Analog News Editors In A Digital World – A Case Study

There are four major methods used on TV to obscure a person’s face so that he would not be recognized:

  • Pixelization: during editing, a video graphics filter is used to lower the resolution of the footage
  • Black bars: during editing, a graphical element is superimposed over the footage
  • Extreme close-up: focusing during filming on a single facial feature, such as lips or eyes
  • Silhouette: adjusting the camera exposure during filming so that the person appears totally black

The latter method was used during yesterday’s evening news, in a pre-taped press conference. Since this was not a live broadcast, there was no reason for any slip-up, and for the most part I could only see the silhouette of the woman talking. But when some still photojournalists used their camera flash, it lit the entire room and for a split second revealed the face of the woman.
Now perhaps during the 1990’s this kind of incident would not amount to much, since you could not rewind live TV or use your computer to download the news – but those analog days are long gone, and it is about time people in the Israeli media would recognize that fact.

Since this is not the first time I have noticed the Israeli media dropping the ball on this issue, I thought I would present a case study of the three Israeli broadcast channels, examining yesterday’s cover of that news conference:

Channel 1

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image 1: the black silhouette

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image 2: the black silhouette when the camera flash was fired

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image 3: the previous image after a color level correction

Channel 2

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image 1: the black silhouette

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image 2: the black silhouette when the camera flash was fired

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image 3: the previous image after a color level correction

Channel 10

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image 1: the black silhouette

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image 2: the black silhouette when the camera flash was fired and pixelization was done

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image 3: the previous image after a color level correction

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image 4: the black silhouette when the camera flash was fired without pixelization

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image 5: the previous image after a color level correction

A couple of notes:
1. Channel 10 was the only one to use pixelization when the camera flashes fired, but since their editing work was unproffesional they only obscured some of the lit frames, and actually revealed the most facial details.
2. All three media outlets most likely broke a moral agreement with the interviewee when they did not keep her anonymity.
3. All three media outlets most likely broke Israeli law when they did not keep the anonymity of the interviewee, as she is a mother of an under-aged suspect of a crime. Revealing any detail about a suspect or even about a convicted criminal who is under the age of 18 is illegal in Israel. The same goes for the suspect’s family.
4. All the video footage was downloaded from the official website of each news outlet. Had I had a digital video recorder, I could have produced even better quality images.
5. This post does not break the law, as it is fair use commentary on events that happened.

 

Here is a bonus courtesy of Channel 2, who went even further than the rest, showing a homemade greeting card the suspect made for his mother. If you look closely, you could decypher the names of all the people in that family:
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