Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

In today's New York Times, an article called "It Isn’t Magic: Putin Opponents Vanish From TV" describes how the authoritarian government of contemporary Russia is using digital effects to remove political adversaries from their televised appearances. In one particularly striking case that the Times covered, the erasure was incomplete, and the legs of critic Mikhail G. Delyagin (to the right of the man holding the microphone in the image above) remained along with a disembodied hand that was resting on his thigh.

Public Radio International followed up on the story with a segment on "Tampered Photos" throughout history and interviewed computer scientist Hany Farid, who archives and explicates images that go back to the Lincoln administration while also attempting to develop software that can detect the kind of contemporary digital alteration that Putin's government has done. As someone who often uses the program After Effects, I can sympathize with the slack results of the Moscow technicians. Although the tracking features of the software can allow you to place a digital mask on a moving target, there are often disastrous digital artifacts that can spoil the shot in more obvious ways should this course of action be adopted.

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