In (too much) Depth: The Case of the Disappearing footage of the disappearing Audio…
Ok this story has been percolating for a few days and I was watching it but I wasn’t going to write about it until and unless it got bigger. Today it did when The Huffington Post picked it up. The story centers around some FNC video posted on the Foxnews.com website of President Obama giving a comencement address at West Point. As with a lot of “controversies” involving FNC this one is pretty complicated.
First there is the original FNC video snippet of Obama’s speech at West Point. Then there is a video of a screengrab of the foxnews.com website that was posted by Michael Moore on YouTube. Moore then tweeted the following…
Naturally this was picked up by the usual suspects like Think Progress, Media Matters and the like and it’s been spreading all over the blue blogosphere. This is where things get complicated. Moore’s argument is that Fox made it look like nobody applauded for Obama. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
It turns out that Moore’s video is itself edited. The original FNC video ran 1:57. The Moore video runs 1:49. Moore cut off the last 8 seconds which happen to show that the audio appeared to cut out on Obama at the end of the clip as we can see his lips move but there’s no audio. And there are two “applause points” but no applause heard for either.
But this easily explainable. The Fox News feed was carrying Obama’s audio only and didn’t pick up the crowd. J$ has made the argument to me that Fox must have been having technical difficulties because we see Obama’s lips move at the end but no audio. I’ll save my guesstimation for why there’s no audio of Obama for later on but I think the idea that Fox only had audio of Obama’s mic which didn’t catch the crowd noise is the likely answer for the lack of applause.
But wait, there’s even more to it than that. Fox News had a feed that didn’t have audio of the audience. The official White House video of the speech, taken by a different camera and using a different feed, shows another aspect which nobody other than maybe Moore caught. The FNC video is indeed edited.
The cut is almost impossible to spot using YouTube’s embedded video version, and completely impossible to spot using Moore’s smaller video because the screen is too small to spot it. But if you go to the FNC website or go to the YouTube page, the cut is easier to spot but you need videophile Jedi like reflexes or you might miss it. And actually when you compare it to the White House version the edit becomes all too obvious because FNC skipped to a spot later on in the speech. But because these are two different feeds with different cameras, the discrepancies between the three sets of videos are causing people to go off in differing albeit still wrong directions.
But let’s look at the facts the videos do show us.
1) There’s a Fox News video of the speech where no applause heard. It’s taken from a different camera than the White House feed. For the first applause section that isn’t heard an edit can be seen and we cut to a point later on in the speech. This is followed by a second applause section with no audio and then we see Obama’s lips move but hear nothing.
2) There’s a Michael Moore version of the FNC video which omits the last 8 seconds of the FNC video.
3) There’s the White House version, which is the complete speech taken from a different camera and features applause audio. During the first applause section (as occurred during the FNC video) we hear applause but see the feed cut to a shot of the cadets, whereas in the FNC version we hear no audio but see Obama fold his hands, something not seen in the White House video.
What I think happened: Moore saw the cut on the FNC video and compared it to the White House video and thought “Aha! FNC cut the audio and didn’t show the applause” and captured the FNC video and put it up highlighting the edit. He either deliberately cut the last 8 seconds because it undermined his case or he cut it because it wasn’t the issue, the edit was the issue. Either Moore didn’t realize that FNC put that edit there because it wanted to highlight another part of his speech or he did. Since I’m not a mind reader I have no way of knowing.
As to why we see Obama’s lips move but hear no audio…that’s more murky. Since we now know the video was indeed edited, the fact that Obama’s lips moved could have been sloppy editing. That part of the video may have been destined to be cut out and someone screwed up. Who knows? The possible explanations are many. But being one who has done his fair share of video editing, I can tell you first hand that it’s easy to screw things up particularly when you’re making edits.
In the end this controversy is way overblown because nobody bothered to do a comprehensive analysis as to what was going on. The main issue that remains unresolved as far as I’m concerned is why FNC didn’t have an audio feed for the crowd.