I’m catching up on all the news that has spread around the Internet in the past week, and this morning I read an article about the so-called “monster pig” that was just killed by an 11-year old kid in Alabama. The first thing that catches my attention is the accompanying photo:
That photo is a classic example of a forced perspective. Forced perspective is a fancy phrase for a fairly easy-to-do camera trick that makes things look bigger than they are. If you see two basketballs in a photo, one of which is twice as large as the other, your brain will assume either that the objects really are different sizes, or the larger ball is actually closer to the camera, since size is one way of judging distance. This can be confirmed by looking at other things in the photo, seeing what overlaps what, the shading on the balls, and how much ground is between the two. Your brain processes all that pretty quickly, without you even knowing it. To create a situation with a forced perspective, all you have to do is remove all those other hints that let a brain know that an object is closer to the camera than another object, and wham — you’re left with the impression that the two objects are the same distance from the camera but are actually different sizes.
There are lots of examples of this technique. Like, have you ever held your hand in front of your eye and “squished” the heads of passers by like on the Kids in the Hall? Or, did you ever pose for a funny photo where it looks like you’re holding up the leaning tower of Pisa? Or, did you see the Lord of the Rings? A lot of shots between little hobbits and tall wizards were set up using forced perspective, with Gandalf hanging out much closer to the camera. It’s amazingly easy to fool the brain sometimes.
So the photo above appears to be a fairly simple forced perspective, with the kid hanging out far behind the pig. Doubtless it’s a big pig, but I was pretty skeptical that it was the reported 9 feet 4 inches. I went to monsterpig.com, the “official” web site, and I’ll be damned if every other photo on the site wasn’t also a forced perspective.
In this one, you can see how easy it would be for the two guys to just stand a good six-or-so feet further away from the camera. Had they had a hand on the animal, they could have easily proven that they were on the up-and-up. Here’s another:
Again, this shot is set up exactly as the first. Notice how no one is touching the hog. This is probably the most blatant forced perspective.
I can’t figure out who set up the “official site” from the copy on it (or from the WHOIS info), but there’s a link to a movie about the last gigantic hog to be killed around those parts. Uh-huh.
I was clicking around some more on the site before I hit “post” and just saw that these criticisms have reached the webmaster already though a woman he claims works at stinkyjournalism.org (the site isn’t working for me). The response to the criticism of the photographs (which seems to come from the father, which is odd because other copy on the site indicates it is written by someone outside the family) is severely lacking (like that they used two different cameras, which makes no difference), making it all the more obvious that this is a total set-up that the mainstream media fell for hook, line, and sinker. Sad.