Timestamp: Real or Fake?

[Editor’s Note: This is a supporting document for my The Backbencher report into Ms Marriage’s Financial Times article.]

The timestamps imply Ms Marriage was in The Dorchester for a maximum of one-hour however, we cannot even be so sure of that. The lack of timestamp on the four seconds piqued my intrigue something rotten – why would there not be one there? Simple: it might not ever have been there!

One could argue the footage sans-timestamp was filmed by the second undercover reporter but, I’m not so sure there ever was a second undercover reporter. We’re informed there was one but, her name does not appear as an author on the article, she is not named nor even shown and, the only instance when she briefly appears in the video, she is blurred out beyond recognition. All references to her (which are few and far between) are fleeting – she has not made any media appearances since publication. I doubt the legitimacy of her involvement. Also, if she went in with a camera just as Ms Marriage did, how poor was her footage that all she returned was four-seconds of her following a man away from the party through the lobby!? Hardly impressive undercover reporting!

Below are two images, the first being a lossless frame rendered from Ms Marriage’s video and the second being the same image after having been sent through an online image error level analyser (ELA) which shows differences in compression damage. If there is a noticeable difference, it means it was saved at a different compression level. In other words, added in post-production and leaves behind of it having been done so.

enter lobby.png

ELA.jpg

There is a notable colour difference but, that is too be expected. Also, the final video was exported at 640 x 320 which scales the image down, masking indicators. There does seem to be an issue with the edges of the timestamp compared with other edges seen in the video. Specifically, compare the differences in the edges of the lights (the centre light is best) and the edges of the timestamp – both appear fairly sharp in the original image yet, in the ELA image the edge is blurred on the lights but not for the time stamp – the timestamp edges are still very sharp.

This would suggest it was added in post-production. This does not conclusively prove it was but heavily suggests it, hence why I have put this here in a supporting document rather than in the main article. There is also the issue of extra compression added on top when the final video was rendered, this too is considered.

If added in post-production, then what likely happened is Ms Marriage returned with her footage from The Dorchester (I’m assuming about one hour’s worth, broken into ten to fifteen minute segments), she threw it into a video editor, added a timestamp (for authenticity!?), put on a random but close date/time and then chopped bits out from that. The footage without a timestamp either came from the other reporter (who did not add a timestamp) or, Ms Marriage forgot to add one to that clip of footage.

Whilst inconclusive, the evidence does suggest to some degree the timestamp may have been added in post-production. The only question I have is: why? Surely the footage would have been fine either way?

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