Leaps And Bounds In Video Alterations

Photoshop as altered so many aspects of our culture that it’s hard to accurately describe its impact. We now know that any image can be doctored, that any celebrity’s face can be smoothed or shadowed or shaped, and that the only real way to know what happened somewhere is to have been there. Put another way, a picture is still worth a thousand words, but those words are no longer always the truth.

It used to be that photo editing was only for the tech savvy and well trained amongst us, but the software is becoming increasingly easy to use by layman’s standards. Universities like Brown and UC Berkeley are developing software that’s a simple app, and Princeton is taking it further by developing audio alteration programs that scan particular voices and then make them say whatever words you want. They’re getting so good at it that often the audio produced passes for reality. And – brace yourself – video alteration is on it’s way. Programs like Face2Face analyze as many samples of video of a person as possible and then can produce a near-perfect video of them from scratch… all digitally.

Now the technology to create entirely artificial videos with artificial sound is still a little ways off, considering just how much data and computer power it takes to make every second convincing. However, it’s not hard to envision a future in which each and every video has the potential to be partially or entirely faked, and paints a bleak picture indeed. Every video will have to be questioned for impact and motive, every source checked and rechecked. As a public, we just have to be ready to become more savvy, just like we did when photoshop emerged in the 1980s.