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The sign on the brick wall is not really there. Neither is the sign on a fast moving boat. They were added with a new kind of special effect.

What's behind this wall? Let's use a magic window to see through it.

Well, actually, it's not magic at all; it's just a blue screen. Filmmakers have used this for special effects for years.

In a television studio, an entire wall can be painted green, so that you can insert the weather map around the meteorologist. You can use any image you like.

"The problem with that is that if you didn't think to put a green screen there in the first place, then you can't do it," says Professor Andrew Ng of Stanford University. And, of course, if you want to place a green screen on the side of a very tall building, then the owners of the building might object."

So, using artificial intelligence technology, Professor Ng's research group devised a new way to create effects called Zunavision. With it, you can place one video, such as a logo, inside any other video with just four clicks of a mouse.

"That is it. It's done," laughs computer scientist Sidarth Batra. "That is how easy it is."

The technology will match moves and allow objects to pass in front of others. Yes, you've seen the effect before. But the one on sports broadcasts requires special equipment on the field and days of expensive labor. The new method requires just a laptop computer.

No green screen, no keyframes, no graphic artist. It even deals with shadows.

Obvious applications include commercial uses such as product placement, which the Zunavision Web site encourages visitors to try.

But it also promises special effects for the rest of us, according to Andrew Ng.

"I like to think of this as an attempt at the democratization of video, where even the little guys without the resources of the massive studios can do this."

LINK: Zunavision

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