Thursday, December 20, 2012

Clever CGI fools Internet into thinking ‘Golden Eagle Snatches Kid'

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) can turn Andy Serkis into Gollum for the hobbit, and it was apparently used to fool the Internet. A video first posted Tuesday reportedly showing a golden eagle nearly taking off with a toddler has been confirmed to be a fake.

At first glance, the video may seem plausible. A golden eagle in Montreal, Canada, is first seen soaring above the cameraman. It suddenly dives and appears to grab a toddler, lifting him up for a second before gravity and the toddler's weight overcomes the eagle's grip.

Except it was a fake. [Full disclosure: we ourselves thought it was far too coincidental that the cameraman was just happening to film the eagle before the occurrence.]

There are at least three reasons to believe it is fake. First, YouTube user Cyatek released his own version of the video (embedded), in which he analyzed the footage and pointed out that the child hangs in the air after being dropped in an unnatural way and that the shadows cast by the eagle and the kid are not consistent with reality.

Bird expert Kenn Kaufman also chimed in. He said that the bird isn't even a golden eagle, adding that saying that the bird featured is not a golden eagle, but instead appears to be a falcon. "This was clearly a setup: using a falconer's bird, and probably a fake toddler for the distant scene," he said.

Finally, the concluding evidence is that someone 'fessed up. Visual arts school Centre NAD released a statement confirming the video was fake. The statement read, in part, that the video "was made by Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin, students at Centre NAD, in the production simulation workshop class of the Bachelors degree in 3D Animation and Digital Design."

It was a nice try. It fooled tons of YouTube viewers as well, as various copies of the video racked up millions of views.

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