Monday, January 08, 2007

War, Lies and Videotape

Here's an interesting article from The Guardian's archives. It's about the "Osama bin Laden confession tape", allegedly found in an empty house in Agfhanistan in 2001.

US urged to detail origin of tape

Steven Morris
Saturday December 15, 2001
The Guardian

There was growing doubt in the Muslim world about the authenticity of the film while special effects experts said computer technology made it possible to fake such a video...

Sean Broughton, director of the London-based production company Smoke and Mirrors and one of Britain's leading experts on visual effects, said it would be relatively easy for a skilled professional to fake a video of Bin Laden.

The first step would be to transfer images shot on videotape on to film tape. Distortion or "noise" and graininess would be removed. A "morphing package" would then be used to manipulate the image on a computer screen.

Using such a package it is possible to alter the subject's mouth and expressions to fit in with whatever soundtrack is desired. The final step is to put the "noise" and graininess back on and transfer the doctored images on to videotape.

In a recent advert that Smoke and Mirrors made for a US insurance company, the technique was used to place Bill Clinton's head on an actor's body for comic effect.

Mr Broughton said that while it would be relatively easy to fake a Bin Laden video, to fool the top experts was much more difficult. "There are perhaps 20 people in America who would be good enough to fool everybody. To find someone that good and make sure they kept quiet would probably be pretty difficult."

Bob Crabtree, editor of the magazine Computer Video, said it was impossible to judge whether the video was a fake without more details of its source. "The US seems simply to have asked the world to trust them that it is genuine."

Mr Bush said it was "preposterous for anybody to think this tape was doctored".

The Osama Tape



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