Lying With Pixels

Lying With Pixels

I don’t know about you, but I was sure spooked by last season’s
Super Bowl broadcast. Each time the camera cut to a new angle, this
strange orange first-down line popped into view, as if painted onto
the field underneath the players. After each first down, it
mysteriously re-drew itself 10 yards down the field. When a friend
explained that it was being inserted in real-time with new
video-manipulation software, I began to wonder: What else might I
be seeing on TV that isn’t really there?

A lot, as it turns out. According to an article by Ivan Amato in
the July issue of MIT’s Technology Review, in the two
years since they began using video insertion technology, it has
become commonplace for sportscasters to insert corporate logos and
other subtle advertising images into sports broadcasts.

Harmless as it may seem, virtual insertion technology could push
advertisements to the personalized extreme. As the CEO of one
video-insertion firm tells Amato, ‘Say you like Pepsi but your
neighbor next door likes Coke and your neighbor across the street
likes Seven-Up-the kind of data harvestable from supermarket
checkout records. It will become possible to tailor the soft-drink
image in the broadcast signal to reach each of you with your
preferred brand.’

But real-time video insertion has far more serious implications, in
this age of what Amato calls the ‘CNN effect’-where the mass media
go beyond merely reporting on events to ‘actually influencing
decision-makers as they consider military, international
assistance, and other national and international issues.’ Just
imagine, Amato says, ‘[how] a government, terrorist or advocacy
group could set geopolitical events in motion on the strength of a
few hours’ worth of credibility achieved by distributing a snippet
of well-doctored video.’ — Leif UtneGo there>>

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