I was sitting at my desk reviewing surveillance video of a bus accident, enjoying a typical day in the life of a forensic animator. The phone rings – it is a senior producer at TMZ. What you should know is that an hour earlier my company posted a video to YouTube showing an animated reconstruction of the Bruce Jenner collision.
Fast-forward 24 hours and the Bruce Jenner visualization has been viewed over 650,000 times on YouTube, and over 1,000,000 times through additional media hosts. I have been interviewed by CBS, ABC, The New York Daily News, USA Today and contacted by numerous news agencies across the globe – in Australia, UK, the Netherlands, etc. The Bruce Jenner reconstruction and animation is on every major news network leading prime time news – it has gone viral.
What Does This Say About Forensic Animation?
The fact that our Bruce Jenner visualization went viral sends a few – very powerful – messages about forensic animation. Visual media has the ability to quickly influence personal opinion, or to elicit an immediate response. Here are a few comments from YouTube users after viewing the video:
Viewers observe an animation and instinctively form a defined opinion regarding the facts portrayed. This is of particular importance when you consider that jurors frequently express that expert witness testimony for either party is largely offsetting, and does not directly affect the case outcome. Animation in litigation plays a vital role because it generates a response and resonates more strongly than complex verbal testimony. For this reason, qualified forensic animators have a responsibility to rely on a strong, scientific foundation and represent the facts accurately.
Another important takeaway from the Jenner animation going viral is that the people who viewed it are everyday people. The millions of views worldwide are not from attorneys, forensic experts, or people involved in the legal world. The animation was sought out by people that wanted to know what really happened – laypeople – potential jurors.
Lastly, the impact this animation had shows how effective a tool forensic animation is. Before the animation was released it was being reported (and widely accepted) as a simple rear-end, chain reaction type collision. There were photos of crushed vehicles, excited witness statements, possible sources of DVR video, and thousands of unresolved opinions as to the cause of the collision.
When the Courtroom Animation reconstruction and animation was released it consolidated all of the scattered facts into a singularity – a concise and intuitive first glimpse at the dynamics that would result in the appropriate vehicle rest positions and damage magnitude. It contradicted virtually everything that was being reported, and subsequently went viral. Public opinion was formed so much so that it forced the Police Department’s hand into releasing a statement verifying that Bruce Jenner did hit both vehicles in front of him.
Forensic animation is without a doubt a powerful tool and is becoming more and more mainstream in courtrooms across the country. It unequivocally influences opinions of everyday people by taking an enormous amount of technical data and making accessible, concise, and visual. It is a tool that can be used to great effect.
Brady Held, CEO – Courtroom Animation
Original Bruce Jenner Animation:
Note: Similar to how Caitlyn Jenner was formerly named Bruce Jenner at the time of this article’s posting, Courtroom Animation was formerly named Integral Media Works. We apologize for the confusion.