“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” the judge said.
The tearful-looking kitten opened its mouth, but said nothing, as its eyes darted back and forth on the screen.
“Can you hear me, judge?” Ponton asked, appearing as the forlorn feline.
“I’m here, live, I’m not a cat,” he said a few seconds later.
Reached Wednesday by phone, Ponton — who told CNN Business he did not currently look like a cat — was able to provide some more details about what happened. He said he had no idea how the cat filter ended up superimposed on his face, and that while waiting for the meeting to start, his face looked normal, as he could see it on his own computer monitor.
“Somehow, when I got called into court, I miraculously transformed into a cat,” he said.
This lasted for about 42 seconds until it was somehow turned off. That time, he said, “seemed like an eternity.”
This makes sense as the source of the filter to Ponton, considering the equipment he was using during that fateful Zoom call was, to his recollection, about 10 years old. He said he conducted the meeting on his secretary’s old Dell desktop computer at an office in Presidio, Texas (rather than at his main office, which is in Marfa), along with a Dell monitor that has a built-in webcam. (His laptop, he said, was being used elsewhere at the time, for another meeting.)
His secretary, he said, is embarrassed about the whole cat-filter situation. “She wants to go hide under a bed,” he said with a chuckle, citing a classic cat behavior.
The Dell webcam software is hard to find these days. But CNN Business was able to see it in action during a Zoom call with Thomas Smith, the CEO of AI photography company Gado Images and a tech journalist (and briefly, in this case, a cat). When Smith learned the feline filter appeared to be from old Dell webcam software, he dug through a bin of gadgets at his Lafayette, California, home and found a Dell laptop from around 2009. He plugged it in, booted it up with the Windows 7 operating system, and found the Dell webcam software he was looking for — complete with “the sad kitten,” as he called it.
As for Ponton, he hasn’t been able to find the cat filter on the computer since. He tried searching the old Dell computer for the webcam software during an interview with CNN Business, but the machine hadn’t finished its search by the time the interview was done. If he does track it down, he said, he’s planning to use it again.