or filming him nonstop from his house to the party??

      I don't get how this particular moon landing hoax refute has anything to do with this video though..

    • Not that I don't believe we went to the Moon, but suggesting it couldn't have been faked because some video technology didn't exist at the time seems a poor argument. It would have been cheaper and easier to develop said technology in secret than to fly to the Moon.
  • I don't know if it's real or not, but I'm just going to imagine Marion Barry being arrested for crack possession and will laugh to myself for a few minutes.
  • Physics. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:09PM (#43804599)

    Most of the time when a picture or video has been faked or photoshopped, you can probably tell if you look at it carefully. Their usually isn't something quite right, about it, that most people will miss.

    For example odd lighting. If you superimpose an image chances are you do not have the lighting just right.

    Picture Fragments. Sometimes if you look at photoshopped pics (Even professional ones) you might find extra or removed limbs or fingers. Or some impossible feat of a part of the body that somehow is in front of something that couldn't possible be.

    Extra Sharp or Blurry: Sometimes thing of interest that is added in later is taken with better skills than the background so you will see a blurry picture with a sharp object. Or they will cover up the whole picture by making everything blurry. If the image seems like it was taken from an iPhone but it was super blurry more than what the device does you can probably expect it has been altered somehow.

    Dithering/Anti-Alias methods: Most digital cameras on full resolution tend to have some dithering to the colors (Those sparkly bits that don't seem to exist in real life) Then some equipment scales it down a bit and adds some Anti-Aliasing to make the colors more smooth and natural looking. If you add a fake element chances are those methods will be different. Say a smooth well anti-aliased pipe, with a dithered person.

    • Re:Physics. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:21PM (#43804765)

      Faking a video by photoshopping it together from other video sources would indeed be rather hard to do convincingly. However, why bother with photoshopping? Just get a lookalike actor and a decent makeup technician, and produce a perfectly "real" low-fi home video. Especially when the subject is supposed to be whacked out of their gourd on drugs, you don't need to meticulously recreate their familiar sober style of speech and body-language.

      • Re:Physics. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PapayaSF (721268) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:45PM (#43805725) Journal

        Just get a lookalike actor and a decent makeup technician, and produce a perfectly "real" low-fi home video.

        And, indeed, there was an online ad Looking for a Rob Ford look alike/imposter (Toronto) [canadianlisted.com], though it seems to date from January 2012, and of course it may be entirely unrelated.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          One thing to remember about people who create scandals for personal gain. If there's already one on the go, they'll simply hold off until it passes. The last one was an attempt by a millionaire to get the TO mayor thrown out office because he broke some rules regarding donations received for a kids team. In turn the OCA threw the case out, with a harsh statement to the guy. Not forgetting that the person who sued has been throwing a hissy fit for months before hand because he didn't like that Ford was e

        • by Kaenneth (82978)

          Dang, even asking the 'actor' to smoke something (a cigar), even easier to edit into a crack pipe.

    • TLDR: Zoom and enhance.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      faking a video is a lot easier by having an actor. that's why stuntmen are still used.

  • Is it possible to fake a video well enough that 3 reporters (2 from the star, 1 from gawker), shown the video on a smartphone, would come to the conclusion that the video was real.

    And I think we can assume that no intelligence agency or other other well financed organization was involved.

    The press generally seems to be accepting that the video was legit, but that could be because of the way the Ford brothers' have responded.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      It's not that hard to fool most reporters, unfortunately.
    • by fermion (181285)
      I think the question is the same as the Amy'e Baking fiasco. Are there hackers who have nothing better to do than hack a random twitter account and place random comments. Sure, but are they actually going to waste time doing it. Probably not, which is why claiming one's account has been hacked for days and the embarrassing comments are not yours is pretty silly.

      Likewise, is the best use of political dollars faking a video? And if so, wouldn't the flashback overwhelm the benefits. Yes, conservatives i

  • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:14PM (#43804655)
    You know, if the major news outlets that could afford to shell out for the video aren't touching it with a ten foot pole, maybe you should take that as a sign that it's not worth the money.
    • You know, if the major news outlets that could afford to shell out for the video aren't touching it with a ten foot pole, maybe you should take that as a sign that it's not worth the money.

      I have to agree.

      If the news, hell even the TABLOIDS, aren't shelling out the money then there's probably a reason.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        They know they would then be known as the paper that gave a butt-load of money to drug dealers/users.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:17PM (#43804701) Journal

    With jpeg(and I think at least some of the mpeg flavors), quantization matrices can be your friend.

    Different hardware and software [impulseadventure.com] uses different matrices. This isn't a slam-dunk(if somebody just lightened the image a bit to bring out the detail, the quantization matrix would scream "Photoshop!", despite that being pretty innocuous); but it makes it rather harder for a clueless faker to simulate a 'right off the camcorder' "authentic" video if the last compression was almost certainly performed with editing software.

    Depending on the details of the format, there are likely to be a variety of other things that are optional or implementation-specific(at least within certain ranges) that can be examined to try to source a given file. If implementation(or quality level/encode settings)-specific details vary between sections of the video, or between parts of individual frames, that's probably a bad sign.

    If you have enough footage, and ideally access to the alleged source hardware, you can also attempt to characterize physical defects in the sensor. All digital image sensors, to one degree or another, exhibit imperfect linearity. Some pixels are 'hot', some are abnormally insensitive, this is especially visible on long exposures, or in very dark scenes, where the hot pixels tend to stand out. Onboard image processors have gotten increasingly good at squelching minor sensor noise, so this isn't easy; but a given CCD or CMOS sensor will have a noise pattern that is extremely difficult to replicate. It's just an open question whether you'll actually be able to see enough noise to identify it.

  • Simple test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex (148003) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:17PM (#43804707) Homepage

    Q: Has the person appearing on it sued the pants off the holders?

    Yes: Probably fake

    No: Most likely genuine

    • Either I have found an exception to your test, or Tom Hanks deserves the nobel prize for time travel, not an oscar. [youtube.com]

      Serious point: that's a bit simplistic. People do threaten to sue the pants off people for saying things about them that are clearly true, and there may be a reason the holders have not sued yet. For example, perhaps the mayor is waiting until gawker actually buys it and shows it, at which point he can sue gawker for a ton of money in damages rather than suing whoever shot the video for a
      • And on top of that, given that the video hasn't come out yet he's not in much of a position to sue anyone. What's he going to say, "I know it was you punks who faked that video, I was there the whole time!"

        The authors of the video haven't revealed themselves, and the only way Ford could know who they are is if he was smoking crack with them.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:18PM (#43804717)

    Why should we give $200,000 to drug dealers?

    They are the ones setting up the mayor and the ones selling the video. Regardless of the authenticity if the government enticed you into breaking the law and filmed it, it's called entrapment which is inadmissible as evidence. However if some enterprising drug dealers entice you into breaking the law and film it somehow it's okay.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      However if some enterprising drug dealers entice you into breaking the law and film it somehow it's okay.

      And if you're already in the middle of breaking the law and your cohorts film you doing it ... well, that's just life.

      See, if nobody enticed him into doing anything, it isn't entrapment. It's being stupid enough to get caught on camera doing something illegal.

      What, you think if this was real the mayor simply bowed to peer pressure and cajoling from a bunch of drug dealers he happened to be innocently ha

    • However if some enterprising drug dealers entice you into breaking the law and film it somehow it's okay.

      No, that's usually called blackmail, depending on the answer to "what if I don't pay?"

      • This scenario is more like the opposite of blackmail. If they aren't paid then they will keep the video secret. It would be blackmail if they tried to sell it to Ford himself, and to people who want to put in on the web.

        • I wrote "and" instead of "not", reversing the meaning of my comment. Just to be clear, all the people who have expressed interest in buying this video want to upload it to the web for all to see. Rob Ford has no reason to buy the video at this point as all the discussion has been practically as damaging as the release of the video would be.

    • I also find it abit ethically problematic to reward someone financially for this kind of recording. I also this its a waste of money to pay for this video because:

      1) The public discussion of the video has already been as bad as the release would have been. His reputation is so bad that even his supporters don't find these crack allegations farfetched. It's already been reported that he is an alcoholic, and he has ruined his reputation by being drunk and abusive in public. My opinion of Ford did not decr

    • by jittles (1613415)

      Why should we give $200,000 to drug dealers?

      They are the ones setting up the mayor and the ones selling the video. Regardless of the authenticity if the government enticed you into breaking the law and filmed it, it's called entrapment which is inadmissible as evidence. However if some enterprising drug dealers entice you into breaking the law and film it somehow it's okay.

      No, you are perhaps thinking of blackmail. Only the government can entrap you. Only the government can violate your 4th amendment rights. If I were to call and tell the police that I broke into your house and found a dozen sex slaves in your mom's basement, the police could obtain a warrant, search the house and arrest you. If I steal a gun you've used to commit a crime and turn it over to police with your fingerprints on it, they can use it in court against you. It is only inadmissible if the governme

  • At least one police force continuously record the main hum, which they claim both provides a unique signature and also enable to tell if the recording has been modified. Not sure if it would work for a battery-powered camcorder, tho'.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20629671 [bbc.co.uk]

    • It might work for a battery-powered camcorder if it can visually pick up the hum from indoor lighting.

  • If you see objects that are hanging from transparent strings of fishing line...
  • You enhance the video and zoom in on the reflections in the pupils of someone's eye, you know, like on CSI. Duh!

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:14PM (#43805393) Homepage

    What Mayor Ford doesn't want to admit is that the video is real, but it was taken while he was in the middle of secret negotiations with rival Toronto and Scarborough gangs. Ford was trying to broker a peace treaty and also recruit the gang members to work as the city's new sanitation engineering team, allowing him to cut the fat at city hall and pass on the savings to the taxpayers he respects.

    Due to the tense nature of the meetings and the highly strung personalities present, Ford was loathe to bring something so provocative and weapon-shaped as his asthma inhaler, so he had no choice but to settle for a large glass pipe filled with prescription corticosteroids.

    To minimize the possibility of rival gangs finding out about the meetings, all discussions were conducted in code. When he said "Justin Trudeau’s a fag", what he really meant was "I agree with your interpretation of paragraph seventeen, but I still feel that it contradicts the spirit of section seven which is also laid out in the preamble" and "those kids are just effing minorities" was a code phrase for "We cannot compromise on the issue of banked sick days, and have you ever been to the Russian Tearoom on Adelaide? Their curried chicken salad is to die for."

    It's all quite obvious when you look at it. It's just the vast left wing media conspiracy that is trying to blow it out of proportion and make it look like something inappropriate.

  • Wasted money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:19PM (#43805461)

    Gawker is spending $200,000 to get a rise out of embarrassing a politician. It would be far to use it for something such as donating to the EFF, fighting the next SOPA or some other similar cause. Donating personal money for this cause is something only a tool would do.

    • by Nukenbar (215420)

      Don't spend other people's money. If you want spend money on those things, go ahead. If I want to buy stuff off of RG3's wedding registry, that's my prerogative.

  • You have to talk with the people in the video to get information to confirm its validity. There is probably ways to Doctoring a video to look like an event, but the easiest way is to get actors and look-a-likes to pull it off.
    • The problem is, if you're in a place where people are openly smoking crack outside and not caring... you don't want to go on record as being a witness for anything involving that night. Even if it's anonymous and to some person claiming to not be a cop.

      If some of those people are drug dealers, as some are suggesting, then multiple what I said 100x. Because you do not want to get on their bad side.

  • faking a video is a lot of work, even with Adobe Premiere, Photoshop and other tools.

    I know I've done a lot of work towards "fixing" images in my time, removing red-eye, whitening teeth, removing blemishes, heck, restoring missing parts of images or removing people from images, I mean, this is the staple of Photoshop work.

    So, to me, the obvious way to know if a video is fake is by zooming in on the footage and look for pixel disparity, because someone trying to alter a photo or an image never truly gets
    • by oGMo (379)

      How will we be able in the future to distinguish between "fake" media and "real" media. As media is being used in legal battles, eventually there will have to be a requirement to determine an 'authentic' footage, which means we will need some form of protocol, file format and/or tools which can create media which can be proven as 100% original and unaltered in any way.

      Signed image/video .. private key stored on a chip in a camera, frames and video gets signed before writing. Produce an unaltered/unhacked

  • by Tarlus (1000874) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @03:07PM (#43805959)

    You submit it to Mythbusters.

  • Well, here's the video [youtube.com]. Judge for yourself. Send it to the Batcave and let the crime computer analyze it if you want.

    I don't see any indication that any part of that video has been faked at all.

  • especially if it's attached to an email that's been forwarded with complete headers several times.
  • Does the video include footage of a female having an orgasm?

  • It's that you can tell if a video is fake if a 13 year old says "FAKE!!111!" in the comments section.

    Therefore I implore the owners prove the veracity of their video by posting it to YouTube.

  • I was trying to enhance images taken from a cheap pan/tilt camera by taking hundreds of stills and using imagemagik to average them together. Works really well. If you don't average them, but take the darkest pixel from your stack of 100 frames, or take the lightest pixel from your stack you see an interesting pattern of the extremes of noise. It was an 8px by 16px repeating pattern of noisiest pixels. Now this worked because the camera was still, I had a stack of near identical frames so the noise was easy

  • crowd-funding $200,000 to buy the video in question

    Founded in 2003, Gawker is the flagship blog for Nick Denton's Gawker Media.

    http://247wallst.com/2009/11/10/the-twenty-five-most-valuable-blogs-in-america/ [247wallst.com]

    1. Gawker Properties, $300 million. This group of blogs which includes Gawker, Deadspin, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker has about 23 million monthly unique visitors and 250 million page views. Owner Nick Denton has pointed out the business is highly profitable and growing and that advertising revenue has performed better than expected. Almost all the advertising at the family of websites is premium marketing from major companies. The average CPM on a page is estimated to be $20. That would drive $60 million in annual revenue. Gawker is not expensive to run. Its writers are paid relatively low wages. Many of the blogs Gawker owns have only five or ten writers and editors. Gawker keeps at least 50% of its revenue as operating income. The valuation is based on 10x operating income.

    And they're asking for people to pay for their scoop, so they could make more money from the ads?

    What's next? CNN asking viewers to do their journalism for them? Oh... wait...

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      What's next? CNN asking viewers to do their journalism for them? Oh... wait...

      In CNN's case, that was raising the standards, at least where things like accuracy are concerned.

  • If the video shows men shouting allah akbar but nobody is doing anything fucking repulsive, depraved, pointless or idiotic then it's a fake.

  • I don't know why anyone cares about the video. In fact, it's clear people don't care about the video, they just care about how Ford is (or is not) reacting to it.

    But there's no value in forming an opinion, informed or otherwise, as to the authenticity of the video. If there's one thing there can be absolutely no doubt about, it's that Ford doesn't care what any one else thinks.

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