FakeWatch Africa

Section 1, Lecture 5

How to find out where a video was filmed

In this episode we are going to give you some tips that will help you find out where a video was filmed. Open source information that is available on the Internet can help you do it.

Let’s start with an example. When Italy battled to control the Covid-19 pandemic, several videos were shared online, claiming to show that dolphins had appeared in Venice’s canals.

This tweet said “Venice hasn’t seen clear canal water in a very long time. Dolphins showing up too. Nature just hit the reset button on us.”

How to find out if the video was really filmed in Venice?

Now that some time has passed and many fact checkers have already done their job, we can just Google “Dolphins in Venice,” and find out if the video is accurate or not. But if an event has only just occurred, we have to find out for ourselves.

Let’s start with that we have. The tweet contained a short video showing dolphins swimming near a pier.

The footage itself does not contain much information that can help us. So first we need to find out if there is more information available about this video or, if we are lucky, we might even find a full video.

There is no good reverse video search tool available yet, so the easiest way to find out more about this video is to start with the reverse image search you learned to use earlier.

The video that the tweet contained is 28 seconds long. Most of it just shows the dolphins swimming. We have to find frames with some more specific details that could help us search for similar images. Sometimes you need to use several different frames to get a result, and to try these one by one.

This is one of the frames that seems to have more information in it, so let’s take a screen shot of it.

Now when we have an image instead of video, we can use reverse image search to find similar images. You can try different search engines for that.  For this photo, Yandex gave the most useful results.

One of the search results we got says that this video was not filmed in Venice but in Sardinia, a completely different part of Italy.

But how can we be sure? We still don’t have the full video.

Let’s look through all the reverse image search results. One of the results is more specific and says the video was taken in Cagliari, Sardinia.

Now we have enough information to search for the video on YouTube.

The first search result is a video that has the same details we saw in the video shared on Twitter.  Remember the frame we took a screen shot of? The YouTube video has exactly the same frame, plus several other identical ones. So we can be sure that this is the same video.

And the best part is that this video is not 28 seconds but 55 seconds long. This means that this video has frames that the shorter one did not – including the frames of the buildings across the water.

 

This is not much – the buildings are small and the image is not sharp – but this can still help us find out if this video was indeed filmed in Cagliari, Sardinia.

Here is what we know by now:

  1. It is possible that the video was filmed in Cagliari, Sardinia

  2. It was filmed near water, most probably at a pier – we can see bumpers

  3. There are easily recognizable buildings across the water

Let’s see if we can use this information to find the exactly where this video was filmed.

For that, we can use another program we learned to use earlier: Google Maps.

There are a few locations in Cagliari that are near water, at a pier, and opposite buildings.

Here is one that has buildings opposite the pier that seem slightly similar to these we saw in the video.

To observe the pier and the buildings more closely, we can use the Google street view function.

This red building seems similar, but to confirm, we can find another viewpoint and use street view again

These buildings seem to be similar to the ones that were in the video – but not exactly the same ones. In the video there seemed to be an extension on top of the red building, but the Google Maps view does not show the extension.

It is possible that there are other buildings behind the red building that create the illusion that there is something on top of the building. To find out, we should try to find the exact spot where the video was filmed.

But Google Maps street view is limited here. Google Maps street view works well on streets – but this is just a pier.

Let’s try another option to be absolutely sure that this is the place. There is another tool for that: Google Earth, which we also learned to use earlier.

Let’s try to find Cagliari, Sardinia.

And now let’s find the same pier.

Found it! This the exact spot where the video was filmed. What appeared as an extension on the top of the red building is indeed another building behind the red one.

Now we can confirm that the video was indeed filmed not in Venice but in Cagliari, Sardinia.

This is how we can use open source information that is available on the Internet to find out where the video was filmed. Give it a try!

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