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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Professor’s work featured in Miley Cyrus video

A skull made of French fries, stuffed deer, giant dancing teddy bears and hundreds and hundreds of slices of white bread are just are just a few features of Miley Cyrus’ music video “We Can’t Stop.”
One aspect of the video, a black and white face resembling a masquerade mask, can be traced back to Texas A&M visualization professor Frederic Parke.
The figure is a clip of a larger work of Parke’s, featuring his experiments in computer animated facial expression conducted for his Ph.D dissertation in 1973. Parke was the first to digitally represent changing
facial expressions.
“I collected data from a bunch of real person’s faces,” Parke said. “I measured their faces to get the shape and then I did an animation and got the shape to change from one person to another person to another person. I gathered the data from 10 or 12 different people and in the animation, it changed the shape from one to another. We thought we would try it, and no one had ever tried it before and it worked.”
Fast-forward 40 years. Parke said he received a phone call weeks before the music video’s release from a production assistant working on the project.
“They told me they had seen some of that footage on YouTube and they wanted to put some clips from it in a music video,” Parke said. “They didn’t say what music video, they didn’t say who the artist was, they just said a
music video.”
Parke said he received an email a week later from the same contact asking for him to sign an email release.
“It was a weird release in that they had in there that when they put this in their video that they had rights to use it ‘everywhere and anywhere in the known universe,'” Parke said. “I thought that it was quite an overreaching statement, but I thought, ‘Fine.’ On that document, it had the name of the video ‘We Can’t Stop,’ and it didn’t have it anywhere else.”
It was weeks later that Parke received news where his footage was used. Parke said a former student of his emailed him with a link to Cyrus’ video, and sure enough, it was there.
Parke said he was neither offered nor received any compensation for the video, but he will be sure to ask more questions the next time he is contacted for permission to use art.
“I will probably be a little bit more careful if that situation comes up again,” Parke said.
Parke said he believes students can definitely learn from this experience.
“I don’t really think in those terms that much,” Parke said. “Technically the copyright was expired anyway, but it’s certainly something to think about for anybody who does creative work in terms of understanding how the work might be used in the future, and how to think about ensuring that it’s used in ways you intend it to be used and ways you can
benefit from.”

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