It's not possible that the White House is faking Biden press moments, is it?
[See UPDATE, below.] Almost two months into the Biden administration, it's an open secret that Joe Biden won't take spontaneous questions from the press. That's why it was peculiar on Wednesday for a clip suddenly to appear purportedly showing Joe answering questions from random reporters somewhere in America. What was even more peculiar was that Joe's hands magically passed through the microphones. In other words, the weird hand illusion (combined with other oddities) in the video suggests that the White House is disseminating fake videos to make it look as if Joe is talking spontaneously to the media.
At first glance, the Bloomberg Quicktake video looks normal. We see Joe walking along as a muffled voice calls out a question to him. We don't see any reporters. Instead, Joe simply walks up to a bank of what are obviously handheld mics. So far, it looks like any other president stopping for a moment to meet with the press. But watch Joe Biden's hands at the microphone around the eight-second mark. That's not supposed to happen:
Things get really interesting, though, when you watch the same footage at one-quarter speed:
A few things should have popped out at you when you watched the video slowly. First, Joe himself looks as if he's walking against a green screen. His image is remarkably crisp, yet the scene behind him is very blurred. Still, this could be a trick of the light, the way the camera is focused, or a matter of perspective.
Second, as Joe nears the mics, the top of his head vanishes. This could be how the sunlight hits the white hair, but the top of his head flickers off like a bad computer image.
Third, watch Joe's right hand partially disappear as it swings in front of the green lawn. Again, that could be a trick of the light or perspective. However, it's also a common effect of green screen manipulation.
Most importantly, there's no getting around the impossible atomic magic of his hands passing through the microphones.
Here's another version of the same video, both at regular speed and at quarter speed. It's taken from a different angle, this time showing the back of some reporters' heads along with a possible Secret Service agent:
This video doesn't look any more real than the first one, especially if you notice the peculiar shadowy quality when the pale gray fuzzy microphone appears in front of Joe's dark suit. That is the look of something in front of a green screen in a poorly made movie. It doesn't mean that's what's happening. But it's what it looks like.
I'm not the only one noticing this. Stephen Green said Twitter went mad with the story on Wednesday morning. He first assumed it was an ordinary Twitter conspiracy theory, but he changed his mind when he too looked at the video:
Watch President Porchlight's plugs as he approaches the microphones. If that's not a poorly-done greenscreen, then Insanity Wrap doesn't have a clue what might be going on up there.
But then it gets worse.
Watch Biden's right hand pass in front of both microphones in defiance of perspective. Look at the mics again, and they have that not-quite-there appearance of objects green-screened into a video without the proper lighting.
Maybe this is all just some bizarre trick of the light. As Green points out, both Bloomberg and The Hill ran the first clip and they are "two publications, that, whatever their actual merits, pass for reputable."
Nowadays, though, "reputable" is a loaded term when it comes to the American media. Many consider the Washington Post one of America's premier newspapers. But it was the Washington Post that cavalierly admitted that, two months ago, it published a blatantly false article that purported to show Donald Trump bullying and trying to bribe a Georgia investigator into identifying fraud in the election whether or not any existed. This charge was so egregious that it showed up in the second impeachment the Democrats brought against Donald Trump. And it was a lie.
The fact is that we are in an age of increasingly successful fake videos. A recent deep fake of Tom Cruise went viral because it was so eerily good. Flipboard, a technology outlet, has an entire section dedicated to articles about the spread of deep fakes and the difficulty attendant upon determining the truth. It's apparently possible to tell a good deep fake by analyzing reflections in the corneas, but that's not going to help with the type of video purportedly (or really) showing Biden talking to reporters.
It's easy to imagine a future time when Joe Biden is propped up in a corner of his office, Weekend at Bernie's fashion, while a man who looks vaguely like him is deep faked into multiple scenarios and interviews. It's even easier to imagine today's media being complicit in that kind of fraud on the American people. I am not saying that's what's being done now; I am just saying it is not hard to imagine.
UPDATE: A reader with extensive professional experience in creating and editing videos wrote me with his opinion about the video. His opinion, of course, makes more sense than mine, while still casting shade on the administration:
The two fuzzy mics were put in post. It's very hard to pull a clean matte for fuzzy objects. Usually, you simply create them in CG and put them after the fact. These look like they were shot against a blue or green screen and not backlit as you would normally do to intensify and sharpen the details of the edges. The spatial geometry is absurd. The mics go underneath than [sic] over Biden's hand. Real amateur job. They appear in the foreground on both camera angles, allegedly from two different cameras. How would that be possible?
It was a very poor job on all fronts. I could write a full page of criticism but it's so obvious why bother. My son does better rotoscoping on his school film projects.
The question is why on earth would some news organization go to the trouble? IMO, the rest of the image is real. The hot light on the top of Biden's white hair is simply a photographic anomaly that clipped the image and made the top of his head look cut off.
To answer my own question — asking "Why bother?" — the only answer I can come up with is that the sound man was eating a donut at craft service and missed Biden's appearance. The boys in post-production tried to cover for him and took the sound feed from some other news organization and haphazardly comped in the mics. But that sounds preposterous so who knows.
Image: Biden's magic hands. YouTube screen grab.