Camera Tests: Is There Really a Point Anymore?

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David Shapton asks in RedShark: "How do we deal with the fact that you can make convincing-looking films with a smartphone?" In the piece, he suggests we might want to employ a kind of "Turing Test" when asking viewers of some kind of video project whether they'd just watched something made with very expensive camera gear or with a cheap piece of consumer equipment. With Alan Turing's test to determine if a machine had "intelligence", it was a question of whether a human interlocutor could tell if they were conversing with a person or a machine. If they didn't know, the machine could be said to be "intelligent."

In Shapton's camera test, "You'd show a film to a viewer and ask them whether it was shot on expensive equipment or, let's say, an iPhone. But you'd only ask them this after they've seen the film. The reason is that if you "prime" viewers to look for defects, then they're not watching the film as a neutral viewer. You see, as long as I wasn't told in advance that this film was shot on an iPhone, I don't think it would have ever occurred to me that it was made with anything other than a professional camera."

It's actually quite a significant question. If the answer is that test viewers can't tell the difference, that could shake up the entire industry (faster than it's already being shaken up).

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