December 19, 2012

YouTube | New Statesman | Fark | Reddit | Storyful | Centre NAD
Since being uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, this incredible video of an eagle swooping down and snatching a toddler with its talons from a Montreal park has been watched more than 1.2 million times.

But no matter how much your eyes want to believe it, the video is a fake.

Three students in a 3D Animation and Digital Design degree program at Montreal’s Centre NAD say that “Both the eagle and the kid were created in 3D animation and integrated in to the film afterwards.”

In a post giving students Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin credit for the video, the Centre notes a previous hoax produced by the same production simulation class, which raised suspicions for at least one Fark commenter (see below).

Earlier, social media verification experts at Storyful point to evidence of fakery, including Twitter user @thornae’s animated GIF showing inconsistencies with the eagle’s shadow.

New Statesman writer Alex Hern also points out that “for one frame, and one frame only, around three seconds in, its right wing becomes transparent.” (Pro tip for debunking at home: You can pause a YouTube video and advance it frame-by-frame using the left/right arrow keys on your keyboard.)

“Then,” Hern continues, “there is the slightly odd motion of the child after the eagle lets go of it. Not only does it carry on going up — which would just be momentum — but its ascent actually speeds up a bit before falling.”

A YouTube user named Cyatek zoomed in and slowed down the video to show the odd motion of the child:

An observant commenter on who goes by “Lonestar” raises some other doubts based on local knowledge of Montreal:

1. It didnt make the news in Montreal. And this was shot a while ago since we have a few inches of snow on the ground at this point.
2. A 3d animation school in Montreal has a “hoax the internet” exam. Last year they produced this bit: Hoax
3. Eagles arent common in Montreal, they are more common outside of big cities… Certainly, an eagle this size would have been caught on camera before and attracted some attention.
4. Note the lack of interest in the other pedestrians. They should look an probably point at the huge eagle.

How did news organizations handle this phenomenon? Many ran it in some fashion — Google News records 131 related articles.

The Huffington Post’s article noted that “many YouTube commenters have been skeptical” and included a poll that asked whether the reader thinks the video is real (52 percent say yes).

The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Swift acknowledged that the “video is probably fake, but that hasn’t stopped people from freaking out and watching, including me.”

Among the more credulous were The Kansas City Star and Gawker, which initially expressed no doubts but now has another post rounding up “all the reasons” it’s a fake.

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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