On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted a video of himself in front of the White House, talking about a variety of topics from the military to how the experimental antibody cocktail he received is a cure for COVID-19. The video appears to have been shot in front of the White House, but it also looks unnatural in a way that inspired some to claim it was filmed in front of a green screen.
But that’s not the case. The video is real and Trump is indeed standing outside on his own, the White House told BuzzFeed News.
Green screen truthers pointed to the way that the trees behind him moved as evidence of some sort of Weekend at Bernie's shenanigans. Instead of smooth, natural movement, the leaves of the trees appear to briefly stop on occasion as though they were part of a video loop. Suspicious!
But video experts told BuzzFeed News that while the trees behind Trump might appear to be part of a video loop, they probably aren't.
“This is a product of video compression,” said Logan Williams, a data scientist with investigative outlet Bellingcat, referring to techniques used to make video file sizes smaller and more easily uploaded to platforms like Twitter.
“This is a product of video compression.”
Hany Farid, a professor of digital forensics, image analysis, and human perception at UC Berkeley, agreed, telling BuzzFeed News the video does appear to include compression artifacts.
“Most compression standards employ ‘predicted’ frames that use the content and motion from previous frames to encode the data on subsequent frames,” Farid explained. “This saves quite a bit of file/transfer size because not all of the data has to be encoded. At the same time, these predicted frames tend to be of lower quality because the prediction is not perfect. As such, most compression standards interlace the predicted frames with higher-quality non-predicted frames. This creates occasional perceptual ‘skips’ as frames of varying quality are displayed.”
This is why the trees behind Trump might appear to some to be part of a video loop. Farid and Williams both noted that the crisp shadows in the video appear to be consistent with the movement of the sun.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the White House told BuzzFeed News that the video was indeed filmed on the South Lawn of the White House.
Welcome to October 2020, where even the simplest of things — trees blowing in the wind, a hiccup, a walk to a helicopter — raise questions.