The Future of Video Reality

Today saw the latest release in Cassetteboy’s arsenal of political satire: an astute take on Jeremy Hunt and the Junior Doctor’s strike.

Putting words into the mouths of others for comedic effect is nothing new. Back in the 1980’s Spitting Image was one of the most popular shows on TV, using the now antiquated medium of puppetry. Nowadays with the huge progressions in technology, over-dubbing and YouTube cut-ups are more popular than ever, and reach millions through promotion in the mainstream media.

When you dissect the comedy of Cassetteboy, much of the appeal derives from the appearance that the person in the clip really is saying those words. Of course, you have to let yourself somewhat suspend disbelief, similar to slipping into the world of a computer game or action film, and, in much the same way as these other forms of media, this will over time appear dated.

But what if we could eliminate the need for imagination? Scientists at Stanford University have been working on exactly that: Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment. As their site explains, they have invented technology that allows them to render a mouth directly onto a live video feed of another person. To say the potential is enormous is an understatement.

So for now, while we entertain ourselves with painstakingly overdubbed shredded music videos, and Cassetteboy spends hours cutting and pasting together every word of his clips, it may well be that in the not so distant future that we will be watching something altogether far more realistic that can be achieved instantly.

Quite how far this technology can be pushed is anyone’s guess. While many people realise everything they see on screen is edited for some purpose – even supposed ‘factual’ news output – it’s quite a leap to think any live video feed could be altered without us knowing.

The ultimate – and quite scary – end-point may well be a situation where the authenticity of any video cannot be proven, leaving us unable to trust the validity of what our own eyes and ears are hearing. And there’s very little funny about that.