The Claim and Our Verdict
The claim: A video circulating online claims to show a pile of branches being tossed around in strong winds.
Fact-checking: The video was initially posted Jan. 26, 2020, on Instagram, by the Italian visual artist Simone Vezzani. He told HKBU Fact Check that the video is in fact his digital artwork.
Our verdict: This video has been digitally altered. It does not show genuine scenes of a pile of branches being tossed around by a tornado.
A video shared July 6, 2022, on Twitter, appears to show a pile of branches forming a ball shape with the airflow and swirling in strong winds. The traditional Chinese-language caption translates as, “This is a twig ball formed by a tornado.” Videos with similar content have also circulated on YouTube.
As of the publication of this report, the tweet had been shared 52 times, four times with quote, and it had received 151 likes.
Keyframes of the Twitter video were extracted to conduct reverse image searches. It is found that a 20-second video was posted Jan. 26, 2022 on Instagram by Simone Vezzani. The Twitter video corresponds to the one- to 17-second mark of the Instagram video.
In Vezzani’s Instagram profile, he describes himself as a visual artist from Modena in Italy. He also shares the links to his personal website, TikTok and Twitter accounts. His artwork appeared in the tech show BBC Click in 2021. He was interviewed on another BBC program in 2019. According to the interview with the BBC, Vezzani is an Italian digital artist who shares his artwork via Instagram. He said during the interview that he records footage about his own life and travel experiences, and mixes them with digital content.
The Instagram post also includes several hashtags related to digital and computer-generated artwork, such as “render,” “motiontracking,” “cameratracking,” “3dart,” “cgi,” etc.
HKBU Fact Check has contacted Vezzani via email. He has confirmed in his reply that the video is actually his artwork. The original footage was shot in Stuttgart, Germany, and later he added visual effects to it. The video does not show a real natural phenomenon.
To sum up, the video is actually a piece of digital artwork produced by the Italian visual artist Simone Vezzani using computer-generated imagery technology. It does not show a real “twig ball” formed by a tornado.
This video has been digitally altered. It does not show genuine scenes of a pile of branches being tossed around by a tornado.
- Twitter, tweet, July 6, 2022.
- YouTube, “This is a twig ball formed by a tornado. Does it seem to be “the great movement of the universe” in martial arts?” July 6, 2022.