About six years ago, I began to see what can only classify as really weird shit on the internet.
At first it was benign.
A video of a young Al Gore giving a Keynote speech at COMDEX as leader of a company named Netcore Systems introducing a high speed devoted virtual reality 3d distribution network and platform.
A video of Gorbachev giving a speech, all in Russian, but the man I saw didn’t have his trademark birthmark.
It got intense.
A video of an angry GW Bush – a man I had never really seen like this before – was standing in front of the Senate issuing an order for a full nuclear strike against the enemies, and a subsequent video of him in the Oval Office telling the American public a full nuclear strike had just been launched.
It got perverse.
Another series of images of an early and young cast of Harry Potter all assembled around a large table where a very young version of Hermione, played by Emma Watson in our universe, was fully nude with her legs spread wide open towards the camera on a table with the entire class looking on as she masturbated.
It got brutal.
A series of images and a video of a nude, bleeding, tied and crying Jessica Biel in a prison cell like room in being yelled at from behind the camera by someone who was speaking Arabic or Farsi, with her crying out ‘You cant do this to me, I’m Jessica Biel, they’ll come get me, they’ll save me from you monsters!’.
The thing about these images and videos were – they all felt undeniably real.
Detecting fake and airbrushed imagery is a relatively straightforward thing.
First, have a good idea of what you’re looking for evidence of for being fake: ie: a head cropped onto a body that’s not the owner of the body. Second, looking for evidence such as unnatural color smoothing, which is a direct result of a smudge brush or clone paint. Third, look for evidence of jaggies, rough pixellated edges when the rest of the image is smooth. Fourth, there’s unnatural or inconsistent coloring, which can be real easily spotted by converting the image to grey scale, and if not, then in colored mode, just finding transition points where the fake is. Fifth, look for light and shadow errors – that is – look at the light sources on the scene, and look for simple errors made with lighting and shadows. And finally, look for scaling (size) errors.
Here’s a quick image I put together that’s photoshopped my face into, with a couple very obvious and easily detectable errors:
Now as you can see, I am Q on the deck of this image from Star Trek. I replaced the image of the original man’s face with my own. Since this took about five minutes to do, there’s some errors I didn’t correct well that make it an obvious forgery:
- Lighting. Look at Picard’s face and the consistency of the coloring and lighting to the rest of the scene. With one glaring exception, my face, the lighting with his bald head clearly comes from the left. and with my face, it’s arriving from the right. Bad photoshopper, bad. I could have resolved this by mirroring the image of my face right and left.
- Scale. This one is a bit tougher to detect. But look at the size of the body in contrast to my face. Something doesn’t jive. The problem I had here was I have a rounder, flatter face than the Q in Star Trek does, which would in a natural setting make the costume fit different. To ‘bend’ and contort’ the face mask portion of the costume would have taken considerably more time to do and make it look natural, so I just said screw it.
- Color. Now normally, detecting color imbalances versus lighting imbalances is tougher for most good fakes. But for this, the shadows on my face and my face’s coloring in contrast to the rest of the scene is like a glaring lesson in working with color channels to resolve. Again, that takes time, and i was just interesting in having fun with this photoshop image.
- Jaggies. Look at Picard’s costume in contrast to what’s around my face. While I have harsh edges, Picard and the rest of the crew do not. If you were to enlarge the image, as detailed below, you’ll see the jagged irregular lines as plain as day.
So going back to my findings on the internet.
For the life of me, I could not figure out how the hell they were doing what they were doing. Were these real videos and images? Or had they used advanced CGI. But the voices of Bush, Gore and Jessica Biel all seemed spot on.
At the time, the NSA had been experimenting with Voice Imitation and Synthesis through Sampling, or VISS, for short, we do so love our acronyms, and what we were able to do with the technology was nothing short of impressive. With only 60 seconds worth of someone speaking, VISS could effectively replicate the voice of the speaker. From there, we could type ‘I love to have butt sex with my German Shepherd’, and a convincing sounding Bush or Jessica Biel would then say “I love to have butt sex with my German Shepherd’.
Two very different mental images come to mind with that, right?
But the problem with our technology was inflection and emotion.
So immediately, my superiors were convinced the imagery was fake and that whatever created these superior quality images and speeches needed to be in our arsenal.
Keep in mind mind that the videos and imagery was acquired leveraging NSA networks and tools, not something the public has access to and is most certainly not publicly available and probably won’t be in the near future.
However, I wasn’t so convinced. The image of Jessica Biel, for instance, was more than just a visual and sound production. That girl who claimed to be Jessica Biel felt real. Her pain. Her frustration. It was just too real.
The same thing for Bush. This wasn’t just a great CGI Hollywood like production. I closed my eyes and listened to his speech, that I still remember.
“We are up against an enemy which has no ethics, has no mercy, and is so evil and would gladly see us die in a hellish fire, so much so that we, as a nation, are forced to respond in kind, and as a result, I along with the Congress of this United States have instructed our entire arsenal of nuclear weapons to initiate a full preemptive nuclear strike against our enemies of this world.”
VISS, as advanced as it was, carried the initial tone of the speaker.
It was my team’s responsibility to detect evidence of visual fraud in the more disturbing imagery and to acquire the technology which developed it by hacking the organization(s) and individual(s) responsible for it. I was also tasked with assisting the VISS team in cross-applicable methods of detecting fraud (jaggies, for instance, evidence of digital sampling are often audible), as well as provide additional support for acquiring that technology if needed.
But the more I investigated. The more material I was given. The more I couldn’t shake the suspicion…
This isn’t simulated. This wasn’t advanced CGI and Voice Synthesizing. These are actual recordings.
There’s one image I saw of Emma Watson, a gorgeous young woman – who in the image was maybe 16, fully nude on the table, legs spread towards the camera exposing herself. Yep, I find her highly attractive, even then.
She has a group of 30 students around her, all dressed in graduation regalia, but many of them their mouths are open as they look at her on the table as if she’s saying ‘check this out, I got a brand new vagina.’
I analyzed the hell out of her series of images. I checked for lighting errors, for evidence of green screen, I checked for digital clipping issues, I checked for head placed on a nude body that’s not hers – you name it, I for the life of me was unable to detect fraud with this image. It was authentic.
That’s when I sent a message to my Director, and asked for permission to pursue nonstandard explanations for the material.
I can’t name names, but the man was a stickler for quality and procedure which drove me nuts sometimes, I really enjoyed working with the guy and the respect was mutual – as he knew that when I had a hunch about something, it usually turned up something meaningful.
He gave the ok and we shifted some of my responsibilities to a subordinate to let me do what I do.
Now I knew I couldn’t eliminate technology altogether from having created what I saw.
But I was finding myself eliminating the traditional mechanisms. With my contacts around the world and ‘technology ins’ in the entertainment industry, what we were seeing was not just a simple case of Photoshopping and frame by frame editing with voice overs by actors.
But I had to ask: What technology could seamlessly create an entire visual scene – complete with realistic motion and reactions with a well known personality such as Bush or Gore and remain utterly convincing? Even the best Hollywood CGI wasn’t coming close to this level of realism.
Unless there was something more going on with this all that even I wasn’t aware of.
I have since learned it’s possible to acquire technology from the future by a simple understanding of how time functions.
What I was seeing with most of those videos and images are real. No, that’s not a faked Emma Watson nude in front of her class, nor was that a CGI video and speech of Bush giving his authorization to launch a nuclear attack nor is that a fake version of Jessica Biel. They are all the real thing.
Unfortunately, in a Matrixed work environment, I had other responsibilities besides this one that was by far the most interesting to me – which ultimately wound up costing me my job.
And unfortunately, while I would probably choose to withhold the stronger imagery, if I still had access to that media, if the NSA gave me that access, you can bet your butt you’d see Emma as I did and I would be showing you other imagery of what’s going on on a regular basis.
In this ever expanding multiverse.
And the alternate realities I discovered where I least expected them.
On the internets.
And the technology that can achieve the creation of these weird alternate realities is already available.
Which is why I’m here. I want to play with it.
I know, I know. “That’s what she said.”